February 01, 2024

Correction: A Healing Word

Sinclair Ferguson
Correction: A Healing Word

God’s Word works in our lives to heal what has become sick, to correct what has gone wrong, and to create beauty out of that which was broken. Today, Sinclair Ferguson clarifies an often-misunderstood characteristic of the Bible.


We’ve been talking about the Bible these past few days, and we kind of landed on Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 3:16–17 about the Scriptures being God-breathed and thinking of them as Jesus did: as the mouth of God, from which He speaks to us. And we noted how Paul emphasizes that the Scriptures are profitable, or useful, for us. They teach us doctrine. They reveal our sinfulness. They reprove us. They show us our failures and lead us on to turn back to the Lord and turn away from our sin. In a word, to keep on living a life of repentance.

But Paul also tells us Scripture is useful for other things. And one of them is what most of our translations call “correction.” To be honest, that word always makes me wince a little, I suppose because when I was in elementary school, we always spoke about our teachers correcting our exams, and I felt more or less that the word correct was the same as the word reprove. Correcting my exams meant there were crosses in red down the side of the page and something had gone wrong. And I could hardly be further from understanding what Paul means when he speaks about correction.

I’m glad therefore that I know some Greek, because the Greek word Paul uses here has a completely different atmosphere about it. It’s a wonderfully positive word. It’s the word epanórthōsis. Did you hear the word orthos there right in the middle? Even if you don’t know any Greek, you can guess what that means from the English words you know. You’ve broken your arm or your leg and you go to an orthopedic surgeon, and he sets it. Or there’s something wrong with your bite when you’re a teenager and your dentist sends you to the orthodontist. And although it might be expensive for your parents, you end up with a healthy bite, but also a beautiful smile. You no longer need to be embarrassed.

And that’s the atmosphere of Paul’s word here. It’s used outside of the New Testament context in a medical context. It’s a healing word: setting a broken bone, straightening something that has become deformed. And that’s what the Word of God does. It straightens what has become deformed. It heals what has become sick. I think we could also say it improves our bite as Christians because people see the difference it makes, but it also produces a kind of beauty in us, a kind of smile.

Incidentally, there’s another word you know that has this orthos at its root. It’s the word orthodoxy. To some people that’s a very cold word, isn’t it? But do you see now that it really means something very beautiful? It means that your thinking and speaking—and yes, your feeling—about God and about Christ and about the Holy Spirit and about the gospel and about the Christian life and about the future have all been healed and straightened and mended.

So, since confession is good for the soul, here’s a word I used to find very difficult as a youngster when I read 2 Timothy 3:16–17, but it’s a word I’ve come to love. God’s Word works in our lives to bring healing and transformation, correction where things have gone wrong, and begins to put bite into our lives, but also creates a certain beauty.

Most of my life, I’ve been a teacher and a preacher and a pastor. So perhaps you would let me apply this to those who are teachers and preachers and pastors. I become increasingly concerned listening to preaching that is full of rebuke. And the preaching of God’s Word does bring rebuke. But if it doesn’t also bring healing, if it doesn’t also mend what is broken, there’s something lacking in it. There’s something lacking in our use of Scripture. And so, this is a challenge for those of us who preach and teach that we should use the Word of God the way God intends it to be used. For teaching, and yes, for reproving, but also for correcting in order that people may be trained in righteousness and be able to live fully for the glory of God. So let’s never forget that the Scriptures and the preaching of the Scriptures are profitable for correction.