Last Bible Study
Last time we looked at 2 Timothy 3:15-17 which states that every letter and smallest mark of Scripture is holy to the Lord and every book therein is God-breathed or inspired. There is not the smallest part of Scripture that is not inspired, and Jesus even states that not one jot or tittle of the Bible will pass away until ALL is fulfilled (Matthew 5:18). Thus, as the inspired Word it is God’s voice to us, through which the Spirit can lead us into all truth. In the words of Corrie ten Boom, “Now you are listening to the voice of God. Keep listening. He has much more to say to you.”
The importance of God’s Word thus being established, let’s move on into the area of how we are to interpret the Bible.
Our Passage For Today
Second Timothy 2:15 states, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” In other words we are to “Zealously and diligently make every effort to stand approved (just as metal is in the fire) to God, an unashamed workman who accurately, correctly and skillfully handles the Word of Truth.” Since this is so imperative and important, what does it mean to “rightly divide” the Scripture?
Food For Thought
Let’s say it’s your job to assign everyone a duty based on their gifting. Some of you may think you know someone, we’ll call him “Doug”, pretty well just by looking at him, and you need to give him a job. So, because he likes music you decide he’s going to be a ballerina. You give him ballet slippers, a tutu, and tights. Did you interpret him correctly? Did you apply him to the right work? NO! “Doug” likes to sing, not dance!! (But, he says that if he had to do ballet he’d want a pink tutu like his granddaughters have!)
Your next assignment is to buy snacks for “Jennifer”. You haven’t really talked with her much, but you think you know her pretty well because you see her in the dining room every day. Something you always see on her tray is potato chips so you assume that she prefers salty snacks. So you buy her all sorts of salty things. But, did you interpret her correctly? Did you apply the correct snacks to her? NO! “Jennifer” prefers sweets!
Lastly you are to assign someone to be a hostess at a large party. Since you have seen “Sally” interacting with many different people, laughing in the hallway, dining room, and activity room you think she must be an extrovert who is good at socializing. So, you assign her to the role of party planner and hostess. But, were you right in your assumption based on your observations? NO!! “Sally” does not like parties nor is good at small talk and socializing!!
It’s all about CONTEXT. For years in school, professors would say, “Context, context, context.”
After all, a TEXT without CONTEXT is PRETEXT. A pretext is a half-truth based on faulty understandings. So, when we sit down and read the Bible, one must read it within context. How do we keep things in context?
1.) Look at the whole chapter, not just a single verse.
2.) Look at the whole book, not just the chapter.
Who is the audience?
How would the audience have understood that passage?
Who is the author?
What was happening historically/culturally at that time?
Ex. Luke 10:3-4 “Go your ways: behold I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way.”
Now that sounds downright unfriendly!!! Don’t salute anyone? However, Salute does not mean “hi” but was an elaborate form of greeting that included sitting down together and lots of talking about family and friends and could last far more than an hour!!
Be careful with grammar that appears contradictory:
Ex. Habakkuk 1:13
“Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity…”
Does NOT mean that God doesn’t see evil. What it means is that God does not condone evil.
Ex. 1 John 5:18 “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not.”
Compared with 1 John 1:10 “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
So, what is going on here? Grammar!! When it says that those born of God sinneth not, it means they do not “habitually sin” anymore. We all have sinned in the past, but we are now no longer habitually sinning.
**Whenever we think there is a contradiction in the Bible, that seeming contradiction is because of our own misunderstanding of the grammar or history/culture of the time! The Bible NEVER contradicts itself!!!**
Ex. My friend and the yoke vs. yolk. Jesus said, My yoke is easy and my burden is light. Well, my high school friend thought this meant an over-easy yolk of an egg. Not only is this a grammatical issue but is a spelling issue!! After all, Jesus was speaking about a yoke for oxen not the yolk of an egg!!
3.) Look at books by the same author to see if something more is said on the topic
4.) Look at books by different authors in the New Testament
The topic of “Judging” in Matthew 7 vs. Corinthians 6
5.) Look at the books by different authors in the Old Testament.
Only AFTER a thorough examination are we to APPLY the Word to us today. It is only after ALL of this that we can more accurately apply Scripture to our daily lives.
This may seem like a lot. You might think, shouldn’t we just read it? Just reading it is a good start, but, 2 Timothy states that we are to skillfully handle the Sword of the Spirit that is the Word of God. And, Proverbs 25:2 states, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.” We are not merely to read; we are to search through God’s Word as for buried treasure.
We must not assume or jump to conclusions when reading God’s Word. We may think we understand it because we read through it completely at some point in our lives or because we heard a good sermon on the passage or we memorized that passage when we were ten. But, that is not “rightly dividing”. When it says in 2 Timothy that we are to “Study”, that means we are to do so “zealously, making every effort with all earnestness”. First Peter 2:2 says, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby…” We’re supposed to be hungry for God’s Word. For according to Jesus, “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
Our Current Passage
Now, according to 2 Timothy 2:15, why are we to “rightly divide” the Bible? To show ourselves “approved unto God”. Approved carries the concept of metal that has been tried in the fire. For it goes on to say in verses 20-21, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.”
Thus, those who are studying God’s Word, seeking its hidden treasures, hungering and thirsting for it like babies are ravenous for nourishment, are like gold and silver that have been refined in the fire, are vessels of honor in God’s house, and able to please Him.
In contrast to the one who diligently studies the Bible, 2 Timothy 2 speaks of those who do not study God’s Word, but are instead, studying man’s words such as the words of their own opinions, empty discussions, foolish questions, and quarreling. They are those who are “ever learning” but “never able to come to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).
Second Timothy is the last of Paul’s epistles, and is written to a young pastor named Timothy. He is imprisoned in Rome. Nero is emperor in the 60s. Paul is facing his own imminent execution. Young Timothy is pastoring in Ephesus (1:18; 4:19), and is facing persecution outside of the church and false teachers inside of the church. Since evil words from seducers and deceivers were flying everywhere like fiery darts, Timothy is to “Study to show himself approved, rightly dividing the word of truth.” He is to preach that word of truth and sound doctrine and make “full proof of his ministry” (4:1-5).
Paul’s Other Letters
The subject of Knowing God’s Word is emphasized in Paul’s other letters as well. In 1 Corinthians he calls them spiritual babes who still need milk when they should be ready for the meat of the Word. And in Galatians he calls them foolish for abandoning the unpolluted Gospel for another Gospel of works.
The New Testament
Hebrews 5:11-14 says that the readers were “dull of hearing” and were in need of milk instead of meat, and are therefore, “unskilful in the word of righteousness…but strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
And Acts 17 praises the Berean people for searching the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul taught was true.
The Old Testament
And then in the Old Testament we see such verses as Deuteronomy 8:3 which Jesus quoted, “…that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live” and Psalm 1:1-2 “Blessed is the man…[whose] delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night”, and Proverbs 6:23, “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.”
Just because Brother “Doug” loves music does not make him a dancer much less a ballerina. Just because Sister “Jennifer” is seen to have a bag of potato chips at her table does not mean that she prefers salty snacks over sweet ones. And just because Sister “Sally” is heard talking and laughing with numerous people does not mean she would ever be a gifted socialite or perfect party planner. We must not just assume things with each other, thinking that we know each other.
Even so, we don’t want to assume to know the Bible, but must desire to know the Scriptures correctly so that we can correctly apply it to our lives and thus, glorify God. Let us therefore, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”