A Vital Perspective
2 Timothy 3:16-17 is the Bible’s best-known statement of its claim to inspiration: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
The word translated inspired is a compound term that literally means God-breathed. The ESV renders it “breathed out by God.” It is the same claim that Peter made for the Old Testament when he wrote, “. . . no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21, ESV).
The context of these two statements is similar.
Peter had reminded his readers that the gospel is eye-witness testimony, not a cleverly devised tale (1:16-18). It was vital that they remember the prophets’ words and the Lord’s commandments spoken by the apostles (3:1). This was especially the case in view of the fact that false teachers were on the horizon, men who would advocate more permissive standards than what God allows (2:1-22). Peter characterized their teaching as “destructive heresies” (v. 1).
Paul, too, was warning that “difficult times will come.” Men would hold a form of godliness but deny its power (4:5). They would oppose the truth (v. 8). They would deceive and be deceived (v. 13). Timothy was to avoid such people (v. 5) and continue in the instruction of the sacred writings (vv. 14-17), even though he would suffer for doing so (v. 12).
The point in these parallel contexts is obvious: a correct view of the Bible’s inspiration is vital to steadfastness.
Those who have firm faith in God-breathed Scripture will follow its instruction, regardless of what governmental officials or scholars or scientists of various stripes say. Scripture will override the latest studies every time! Neither will the faithful be duped by theologians or preachers who suggest that somehow the Bible does not mean what it says.
On the other hand, a lesser or looser view of inspiration opens the door to rejection of Biblical teaching. Commandments are reduced to suggestions. Sound words are no longer a pattern to be retained (1 Timothy 1:13) but a vague guideline that may be endlessly reinterpreted and adapted to suit . . . or just set aside altogether. To be sure, such folks may still hold to a form of godliness, but when you reject God’s word you reject His power for your life.