All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. —2 Timothy 3:16
John Piper, in a sermon, “All Scripture Is Breathed Out by God and Profitable”
That is a remarkable phrase: “every good work”! Everything good that God expects us to do, the Scriptures equip us to do. That is an amazing claim. How does it work? How does the Bible equip us for “every good work”?
It’s not by supplying specific lists that cover all possible situations. Thinking that way would be a mistake in two ways. It would be a mistake because there are hundreds of specific situations we are in that the Bible does not specifically address. There were no TVs, computers, cars, phones, birth control pills, Prozac, genetic engineering, respirators, bullets, bombs in Jesus’ day. The Bible does not equip us for every good deed by telling us the specific choice to make for every new situation.
The other reason it would be a mistake to think that way is that it leads straight to legalism—doing things because of outward conformity to a demand in the hope that performance will win approval. That is not Christian morality. Good works are done from a heart that treasures God and his help and from a heart that loves to display the glory of Christ, else the “good works” arenot good, no matter how they conform to external expectations.
Here are two key verses to show this. Romans 14:23, “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” And Romans 7:4, “My brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.” Bearing fruit in “every good work” (see Colossians 1:10 ) means that it comes out on the branches of your life naturally from something that has changed inside. And what has changed is that you are dead to the law as a set of lists to constrain from the outside, and are now united to Jesus Christ in a relationship of joyful trust so that when he speaks—even speaks some of that same law—it comes from within as the desire of your heart.
So here’s my answer to how the Scripture equips us for “every good work.” The Scripture, day after day, reveals to us the greatness and the beauty and the power and the wisdom and the mercy of all that God is for us in Christ so that by the power of the Spirit we find our joy in him, and the ways of sin become distasteful—indeed ugly and repugnant. Yes the Bible gives us many specifics as pointers how to live. But most deeply the way the Bible equips us for every good work is by changing what we find satisfaction in so that our obedience comes from within freely, not by coercion from without. It does this when we read it and meditate on it and memorize it and meditate over it every day.