Sunday, we continued on with our authentic Bible study topic. Remember that this is designed to give you a set of safe and reasonable structure to be able to engage in a Bible study that is indeed authentic. You might wonder if the word “safe” is the right word to use and as we go through this topic, I think you’ll see more and more how a Bible study can get off the rails pretty quickly.
As with any topic, we should stop and understand that we are not the authority on truth, but rather students striving to understand truth as plainly and as clearly as possible. What I teach is a reflection of my current understanding, tempered with what I’ve experienced thus far in life. I’m only about 12 years removed from the college scene, so I don’t want folks to think my experience is exhaustive and therefore all-trustworthy. The moral of the story is to always search the scriptures and allow the scriptures to present truth.
We decided to do an actual Bible study as part of our Bible study series and we did so based on the often used verse in support of Bible study, 2Timothy 2:15. The verse reads, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” However, this verse, when read, is often understood as saying, “Study THE BIBLE to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing THE BIBLE.”
So, we wanted to know – is the way this verse is often understood actually in line with what is written?
It should be noted that “the word of truth” can certainly be a phrase that is ascribed to the scriptures, but it is not limited to only mean the scriptures. After all, John records that there were many things Jesus did that were not recorded in his book – does it mean then that since they are not in the scriptures that what Jesus did/taught would not be “the word of truth”? No, clearly not.
We also saw that the word ‘study’ has a very modern understanding (ie, “hitting the books”), while in time past, the word described a broader sense of being diligent about something. (In fact, there are two other verses where the same root word is rather translated “diligence”)
So, knowing this, what should we glean then from 2Timothy 2:15? Well, to do so would require setting some background and looking at the context.
Click here for a PDF of the slides with the verses we covered. This is what is summarized below.
We went to Acts 20, where Paul is leaving Ephesus and he has gathered the elders of the assembly there and charged them that they teach the things they have learned of him. He also warns them that ‘ravening wolves’ would try to come into the assembly to lead people astray. He said that there would be those who would even arise from the midst of their assembly to make people disciples of their false teaching.
Why is this important? Because in the FIRST letter to Timothy, we find that Timothy was left in charge at Ephesus, to teach no other doctrine than the doctrines of Christ. However, just as Paul predicted, there were those who were rising up to lead people astray. Paul said not to engage in discussions of endless genealogies (of those who want to strive over the law) as it only leads to questions (doubt) and not to godly edifying. Paul identifies a couple of folks at the end of 1Timothy Chapter One who have done just this and have shipwrecked the faith of others.
But, the admonition is clear – teach no other doctrine.
By Paul’s SECOND letter to Timothy, apparently word had gotten out to Paul that Timothy was struggling and having a rough way to go with this folks who were teaching false things. Paul said in his opening of 2Timothy that he was mindful of Timothy’s tears, yet, nonetheless, he has nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to the testimony of the Lord. He reminds Timothy that indeed there is affliction with the gospel, but that affliction is an evident token of the reality that we will reign with Christ. The affliction doesn’t cause the reigning, but simply signifies that reigning will one day be a reality. (Paul says something similar to the Romans in Romans 8:17).
However, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, Timothy is to ENDURE this hardness (affliction). Now, how can Timothy push forward with teaching truth (the doctrines of Christ) yet at the same time, the same folks are hearing false things from these other knuckleheads in town? 2Timothy 2:15 is the answer.
Timothy, you give all diligence as an approved workman would and rightly divide the word of truth (from the word of error). An approved workman is known by the quality of his workmanship. Those who measure twice and cut once have a far superior quality to their work than those who measure once and cut twice. Those who are diligent to produce precise and accurate cuts and angles and joins, etc. to their work stand as an approved workman and the desire for the product of their work affirms their approval. Timothy is to separate (cut straight) the word of truth and from the word of error and he isn’t to simply run the saw where ever seems good – he is to be diligent, as an approved workman would, to be very careful to make accurate cuts.
Hence, 2Timothy 2:16 – but shun vain and profane babblings for they will lead to more ungodliness. This is the word of error to be separated from. Paul then brings up one of the ring leaders, whom he mentioned in 1Timothy, and says that concerning the TRUTH, they have ERRED because they said the resurrection had already happened.
This is what 2Timothy 2:15 is all about–the careful and diligent separation of truth from error. It is not a command to study the scriptures. Does this mean we shouldn’t strive to understand the scriptures? No, how absurd! But, what it does demonstrate is that if we are authentic in our Bible study, we will not force meaning onto a particular verse without taking heed to its context, otherwise, what’s the point? If we can just make the Bible say what we want it to say, then what’s the point of the Bible?
Next lesson we will continue looking at the various framework facets that have influence and impact upon one’s Bible study. I hope this was profitable to you.