“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim.3:16-17)
2 Timothy 3:16 is one of the more recognizable passages in the New Testament. It is “the” text most often cited to affirm the “inspiration” of the Bible.
The word inspiration in the common vernacular is defined as “the process that takes place when somebody sees or hears something that causes them to have exciting new ideas or makes them want to create something, especially art, music, or literature.” (Oxford Learners Dictionary) An artist may be “inspired” to paint after seeing a beautiful sunset. A songwriter may be inspired to write after a joyous or tragic event. Such a definition does not approach the Greek term translated in 2 Timothy 3:16. In fact, there is no single English word that properly conveys the meaning.
The Greek term translated “given by inspiration of God” (theoneustos) is a compound word from “theos” (God) and “pneo” (to breathe). Literally, the word means “God-breathed.” This word affirms that the Scriptures come from God not man (cf. Mt. 15:9; 2 Tim. 4:1-3; Titus 1:14; Eph. 4:14; et al). Jesus expressed it this way: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4).
Jeremiah wrote, “Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth” (Jer. 1:9). Similarly, David wrote, “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue” (2 Sam. 23:2). Such is the nature of biblical inspiration; God put His words in the mouth of man through the agency of the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Tim 2:10-13).
Generally, when teaching 2 Timothy 3:16, we focus on the phrase “given by inspiration of God” and emphasize the divine origins of Scripture. While this is not incorrect, the text is much more! In truth, 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 should be inspirational (i.e., motivate or cause us). The fact that all Scripture is from the mouth of God should “inspire us” to boldly proclaim that word. After all, this is the premise for Paul’s words to Timothy in the context.
2 Timothy 3 highlights the importance of the preaching of the word of God. Paul noted, “that in the last days perilous times shall come” (1). Men shall become “lovers of their own selves” (2) and of “pleasures” not “lovers of God” (4). He speaks of false teachers with much learning who lead others away from the truth because they do not have proper knowledge of the truth (6, 7). Timothy, however, knows fully the doctrine Paul preached (10). In fact, Timothy has known “the holy scriptures” from a young age having been instructed by his mother and grandmother (2 Tim. 1:5). And, Paul emphasizes, that these “holy scriptures” are “God-breathed”, i.e., they are from God, not man. Therefore, Paul charges Timothy (4:1) to “Preach” that God-breathed word and use it to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” (4:2b) men to not turn from truth to error (3, 4).
The “God-breathed” (divinely inspired) Scriptures should “inspire” us (motivate or cause us) to boldly proclaim it to others. Does divine inspiration inspire you to obedience?