The three assigned readings for Series C on the 21st Sunday after Pentecost are Genesis 32:22-30; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5 and Luke 18:1-8. 2 Timothy 3:17 is the chosen text for the sermon: “that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
The problem this passage presents is that it appears that the primary goal of the Bible is to make us thoroughly equipped for every good work. Yet the primary purpose of the Bible according to John 20 is to believe in Jesus Christ and receive full salvation apart from any works we can do. So how does being fully equipped for good works relate to the purpose of the Bible?
First we look at context. In the previous verse 15 we read that the Holy Scriptures are “able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Now that coincides with the rest of the Scriptual witness. How then do we fit in the idea of being equipped for good works? It is a L&G distinction known as the difference between justification and sanctification. On the one hand, in regard to your right standing before God, the Scripture is clear that salvation is by grace, through faith. On the other hand, in regard to your response to what God has done for us in Christ, we are eager to have the Holy Spirit do fruit through us.
To be thoroughly equipped for every good work does not mean that we will no longer sin. Rather it points to the fact that from God’s viewpoint, a truly good work; that is, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, takes place in light of one’s motivation. For one’s body to be the temple of the Holy Spirit and to have the New Man within the believer, the outward good works as seen by the observer are also influenced by love of Christ as seen by God Himself.