16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
All Scripture is God-breathed, profitable and beneficial. This is an easy enough statement to understand, but it is more difficult to account for all Scripture in practice. My tendency is to focus on my favorite passage, section, genre or testament. It is difficult not to discount passages that are unsettling or those that do not fit with my general understanding of a particular doctrine or teaching. It is easy to be highly selective. This is not to say that certain Scriptures might not have greater weight for understanding God’s word. This does mean, however, that no passage should be completely dismissed. Doctrinal understanding should arise from the greatest possible effort to account for all of God’s word. This is the constant challenge.
This need can be clearly seen in many religious debates where people can become polarized in their view of Scripture. One side has “their” passages and emphasize certain parts of Scripture, and the other side has “their” passages. Extreme positions result when religious opponents and the points they make are dismissed. Often, both sides make important points of truth, and neither should be understood exclusively from the other. Not all religious debates would fit this description, of course, but many do.
So, how can we give proper respect to all of God’s word?
- Read the entire Bible. A daily or regular Bible reading schedule is important for a full examination of Scripture. Christians should make a concerted effort to read the entire Bible on a regular basis.
- Challenge your doctrinal positions. Investigate Scriptures that do seem to coincide with a particular doctrine. When you read Scripture canonically, you take into account all of God’s revelation.
- Proceed with caution in religious debates. It is easy to dismiss religious opponents and different positions out of hand. Other positions should be carefully weighed for potential truthfulness or error.
- Preach and teach all of God’s word. As a preacher, I have always found it a constant challenge to preach “the whole counsel of God.” My tendency is gravitate to what is comfortable for me. Preachers should diligently try to preach all of God’s word, and congregants should desire this from their preachers and teachers. Personally, I try to focus on expository preaching with Scripture selection regularly coming from different parts of Scripture. Preaching from a lectionary or pre-selected list of Scriptures can be helpful in this regard. The preacher is forced to deal with all of Scripture rather than what is most easy and comfortable.