Question: "What does it mean that the Bible is God-breathed?"
Answer: In 2 Timothy 3:16, 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 means “God-breathed, inspired by God, due to the inspiration of God,” but other scriptural passages support the basic premise of Scripture being inspired by God.
The power of the breath of God in divine inspiration pervades Scripture. God breathed “the breath of life” into Adam (Genesis 2:7), and Jesus “breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22). In 2 Peter 1:21 we are told that “prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Here we see the truths of Scripture described as coming directly from God, not from the will of the writers He used to record them.
Peter notes that Paul writes “with the wisdom that God gave him” and that failure to take heed to these messages is done at the peril of the readers (2 Peter 3:15–16). Scripture comes from the Holy Spirit, who gives it to us “in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words” (1 Corinthians 2:13). In fact, the Berean believers faithfully used the inspired Word of God to check Paul’s adherence to the Word as they “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).
Faith is central to how anyone receives the validity or value of God’s inspired Word because “the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). The “spiritual man” is the one who has been given the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8–9) for the salvation of his soul. Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” There is a righteousness in the gospel revealed by God in the Scriptures, but our righteousness comes and is maintained by and through faith alone. “The righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:17).
Although 2 Timothy 3:16 may be the only place in the Bible where the phrase “God-breathed” is used to describe the Word of God, Scripture is replete with similar claims. These are actually God’s words reminding us that His truth and love can be found there to guide us in all aspects of life. Perhaps James has the final word about the nature of Scripture (and many other things) when he proclaims, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).