“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3:16-17 NIV)
I wrote earlier this week about the spiritual immaturity of many in the Church. Much of reason for this I think can be attributed to our use of the Scriptures. In Paul’s last letter to Timothy, he leaves no doubt the Scriptures are inspired by God and thus have the authority to speak into our lives. He also states how the Scriptures are to influence us.
Overall, the Church is the strongest in applying the first one—teaching. Between the pulpit, Sunday School, and small group Bible studies, the Scriptures are taught. Information about doctrine, history, and practice are well disseminated, whether or not the listener commits them to memory. However, regarding the other three—rebuking, correcting, and training—it seems there is much less emphasis.
In His final command, Jesus said: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18-20) The practical implementation of what He taught us is a part of the teaching process. And it is here the latter three uses of the Scriptures come into play.
Rebuking and correction are very similar—both have the goal of putting the believer back on the right path with the Lord. The rebuke is an abrupt command to one who is intentionally or recklessly engaging in thinking or behavior contrary to the teachings of the Word. For example, I Corinthians 6 is a rebuke to those who teach that if we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are saved regardless of what we do afterward. A correction, on the other hand, is more gentle and given to those whose intent is sincere, but whose understanding is not quite right. An example of this would be how Aquila and Priscilla corrected Apollos on his understanding about baptism. (Acts 18:24-26)
Training is the “how-to” of putting the commands of Scripture into practice. The key here is that spiritual leaders provide the example of what that looks like. Jesus taught the disciples the meaning of servant leadership by washing their feet (John 13:1-17). Paul demonstrated how to follow Jesus by his example (Philippians 3:17), and he instructed Timothy in how to be an example to the believers he led (I Timothy 4:12).
Spiritual maturity can only be attained by using the Scriptures as they were meant to be used. While teaching the contents of the Word is important, how to obey what we hear is crucial. And to do that we need training, sometimes correcting, and, on occasion, an outright rebuke.
Today, understand the purpose of reading and studying the Word is not merely to gain more knowledge about God. Rather, it is to transform your life into looking more like Him in both attitude and action.
© Jim Musser 2014