This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.
All commentary sections adapted from the ESV Study Bible.
1. 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, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. Read More
All Scripture would refer first to the OT but by implication also to at least some NT writings, which by this time were already being considered as Scripture (see 1 Tim. 5:18). Breathed out by God translates a Greek word (theopneustos) that does not occur in any other Greek text (biblical or otherwise) prior to this letter. Some therefore suggest that Paul coined this term from words meaning “God” and “breathed,” which is certainly possible. The term stresses the divine origin and thus the authority of Scripture. Paul does not point to the human authors of Scripture as inspired people but says that the writings themselves (“Scripture,” Gk. graphē, “writing,” which in the NT always refers to biblical writings) are the words spoken (“breathed out”) by God. Whereas it seems that Paul and Timothy’s opponents stressed certain aspects or portions of Scripture (e.g., genealogies, 1 Tim. 1:4; cf. Titus 3:9), Paul stresses the authoritativeness of all of Scripture. The divine origin of Scripture is the reason for its power to convert (2 Tim. 3:15) and its usefulness in training (2. Tim. 3:17). Because Scripture comes from God himself, “all” of it is profitable in a range of ways, ultimately leading to righteousness.
That (in the sense of “in order that”) refers back to the preceding verse (2. Tim. 3:16), indicating the purpose of Scripture for the believer. man of God. Both the OT background of this phrase and the context show that Paul is thinking specifically of Timothy as his delegate and a leader over the church (see 1 Tim. 1:3–4; 6:11). While this verse applies generally to all believers, Paul’s specific focus here is the preparation of Timothy to continue in his task when Paul is no longer present. In a broad sense equipped for every good work includes everything that God calls a believer to do. But, in a specific sense, this also supports the doctrine of the “sufficiency of Scripture,” that is, the idea that the truth contained in Scripture is sufficient in all matters pertaining to doctrine and moral behavior. Although there are no commands outside the Bible that apply to all of God’s people, this does not exclude individual guidance by the Holy Spirit on how to apply the universal commands of Scripture in particular situations.
2. Romans 15:4
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Read More
Whatever was written in former days includes the whole of the OT Scriptures. Paul expresses confidence that all of the OT was written down for the instruction and encouragement of God’s people, thus indirectly implying that all the words of the OT are words of God, words that he wisely directed to be written not only for his purposes at the time they were written but also for later centuries.
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3. Matthew 24:35
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Read More
my words will not pass away. Jesus attributes divine authority and permanence to his own teaching—it is greater even than heaven and earth.
4. Isaiah 55:11
So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Read More
As the rain and the snow cannot fail to nourish the earth, so God’s word of promise cannot fail to bring his people into the richness and fullness of eternal life. Human good intentions fail, but God’s promises succeed (cf. Isa. 40:6–8). The word of God not only describes a glorious future, it is God’s appointed means to create that future (cf. Ezek. 37:1–14).
5. Hebrews 4:12–13
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Read More
The warning continues: faithless disobedience will not go unnoticed. word of God. Usually this phrase in Hebrews refers to the message of salvation (Heb, 13:7; cf. Heb. 4:2), but here the “word” is pictured as God’s personal utterance, living, active, sharp, piercing, and discerning (v. 12), with eyes that expose (v. 13). The Word of God then acts as God himself, so that one’s innermost thoughts and intentions are exposed. This happens constantly in Christians’ lives.
6. 2 Peter 1:19–21
And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. Read More
The truth about Christ is based on the prophecies of Scripture, something even more certain than (or just as sure as) eyewitness testimony.
Two main views of verse 20 have been proposed: (1) The first view, the one most in harmony with the ESV rendering, understands the verse to explain the origin of the prophecies of OT Scripture, namely, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from (i.e., originates out of) someone’s own interpretation (i.e., from someone’s individual understanding of events, visions, or other things), but rather, that “all prophecy of Scripture” came about from the Holy Spirit’s leading (see 2 Pet 1:21). (This takes the Gk. word ginomai in its most common sense, as meaning “come into existence”.) According to this first view, then, Peter is assuring his readers that all the OT Scriptures that pointed to Christ were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and that the readers should pay close attention to them (2 Pet. 1:19), perhaps in contrast to false teachers who were denigrating Scripture. (2) The second view understands the verse to be speaking of how OT prophecies are to be interpreted, therefore some translations render this verse, “no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of [or “for”] one’s own interpretation.” According to this second view, Peter is saying that one must interpret the OT Scriptures as they are interpreted by the apostles, and hence the interpretations of the OT by the false teachers should be rejected. Although this second view is possible, the first seems more likely, in light of the immediate context and Peter’s overall emphasis on the authority of Scripture.
No biblical prophecy was ever produced merely because a man wanted to prophesy (by the will of man). The prophecy in Scripture was given only by God through men, who “spoke” as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was the active, revelatory agent working within the OT prophets and through their lives and circumstances as they prophesied. This is a key verse for the doctrine of Scripture, indicating that Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit, but at the same time men spoke God’s words, using their own personalities, knowledge, background, vocabulary, and style. “They were carried along” implies that the inspiration of Scripture was invisibly directed by the Holy Spirit, though without overriding the personalities of the human authors. Thus Scripture is fully the Word of God, even though it is recorded in the words of human beings. The exact way in which this was accomplished remains a divine mystery. What is true of OT prophecy is true of “all Scripture” (see 2 Tim. 3:16).
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7. Galatians 3:21–22
Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Read More
The law is certainly not contrary to the promises of God: Paul regards the law as “holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12). But because of human sinfulness, the law was never able to give life (see Rom. 8:3).
The law (the Scripture), instead of giving “life” (Gal.3:21) with God, imprisoned everything under sin (cf. Rom. 3:9–20). So rather than enabling all Israelites to have access to what was promised, the law was given so that the single “offspring,” Christ, would receive the blessing. The blessing is obtained by faith, not by their own obedience. God was certainly not surprised by the fact that the Israelites were unable to obey the law. In fact, at the end of the giving of the law, Moses foretold that the Israelites would not obey it (Deut. 31:24–29). Thus the law confirmed the promise to Abraham, that justification would come only by faith (Gal. 3:6–9, 14, 18).
8. 2 Peter 3:15–16
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, 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. Read More
In all his letters shows awareness of some kind of collection of Paul’s letters, with the number unspecified here. Some things … hard to understand does not say that everything in Paul’s letters is hard to understand, nor does it say that anything is “impossible to understand,” but it does imply that correctly interpreting some hard passages of Scripture requires much effort and God-given wisdom. The ignorant and unstable twist Paul’s teachings as they do the other Scriptures, implying that Paul’s writings were also considered Scripture in NT times, on the same level of divine authority as the OT Scripture. Greek graphē, here translated “Scriptures,” occurs 51 times in the NT, and every time it refers to the canonical OT Scripture, and not to any other writings, except that twice (here and 1 Tim. 5:18) some NT writings are also included. This indicates that NT books written or authorized by Christ’s apostles were recognized, at a very early date, to be God’s Word.
9. Luke 24:27
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Read More
Moses and all the Prophets refers to the entire OT, also summarized as all the Scriptures. Jesus explained to them how not only the explicit prophecies about the Messiah but also the historical patterns of God’s activity again and again throughout the OT looked forward to Jesus himself.
10. Matthew 4:4
But he answered, “It is written,“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Read More
It is written. Jesus responds to each temptation by quoting from Deuteronomy, linking his experience to Israel’s in the desert. In Deut. 8:2 Moses reminds the Israelites of God’s testing through hunger and his miraculous provision of manna.
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