In preparation for an upcoming sermon from Jeremiah 38, I went back to the following verse for focus and direction:
2 Timothy 3:16 – All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine (teaching, instruction), for reproof (a proof, that by which a thing is proved or tested, conviction), for correction (a straightening up again), for instruction in righteousness (how to live right before God). [emphasis mine]
Whenever you are stumped, whenever you find yourself wondering “what is this passage telling me?”, understand that God does not lie, and ALL Scripture, properly exegeted, should be able to offer the following 4 things:
1. Doctrine. Simply put, there is something teachable from every passage of Scripture, even though sometimes the lesson might be difficult to determine.
2. Reproof. On what do you base your convictions? The Bible is what you use as the standard against which all things are tested. It is also what you fall back on when “proof” is what you need.
3. Correction. Too often the Bible is used as a tool with which to beat people over the head. As a “recovering legalist,” you might imagine that is not what I’m about. No, the word correction in this verse is a word that means “restoration to an upright or a right state; correction, improvement” (Strong’s). Some verses may be good for use as a “rod of correction,” but not all. However, ALL Scripture is profitable for instruction in putting someone upright. In other words, there is hope in every passage.
4. Instruction in Righteousness. Jeremiah 38 is a tragic story, but there are strong lessons to learn. There are lessons of bravery and compassion; lessons of hope in the midst of the most dire circumstances; and most of all, the lesson that we should listen to and obey God rather than rebel against His commands. Instruction in righteousness means, if nothing else, that all Scripture can teach us how to live right with God in a world that hates Him.
Whether you are preparing a sermon or just doing your daily Bible reading, use 2 Timothy 3:16 as a guide to help you understand what God is saying. With the help of the Holy Spirit learn, develop strong conviction, be encouraged and directed, and find guidance for the path ahead.
Sufficient is His Word.