Why the phrase “man of God” in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 does not refer to every Christian generally but to Church leaders specifically.
Earlier, I examined 2 Timothy 3:16-17 to show why Scripture cannot be said to claim for itself all-sufficiency. Here are the verses once more:
Every Scripture is God-inspired and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness, in order that the man of God may be perfect, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Thanks to a comment from Perry Robinson to me, I was compelled to look at this phrase in 2 Timothy 3:17, “man of God.” The phrase occurs more than sixty times in the Scriptures, more than forty of them in 1-2 Kings, where they refer most often to Elijah, Elisha, and the unnamed prophet out of Judah of chapter 13. In all “man of God” refers to the prophets–all instances of the phrase are to named prophets or unnamed but specific prophets–nearly fifty times, Moses (eight times), David (three times), the angel that appeared to Samson’s parents (twice), to the son of Igdaliah (Godolias in the LXX), a Levitical priest (once), to St. Timothy (once at 1 Timothy 6:11), and to the unspecified “man of God” in our text under consideration, though contextually its most proximate target would be St. Timothy.
From this follows 4 observations and a corollary:
1. “Man of God” is never used in Scripture to refer to the people of God generally, but to specific persons.
2. “Man of God” always refers to a prophet, priest, King or Church leader, never to the general people of God. Since this is so for every other occurrence, then even 2 Timothy 3:17, though it does not name a specific person, contextually can only refer to a Church leader.
3. We know from passages such as Acts 15:35; 18:11; 20:20, 28-31; Romans 12:7; Colossians 1:28; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 2:24; 4:2; Titus 1:10-14 and Hebrews 13:7 that teaching and correction was an essential part of Church leadership (though Colossians 3:16 could be construed more broadly to apply to Church members generally, and 1 Corinthians 14:26 to those with the charism of teaching, which only the more emphasizes teaching and correction as essential to Church leadership).
4. Given 1-3, then, St. Paul is telling St. Timothy that Scripture is useful for Church leaders “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness.” Whatever else we may say about Scripture and Christians generally, this specific verse is not for application to Christians generally, but to Christian leaders specifically.
5. As a corollary to 4–especially in light of such verses as Acts 15:1; 20:28-31; Colossians 2:22; Titus 1:10-14–when Christians who are not Church leaders make use of Scripture, they should ensure that their teaching conforms to the teaching of the Church leadership.
As I have indicated in my arguments elsewhere, Church leaders are responsible for the faithful transmission of the tradition of the Apostles, which ultimately means that all Scriptural interpretation, especially that of the laity, must conform to what the Church has always taught and believed from the beginning.
So, given my previous argument regarding 2 Timothy 3:16-17, that it does not claim the all-sufficiency of Scripture, and given this argument that the verses only apply to Church leaders specifically, it is now indisputable that Protestants cannot appeal to these verses for Scriptural all-sufficiency, for not only do the verses not make this claim (as I’ve previously proven), neither are they useful for any Christian generally, but for Church leaders particularly, and so even if their all-sufficiency were provisionally granted, it would not apply to all Christians indiscriminately, and therefore would violate the purported claim to be all-sufficient.