Question: "What does it mean that all Scripture is given for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)?"

Answer: After establishing that all Scripture is inspired by God and contains the weight of His authority, Paul lists the primary purposes of God’s Word and its ultimate intent: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, NKJV).

The adjective profitable used in the New King James Version of 2 Timothy 3:16 means “useful or beneficial, promoting or enhancing well-being.” In other words, the Bible is good for us. Paul highlights four main functions of God’s Word: teaching, reproofing (or rebuking), correction, and instruction in righteousness.

Instruction refers to the entire education and training of a disciple (the development of both mind and morals). The terminology also applies to the upbringing and education of children. Paul called Timothy “my true child in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2, ESV). He considered Timothy more than a disciple but a spiritual son. Paul had “fathered” him by helping him mature in the faith and as a minister.

In the original Greek, the word translated “righteousness” here speaks of a moral standard, knowing right from wrong. The Bible provides instruction in righteousness by shining a light on what is wrong in our lives (1 Corinthians 10:11–12; 2 Peter 1:19; Psalm 19:7–8). It teaches us how to correct those areas, including our wrong thinking, so we do what is right instead (Psalm 119:9). We can think of God’s Word as a spiritual trainer or loving parent who only wants what’s best for us. We can immerse ourselves in God’s Word and rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal its truth to us (John 16:13). We can trust it to keep us on track (Psalm 119:105) toward growing spiritually strong and complete, equipped to fulfill whatever task God has called us to do.

Instruction in righteousness involves our entire education and training as disciples. This understanding helps transform our knowledge of God’s Word from mere head knowledge to active application in our daily lives: “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable” (Hebrews 4:12–13, NLT).

The Bible contains instruction in righteousness for every aspect of life. It teaches us how to manage our time (Ephesians 5:15–17; Colossians 4:5; 2 Thessalonians 3:6–15), steward our finances (Proverbs 3:9; Matthew 6:19–21; Luke 6:38; Hebrews 13:5), handle relationships (Ephesians 5:21—6:9), and raise our children (Proverbs 22:6; 23:13; Ephesians 6:4). Paul’s mention of “all Scripture” emphasizes the composite totality of God’s Word to His people. The believer who delights in God’s Word and meditates on it day and night is blessed. “That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers” (Psalm 1:1–3).

Scripture is the principal channel by which God grows His children to spiritual maturity. We cannot expect to succeed in our walk of faith without immersing ourselves in it. God’s Word sets the believer’s course. It is our source of life (Matthew 4:4) and truth (John 17:17). The Bible is God’s inspired gift to us. The believer who pursues the instruction in righteousness found in God’s Word and applies what he learns will grow in holiness and avoid many pitfalls in life.