October 1, 2023

Blessing Others with God's Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Preacher: Bryce Morgan Series: Our Bible Reading Plan (2023-2024) Topic: One Truth: Your Word is Truth Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16–17

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Children's Lesson (click here) 

I. Building Up in Love

When you think about the phrase, “ministry of the word”, I suspect many of you picture someone doing something like what I'm doing right now, in this kind of context. But when the Apostle Paul spoke to the Ephesian believers about “speaking the truth in love” (4:15), he made it clear there that all of us have a ministry of the word; every believer. Do you believe that this morning? If so, how often do you think about your ministry of the word? In that same chapter to the disciples in Ephesus, Paul wrote in 4:29... “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear...” Brothers and sisters, God has called us to “give grace” to one another, a grace that results in the church being built up; a grace that results in growth.


II. The Passage: “All Scripture is... Profitable” (3:16-17)

This morning, in light of that idea of “speaking the truth in love”, in light of that idea of “giv[ing] grace” through our words, as we begin a new year through the New Testament, I thought it would be really helpful to talk more about how we can bless others with God's word. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 came to mind as two wonderful verses to help us with this idea of blessing others with the word (specifically this morning, inside the church). What exactly does that look like? Turn there if you haven't already and look with me at those verses. 2 Timothy 3:16-17...

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.

This clearly isn't a long passage. But it is a rich passage. As you/we focus on verse 16, think about what these verses teach us about God's word... and your ministry of the word to others:

FIRST, you bless others with the word through God's power. It shouldn't be surprising that the most important point is expressed first, right? When you use the word to bless others, you don't need to worry about your eloquence in delivering that word, you don't need to be concerned with whether or not your able to explain every aspect of that word, you don't need to worry about your charisma, or how much you project spiritual authority and conviction. Why? Because Scripture is the voice of God; it was breathed out by him, and is therefore, according to Hebrews 4:12, “living and active”. The fact that God will be at work through his word is the solid rock, is the reassuring foundation that we need for the remaining points of this passage.

[speaking of remaining points] SECOND, you bless others with the word through teaching. Did you know the word translated “teaching” here could also be translated as “instruction” or “doctrine” (as it often is)? I wanted to point that out because it's easy to hear that word “teaching” and think, “But I'm not a teacher. I'm not going to preach or lead a class of some sort.” Since public speaking regularly tops the list of people's biggest fears, I get why the word “teaching” can sound daunting here. But we need to remember that Paul, in passages like Rom. 15:14 and Col. 3:16 (on screen), instructs believers to instruct one another. What does that look like? It simply means speaking forth the word of God to help another. It's sharing, reflecting on, reminding one another, and discussing with others, that “living and active” word of God.

THIRD, you bless others with the word through reproof and correction. When a person is striving to follow Jesus' example in terms of a ministry of the word to others, inevitably, he or she is going to be ministering to someone (often a brother or sister) who is living or speaking in a way that is contradictory to the truth. When that's the case, faithful teaching and instruction is rightly called “reproof” and “correction”. Reproof means demonstrating for someone the error of their ways in light of God's word. The goal of reproof is conviction of sin. But this goes hand in hand with correction, which goes beyond saying, “You're going the wrong way.” Correction is saying, “And this is the right way.” But remember how Paul described your ministry of the word: it's “speaking the truth in love”. This is where that relational context of disciple-making (the very thing we saw with Jesus and his disciples) is so important. As much as is possible, those whom we reprove and correct should be those who already know that we love them.

FOURTH, you bless others with the word through training. Specifically, Paul talks here in verse 16 about the Scriptures being “profitable... for training in righteousness”. This “training” should never be separated from the “teaching” aspect of your word ministry. Why? Because it's crucial for the person you're seeking to bless. How? By giving them some understanding of what it looks like to actually apply the word of God, for the glory of God. Our deepest desire in terms of the result of our ministry of the word (inside the church) should be a brother or sister who looks more and more like Jesus. That's righteousness; the righteousness for which the word shapes or trains us! Therefore, we should seek to use the word to encourage that very thing.

Okay. What I think would be really helpful at this point is to give you an example of someone (in fact, it's Paul himself) doing the very thing we're talking about: blessing others with the word; with Scripture. Turn over if you would to Ephesians 5:25–33. Using the four points we just listed in light of 2 Timothy 3, let's see if we can detect Paul using the word in these very ways:

First, is Paul blessing others with God's word here? Yes. One clear example of that is verse 31, where Paul is quoting Genesis 2:24. So imagine talking to a confused husband or a struggling wife and sharing this verse with them. Maybe in light of the division they're experiencing in their relationship, you share this verse because it emphasizes the oneness that is part of God's design for marriage. So to be clear, you sharing this verse as a loving brother or sister, you speaking forth the word... to be helpful, is that “teaching” aspect of your ministry of the word.

