May 2008 Issue
by Richard R. Melick, Jr.
All Scripture is inspired by God
and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting,
for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete,
equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
for the training of the saints in the work of ministry,
to build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12).
Years ago, I was sitting by a former president of the Southern
Baptist Convention listening to a major convention address. The
speaker moved the crowd with his stories, illustrations, and vocabulary.
All in all, it was a better than average message from a capable
leader. As the message drew to a close, the former president turned
to me and said: "It cost us so much to recover the authority
of the Bible. When are we going to use it?"
Most Southern Baptist pastors believe
they are Bible-centered. Yet, in too many instances church leaders
simply embrace contemporary models of management theory, life
organization, addiction recovery, or relationship building
sometimes even putting Bible verses on these models, thus "baptizing"
them into Gospel truth all the while failing to recognize
the Bible as their primary resource.
Every generation has faced the challenge of recognizing and
applying the relevance of God's changeless Word in contemporary
settings. Today, as much as in any other time, we need to understand
the centrality and effectiveness of God's Word in bringing about
When speaking of the nature of the Bible, we most often think
of 2 Timothy 3:16-17. When speaking of the functions of the church,
we think of Ephesians 4:10-12. Both texts speak to the goal of
developing Christian maturity. These two texts have some important
connections, and they are the focal points of this article.
Making God's People Complete:
2 Timothy 3:16-17
Second Timothy 3:16-17 is a central and critical indication
of both the Bible's Divine inspiration and its value to the church.
Several points deserve review and consideration before comparing
it to Ephesians 4:10-12. First, Paul spoke of the Scriptures.
All scripture means that we possess a body of authoritative
literature, a collection of various writings that form a unified
Scripture. The writings designated "Scripture" form
a consistent witness. Here Paul referred directly to the Old Testament,
but by extension of the principle of Divine inspiration, the New
Testament is included in his application.
Inspired by God modified and therefore shaped
Paul's understanding of what constitutes Scripture. Contrary to
much discussion of the recent past, Paul is hardly separating
portions of inspired texts from the whole of the texts in which
they occur. He had no concept of partial inspiration. Rather,
the modifying word "inspired" refers to the body of
accepted Scripture. In this, he endorsed the Divine origin of
Scripture, for it is "breathed from God" (the literal
meaning of theopneustos), thus inspired.
Profitable indicates the functional value of
the inspired Scripture. Thus Scripture is the authority for doctrine
and practice. All Christians should look to the Scriptures to
determine the truthfulness of both formulations of doctrine and
evaluating individual patterns of life. This means that everything
we embrace as true must be either taught directly by Scripture,
or must be consistent with, and not contrary to, Scripture.
A Linguistic Watershed: "That"
These verses contain one Greek sentence, which is grammatically
complex. The pivotal point of the sentence is the beginning of
verse 17 where Paul states: so that the man of God....
This verse begins with a purpose clause, translated usually "that,"
but more literally understood as "in order that." The
long sentence divides into a statement section, providing a foundational
truth, followed by a purpose clause, providing the intended goal
of the truth contained in the earlier statement.
In that sense, the simple Greek word "that" (hina)
functions as a hinge. Grammarians call purpose clauses "final."
They point toward an intended end or goal that is expressed in
what follows. The logic of this text, therefore, is verse 16 builds
to the "that" clause, and then the remainder of verse
17 flows from it.
Scripture is Authoritative
All Scripture is "God-breathed" and "profitable."
The two go together with equal weight. Naturally, if Scripture
traces its origins to God, it should be both authoritative and
beneficial to the recipients. So it is here. Scripture's authority
is directly correlated to its Divine origin (see "The Authority
of the Bible" by David Dockery in the February/March 2008
issue of SBC LIFE).
Furthermore, Scripture has a functional benefit to its recipients
because of its Divine origin. God, graciously, provided an objective
authority, the Bible, that really works in human life. While people
often give lip service to that truth, the burden of this article
is that Scripture deserves careful and consistent application
to life. Scripture must become the acknowledged authority and
guideline for our lives.
Given these parallel truths, Paul provides four values of Scripture:
teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.
These refer to understanding truth both intellectually and practically
(see "The Bible-Sufficient!" by Randal Williams in the
April 2008 issue of SBC LIFE).
In this text, it should also be noted that Paul indicates "all
scripture." Without belaboring the point, we should note
that every part of the Bible is vested with authority and profitability.
Those who neglect any portion of Scripture do so at great personal
Scripture is Effective
In 2 Timothy 3:17 Paul makes specific the practical reason
God gave the Scriptures. Scripture shapes and matures God's people,
making them adequate in their character and in their ability to
fulfill God's purposes for their lives.
Significantly, two key words in the text explain God's intent
in Scripture. They are built on the same Greek root (arti)
which, as we will see, is also central to the Ephesians passage.
