Breath of Life
“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 Tim. 3:16–17).
The growth of Pentecostalism since the beginning of the twentieth century is a phenomenon that cannot be ignored. Integral to this movement is the idea that the Holy Spirit is still speaking today, and many persons regularly claim to receive “words” from the Spirit for the church. According to Pentecostals, these revelations usually come in visions or in words heard with the ears and/or the mind.
Reformed theology also believes the Holy Spirit speaks to His people today. One name for the Spirit helps us understand how this can be the case. In the original languages, the term for Spirit (ruach in Hebrew; pneuma in Greek) is the same word used for “breath” and “wind.” Breath of God then, is a good title for the Holy Spirit.
Second Timothy 3:16–17 is an important passage that describes the work of the Breath of God. This passage, which is so critical to the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy, tells us Scripture is “breathed out” by God. The term for “breathed out” (other versions: “God-breathed”) comes from the Greek word theopneustos, a term with clear affinities to pneuma. In this text, Paul teaches us that the Lord “breathed” out His Word into the prophets, using them to give us sacred Scripture.
When Paul tells us the very words of Scripture are breathed out by God He means these words are spoken by Him. When the Lord inspired His prophets He was able to move them to convey His own thoughts without any error. The words of the Bible are God’s words, even if He made use of men with different skills and literary styles to write them down.
If Scripture is the Lord’s speech, then we as Christians believe He speaks to us today through His written Word. The Holy Spirit guides us today not apart from, but through the words of the Bible. No longer are new prophecies inspired, for the church’s foundation of apostles and prophets has been laid once and for all (Eph. 2:19–21). And since the Holy Spirit who inspired Scripture is the Spirit of truth (John 15:26), we are confident God’s Word is true and sufficient to guide us in all matters of faith and life.
We would not hesitate to read a letter from God if it were to drop from heaven today. He goes on to say that we have already been given a letter — the Scriptures — but we too often live as if this book is not from heaven, as our negligent study of it demonstrates. Take some time today to read through a portion of the Bible. Ask the Spirit to illumine its meaning and to show you how to apply it to your life.
Passages for Further Study
- Ps. 119:18, 105
- 1 Cor. 2:12–13
- Eph. 1:15–23
- Heb. 4:12
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