Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Second Timothy 3:16, 17 tells us that the Word of God is profitable for doctrine (what is right), for reproof (what is not right), for correction (how to get right) and for instruction in righteousness (how to stay right.) The word “profitable” means that God’s Word has something to contribute to our lives. It is beneficial. We don’t read and study the Word of God simply because we love it and because it can change our lives but because it is profitable.
God’s Word is profitable for correction. The word translated “correction” comes from the Greek word orthos, which means “to be straight.” We derive our English words orthodontist, orthopedic and orthodoxy from it. An orthodontist is a person who makes teeth straight. An orthopedic surgeon takes limbs that are twisted or broken and sets them straight. Orthodoxy is doctrine that is straight. How do we get right? By correction from the Word of God. God makes us straight through His Word.
How does the Word of God correct us? Perhaps one of the best ways to answer that question is to look at different images of the Word of God in the Bible. At least four images will help us understand this ministry of correction.
First of all, the Word of God is light that corrects our detours. It’s no fun to be walking in the darkness. Imagine how you would feel in a forest or in some isolated area without a compass, without a road map and without a light. I even get lost in the daytime because I have a very poor sense of direction. In life, we need direction. Jeremiah said, “It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” Jer. 10:23). We need direction and guidance, or we will find ourselves off on detours.
Psalm 119:105 is a familiar verse: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Back in Bible days, they didn’t have street lights or road markers such as we have today. They used a lamp to find their way. God’s Word is a lamp to our feet. Every time we take a step, it shows us the next step. The Word is not a great beacon that shines miles and miles down the road. No, it’s a light that moves ahead with us as we take small steps of faith. ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct [make straight] your paths” (Prov. 3:5,6). By the light of His Word, God will keep you off the detours. Proverbs 11:5 says, “The righteousness of the blameless will direct his way aright, but the wicked will fall by his own wickedness.” That word “direct” means “make the way smooth” or “make the way straight.”
So the Word of God is a light that corrects our detours. It explains the right way, encourages the right way and exposes the wrong way. As you hold the Word of God before your path, it shows you which way to go. But what if you get off on a detour? Sometimes deliberately, sometimes foolishly, we get off on detours and find ourselves out of the will of God. The Word of God will then correct us by showing us the right path and leading us back to the will of God.
We find an interesting illustration of this in Galatians 2:11-14. The Apostle Peter temporarily turned away from the doctrine of the grace of God and began to fellowship with and approve the legalists who were in the church. “But when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he [Peter] would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision” (w. 11,12). This was a false separation based on fear and not based on the Word of God. Verse 13 tells us that many of the Jews followed Peter’s bad example. Even Barnabas was carried away with this hypocrisy!
Notice what Paul did. He first observed “that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel” (v. 14). The word “straightforward” is orthopodeo-our word orthos again-meaning “to walk straight.” When Paul saw that Peter and his friends were not walking straight, according to the truth of the Gospel, he rebuked Peter. He said, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?” (v. 14). Paul realized that Peter had gone off on a detour, and he used the Word of God to bring him back to the place of obedience.
Note that Paul rebuked Peter publicly, because Peter had sinned publicly. He had led other people astray publicly. He had led them on a detour, and of course, this is very dangerous. It’s dangerous when a Christian leader influences God’s people to follow some detour. Peter was not walking straight, according to the truth of the Gospel. We should test everything by the truth of the Gospel. What is the Gospel? Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. He was buried and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. He was seen alive by many witnesses. If you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be saved. (See I Corinthians 15.)
So, the Word of God is a light that corrects our detours. Every once in a while we need to sit down and ask, “Lord, am I walking on the right path?” If someone comes with the light of the Word of God and corrects us, we ought to accept it. We ought to respond with humility and honesty and obey God’s Word.
© 2005 Warren W. Wiersbe
© 1989 by The Good News Broadcasting Association, Inc. All rights reserved.
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).