All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 2 Timothy 3:16
This verse is played on repeat in several faith traditions, and here’s why; it’s one of the few Bible verses about the Bible. Think about it, the Bible doesn’t come with an owner’s manual. There are no instructions on how to read it, what it’s for, and how we should apply it’s teachings today. This means faith traditions, institutions, governments, and individuals need to decide how the Bible should be read.
Ever wonder why there are so many faith traditions and denominations? Well, this is one reason–we can’t all agree on what the Bible says. But this isn’t a bad thing. After all, diverse perspectives give us a deeper understanding of the text.
In fact, I think it’s good that we don’t have an owner’s manual at the front of our Bibles. It’s a piece of literature, after all, and we’re supposed to creatively engage with literature.
How Can the Bible Be Inspired?
I used to think the authors of the Bible sat down to write and the Spirit of God possessed them, forcing them to write down timeless sacred words. Where did I get this idea? Mostly from 2 Timothy 3:16. You see, the word “inspired” is exciting, it’s also incredibly vague.
So let’s acknowledge that you and I might have different definitions of what it means for the Bible to be inspired. You might think a glowing sky beam came down from heaven and plugged into the brains of Biblical authors. Or maybe God audibly told authors what to write. Or perhaps the spirit of God guided authors and later editors to put together the Bible we have today.
The point is, the word “inspired” doesn’t tell us much about the exact relationship between God and authors. But that doesn’t mean the word doesn’t add value. The word is, in fact, a helpful image for understanding how God speaks through the Bible.
Now, let’s talk about another way people translate this word. Maybe your Bible doesn’t say inspired. Instead, it says that scripture is “God-breathed.”
The Bible is God Breathed
When God made the world, he breathed life into it. At least, that’s the imagery Biblical authors use to describe creation. God’s breath represents his energizing, life-giving presence. Whenever God breathes, life, hope, and wholeness tend to follow.
So the author of 2 Timothy picks up on this theme, calling the words of scripture God-breathed. In other words, God gave us some of his life-giving presence in scripture. This is meaningful and gives weight to the words of the Bible when we read it today. But let’s remember what else is God-breathed.
You are also God-breathed.
According to scripture, soil, stone, plants, animals, and people were given life by God’s energizing presence. Everything you see is God-breathed. Like scripture, your cat, the grass outside, and the people you meet are all God-breathed.
This doesn’t take away from the value of scripture. In fact, it does the opposite. This puts scripture in a significant category, but it’s not alone. So we should use the Bible and read it to find God. But the Bible also clearly states that it’s not the only thing that’s God-breathed.
What Does “All Scripture Is Inspired by God” Mean?
This means that everything in scripture is filled with God’s life-giving presence. So you can experience God by reading its words. But the Bible isn’t the only inspired (or God-breathed) thing in scripture, meaning there’s more than one way to get to know God.
So let’s explore the world, build relationships, and serve others. Together, we can let go of rigid definitions of spiritual wisdom and begin experiencing an inspired, God-breathed life.
If you found this inspiring, check out this article about Jesus.