Paul’s last written charge to Timothy was culled down to these three words, “Preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2). What Word? Just a few verses prior, he outlined the nature of the Bible:
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[a] may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Theologians use the term plenary verbal inspiration: All Scripture is inspired, breathed out by God! But it is also profitable, making the man of God both complete (mature) and equipped for every good work. Think on this just for a moment.
All Scripture. At this time, ‘all Scripture’ meant the Old Testament. In Luke 24:13-35, Jesus has just risen from the dead and comes up upon two of His disciples, Cleopas and another unnamed disciple on the road to the town of Emmaus. They were trying to process the events of Christ’s arrest, trial, and crucifixion–and the fact that the women disciples reported that His body was missing. Here’s Jesus’ response:
25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
The Old Testament was sufficient in showing the person and work of Jesus–every portion, every page. Granted, the New Testament brought a clarity to the message of the Old Testament, reminding us of what Augustine said centuries ago: “The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.” Jesus tells us that everything that happened in the days prior was prophesied and verified in the Old Testament centuries before.
Later, the apostle Peter (and in all likelihood Paul) recognized that the New Testament writings (specifically, the writings of Paul) were included under the heading of Scripture:
15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures (2 Peter 3:15-16).
The implication is that Paul’s writings are (1) hard to understand, and (2) like the other Scriptures, ignorant and unstable people twist to their destruction. Paul, an apostle, was given wisdom by the Holy Spirit to write to the church regarding matters that are considerable not just scriptural but Scripture itself.
Therefore, we as pastors preach all of the Bible, Old as well as New Testament, as Christian Scripture pointing to Christ.
Profitable for what? He lists four items: teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. Let’s flesh this out:
- Teaching: not the act of teaching, but the content taught–teaching the teaching that is right.
- Reproof: showing what is not right in our doctrine and our actions.
- Correction: showing us by the Spirit and the Word how to get it right.
- Training in righteousness: showing us how to stay right.
When you talk about profitable, this is as profitable as it gets. Our goal in preaching is not simply ‘information dump.’ Rather, our goal is to learn the Word so that we can help our people know God’s will and way, and to see where we line up. Preaching must serve to help others know Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life, and by the Holy Spirit be convicted and counseled in the way of truth.
Scripture equips for every good work.
“… that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17).
The Scripture is sufficient to bring the pastor/elder into full maturity. And more so, out of the overflow of his life, is equipped by the teaching and by living out that teaching to accomplish ‘every good work’ God has for him. Martin Luther once said, “What is asserted without the Scriptures or proven revelation may be held as an opinion, but need not be believed.”
Illustrations have their place (that will come later), but the exposition of Scripture is where all else springboards for the preacher and pastor.