Paul, writing to his young protégé and partner in the faith, has in the previous passage warned Timothy about the wrong kind of life style, now, in keeping with his custom, issues a command about how Timothy is to be a role model of the correct use of the Scripture.
Paul implies that Timothy’s life style is to be an example to other people. However true that is, Paul also endeavors to show how necessary correct bible teaching is. Timothy is to have both the better truth and the better life that the heretics and religionists.
Paul’s command is undergirded by two explanatory phrases. Timothy is to be eager or zealous, even to take great pains while making every effort to be approved by God. Timothy is to spare no effort or energy in being exemplary in his daily conduct. Timothy is to have a genuineness which supports his claim of being a Christian. Just as we are also.
When Timothy’s life is examined or tested either by those whom he labors among or by God, there would be no room to be ashamed. Having expended every effort and due diligence Timothy would not have left an opportunity available to be judged less than genuine.
The meaning of our verb is somewhat unclear. This is the only place in the New Testament that this verb is used. It is thought by some to have come from a Hebrew root, found in Proverbs 3:6.
The verb seems to carry the meaning “to cut a path in a straight direction.” An example of its usage in this context would be “to clear a difficult land of obstacles, such as brush, trees, etc., in order to make a road.”
Our verb has been the discussion of many scholars throughout time. There are four possible meanings to our verb:
- …that Timothy is to teach the gospel correctly
- ...“to cut the word of truth according to the proper norm, which is given in the gospel
- …to guide the word of truth along a “straight path” without being turned aside by wordy debates or ungodly talk
- …the verb may be related more to conduct than teaching. The idea is that the context of what comes before verse 15 and what comes after verse 15 concerns Timothy way of life. So the choice of meaning lies between right teaching and right living.
So, what does this say to us? This command to “rightly handling the word of truth” is not so much a command to properly teach the word, but to know how to accurately and properly use Scripture to keep a discussion on the correct course never losing sight of the meaning of Scripture.
Why is this important? The danger to turn aside from the truth is increased by irreverent speech and argumentative debates. To enter into and to continue doctrinal debates will allow opponents to go further and further and say things which can upset the faith of some as it may seem reasonable or unassailable by even Scripture.
Entering into useless debates is not wise. Addressing issues with Scripture is important and is the right thing to do. Timothy, and you and I, must know what characterizes a heretical and pointless argument as both profane and futile. The point here is that Timothy is not to engage in them, but that he is to prohibit them from taking place in the meetings of the church.
Paul gives an example of why this is so crucial. Hymenaeus and Philetus engaged into profane and futile doctrinal debates and not only denied the resurrection but caused others to do so also.
The reason for this prohibition becomes clear. One must know the Scripture and know how to use Scripture to keep debates or arguments from going so far as to create damaging and significant effects. Wrong teaching or doctrine will make progress, but in the wrong direction. False teaching leads to godless behavior. It has putrefying affect. Paul calls it gangrene. It is never cool, beneficial, helpful, or desirable to allow false teaching to take place since it can lead to destructive results. You don’t need to learn error to combat it. The more truth that you know the more error the truth will recognize and combat.
So, do all diligence, make every effort, expend all energy in using the Scripture correctly in order to control and end damnable discussions and debates. Guard yourself against the onslaught of error in the spirit of debate.