Second, notice how Paul, in a general way, reproves and corrects here. Verse 29, “For no one ever hated his own flesh...”. If a married couple is “one flesh” by God's design (even if they don't currently feel that oneness), then it is wrong to “hate” (i.e., mistreat or neglect or despise) your spouse. Think about it: if you have a healthy outlook, that's not how you treat our own body, is it? Therefore, we shouldn't treat our “one flesh” spouse that way. Instead, the entirety of verse 29 gives us reproof and correction: “ For no one ever hated his own flesh [reproof], but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church [correction]”. Since this passage is (for the most part) directed at husbands, there's a good chance that Paul would not have written these words unless he was concerned that some husbands in the church were doing more lording than loving; more self-seeking than self-giving. Thus the need for reproof and correction.

Third, look at how Paul helps train his readers in righteousness. Again, this training is explicitly directed at husbands here, starting in v. 25: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...”. v. 28 “...husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.” And of course, there's the nourishing and cherishing mentioned in v. 29. Training! And best of all, this training is directly connected to the example of Jesus Christ, and specifically, his example on the cross. So what Paul is providing here is gospel-centered marriage training.

And Paul did all of this, trusting that the “living and active” word of God would ultimately give the profit. Supernaturally profitable! But he still prayed to that end: “[I] pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9). Of course, though we're identifying some of these different '2 Timothy 3:16' aspects in what Paul has written to the Ephesians about marriage, the passage is a unified whole. And when you read it that way, sensitive to the teaching elements here, sensitive to the reproving and correcting elements here, sensitive to the training elements here, you get a truly beautiful, and instructive, picture of how Paul blessed others with God's word.


III. How the Word Blesses

So why point all this out? Because even when I acknowledge this personal ministry of the word, and attempt to fulfill it, I often limit that ministry. Let me give you an example: some have no problem imparting knowledge, but seem to have very little concern about helping others apply that knowledge. Others have no problem pointing out where someone's wrong, but seem less interested in helping that person understand the correct path. Still others may be excellent at sharing what we might call 'training wisdom', but shy away from offering reproof, so as to not 'rock the boat'. But when you have a ministry of God's word, the word is “profitable” in all these ways. And even when we're only able to fulfill one aspect of this ministry with a particular brother or sister, we must seek, by God's grace, to serve in all these ways. Why? Because only v. 16 as a whole can take us to v. 17 as a whole, “... that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” A disciple-maker's heart seeks that very thing, because it moves someone toward wholeness in Christ. Let's finish with a couple simple, application points:

First, bless others with the word as you are being blessed with the word. Notice the original context in 2 Timothy 3, starting in v. 14: “But as for you [Timothy], continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it [15] and how from child-hood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” The context here reveals that vs. 16 and 17 were meant to encourage Timothy in regard to how others had blessed him with the word, and how he could now bless others. They were meant to remind him of how he would be “complete” & “equipped”. One of the dangers of my position is falling into that trap of only reading Scripture through a preaching/teaching lens; of thinking, “How would I preach or teach this?” before asking, “How does this apply to me? How do I live this?” Before we mine these verses for treasure for the sake of our ministry to others, we absolutely need to treasure Scripture for ourselves, and place our-selves in relationships in which others can teach, reprove, correct, and train us with God's word.

Second, cling to the fact that we can only bless others with the word, because we were first blessed by the Word. Praise God that my failures with the truth, that my hurtful (not “profitable”, but hurtful) words, praise God they are not the last word when it comes to the final assessment of my life. Because of God's grace, the final assessment of my life will not be based on my words, but on the Word who became flesh for me (Jo. 1:14). The perfect ministry of the Word makes your ministry of the word possible. How? Not only does Jesus exemplify for us love-filled, Spirit-filled teaching, reproof, correction, and training, but he also died to forgive all our careless words, and he rose again to empower your new life of loving others... including with the word. So as we begin a new year of reading through Scripture, let's pray... let's pray for a fervent desire to be blessed by the word; but equally, let's pray for a fervent desire to bless others with God's word; and to bless others in light of the very ways we and they need; the very ways Scripture itself is profitable. This is your ministry of the word. Let us love as we've been loved, and let us love the people of God, and all people, through truth that really is “living and active”.