Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Rightly dividing the Word

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who had no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (II Timothy 2:15, ESV)

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.
The correct answer seems to be the third choice. The context is disputes and disagreements involving words and irreverent speech. Timothy is told to guide the word along a straight path without being turned aside by wordy debates or irreverent speech. The stress is on the directness of Timothy speech than on “faithfulness” to the truth. No doubt these two things cannot be separated.

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.


welcome to my world of poetry said...

I look forward to read your post each day, and today is no exception.Thanks for an excellent read.
Hope all the gremlins are gone from yesterday.


Kansas Bob said...

I mostly agree with you Gregg. Sad that many preachers use the pulpit to proffer useless information (like their pet eschatological views) that they peddle as a biblical teaching. On the flip side I have greatly enjoyed discussions with atheists and some who might be considered heretics.. the dialog is so much more engaging than trading verses with biblical fundamentalists :)

The Old Geezer said...

It seems that many are taken in by the false teachers on TV. The lack of spiritual discernment is legion in the Christian community today.

Gregg said...

KB - I am flattered that you think that this is my command or even suggestion (when you say you mostly agree with me), but this is not my concept at all, this is the Apostle Paul's imperative given under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We do need to engage in conversation and discussion with the lost in order to show them error and the truth of Scripture. Paul is speaking of public debate or the opportunity of false teachers to present their dogma in the corporate setting. This should never be because of the effect that it can have on "weaker" or less mature brothers or sisters in Christ. Worldly philosophy, wisdom, and false teachings can be so subtle, so deceptive that believers unwittingly adopt worldly wisdom or philosophy without even knowing it. Psalms 1 has never been truer today, that "...the blessed man walks not in the counsel of the wicked..."

Kansas Bob said...

I mostly agree with your take on the verse Gregg and would not want to enter into a useless debate over it. And of course I wholly agree with what the apostle wrote :)

Lloyd said...

There is always a time and a place for debating biblical truth, but it needs to be done with the love of Jesus Christ in mind. The problem, I believe, is that sometimes our "pride" gets the upper hand of us and we begin to become defensive when someone questions our "faith" or "doctrines" that "we" believe are the "true" meaning of what God's will is for mankind.

It is hard for folks to understand that there is only one "Authoritive" book on what God wants and needs from His creation -- the "Holy Bible". It is not "doctrines" written by men to justify the teachings of their so called “churches” or "denominations".

God's blessings too you. Lloyd

JD Curtis said...

I like it.

I'm currently discussing the proper interpretation of scripture with a coupple of atheists on Ray Comfort's blog. They are pretty hung up on the subject.

Then again, these are the intellectually dicey types and if it wasnt the proper interpretation they were fighting about, it would surely be something else. Anything But The Truth seems to be their motto.

JD Curtis said...

I like it.

I'm currently discussing the proper interpretation of scripture with a coupple of atheists on Ray Comfort's blog. They are pretty hung up on the subject.

Then again, these are the intellectually dicey types and if it wasnt the proper interpretation they were fighting about, it would surely be something else. Anything But The Truth seems to be their motto.

Gregg said...

Yvonne - I thank you for your reading and comment each day. I am glad that you find them worth reading.

KB - Thanks for your comments.

OG - Lack of spiritual discernment is certainly a major problem. Sometimes we are just weak or immature in the faith that something sounds good so it must be right. People listen to human reasoning and human philosophy or pyschology and are deceived.

Lloyd - We certainly can exhibit pride when we are shareing our faith. This isn't the issue here, Paul is telling Timothy not to let unsound doctrine be discussed in the meeting but Timothy should use the word properly to refute error lest weaker brothers are deceived by the passion, intellect, and presentation of false teachers. As should we.

JD Curtis - Glad you like Paul's warning to Timothy. Be careful. Discernment, maturity, and wisdom dictates to whom we "debate" and how.

Terry said...

dear gregg...i have always loved timothy because when we read the instructions that paul gave to him, we can so easily apply those instructions to ourselves.
and after all, they are not difficult instructions to follow, eh?.. if we love the lord?
i think that paul didn't want timothy to water down the word of god, but to graciously and honestly preach the word!

what a great post gregg!..
i wonder if timothy loved this verse in god's word,
Micah 6:8
"He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"
i sure do like it!

i will not be around for a bit but the first time i get on our trip, i will be looking you and that mr.old geezer and my new friend darnie up!
god's blessing on you and your wife and your children....from terry

arlee bird said...

I guess by "debate" in this sense you are perhaps referring to intellectual (or not) argument with the intent of one side or the other being the winnder of the argument? What about lengthy discussion that might by necessity include using scripture for the purpose of instruction, guidance, or correction? I'm thinking of some of the earlier videos you had where the speaker was "condemning" or refuting other preachers he was labeling as false. I had wondered if these pastors had ever gone thru point by point to reason their beliefs? Would this fall into the useless debate realm of which you speak? And if so then are pastors who are "in the right" allowing the false teachers to head right into damanation leading their flock?

Once again, maybe I try to think these things out too much. Maybe that's why I have such a difficult time keeping caught up with your blog posts--they are so deep and stimulate so much thought.

Anyway this was an excellent post as always.

Tossing It Out

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Good Morning Gregg,
Loved your poem, I get fed up with football ruining my nightly entertainment on TV, It isn't I don't enjoy football or soccer as you call it, my son ised to be a pro. soccer player many years ago, brefore that played for his county and school also my husband used to coach a young team trom 10 -16 yrs so you see I have had my share of soccer, I am exicited though that Spain has got to the final as I lived there for a while and my soccer playing son still reisdes there.
Now if it was Daniel O Donnell on TV every night I would be perfectly content.