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What's the Purpose of that Scripture Verse?

  • 2002 15 May
What's the Purpose of that Scripture Verse?
As a young believer I simply read through the Bible, hoping that something would stand out to me. This approach was hit-or-miss. So was my growth. I also relied on devotional books that explained and applied the Bible for me. But this left me more dependent on the teaching of a person than on the Holy Spirit. In seminary I learned technical methods of studying God's Word in depth. But these methods were burdensome to apply to my daily walk with Jesus.

Frustrated one morning over my devotional life, I asked a simple question: "What is the Bible for?" God's direct answer changed my devotional life forever. The Lord brought to mind the definitive verse on the purpose of Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:16: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." In addition, He opened my eyes to a simple yet powerful way to apply this verse to my personal Scripture - teaching the truth, rebuking sin, correcting spiritual deficiencies, and training in righteousness - can effectively guide us as we evaluate and apply Scripture.

Teaching the Truth
Begin with the first purpose of Scripture listed in 2 Timothy 3:16, teaching. Ask yourself, "What does this passage teach?" Boil it down to a simple statement (or statements) of truth. To help crystallize what is taught, ask these clarifying questions:

  • What does this passage say about God?

  • What does it say about people?

  • What does it say about my relationship with God and others?

Everything in God's Word relates to these simple questions.

Jesus declared that the entire Bible hangs on the two commandments to love God and love others (see Matthew 22:34-40). Scripture becomes incredibly practical when you look at it in the light of these questions. To help cement the truths you find, write down everything you discover. Writing out your thoughts will do wonders to clarify your understanding of God's Word.

Rebuking Our Sin
The second purpose of God's Word that Paul describes is rebuke. Scripture rebukes us by revealing our sin and the ways we fall short of God's standards. Once you see what a passage teaches, prayerfully ask if there is any way that you are violating this truth. Ask:

  • Am I falling short in this area? If so, how?

  • If you sense conviction, ask yourself, "Where and how is this sin taking place?"

It's critical to identify clearly how you fall short. For example, it's not enough to know that you have a problem with anger. Responding properly to rebuke means specifically confessing where sin is rearing its head. Don't just say, "I have a problem with anger." Instead, identify how you sinfully express that anger: "When I'm angry, I tend to be critical of my spouse."

Next, ask yourself:

  • Is this sin the problem or just a symptom of a deeper issue?

Many times, sin manifests itself in our lives as a response to other, less visible problems. Criticizing my spouse may be the result of my frustration at work or some other cause. Unless we deal with the root, the weeds will grow again. Real change demands that we go below the surface.

Correcting Spiritual Deficiencies
The third purpose of the Bible is correction. The Word of God not only rebukes when we get off track, but it shows us the on-ramp back to the right road. Correction begins by asking, "What is the opposite of my sin?"

For example, if I have a problem with uncontrolled anger, God desires patience and self-control. Next, ask yourself, "What action do I need to take to get back on track?" Write down specific ways that you could display the right behavior. For example, I will listen to my wife's point of view before I respond, and I will respond with a calm tone of voice. Pray that God would enable you to begin to make changes you've recognized are necessary.

Training in Righteousness
God's Word trains us in righteousness. The goal of the Christian race is to finish well. We not only get back on the right track, but we stay there. Hebrews 12:1 instructs us to "throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and ... run with perseverance the race marked out for us." The Word of God trains us to run with perseverance.

Finally, ask yourself, "What do I need to do to stay on track?" The answer may be revealed in the passage you're studying. However, you may also need to consider other Scriptures to answer this question. Maybe you need to commit to pray about the issue at hand or memorize certain verses on the subject. Long-term change demands that we transform our minds and hearts. Use this final question as a catalyst to help you develop a plan of action.

Excerpted from Discipleship Journal's Best Bible Study Methods, copyright 2002 by The Navigators. Excerpted portion written by Kevin Green. Used by permission of NavPress, Colorado Springs, Co., www.navpress.com. All rights reserved. For copies of the book, call 1-800-366-7788.

Kevin Green is the pastor of Cornerstone Community Baptist Church in Brodheadsville, Pa.

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