We have been tracing the theme of divine revelation through the Old Testament this week, and it is now time to consider its fulfillment in the New Testament. No study of divine revelation would be complete without a discussion of today’s passage, a key text for the doctrine of revelation.
Second Timothy 3:16–17 is famous for using the Greek term theopneustos — “Godbreathed” — to describe the writings of Israel’s prophets and Christ’s apostles. With this word, Paul teaches that the Bible, though written by men, has been inspired to the point of being the very Word of God itself. To hear and obey the Scriptures is to hear and obey God Himself. Some adjust verse 16 to read “every God-breathed Scripture,” making a distinction within Scripture between those portions of the holy book that are inspired and authoritative and those that are not inspired and thus disposable. The grammatical arguments are complex, but Greek scholars agree that Paul uses “God-breathed” to qualify all of the Scriptures. For the apostles, every word of Scripture is the very Word of God.
Setting one portion of Scripture against another is a common way people understand the old covenant revelation as being fulfilled in the new. Some discard the Old Testament entirely and accept only the New Testament. Others think that the teaching of Jesus is somehow more authoritative than other portions of the Old or New Testaments. But Jesus is clear that He did not come to abolish the older revelation of God found in the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 5:17–20) and that to hear His apostles through their writings is to hear the Savior Himself (10:40).
This Jesus is the culmination of divine revelation, the Word of God (John 1:1–18) and the clearest picture of the Father. He is the last Word from God, and we hear from Him when we submit to the authority of the entire canon of Scripture. B.B. Warfield writes, “The entirety of the New Testament is but the explanatory word accompanying and giving its effect to the fact of Christ. And when this fact was in all its meaning made the possession of men, revelation was completed and in that sense ceased. Jesus Christ is no less the end of revelation than He is the end of the law” (The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, p. 96).
Just because Jesus is the incarnate Word of God does not mean that we need not study Scripture or hold it as supremely authoritative in matters of faith and practice. We learn about and from Christ throughout Scripture, and when we submit to it we are submitting to Christ Himself. Some people try to set up a conflict between following Jesus and following Scripture, but we must never fall into that error.