Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Rightly dividing - 2nd Timothy 2:15

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)
This is a colorful verse that has many varying translations, all in an attempt to bring out the richness of what Paul wrote to Timothy. On whole, Paul is writing about how we should approach the word of truth, especially by those whose aim it is to teach the word of truth and to instruct others out of its wisdom.

First, Paul tells Timothy to be diligent in his work. Some translations use the term "Study" however, while this particular Greek word may in fact imply study as a part of our diligence, its root word simply means "speed" with the implication of earnestness, endeavoring, and a readiness for the task. There is a wonderful English word, that is also fun to say, it is "Serendipity." Serendipity is when you find something quite by accident and without looking or searching for it. All-of-a-sudden it's there. All-of-a-sudden you understand. Unfortunately, most things in the Kingdom of God do not come through serendipity; they take work, effort, and diligence. Jesus told us, "For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened." (Luke 11:10) However, the tense of these verbs is in the continuous form: whoever asks and keeps asking, whoever seeks and keeps seeking, and whoever knocks and keeps knocking. If we desire to be teachers of the word then we must apply ourselves to the task. This may mean reading, studying, learning, an praying. But in whatever form our task takes us, we must do it with readiness and diligence.

Secondly, Paul tells us that the approval we seek for our work of diligence should not be sought from men but from God. The problem in seeking approval from men is that they often value the things that are detestable to God and find detestable those things that are of high value to God. Jesus Himself told us, "that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God." (Luke 16:15) Seeking the approval of men is a pathway to destruction. Jesus told the story of the master who was going away and divided his fortune among his servants. On his return, one of his servants had doubled what was given him. His master said, "Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities." (Luke 19:17) However, one servant hid the money and, upon his return, the master had no increase from his money. The master said to that servant, "By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave." (Luke 19:22) For one, there was reward for his endeavors, for the other, only shame. God has given us His promises and His gifts and He is looking for an increase from His investment. Let us be diligent with what God has given us so we too will not find ourselves put to shame at His return.

Finally, Paul tells those who wish to be teachers of the word that the goal of their diligence should be to "accurately handle" the word of truth. This particular Greek word means to make a right cut, or to cut straight. Any fool can butcher the word of God but it takes a properly prepared teacher to divide it rightly. There were those in Paul's day who liked to take a knife to the word of God; to cut out the parts they didn't like and to paste in new texts that were more in keeping with their ideals. Even today there are those who like to use an exacto knife to cut a single verse out of its context from which to build their own special brand of theology. Neither of these approaches are worthy of the word of truth. The word of truth is not a mystery but it is a message that has unfolded throughout time. To understand a part of the word you must understand the entirety of the word. To do otherwise would be like coming into the middle of a move and trying to understand what is going on. Without having knowledge of the beginning of the movie you would most likely be lost. To understand a verse you often need to understand it in a greater context and you most certainly need to understand it in the context of the one who spoke it. However, this level of understanding takes effort and time and few there are willing to devote themselves to such an undertaking, but for those who do, their work, study, and diligence will win them approval before God and maybe even men.

David Robison

No comments:

Post a Comment