Powerful, simple, step-by-step method to understanding the Bible for yourself.

Why is 2Tim 2.15 Our Theme Verse?

Both the course title and the theme verse for this interactive, computer tutorial, Rightly Dividing the Word, are from Paul's second letter to his beloved "son" in the Lord, Timothy.


"Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
2Tim 2.15

RDTW written, pub. &
© 1985, 1998
Emil B. Swift

Contents

Starting the Tutorial

Learning Objectives

Figures of Speech

Important Bible Study Terms

AMP Full Outline

Author's Homepage

Where To Go From Here

Since the Word of God is not merely "letters written on paper", but the Spirit of Christ Himself, the Living Word has power to transform our lives! We urge every student of this tutorial to memorize 2Tim 2.15 as well as 2Tim 3.16-17. Meditating on the Word leads to a closer relationship between the Mind of Christ and our own minds.

Let's take a look at our theme verse:

"Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
2Tim 2.15

SUMMARY
Paul's point here in 2Tim 2.15 is neither eschatological nor dispensational (identifying how to "cut" God's provisions to humankind into "ages").

If you don't read a prior theology into this verse, its intent is simple. Paul's point is that he wanted young Timothy to approach the Scriptures and Paul's own teachings -- God's "word of truth" -- as if Timothy were a diligent workman, a craftsman setting out to use his tools and materials as skillfully as possible in order to receive God's approval as a genuine minister of God. And the "tool" Timothy was to use, was the Word of Truth (Greek: logos).

Paul's admonition to Timothy rings down the centuries to you and me. We also must reject a lazy and superficial approach to the Scriptures. We must instead take up Paul's challenge to use our abilities to the fullest -- handling the Word of Truth skillfully and diligently.

So, how did I arrive at this conclusion?

Let's briefly study 2Tim. 2.15 follows:

This course's title, rightly dividing the word of truth, comes from this admonition by Paul to his beloved "son" in the Lord, Timothy. The wording I use for 2Tim 2.15 is my own paraphrase.

"Study to show yourself approved unto God,

a workman who needs not to be ashamed,

rightly dividing the word of truth."

2Tim 2.15

In the first phrase, "study" is rendered in various translations as "study" (KJV), "be diligent" (NKJV) and "do your best". (NIV) These are all translating the Greek word, spoudazo. But Strong's dictionary defines spoudazo (#4704 -- "study") as:

(1) to hasten, make haste (2) to exert one's self, endeavor, give diligence

We could easily misunderstand the verse if we only read it in the KJV translation. To "study" usually assumes "academic" connotations in applying one's mind purposefully to increasing knowledge and information of a subject. But Paul does not mean that we are to "study" the Word academically.

In the Greek, the focus of spoudazo is not on "academic effort" as much as it is focusing on simply "diligence", the deliberate exertion of one's energies towards a goal. A better translation would be this:

"Deliberately exert your energies to demonstrating yourself to have received God's approval..."

In Paul's day, this goal of spoudazo or "diligence" applied to many different tasks in which one could be diligent -- tasks such as plowing a field or picking figs. But in this verse, the goal of diligence is to "show" or "present" oneself "approved" by God.

In the phrase, "approved unto God", the word "approved" is dokimos. Donald Barnhouse tells a story to illustrate how dokimos was used in Paul's day:

In the ancient world there was no banking system as we know it today, and no paper money. All money was made from metal, heated until liquid, poured into moulds and allowed to cool. When the coins were cooled, it was necessary to smooth off the uneven edges. The coins were comparatively soft and of course many people shaved them closely. In one century, more than eighty laws were passed in Athens, to stop the practice of shaving down the coins then in circulation. But some money changers were men of integrity, who would accept no counterfeit money. They were men of honour who put only genuine full weighted money into circulation. Such men were called dokimos or "approved". -- Donald Barnhouse (Note in the Online Bible; 2 Cor. 10.18)

What's this mean for us? In Paul's day, a banker who was "approved" by the city were honest and didn't circulate an inferior product (coins with less weight than expected.) In our day, you or I can be "approved" by God for being "diligent" in how we "rightly divide the word".

Have you ever listened to a teaching in Sunday School or in a home group, an afterwards wondered if the person really knew what they were talking about? Maybe you asked a question about the subject that night and the teacher wasn't prepared to answer it or maybe the teacher contradicted one thing five minutes after another thing was taught. The sense that a teacher of God's Word of Truth might not have prepared carefully comes through the presentation sometimes.

Well, according to Paul in this verse, any person who is dokimos to God ("approved" in God's eyes) gets there by spoudazo -- diligent effort and personal exertion -- not by casual or sloppy preparation. We'll be "approved" by God if we put our diligent effort into -- what?

We're to be diligent toward "rightly dividing the word of truth". Still -- what is this activity?

NIV's translation has, "correctly handles the word of truth"; NRSV has "rightly explaining the word of truth".

To get a clearer understanding on "rightly dividing:, we can look in Robertson's Word Pictures (in the Online Bible), where we read,

Handling aright (orthotomounta)... [means] "cutting straight"... It occurs in Pr 3:6; 11:5 for making straight paths (hodous)... Theodoret explains it to mean ploughing a straight furrow. Parry argues that the metaphor is the stone mason cutting the stones straight since temno and orthos are so used. Since Paul was a tent-maker and knew how to cut straight the rough camel-hair cloth, why not let that be the metaphor? Certainly plenty of exegesis is crooked enough (crazy-quilt patterns) to call for careful cutting to set it straight.

These images easily make sense of Paul's admonition to be "workman" -- skillful experts. Be it a stone cutter skillfully handling his chisels and stone, a farmer expertly handling his plow and field, a tentmaker handling his knives and camel-cloth or a follower of Jesus studying the Word of Life -- all of these speak of trained craftsmen using the tools and materials of the trade to the best of their abilities -- exerting oneself and endeavoring to do his best.

By the way -- notice especially how the NIV focuses away from any idea of "division" or "dividing"; in this verse -- the main idea wasn't that we learn to "cut" the word of truth but "handle it" professionally -- not slothfully or casually.

SUMMARY
Paul's point here in 2Tim 2.15 is not eschatological nor dispensational (identifying how to "cut" God's provisions to humankind into "ages").

Paul's point is that he wanted young Timothy to approach the Scriptures and Paul's own teachings -- God's "word of truth" -- as if Timothy were a diligent workman, a craftsman setting out to use his tools and materials as skillfully as possible in order to receive God's approval as a genuine minister of God. And the "tools and materials" Timothy was to use, was the Word of Truth.

So also, Paul's admonition to Timothy rings down the centuries to you and me, that we too reject a lazy and superficial approach to the Scriptures. Instead, let's take up our destiny in God in handling the Word of Truth skillfully and diligently.

Footnote:

*2Tim 3. 16-17: "Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, so that the man of God may be perfected, fully furnished for every good work." (GLT) [return]

 
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© Copyright 1985, 1998 by Emil B. Swift.
This tutorial was adapted by Emil Swift from the course , Biblical Hermeneutics which he'd originally written for and used in the Gospel Outreach International Training Center.