What is Scripture For?

What is Scripture For?
Tony Cooke

ScriptureSeveral metaphors are used to illustrate the various functions of the Word of God in our lives. For example, the Word of God is likened unto:

  • Fire and a Hammer (Jeremiah 23:29)
  • Honey (Psalms 19:7-10)
  • A Lamp (Psalm 119:105)
  • Rain (Isaiah 55:10)
  • Bread (Matthew 4:4)
  • Cleansing Water (Ephesians 5:26)
  • A Sword (Ephesians 6:17 and Hebrews 4:12))
  • Meat (Hebrews 5:11-14)
  • A Mirror (James 1:23)
  • Seed (1 Peter 1:23)
  • Milk (1 Peter 2:2)

Multi-dimensional applications of the Word are also seen in Paul’s admonition to Timothy.

2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

In his outstanding book, “The Seven Laws of the Learner,” Bruce Wilkinson elaborates on these four prescribed functions of God’s Word. The following four definitions are his.

  1. Doctrine means teaching, instruction, that which is learned, kept pure, and defended against heresies. Doctrine occurs when the teacher explains the Word of God to the man of God, showing him the truths he should believe.
  2. Correction is made up of three Greek words meaning “to make straight again.” Its goal is setting right, raising up those who fall, correcting those in error.
  3. Instruction in righteousness refers to upbringing and means “child training.” Its emphasis is on guiding believers in the way of God and includes chastening and discipline. According to a leading Greek dictionary, this term describes “the whole training and education of children which relates to the cultivation of mind and morals, commands and admonitions, reproof and punishment…”
  4. Reproof speaks of conviction of punishment of the sinner. It’s a rebuke to those in sin or the convincing of a man of the error of his way and setting him on the right path.

In listening to some modern voices, you would get the impression that the Word of God is given only for encouragement and enlightenment. Some teach that if believers will simply be enlightened as to who they are in Christ, then everything else in their life will automatically fall in line. If that were the case, then Paul would have said that Scripture was simply for enlightenment, but he did not say that.

After articulating those four purposes of Scripture (doctrine, correction, instruction in righteousness, and reproof), Paul said that this was so that, “…the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Apparently, even correction and reproof are good works – they are not negative or bad works.

A Faithful Minister Uses All of God’s Tools

In the next four verses (2 Timothy 4:1-4), Paul proceeds to give Pastor Timothy a very sobering charge.

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

Did you notice that Paul said Timothy was to convince in his preaching? One Greek commentary says this means to “…rebuke one another with such effectual feeling of the victorious arms of the truth, as to bring one if not always to a confession, yet at least to a conviction of sin.”

I recently heard someone say, “The Holy Spirit will never convict the believer of sin; He will only reveal to us who we are in Christ.” Not only is there no scriptural support for such a statement, but if that were the case, then Paul has just taught Timothy that he was to use the Word of God to do something that the Holy Spirit would refuse to be a part of. The Word and the Spirit agree; the Spirit is the One who inspired the writing of the Word to begin with, and certainly He will stand behind it to confirm it when it is preached. There may be some people with itching ears who want to hear nothing of a corrective nature, but Paul told Timothy that this was one aspect of the purpose of the preached Word.

In Titus 1:9, Paul told Titus that the bishops he was to appoint needed to be men who would hold fast, “…the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” The word convict there means to admonish, convince, tell a fault, rebuke, or reprove. Paul later told Titus to, “Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you” (Titus 2:15).

In no way am I implying that our preaching should exclusively be that of attempting to correct everyone and straighten everyone out. Our pulpit ministries should be full of love, encouragement, comfort, and edification. But can we truly say that we preach the whole counsel of God if there is never a component of all of the things Paul said should be involved in the proclaiming of God’s Word? And these include such things as correction, reproof, and rebuke.

What is Scripture for?

  • It’s honey, but it’s also a hammer.
  • It’s milk, but it’s also a sword.
  • It’s rain, but it’s also fire.
  • It’s meat, but it’s also a mirror.

Let’s embrace what Jesus said and live by “…every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). That includes the words that feed us and tell us who we are in Christ, and also the words that correct us and help us to live the way God desires.