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  • Writer's pictureTrace Pirtle

Discovering the Treasures of 2 Timothy 3:16-17: An Awakening

2 Timothy 3:16-17 contains treasures that awaken the mind and transform lives. This post will examine these treasures using three Bible versions/translations.

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Awakening to the Treasures of 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Initial Thoughts About 2 Timothy 3:16-17

I wonder if the Apostle Paul knew how profound his last letter to Timothy would be. He was writing sober-mindedly, passionately, and compassionately for his mentee, whom he considered his "beloved child." These would be his last words to Timothy, his last letter.

But as Paul sat in that cold, dark prison awaiting execution, did God tell him how many future Christians would awaken to the treasures of 2 Timothy 3:16-17? Did he fully comprehend what he was writing, for whom, and for how long?

As I sit contemplating Paul's letter, only God knows how many times I've read these two verses; I doubt he could have imagined his pen's reach (sorry, quill). Like the Bible, the more you read these two verses, the more alive they become. Some new insight will suddenly illuminate, and I will awaken to a new understanding of God's word.

Yes, the Apostle Paul is the writer, but God is the author. In two verses, God has revealed a few treasures for us. Let's look at them through the lenses of three Bible versions.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (King James Version)

16 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 perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (KJV)

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (English Standard Version)

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (New International Version)

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)

Treasure 1: All Scripture is Inspired by God

If you have ever wondered how we know the Bible is God's inspired word and not merely man's, 2 Timothy 3:16 clarifies it for me.

The KJV translates it directly as "given by inspiration of God." The KJV couldn't be more explicit about the Bible's authorship. The Scripture "writer" uses his personality and obedience to bring forth what the Author (God) wants to express.

The ESV appears to be equally emphatic that all Scripture is "breathed out by God." Like the KJV, the emphasis is on "by God" as the acknowledged author of the scriptures.

The NIV, however, isn't as unequivocal. Reading 2 Timothy 3:16 in the NIV, I wonder if God is breathing out or breathing in. This critical distinction is not made clear. Is God the passive reader of man's writings or the undisputed Author? This weakness results from translations that are "thought for thought" rather than "word for word." It allows for man to be primary and God to be secondary. Let's not make that mistake in judgment.

Treasure 2: All Scripture is Profitable for Determining What Is Right

All three Bible versions- KJV, ESV, and NIV- state that all Scripture is profitable or useful for doctrine or teaching. That is, God will teach us what is right. We don't need to become confused about what we SHOULD do; we should do what God says is right.

Think about how much time, energy, and money we (you and me) have spent searching for:

  • How to find the love of your life;

  • How to find the right college major;

  • How to find the right career based on your personality;

  • How to find meaning and purpose in life;

  • How to get unstuck when you find yourself stuck in the mud puddles of life;

  • How to discover your spiritual gifts;

  • How to be a great parent;

  • How to ..... the list is endless.

Now consider how much time, energy, and money we would have saved searching for answers to our " how-to" questions if we had consulted God about what is right for our lives. Start with Scripture and end with Scripture. All the answers to questions about what is right are there.

Treasure 3: All Scripture is Profitable for Determining What Is Not Right

Another consistency across our three Bible versions relates to what God says isn't right. Whether we read about God's reproof or rebuke, it is clear that something isn't right, and God wants us to know about it. More importantly, He expects us to heed His warning and NOT do it!

From the beginnings of Christianity through today, believers have become mired in syncretism. Syncretism is the blending of several religions or worldviews into one. While the result is the diluting of all, it is particularly wrong for Christians.

Unless we have been living in a very faraway place, completely isolated from civilization, few would argue that many contemporary Christians have embraced worldviews that support and affirm what God says is NOT correct.

It's hard to imagine why believers would willfully and blatantly defy God's commandments to refrain from particular behaviors. Common justifications such as:

  • "Love is love."

  • "God loves me just as I am."

  • "God made me this way."

  • "The Bible should be fluid and culturally relevant."

  • "Jesus would approve of differences."

Each of the above justifications and rationalizations fails to acknowledge that God establishes what is right and wrong, not the culture or each individual.

Why not simplify your life? If God says something is wrong, don't do it! I have violated God's commandments, complicated my life, and reaped the whirlwind. It's only by God's grace that I'm still alive!

Treasure 4: All Scripture is Profitable for Correcting What Is Not Right

God's word is consistent and helps correct our mistakes. We are not expected to fumble along using a trial-and-error approach to problem-solving. The scriptures clarify what is wrong, illuminate the error in our hearts, and shine the light on what is right.

By doing this, God simplifies our lives because we must repent once we become aware of our sins. Failing to do so- even in denial- will not deter God's wrath. As with "The Fall," it's going to hurt! Show your wisdom and repent before you end up where you do not want to be.

Treasure 5: All Scripture is Profitable for Keeping it Right (Righteous)

The KJV, ESV, and NIV each state that all Scripture is profitable for training or instruction in righteousness. This aspect of the Scriptures transcends the simple identification of what is correct from God's perspective. It moves the believer along the path of sanctification, leading them step by step along the narrow path as they become more like Christ.

This process of sanctification results from hearing God speak directly to us in our daily Bible study. We can't expect to become more Christ-like if we don't commit the time and effort to getting to know Him.

But if we do, Scripture's potential to transform a life- from sinner to saint- is inevitable.

Treasure 6: Knowing and Following Scripture Equips You For Every Good Work

2 Timothy 3:17 is our "so what?" moment. It is God's way of telling us why He offers us His purpose for His training, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. God tells us that our "soul" purpose is to do His good works, not for our salvation but our sanctification.

But we notice some striking differences when we compare 2 Timothy 3:17 across our three Bible versions.

The KJV states that we are profiting from Scripture "that the man of God may be perfect." That is a powerful reason that sounds like it's coming from God! If we are fully justified in God's sight because of our faith in Jesus, then it would be expected that His word could make us perfectly sanctified in the process.

The ESV tones down God's word, stating the man of God may be "complete." Hummm. That sounds like a human putting a governor on God's highest aspiration for His children.

The NIV strikes any mention of perfection or completeness. This is very disappointing, and perhaps why some refer to it as the "Non-Inspired Version." It certainly isn't inspiring to me compared to the KJV and ESV.

Concluding Thoughts About 2 Timothy 3:16-17

For me, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is one of the cornerstones of Scripture. The Apostle Paul was writing his final letter from prison to his "beloved child," Timothy. Paul clarifies to Timothy (and every subsequent reader) that all Scripture is "given by inspiration of God." God is the Author of the Bible.

Scripture is profitable:

  • To identify what is right,

  • Convicting us of what is not right,

  • Correcting us on how to make the wrong, right,

  • How to keep improving on what is right toward sanctification.

The highest goal of Scripture is that the man of God may be perfect and fully equipped for every good work.

What value do you see in 2 Timothy 3:16-17?

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About Me

Image of Dr. Trace Pirtle sitting on park bench identified as Jesus.

Greetings, I'm Trace!
I'm a retired counselor education professor who spent 35 years in the "helping professions." I'm a U.S. Air Force veteran who served as a Missile Launch Officer with I.C.B.M's during the Cold War (1980's). Today, I'm an "all-in" believer working full-time for our Lord Jesus Christ. I've included my personal testimony if you are interested. 
May God bless you beyond your wildest dreams!

In His Service,

Trace Pirtle

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