The first word explains the goal of a person's growth through
Scripture: "completeness" (artios).
This is the only time the word occurs in the Bible, yet it is
quite significant. Variously translated, it suggests the completeness
that comes from "having everything in proper order."
It points to the ultimate goal of a Christian's growth: "perfection,"
which perhaps is better understood as "ultimate completeness."
Another way of describing perfection is having everything in life
in proper order and every aspect of life operating at its highest
and best, without any defect. Thus, Paul first points to godly
character what a person is. Following the teachings of
the Bible makes a man of God complete.
The second word describes the completed character in action.
Normally translated "equipped," the Greek word exartizomai
contains the same root word as artios. It
is a passive participle, suggesting the character attained has
been given, not earned by personal effort. It comes as the result
of God's blessing a life devoted to Him. It is also effective,
making one capable for "every good work." Literally,
the word suggests the person of God acts "out of" completeness
(exartizomai begins with a preposition ek
meaning to come out "from inside").The only other time
the word occurs in Scripture is Acts 21:5 where Luke writes "when
our time was up (completed)." It is also significant that
there is a preposition built on this word root (arti)
that means "now" (i.e., that this is the completed
or proper time). Verse 17 teaches that the "completed"
man of God addresses every work "out of that completeness
(of character)" provided by the authority and profitability
of all Scripture. Reading this verse literally, we suggest something
like: "in order that the man of God may be together
(i.e., complete or mature), attempting every good work
out of his togetherness (i.e., because he was made
complete or mature of character)."
Other Words on this Root
Second Timothy 3:17 builds its case on two words built on the
same root, which mean "to be complete." For an adequate
understanding, it will be helpful to survey other words built
on this root in the New Testament. Then we will turn to Ephesians
The most common word built on the root arti is
katartizo, translated several different ways in
Scripture. Twice the word occurs in a secular sense in parallel
passages. When Jesus called two of his first four disciples they
were working with their nets, "mending" them (Matthew
4:21; Mark 1:19). Often commentators point out that the word is
used in secular Greek of a medical surgery ("setting bones")
or of "straightening what is crooked." Thus, most likely
they were repairing nets after a night's fishing.
Paul uses the word most often. It is usually translated "perfection"
in the NIV (2 Corinthians 13:9, 11 ["maturity" and "restored"
in HCSB]; 1 Thessalonians 3:10 ["complete" in HCSB]).
In Galatians 6:1 Paul called the spiritual to "restore"
(katartizo) one who had fallen, and in Romans 9:22
Paul used it of vessels "ready" for destruction, the
only "negative" use of the word. Generally, Paul used
the word in a way to suggest a process leading to completion.
Whether he prayed for completeness (perfection) or restoration
to completeness, his use of the word expressed the truth that
Christians should endeavor to "have it together," displaying
the character God intends of all His people.
Significantly, none of these additional texts specifically
indicate how such completeness happens in a believer's life. Twice,
Paul suggests that it may come through the agency of mature individuals.
In Galatians 6:1 "the spiritual" are to rally to the
cause of the fallen, and in 1 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul expressed
the hope that he would make up their lacks. But he suggests nothing
more than that others encourage completeness.
The word occurs two other times. Hebrews 13:20-21 says may
the God of peace ... make you perfect in every good work (KJV),
or equip you with all that is good (HCSB). Similarly, 1
Peter 5:10 says But the God of all grace ... make you perfect
(KJV) or restore you (HCSB). Significantly, the Hebrews
text ends the way 2 Timothy 3:17 does: "perfection"
is directed to good works.
Before moving on, we should summarize the main points we have
made to this point. First, the Scripture is divinely inspired
to make God's people complete and to enable them to serve out
of that completeness. Second, Paul used two words based on the
arti root to communicate his meaning: "complete"
(artios) and "equipped" (exartiizo).
Third, in the New Testament the more frequent word of this group
is katartizo, usually translated "perfect"
or "make up so as to perfect," and "restore."
The contexts normally indicate that such completeness is the result
of a growth process. Finally, there is little to suggest from
the use of this word group, outside of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, just
how one is to arrive at this specific kind of completeness.
Preparing the Saints: Ephesians
Ephesians 4:11-12 is used frequently as "the" text
for how the church should function in its responsibility of ministry.
The leaders of the church are to focus on the church's membership
so that in turn members can minister to others in the body. Here
in this critical passage we find a key word from the same word
group in 2 Timothy 3:17.
The Origin and Function of Church Leaders
Stressing the unity of the body of Christ, Paul explained the
origin of church leaders. Christ, at His ascension, gave gifts
to the church. The gifts are people gifted for church leadership.
Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors/teachers function
to prepare God's people for works of service. Christians should
acknowledge that their leaders are, in fact, good gifts from the
Like 2 Timothy 3:16, this passage lays a foundation and suggests
a purpose in ministry. God's gifted and called leaders described
in the first part of the text provide the foundation. The ministry
purpose of these leaders according to 4:12 is the equipping
of the saints (NASB). The word katartismos from
this same word group is used. The NIV refers to it as "preparing
the saints," and the HCSB uses "training," but
the goal is the perfection of the saints. Paul states the broader
goal as unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God's Son
with the hope that all will become a mature man with a stature
measured by Christ's fullness.
There are two notable differences between this passage and
2 Timothy 3:16-17. First, the 2 Timothy passage links Christian
maturity to inspired Scripture, while Ephesians teaches that Jesus
cares for us through gifted and called people. Second, while the
same word group occurs in each passage, there are different forms.
Second Timothy uses "out of completeness" (exartiizo,
"equipped"), and Ephesians uses "referring to completeness"
(katartizo, "prepared, perfected, or trained").
The difference in words is significant. It is correct to translate
2 Timothy 3:17 as "equip," an almost literal translation.
Ephesians 4:11-12 stresses the process toward perfection. Leaders
are to use their gifts and calling to encourage the perfection
(or preparation) of the saints. The verses teach that God's people
need to grow and that as they grow they, too, will minister to
Nevertheless, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and Ephesians 4:11-12 have
some strong common elements. First, there are teaching and discipling
parallels. In 2 Timothy 3:16 the "profitability" of
Scripture is identified; in Ephesians 4:11-12 "gifted people"
have specific functions. Second, there is the same goal. Second
Timothy 3:17 moves toward "completeness" and "being
equipped" (exartizo) for "every good work."
Ephesians 4:11-12 moves toward preparation and completion (katartizo)
and then to "works of service" and "fullness of
Furthermore, surveying the use of the entire group of words
with the root arti enables us to understand that
in the New Testament the word is selectively used for growth (and
restoration) into completeness of character. Because it is used
so infrequently, it is entirely valid to establish patterns of
use. Also, integrating the various contexts of these two passages
suggests that they work together to provide understanding.
For our two main texts, this suggests that the function of
the church leaders identified in Ephesians 4:12 preparing
the saints has a direct correlation to 2 Timothy 3:17 which
uses the same word root twice. Specifically, if a pastor's
assignment is to help bring the members of his church to spiritual
preparation and completion (Ephesians 4:12), and if the people
of God are brought to completion through the Scripture (2 Timothy
3:17), then he must be faithful to the proper teaching and application
of Scripture to the lives of those to whom he ministers. In
short, the link between these passages demonstrates that the effective
way of growing the body of Christ into maturity is to teach and
apply the Bible to every facet of life.
Equipping and Perfecting:
From this review of the use of the arti word group in the New
Testament, we see that when these words occur, they are used in
a specific way and normally in a context of developing Christian
character. Furthermore, they are the significant and pivotal words
of two of the most important passages used in doctrinal statements
in contemporary church culture.
Based on this survey, consider these observations. First, God
expects Christians to grow to maturity in Christ. He has provided
two means for our growth: the divinely inspired Bible, and called
and gifted Christian leaders.
Second, following the example of the writers of Scripture,
we should pray that God will bring us to His intended state of
completion. It is His work and it can only occur through the strength
Third, the primary instrument for the development of Christian
character is the Bible. Second Timothy 3:16-17 makes this clear.
The other texts using this word group provide for the ministry
of exhortation, but no alternate means identified produces Christian
Fourth, combining the teaching of these passages, if the means
by which the man of God is complete and equipped is the Word of
God, then the ministry of preparing the saints must similarly
use the Word of God toward that end.
The results of this survey are compatible with general New
Testament teaching. For example, 2 Peter 1:3 states that God has
given us everything required for life and godliness, through
the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.
On the basis of these promises Peter exhorts his readers to embark
on the process of developing the various aspects of Christian
There are obviously other components of Christian growth. Knowledge,
proper choices, support from other Christians, suffering, and
victories all contribute to Christian character. Most importantly,
the Holy Spirit applies the work of Christ to our lives and, without
Him, all attempts at godliness fail.
But our central source for growth and all aspects of faith
is the Bible. Books on management, self-actualization, Christian
psychology, character development, and a plethora of other self-help
theories are secondary. They are to be measured by the Scriptures.
Furthermore, they can never replace the use of Scripture in a
Christian's life and must always remain subservient.
Correct doctrine is essential, but it is not enough to merely
articulate correct doctrine. As important as that is, it is equally
important to apply the Word of God to our individual
lives. God chose to inspire His truth in words so we can know
and please Him. He expects nothing less than that we use the Scripture
to grow and minister as He desires.
Richard R. Melick, Jr. is a member of Abiding
Way Church in San Anselmo, California, and professor of New Testament
Studies and director of the PhD and THM Graduate Studies Program
at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, California.
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