2 Timothy 3:16,17 and the Case for Sola Scriptura
Though this debate took place almost 19 years ago now, the fact is that the word of God has not changed in any way at all in that time. On September 28, 1993, at the Bayview Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Chula Vista, California, Dr. James White debated Roman Catholic Patrick Madrid on the subject "Does The Bible Teach Sola Scriptura?" The full transcript of the debate can be found at this link.
Here's part of Dr. White's opening statement regarding the sufficency of Scripture:
2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for instruction, for training in righteousness, in order that the man of God might be complete, fully equipped for every good work."
We begin by noting that Scripture is theopneustos, "God-breathed." The term is very strong. I refer anyone who wishes a full discussion of this term to B.B. Warfield's excellent treatment of it. That which is theopneustos has ultimate authority, for there can be no higher authority than God's very speaking. "All Scripture is God-breathed."
It is common for Roman Catholic apologists to follow an error made by John Henry Cardinal Newman, with reference to this passage. Indeed, Karl Keating, Patrick's associate at Catholic Answers, makes the same mistake in his book, Catholicism and Fundamentalism. And he repeated it again only recently during a debate on this subject in Denver during the papal visit. Newman said that if this verse proves the sufficiency of Scripture, it proves too much, for Paul is talking here only of the Old Testament, which would leave the New Testament as an unnecessary addition. But such is not Paul's point at all.
Paul's point is, if it is Scripture at all, it is God-breathed. Paul is not speaking about the extent of the canon but the nature of Scripture itself as originating in God. All Scripture then, including the New Testament, is God-breathed.
Because Scripture is God-breathed, and hence represents God's very voice speaking, it is profitable for the work of the ministry in the Church of Jesus Christ. We are told that the work of teaching, and rebuking, and correcting, and training in righteousness, can be undertaken due to the nature of Scripture as God-breathed. That is Paul's point.
The Church is not left without the voice of God. For when the Church listens to Scripture, she is hearing her Lord speaking to her. The authority of the Church then, in teaching, and rebuking, and instructing, is derived, despite Roman Catholic claims to the contrary, from Scripture itself.
Now, Mr. Madrid will certainly disagree for, in addressing this very passage less than fifty days ago in a debate on this topic, he said, speaking specifically of verse 16, "I defy you to show me where it says 'sufficient,' in your remarks you said, when you cited II Timothy 3:16, you said, 'sufficient,' but that is not what the Bible teaches." Of course, no one asserts that the term, "profitable," in verse 16, equates to "sufficiency."
When his opponents referred him to verse 17, Mr. Madrid said, "Well, 17 doesn't say 'sufficient' either! 17 says, 'that, so the one that belongs to God may be competent and equipped for every good work.' That does not teach sufficiency. Where does the Bible teach that it is sufficient?" Is Mr. Madrid correct here? Well, let's see.
Verse 17 continues the thought of verse 16. The fact that the Church has God's voice always present with her in God-breathed Scripture, means the man of God, specifically here, of course, Timothy, but I doubt anyone would disagree that these comments refer to all those who belong to Christ and who are a part of His body, the Church, might be complete, fully equipped for every good work.
The first term to examine, is the adjective translated, "complete," the Greek term, a[rtios" (artios). We note that it is related in its root to the second term we will examine, the verb which is translated, "fully equipped," that being the verb, ejxartivzw (exartizo). Paul is here providing us with a play on words--the verb compounding and emphasizing the meaning present in the adjective.
Now, the term, a[rtios", Vine tells us means, "fitted, complete." Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker tell us the term means, "complete, capable, proficient." That is, as they say, "able to meet all demands," giving the specific citation of II Timothy 3:17 as the reference. One of the newest lexical resources, Louw and Nida's Greek-English Lexicon Based on Semantic Domains, uses the term, "qualified" as well. The great Greek scholar, Richard Trench, in his Synonyms of the New Testament, said with reference to this term, "If we ask ourselves under what special aspects 'completeness' is contemplated in artios, it would be safe to answer that it is not as the presence only of all the parts which are necessary for that 'completeness', but involves, further, the adaptation and aptitude of these parts for the ends which they were designed to serve. The man of God, St. Paul would say, should be furnished and accomplished with all which is necessary for the carrying out of the work to which he is appointed."
I pause only long enough to note that Paul here asserts that the man of God can be complete, capable, proficient, and qualified because he has available to him, always, God's inspired Scriptures. Surely, here Paul would have to direct us to any and all other rules of faith that we would need to be complete but, he does not.
But, Paul was not satisfied to merely state that the man of God may be a[rtios", "complete," but, he goes on to define what he means. "Fully equipped for every good work." The term is ejxartivzw, here in the perfect-passive-participial form, the prefix, ex, having, as Robertson noted, the perfective force. Vine tells us that here in II Timothy, it means "to fit out, that is, to furnish completely." Bauer, Arndt Gingrich and Danker expressed this with the term, "equip." Hendrickson makes reference to a related term, katartizw (katartizo), and it's use at Luke 6:40, where it is translated, "fully trained." We see here, then, that Paul teaches that the man of God is thoroughly or completely equipped for every good work. Now, what does it mean to say that one "is fully equipped," if not to say that one is sufficient for a task?
I have recently taken up long-distance bicycle riding, and I've found a lovely little bike shack, a bike store where they are able to give me everything that I need, the clothes and the gloves and the helmet and the bike and the tires and the tubes, which you need a lot--they are able to fully equip me for the task of riding a bike. Does that not mean then, that they are sufficient as equippers for their task? Most definitely it does!
We further see, the Scriptures can equip the man of God for every good work. Now, Mr. Madrid, do you not believe that it is a good work to pray to Mary? Yet, the Scriptures nowhere teach this. Do you not believe that it is good to believe and teach that Mary was bodily assumed into Heaven? Yet, the Bible does not teach this. Do you not believe that the man of God should teach, in the Church, that the pope, in Rome, is infallible in his teaching office? Yet, the Scriptures know nothing of such a concept.
We see then, that the Roman position is contradicted by that of the Apostle. For he knew of no other rule of faith that was necessary so that the man of God could be equipped for every good work. No other rule of faith, that is, than the Scriptures.
But, finally, we remember Mr. Madrid's challenge to show him a verse that teaches sufficiency. Mr. Madrid, I would like to direct you to the Scriptural standard, "by the mouth of two or three witnesses shall a fact be established." I first refer you to Louw and Nida's Greek-English Lexicon, where we encounter the definition given for the semantic domain of ejxartivzw, I quote, "To make someone completely adequate, or sufficient for something; to make adequate, to furnish completely, to cause to be fully qualified; adequacy." They translate our passage as, "completely qualified for every good deed." While Louw and Nida give us two witnesses, I wish to direct you as well to the well-known scholarly resource by Fritz Reinecker and Cleon Rogers, entitled Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. Here, we find the following, in regards to both terms, here in verse 17: "a[rtios": fit, complete, capable, sufficient, i.e., able to meet all demands; ejxartivzw: completely outfitted, fully furnished, fully equipped, fully supplied."
Hence, we see the following:
Number 1: Paul here teaches that the Bible is A rule of faith. For he says the Church's function of teaching and rebuking and instructing is to be based upon God-inspired Scriptures.
Number 2: We see that this passage teaches the sufficiency of the Scriptures to function in this way.
And, number 3: We see that Paul not only does not refer us to another rule of faith, but implicitly denies the necessity of such a rule of faith by his teaching on the ability of Scripture to completely equip the man of God.
Therefore, I assert that the doctrine of sola scriptura is taught plainly in this passage. Mr. Madrid must be able to fully refute the information I have provided to you to win this evening's debate.