Saturday, 31 March 2018
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
The previous verse exhorted Timothy to charge others “before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit.” Now he contrasts that with a thought concerning Timothy himself, beginning with, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God.” The word translated as “Be diligent” carries with it the sense of being swift, or hastening. And so there is a sense of urgency in the act. To paraphrase it, “Present yourself approved to God, and do so with fervency.”
In his statement is a contrast to striving about words to no profit. Such striving will only ruin those who hear. However, in presenting oneself approved to God, the minister will teach what is sound, reasonable, and in context. His doctrine will be set in order to please God rather than his hearers. Instead of ruining the hearer, there will be edification and growth in sanctification and towards holiness. In performing in this manner, Timothy (and any such minister) will be “a worker who does not need to be ashamed.”
In presenting proper doctrine, there may be bitterness towards the teacher, but there will be no shame before God. Which is more important? In 2 Corinthians 11:13, Paul contrasts this with those who will be ashamed. There he says, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.” Timothy is implored now to remember such people and not act like them. In the end, all will stand before God, and they will have their works revealed. They will be tested for purity at that time. Many will stand ashamed. One particular way to ensure that such will not be the case is for the minster to ensure he is “rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Here Paul uses a word found only here in the Bible. It comes from two words which signify “straight” and “cut.” We can imagine a carpenter ensuring that the board he is cutting is straight, so that it will fit properly elsewhere. A tile-setter will make his cuts straight so that the mosaic will be harmonious and pleasing to the eye. The priest of Israel would cut the sacrifices properly to ensure that the parts which were dedicated to God would be wholly reserved to Him as required. To improperly cut any such thing will lead to faults or flaws in what is cut. Therefore, the one receiving the item will have a diminished quality of product. The house frame will be off, the mosaic will look odd, and the sacrifice to God will be displeasing.
The same is true with presenting Scripture. Pulling one verse out of its intended context, and then inserting it with another verse in an inappropriate manner, will lead to something wholly unintended by God. Scripture should be used to interpret Scripture, not misinterpret it. The axiom, “A verse out of context is a pretext,” is correct. It should always be remembered. To rightly divide the word of truth is to maintain truth in the word. Anything else is to form a lie, not intended by God for the instruction of His people.
In 1 Corinthians 3:9-15, Paul speaks of erecting a building upon a foundation. He says there that the foundation is Jesus Christ. Elsewhere (Ephesians 2:20), he says that the foundation is the prophets and apostles with Christ as the chief Cornerstone. What that means is that the prophets and apostles spoke of Christ. Their word is what teaches of Him. Thus He is both the Cornerstone and the Foundation, as revealed through their words. This building is now being constructed out of the people of the church. Our works are being revealed through this process, and Paul says that there is a time of judgment upon those works. Take time to read that passage and consider if what you are doing is in line with the concept of “rightly dividing” the word of truth.
Life application: It can be difficult for a minister to continue with sound doctrine when the numbers are dwindling and no new congregants are coming in to replace them, or when people turn away because they don’t like what they hear. But in the end, if the ministry is the Lord’s to begin with, it is His to end. A church not established on this ideal is one not worth attending. And one that is faithful should be considered that way, even if it is time to close the doors. If He established it, then He will continue it or close it. Changing doctrine away from what is biblically correct to keep a church open is evidence that the church is not in the Lord’s will at all. Run, don’t walk from such a place.
Lord God, when a church is established on Your word, and it later changes its doctrine away from what Your word teaches, it really is no longer Your church. Your word is eternal and unchanging. How sad it is that so many churches are now accepting what You have already forbidden. What a mournful day for them when they present their life and doctrine for Your evaluation. Convert hearts now Lord, before that terrifying day comes when many find out that they were never approved. Amen.