2 Timothy 3:16-17 TLV “All Scripture is [God-breathed]1 and useful for teaching, for reproof, for restoration, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that the person belonging to God may be capable, fully equipped for every good deed.”
These are the two quintessential verses for the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture. They are the two verses that head the references on most doctrinal statements, but let’s think of how Timothy would have understood Paul’s words. Yes, we realize that the New Testament is the Word of God, but when Timothy received Paul’s letter, he would have understood these words to be speaking of the Hebrew Bible, the Torah, or the TANAKH (an acronym for Torah, Prophets, and Writings).
In the church, we have fallen to one of the enemies’ greatest deceptions, that there is a wall between the Old and New Testaments and that the New Testament magically cancels out the law of God, yet nothing could be further from the truth. Look at the words of Jesus; “Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the Prophets! I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. 18 Amen, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or serif shall ever pass away from the Torah until all things come to pass. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever keeps and teaches them, this one shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees and Torah scholars, you shall never enter the kingdom of heaven!” (Matthew 5:18-20 TLV).
Abolish and fulfill are rabbinic terms meaning to interpret rightly or wrongly. Jesus says I have come to rightly interpret the law and show you how to live it. Verses twenty-one through thirty-seven is Jesus’s teaching on the Ten Commandments, and the rest of the Sermon is about how to live righteously. The law of God is not bad, nor is it a curse. Sin brings about the law’s curse, the curse is the result of disobedience, and the blessing is the result of obedience.
Paul said in Romans 7:12 that the law is holy, just, and good. He explains in chapters six and seven that it is sin that brings about the negative of the law, not that the law itself is harmful.
The word law or Torah means teaching and instruction. Teaching and instruction are not negative; their purpose is to bring about blessing.
Let’s look at one of the misunderstood texts that put the teaching of God in a negative light, Galatians 2:16 NKJV “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”
What does works of the law mean? The Greek words Ergun Nomos mean legalistic observance as translated in the Complete Jewish Bible. We are saved by grace through faith. The Torah was never meant to save people; it was meant to instruct people. Paul wrote in Ephesians that we are saved by grace (2:8), not based on deeds (2:9), but we are created for good works (2:10). Good works cannot save us, but salvation produces good works in us.
How many times have you heard a pastor say, “well, Jesus didn’t say anything about fill in the blank,” or Paul never mentioned fill in the blank concerning something the Old Testament speaks clearly on. I will speak bluntly; when we approach Scripture like that, we are devaluing the Word of God. The Old Testament carries the same inspiration the New Testament does. Jesus and Paul don’t have to restate every Old Testament principle for it to be valid. The law is good because God spoke it. The law stands because God didn’t change it. Jesus fulfilled the sacrificial system, but He did not do away with the moral law, nor is Old Testament instruction invalid.
We need to ask ourselves, what is the New Covenant? It didn’t start on the pages of Matthew; it came from the mind of God through the mouth of His prophet Jeremiah. “Behold, days are coming” —it is a declaration of Adonai— “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not like the covenant I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they broke My covenant, though I was a husband to them.” It is a declaration of Adonai. “But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days” —it is a declaration of Adonai— “I will put My Torah within them. Yes, I will write it on their heart. I will be their God, and they will be My people.”2
The promise of the New Covenant is to have the law written on our hearts. In the New Covenant, we have the power to walk in the instruction in a way that God’s people have not yet had. Jesus didn’t come to set us free from the teaching and instruction of the law; He came to set us free from the power of sin.
When he was near the end of his life, Paul said I am a Pharisee, and I have done nothing to offend the law. If the law was not in force anymore and he was free to live apart from it, why were those his words?
The truth is God’s ways are good. God’s words from Genesis to Malachi are just as relevant in our lives as anything in the New Testament; look at the cross-references in your Bible; most of the New Testament is quotations from the Old Testament. The New Testament isn’t the guide for a new religion; it’s not separate from the Old Testament, the Bible is a whole book, and we need all of it.
If you use the New Testament to negate the Old Testament, you are being rebellious. The same God who inspired the New Testament Apostles inspired the Old Testament Prophets.
For far too long, the church has bought the devil’s lie regarding the division between the Old and New Testaments. We have foolishly believed the early believers didn’t have a Bible; they did! It’s the same Bible that Jesus took in the synagogue, He opened the scroll and found the place to read, and He read from Isaiah chapter sixty-one!
Paul wrote in First Corinthians chapter ten that the record of Israel was composed as an example for us. I’m especially encouraged by The Message Paraphrase renders James 5:10-11, “Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.”
I would encourage every believer to read Psalm 119. Read the joy and delight for the law of God that flows from David’s pen! Oh, that we as Christians would find the same satisfaction and joy in the Torah that David did! My prayer for the body of Christ, my heart’s cry for the church, is that we would stop regarding the New Testament as our Bible but that we would embrace the whole of Scripture and see the law of God as the blessing He wrote it to be.
“I have treasured Your word in my heart, so I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11 TLV
“Open my eyes, so I may behold wonders from Your Torah.” Psalm 119:18 TLV
“All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately—behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage]; so that the man of God may be complete and proficient, outfitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 AMP
- The Tree of Life Version says inspired by God, and footnotes the alternate rendering God-breathed.
- Jeremiah 31:30-32 TLV