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2 Timothy 2:15

“Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

“Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

The Context

These words were contained in a letter that Paul wrote to Timothy while he was in prison awaiting execution. The book of Second Timothy is believed to be the last of Paul’s epistles.

Paul was imprisoned during the reign of Emperor Nero circa 66-67 AD. The letter was an exhortation to Timothy to remember the things he had been taught. There were a number of false teachers who were trying to corrupt the teachings of the apostles. Paul wanted Timothy to remember that trials are a part of being a believer.

“Don’t argue about unimportant things.” Paul writes, “Be faithful in doing the work that God has called you to do. Don’t be ashamed of sharing the gospel as long as you are explaining the Word of God correctly.”

Digging In

“Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

Let’s look at a few of the original Greek words before we start digging into this text. I’ll put the English word and then the original Greek followed by other possible translations.

Study: poudázō meaning to use speed, i.e. to make effort, be prompt or earnest, do/give diligence, be diligent (forward), endeavour, labour, study.

Show: parístēmi meaning to stand beside, i.e. (transitively) to exhibit, proffer, recommend, (figuratively) substantiate; or (intransitively) to be at hand (or ready), aid, assist, bring before, command, commend, give presently, present, prove, provide, shew, stand (before, by, here, up, with), yield.

Approved: dókimos which means properly, acceptable, approved, tried.

Workman: ergátēs meaning a toiler; figuratively, a teacher, laborer, worker, workmen.

Ashamed: anepaíschyntos which means not ashamed, i.e. irreprehensible, that needeth not to be ashamed.

Rightly: orthōs an adverb meaning in a straight manner, i.e. (figuratively) correctly (also morally), right, rightly.

Dividing: orthotoméō which means to make a straight cut, i.e. (figuratively) to dissect (expound) correctly (the divine message), rightly divide.

Word of truth: logos meaning something said (including the thought); by implication, a topic (subject of discourse), also reasoning (the mental faculty) or motive; account, cause, communication, doctrine, fame, intent, matter, preaching, question, reason,  speech, talk, thing, tidings, treatise, utterance, word, work.

An expansion of 2 Timothy 2:15 may look like this:

“Study (make a diligent effort) to show yourself approved (accepted and tried) to God, a workman (teacher, laborer, worker) that needs not to be ashamed (feel humiliated or distressed because of guilt), rightly dividing (correctly interpreting) the word of truth (the doctrine).”

In a time when there were lots of false teachers in the church, this was an important piece of advice. Paul was a man writing with a mission: his beloved church was on the verge of being destroyed because of men who did not take the time to properly understand the truth of God before telling it to others.

How It Applies To Us

In a world where fake news and false teachers abound, this remains a powerful lesson for us. As children of God we have an obligation to share the gospel with others. But first we need to understand it. Here are six tips to help us study the word of God.

1. Give yourself enough time to study. Schedule a specific time for your study. Treat this time as it is sacred. Ensure that you have enough uninterrupted time to spend in the Word. For each person this will be different. Figure out the best time of day for you to spend with your Heavenly Father.

2. Organize your study area. Get everything you need. If you know you need sixteen pens, a drink of water and 3 notebooks, get them. Assembly those ahead of time so that you have everything you need at hand. It may be a good idea to have somewhere to store everything like a basket or a bag.

3. Use different techniques and methods. While it is true that we want to be good students of the Word, it’s also true that sometimes we get jaded in our study. We lose the excitement and things begin to feel... boring. Try different techniques of study.

Suggestions for studying the Bible are by chapters, books or verse by verse. You can also choose a Bible character and study all the texts related to that person. This article from Each New Day has 12 great methods for Bible study.

4. Teach someone what you know. One of the best ways to cement new knowledge is to share it. Share the information that you learned. Did you get a new understanding of a parable? Tell someone. Did you finally figure out what an obscure text means? Share it with a friend.

5. Study with a group. Find a group of persons who are as enthusiastic about learning more about God as you are. Meet regularly to study the Bible.

6. Meditate. Spend time thinking about what you studied. What new thing did you learn about God? What was confirmed? What resonated with you? How will this knowledge change the way you do things?

It’s important also for us to realize that studying the Bible is totally different from reading it. Believers should read the Bible daily but should also make time to do an in-depth study of the word of God. This article from The Life gives an overview of the inductive method for studying the Bible.

Like Timothy we are called to “study to show ourselves approved”. We need to become Bible scholars as we seek to learn more about the God who sent his only Son to save humanity from sin. 

Related: Read the Bible

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