What is the meaning of God-breathed in reference to the Bible?
In 2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV), Paul states, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." This is the only use in the Bible of the Greek word theopneustos, which literally means "God-breathed." It joins the words theos (God) with pneustos (breath) to convey the idea that Scripture is breathed out by God, serving as an extension of God Himself.
This concept of God's breath serves as a powerful force throughout the Bible. God breathed "the breath of life" into Adam (Genesis 2:7). Jesus "breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'" to His disciples (John 20:22). In 2 Peter 1:21, we are told that "no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." In each case, we find God's breath as representative of God's perfect power.
In 2 Peter 3:15-16 (NIV), we find Peter referring to the apostle Paul's writing as "wisdom that God gave him." Scripture comes from the Holy Spirit, who gives it to us "in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual" (1 Corinthians 2:13). The Bereans Paul spoke of were wise to check the Old Testament Scriptures daily to verify whether Paul's teachings reflected the other inspired writings of God. We are told they "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11 NIV).
Scripture is God-breathed; however, faith serves as an essential component of our understanding of God's inspired revelation in the Bible. First Corinthians 2:14 teaches, "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." According to this verse, only those who have come to faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9) can understand what God has spoken. Hebrews 11:1 defines this faith, saying, "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Faith is how a person comes into a relationship with Christ and also serves as the basis for Christian living. As Romans 1:17 notes, "The righteous shall live by faith."
Second Timothy 3:16 (NIV) is the only verse in the Bible that uses the phrase "God-breathed" regarding Scripture, but it is not the only place that describes Scripture as inspired by God. We find the Bible filled with expressions and teachings regarding the importance of God's Word as His perfect revelation for humanity that we are to follow today. The Bible is God's gift to us, guiding us in how to live in order to please God and serve others. As James 1:17 notes, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."
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