2 Timothy 2:15 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.”
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy the theme was to encourage Paul’s beloved son in the Gospel. Ephesus had its share of false teachers and false doctrine (Acts 20:28-31, 1 Timothy 1:6-7, 2 Timothy 3:1-7), so Paul wrote Timothy to endure the hardship and to guard the deposit that was given to him. How was Timothy to fight against the error of his day? He was to study show himself approved unto God, shun profane and vain babbling, continue in the God breathed Holy Scripture that he was taught since his youth, and preach the Word at all times(2 Tim. 2:15, 3:14-16, 4:2). The best defense against false doctrine and error is studying truth, applying truth and preaching truth. It is rightly dividing, interpreting and applying God’s Word.
Our day is no different than that of Timothy’s. Strange doctrines and teaching are abundant in our hour. You can find any type of teaching and doctrine that you desire to appease your flesh (2 Tim. 4:3). Men today are so led by their carnal pursuits that they have twisted God’s Word to make it fit their own lifestyles (2 Peter 3:16). False doctrine and error have come by men who have twisted the scripture, however many good intentioned people have been led to error simply because they did not rightly interpret scripture.
We are to give attendance to reading the scriptures but we are also to give attendance to exhortation and doctrine (1 Tim. 4:13). Timothy is to read the text, interpret the text and apply the text. Every believer should follow this equation when studying the Bible.
Study The Word
So let us look at how we must study the Bible. “Study to show thyself approved unto God.” The word study in this text is the Greek word spoudazo which literally means diligence. We are to be diligent in the study of the Bible. Reading is easy, but study is laborious. You have to be diligent when studying the Bible. And we do this diligence to show ourselves approved unto God. Our purpose of study is not to please man, but to please God. If we are truly studying God’s word, more than likely our findings will not please man, it will be contray to what the carnal man desires. This phrase show yourself approved unto God in the Greek means to stand alongside, or to present ourselves before God. Our study of God’s Word should align us to God, for it is He who inspired all scripture (2 Tim. 3:16). Our interpretation should have the mind of Christ and the heart of God. Interpreting scripture to please people leads to error, but interpreting scripture to please God leads to truth that will affect man’s heart.
Noted Bible commentator John Phillips has this to say on study, “A person does not become a master car mechanic by reading an automobile operator’s manual. One does not become a mathematician, astronomer, nuclear physicist, biochemist, historian, or performing artist by taking a course or two at a junior college. A person must study if he is to become an authority in any subject, much more so if he is to speak with authority about scripture.”
A workman is a laborer. He is like the farmer that tends to his fields and crops. He arises before dawn, works until sunset and repeats the process the next day. We must become laborers of the Word of God giving our time and effort to diligent study, seeking not to just know the words from the pages, but to understand it deeply. We worship and love the Lord with our hearts, souls and mind (Deut. 6:5). Thinking deeply about God and His Word goes hand in hand. You cannot separate God from His written Word, for the words of God reveal His character, attributes and thoughts. Jesus told the woman at the well His people will worship God in Spirit and in Truth. You cannot worship what you do not know. How can you know God’s will if you do not know God’s Word? Oh, for there to be a revival of true worship in the church that is saturated with the knowledge of God’s Holy Word!
Labor in the scriptures will bring about a feeling of accomplishment. A man or woman who takes time to dig into the depths of the scriptures will not be ashamed when they are asked to give an answer for the hope that is in them (1 Peter 3:15). Teaching and preaching false doctrine is a shame for any man. I want to stand before the Lord and hear Him say “well done, my good and faithful servant.” We have a mandate to preach and teach only what is in the Bible. Adding to or even taking away from the Bible will lead to error and shame (Rev. 22:18-19). It is vitally important that we declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).
Rightly Dividing the Word
A student of scripture will correctly interpret scripture. Peter wrote that no prophecy of scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation (2 Peter 2:20). We do not seek to have our own interpretation of scripture, but we seek to understand what God was actually saying. This is the danger when we ask people “what do you think this means?” That should not be the question we should ask when studying the Bible, “What does God mean in this text?” When we try to interpret Bible scriptures with our own interpretation, oo what we may think it says, we endanger ourselves, others and the text! God didn’t need my interpretation when he wrote the Bible, and he doesn’t need it now that it is written.
The phrase “rightly dividing” in the original language is the word orthotomeo, which means to cut straight. John MacArthur writes here concerning this phrase, “It was used of a craftsman cutting a straight line, of a farmer plowing a straight furrow, of a mason setting a straight line of bricks, or of workmen building a straight road. Because Paul was a tentmaker by trade (Acts 18:3), he may have had in mind the careful, straight cutting and sewing of the many pieces of leather or cloth necessary to make a tent.”
Rightly dividing the Word of God involves making straight lines in the interpretation. We piece together each topic of scripture, each theme of scripture and make the correct interpretation and application. Making a straight line involves careful consideration, discipline and attention to details. You cannot move quickly in making a straight line in either cutting fabric, laying bricks, plowing a furrow or building a straight road. The same goes for Bible study and rightly dividing the Word of Truth.
Over the next several posts I intend to write and help us rightly divide the Word of God. We will discuss hermeneutics, context, exegesis and much more. I pray this helps us to understand God’s Word.