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Every so often, new information causes us to take a new look at a familiar verse. In a previous post, I had us take a second look at Proverbs 22:6, asking if we had not misunderstood the intent and the application of the verse.

In a similar vein, I want to have us look again at 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. NIV84

Important for the Parent
These are two important and familiar verses. In his final letter, Paul writes from afar to Timothy who is seeking to strengthen the Ephesian church and protect them from false teachers.

He reminds Timothy:

  1. The Scriptures are inspired (or God-breathed).
  2. They are not irrelevant but profitable for a number of things – teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.
  3. They allow the man of God, the pastor, any church leader, yes even the parent, to be equipped for anything he will face.

As a family shepherd, these verses certainly apply to us. God has placed into your hands the very book he wrote. It is powerful and effective so that you can handle whatever comes your way. Use it for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.

In our shepherding our children, we should carefully and gently bring Scripture up. To paraphrase the late Dr. David Powlison, biblical counsel is helping a person apply just one Scripture to one life situation. And an intentional family shepherd will do just that.

Teaching, Rebuking, Correcting, and Training
Now let’s turn our attention to that middle phrase – teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. We see a progression here for personal change.

First, Scripture teaches us. There are things we don’t know that we should know. Similarly, there are things our children don’t know that they should know. God says, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).  The Scriptures give us information that we need to understand.The first step in godliness is knowing certain things.

Second, Scripture rebukes us. The word there has the idea of conviction. The Bible informs us of what is wrong in our thinking, emotions, will, actions, and reactions. Though sometimes painful, this rebuke is good for us. We need to realize that we are disordered. Sometimes, we need macro repentance. And at other times, small micro repentance is needed. As family shepherds, we want to root the correction of our child’s disobedience in the word of God. We train them not to lie or steal because God says so, not just because we say so.

Third, Scripture corrects us. But how is correcting different than a rebuke? The two words seem like the same thing in my mind. A survey of some friends revealed the same confusion. This is what I will address in the next section.

Finally, Scripture trains us in righteousness. We develop spiritual muscle memory by continuous practice. We increasingly act in godly ways as a matter of our character.

A Second Look at Correct
Let’s circle back and think about the word correction.

In English, correction carries the same connotation as the previous word rebuke when used with people. “I had to correct my child.” Or “He has a tough time receiving correction from a church member.” Both of those statements carry a negative, not positive connotation.

But the Greek word has the idea of standing something up again or making something stand up again. . The term epanothosis has the same Greek root of orthosis which shows up in our English words orthopedic and orthodontist. These doctors straighten and heal. Whereas rebuking has the idea of speaking negatively about a wrong habit or attitude, this Greek word has a positive connotation of restoring and rebuilding.

Why would the translators pick the word correction? I think they did because in English when applied to an object, correction has the idea of restoration. For example, “The airplane corrected its course.” Or “They messed up my order, but we got it corrected.” In those instances, we do have a positive connotation while using the word correct.

In summary, the Greek word actually has a positive meaning, but because of the way we use correct with people, we hear the word negatively. We miss the real, intended, positive intent.

What is a solution? I would suggest that, consistent with the Greek scholarship, restore is a better translation of the word for our current English ears.  Numerous Greek resources including BDAG, Kittle, and Thayer list restore as one of the possible translations of epanorthosis. In English, to restore something is to put it back to where it should be.  As stated above, the word epanorthosis carries the idea of standing something up again, making something stand up again.

Let’s see how the verse would read:

All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, restoring, and training in righteousness.

By translating the word to restore we can see the contrast between rebuking and restoring. Now we can see the prominent Scriptural theme of restoration, straightening, and setting upright. We can see the implied progression of sanctification and the role the word of God plays in that. This new clarity also harmonizes with the numerous put off and put on commands of Scripture (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Restoring. That’s part of what good pastors, counselors, and parents do. They bring the Scriptures to help set the individual back upright again – restoring to where God wants them.

What is the positive that the person is to love, think, or do so as to honor the Lord in this situation? What is the positive walking by the Spirit in this person’s situation? And Scripture is sufficient for the task.

Mom and Dad, all of the word of God is helpful in your task. Some of it you need to use to inform. On occasion, you may need to use a verse to rebuke your child. Then use Scripture to tell them the right thing to do. Finally, Scripture can help train them in ongoing righteousness.