“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Righteousness! Is there any finer ambition, nobler aspiration, or loftier aim than this? God could have given us a Book that equipped us to get rich quick. He could have given us a text that included all of the scientific information that we would need to heal every disease or cure every illness. God could even have given us a copy of the Book of Life, which Revelation tells us contains the names of all His children (Revelation 20:15). Yet He determined it to be more important to give us the Bible. Why? Because of the redemptive message Scripture contains.
What can righteousness do? Can it make us wealthy? Yes, with riches that cannot be lost or stolen. Can it treat our illness? Yes, with a balm that ministers to the soul. Can it give us assurance that we will live in Heaven forever? Yes, by describing those to whom eternal life is promised and by instructing us how to live like them. Apparently, God places a higher value on these spiritual qualities than He does on the material wealth or health that He could have provided us.
Shouldn’t we do the same? Shouldn’t we lay aside popularity for purity, safety for sanctification, and comfortableness for conformity to Christ? There is no joy more genuine than that of a clean conscience and a satisfied soul. And the Bible gives us training on our way to that very end.
The word training refers to the chastening, instruction, and nurturing of children. This is the way the Lord deals with us in His words. Someone has said that “the Bible is deep enough for a theologian to drown in and yet shallow enough for a child of God to wade in.” Certainly, it is true that God tutors us, in His Word, on a level that any of His children can understand and benefit from. It doesn’t matter how young or old, or smart or simple, we may be: the Bible has correction for us to take in and refreshment for us to wade in … so let’s wade in!
Disciplining His Children
The inspired writer of Hebrews used the same word to describe the faithfulness of God in chastening His children as Paul used in 2 Timothy 3:16 regarding the Scriptures’ usefulness to train in righteousness: “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Hebrews 12:7).
Here we see that part of the work of instructing us as His children is to discipline us as our Father. God chastens us by many different means: He may use hardships (Psalm 119:67), conscience (Romans 13:4-5), or even a good friend (Proverbs 27:6). But one source that we can always count on for faithful rebuke is the Word of God. Unlike even our best friends, it will never spare our feelings at the cost of the truth. God’s Word is relentless in its faithfulness. It always speaks the truth, no matter what our mood, our circumstances, or our feelings.
Some have made the mistake of thinking that the Bible is only given to us for comfort, to rock us in a cradle of consolation. But we see a much more diverse use of God’s Word, even in the Bible itself. The people on the day of Pentecost found out just how powerful the discipline of God’s Word is when their hearts were pricked by the bold reprimands of Peter, and they were made to cry out, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).
The church at Corinth, likewise, felt the smarting of God’s Word, as Paul wrote his first epistle to them and rebuked them for the sins that were being tolerated among them. Sadly, because of the sting that we feel when we are walking in rebellion against God or harboring some sin in our lives, we often avoid coming to the Bible and, as a result, put off the conviction that is waiting there for us. In his second letter to them, Paul told the Corinthians that such faithful wounds were for their own good:
I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).
Instructing His Children
Sometimes we, as parents, can make the Christian life seem to our children like a series of “no’s” and “don’ts.” In doing so, we forget that the Christian life is more about what we are supposed to be doing than what we are supposed to be avoiding; however, the Bible does not make this mistake. God doesn’t just teach us how to avoid sin, but also how to live holy lives. Over and again we find clear, positive teaching as to how we are to behave in public or in the privacy of our own home and heart. Although most of the Ten Commandments begin with the phrase “You shall not,” it is also important to notice that Jesus, in summarizing the same body of instructions, couched them in two positive directives: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ … ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Mark 12:30,31).
God doesn’t just give us a long list of things that we are not to do. He provides us positive instruction in the way of righteousness. The 119th Psalm has been called David’s “ode to an open Bible.” When David enumerates the many benefits of God’s Word, we have the privilege of eavesdropping as this man-after-God’s-own-heart shares his heart with God. As his meditation unfolds, we are reminded of the very simple motivation that we have for listening to what God says to us in His Word: “Psalm 119:68 You are good and do good; teach me your statutes” (v. 68). Why should we come to God’s Word for instruction? Because He is good. Because He does what is good. And in His Word, He has graciously shared the secrets of goodness with us! Do you hunger and thirst after righteousness? Then come to God’s Word: you will be filled.
Nurturing His Children
Paul, speaking in Ephesians to fathers, charges them to bring their children up “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). This connection invokes the sweetness of a father’s careful mentoring regarding the instruction that we receive in the Bible. How important it is to remember that behind the chastening, behind the tutoring, behind the relentless training is the ceaseless love of a father.
Paul’s admonition to the fathers at Ephesus also gives rise to the inescapable question, “How else can we bring up our children in the nurture of the Lord than in the instruction of His Word?” Surely if, as Paul asserts so confidently to Timothy, all Scripture is profitable for the nurturing that is needed for our children, we should be daily immersing our family in it. And for that matter, shouldn’t we be applying it regularly to our own lives?
David prays, “Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live” (Psalm 119:144). No wonder God considers instruction in righteousness as infinitely more important than anything else that He could have provided for us in His Word. The righteousness that we learn from Him in the Bible is everlasting, unlike the short-lived reward of money or relief of medicine.
May we pray for the righteousness that is found only in the profitable training of God’s Word. And then pursue it with all our might through daily opening our open Bibles and feeding on the Word of God.