THE LIVING AND RELEVANT WORD OF GOD
"All Scripture is inspired by God, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the servant of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."
- II Timothy 3:16-17
What exactly is the Bible? Is it God's Word, or just a collection of old religious writings? Is it still relevant now, or has it outlived its usefulness? These kind of questions are being asked more than ever these days, and this passage is a great place to start answering them.
The phrase 'inspired by God' in this passage is translated from a single word in the original Greek text. That word is 'Theopneustros'. It is a compound word composed of two parts: 'Theo', which means 'God' (it's the root of the word 'theology', the study of things pertaining to God); and 'pneustros', which means 'breathed' (the first part is the root of the English word 'pneumonia', an infection of the lungs). So what this verse is actually saying (and some modern translations now use the term) is that the Bible is 'God-breathed'.
What exactly does this mean? Well, for one thing, it means that the words of the Bible in effect came from the very mouth of God. However, it goes even deeper than that. Recall that Adam 'became a living being' when God 'breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.' (Genesis 2:7) In a similar way, God has breathed life into His Word, the Bible. Consider Hebrews 4:12: "For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." The Bible tells us the truth about ourselves as people. It cuts through our delusions and rationalizations about our thoughts and behavior, and calls us to do what is right in God's sight. Those who insist that the Bible is no longer relevant ignore not only it's clearly intended purpose, but it's very nature as the living Word of God.
How does the Bible go about fulfilling its nature and purpose? Paul tells us that it is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." 'Teaching' and 'reproof' refer to matters of the mind and heart, the former as regards positive knowledge and wisdom, the latter dealing with exposing and eliminating wrong ideas and beliefs. 'Training in righteousness' and 'correction' deal in the same way with outward behavior and speech. So, to sum it up simply: the Bible teaches us what to believe, what not to believe, what to do, and what not to do. That's pretty much all we need for living, isn't it? The trick is that we have to be willing to work at studying God's Word for it to have these kind of effects on us to the fullest, the way God intends. This is addressed in the last phrase of the passage: "that the servant of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." God wants us to have His Word in our hearts and minds, so that we are ready to say and/or do the right thing in any situation that comes up, so that we can be the most effective representatives for Him in the world as possible. This should be our desire always, as it was for King David: "I have laid up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against thee." (Psalm 119:11) It's not that we will never fail, of course. We just need to give ourselves the best possible chance of success.
To further nail down the concept that God's Word never goes out of date, let's consider the words of Jesus Himself (which I also quoted last week): "Think not that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets [the Old Testament, all of the Bible that existed at the time]; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. For truly I say to you, till Heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished." (Matthew 5:17-18) In the original text, the word translated 'iota' refers to the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet; the word translated 'dot' refers to the smallest part of a Hebrew letter, sort of like the little line that turns an English capital 'O' into a capital 'Q'. So Jesus was saying that right down to the smallest parts of the letters, the Word of God is trustworthy in content (in the original monographs), and meant to be relevant as long as Heaven and earth exist. I don't know about you, but the words of Jesus are good enough for me.
Studying the Bible is vitally important for all of us who name the name of Jesus Christ. We neglect it at our peril, because then we are not equipping ourselves to live Godly lives in a sinful world. Our example suffers; our relationship with God suffers; our joy suffers. We must never forget the importance of letting God's Word accomplish God's will in our hearts and minds, in our lives, and by extension, in the world.
Thank you, Father in Heaven, for the wonderful gift you have given us in the Bible. May we be faithful in laying up your Word in our hearts, and in living it in our lives.
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