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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: October 23, 2020
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
1 Thessalonians (L 09)
Welcome to HBS and thank you for your continued interest in the Word of God.
Stand Fast and be ye Steadfast
A preacher in England, some time ago, said, If Paul had not taken an uncompromising stand against these false teachers, who, in the first century, were determined to corrupt Paul’s gospel of grace by adding to it the do’s and don’ts of the Mosaic Law, his gospel of grace message would have been lost long before he had passed away (Galatians 2:1-10). But later on it was so completely covered up with the corruption of Christendom for many centuries that it was lost, as far as the great majority of people were concerned, especially during the many years when the people had no Bible of their own to read and they relied solely on “the teachings of men.” For the majority of Christendom today Paul’s message of salvation by grace through faith (plus nothing else) remains lost.
Will a Christian make the death of Christ “vain?” Sadly, for many, the answer is yes. Either by ignorance of the facts surrounding the case or by false presumption they are making the great, once and done, sacrifice of the Son of God “vain.” For God spared not His only Son ( Romans 8:32). Think of that hour of darkness when Christ Jesus hung on that cross of shame and cried out, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:45-50); and this revelation from our apostle Paul: “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8); along with the apostle John’s message, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). But what is the measure of God’s love toward mankind? How much did God love the world that did not know Him or His ways? God’s beloved Son dying on the cross is the answer.
If the lost sinner turns away from the grace of God, from Christ’s death on the cross for the sins of all (2 Corinthians 5:15), where else might they go? There is only one other place to turn, and that is to Mount Sinai with its “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not;” with its ordinances, ceremonies, and the blood of animals that could never take away sin: “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).
“For they could not endure that which was commanded” (Hebrews 12:20a).
“Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression” (Romans 4:15).
Speaking of a sure foundation, any reputable building contractor know it’s foolhardy to build a home on shifting sand, or whatnot, so when a firm foundation has been laid they then erect the structure. Paul, God’s uncompromising apostle, is the wise master builder of the Body of Christ; an organic organization made up of saved individuals who are “in Christ Jesus” and not a building where churched-people gather:
Therefore, before the Believer can “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called,” (Ephesians 4:1) and “walk well-pleasing unto the Lord” (Colossians 1:10); before they can serve the Lord satisfactorily (Romans 12:1-2), they must obey Paul’s command in Galatians 5:1. He or she must stand fast in God’s grace being assured that it’s a firm foundation. So, Stand fast in the liberty that is yours in Christ Jesus for “Ye have not received the spirit of, bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15).
Are you a saved child of God? If so, how did you become His child? What did you have to do with it? Was there any doing on your part? If so, what did you do? All good questions but I’ll add a couple more. Do you believe the Lord Jesus Christ obtained eternal redemption for all (Hebrews 9:12)? Was His redemptive work perfect? If not, what work(s) does God require a lost sinner to add to the cross of Christ so that they might be redeemed? Do those works of the flesh pave your way to salvation or are we made “free” because of what the Son of God did? Those were rhetorical questions and meant to cause you to think on them before proceeding. The Scriptures reveal Christ Jesus has set us free, so there isn’t one thing we have to do to obtain God’s mercy and grace. The sum total of doing is to believe and receive (take to heart) Christ and His perfect work of the cross (! Corinthians 15:1-4). Then, “stand fast in the liberty” He has secured for us.
Beware of the ravenous religious wolves, i.e., the false brethren that proclaim any message of salvation that involves “thou shall” and “thou shalt not.” Christ has set us free, so believe it and stand fast in the liberty that is now yours. For the Believer is no longer a slave to sin, headed for the wrath of God and His divine judgement, and then the second death. Religious practices cannot save anyone, so, “Be not again entangled with the yoke of bondage.” The only religion God ever gave to man was contained in the religious system He gave to Israel, through His servant Moses, which was in effect until “the time of reformation” (Hebrews 9:10).
“Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:4);
“The kingdom of God is no longer meats and drink, but righteousness” (Romans 14:17);
“With the heart man believeth unto righteousness” (Romans 10:10).
Believing and taking to heart what God has said, dispensationaly speaking, results in righteousness, “for by grace through faith are ye saved” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Religion is not righteousness. God’s adopted children today have Christ and Christ is the Believer’s righteousness, redemption, and sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30). God’s people under their religious program received the spirit of bondage unto fear (Romans 8:15). They did not receive the Spirit of adoption, crying Abba, Father. But the Believer has eternal life; Believers are “in Christ” and Christ is in the Believer; Believers are accepted in Christ and are without condemnation; and they are complete in Christ (Ephesians 1:6; Romans 8:1; Colossians 2:10; Galatians 2:16-21), so “stand fast.”
Be ye Steadfast
Paul’s saying do not sit on the sidelines get involved. Do not stand around idle, if you are sure your trust is in God’s grace and His redemptive work. Get busy; waste no time. “Be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,”
The Lord Jesus Christ died not only to save us from the penalty of sin and death, but (He) gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14).
Please carefully note the phrase, “to purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” The Lord’s redeemed ones are to demonstrate they are a peculiar people and this is done by performing “good works.” We’re not performing good deeds so as to achieve God’s favor because, clearly, these peculiar people were already saved. We know this because Paul only wrote to Believers or those who have been saved by God’s grace through faith (alone).
“Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19).
Departing from iniquity is included in the good works. The world says, “show me your faith by your works.” However, the Lord’s peculiar people are in the world but they are not of the world. They are dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11). The unsaved people, those who are outside of Christ, are dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1-10). Paul refers to those who are in Christ as “new creatures.” They are “God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath before ordained that they should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
But God says to all those that are His, “ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price.” They love, the Lord because He first loved them (Romans 5:8-9; 1 John 4:19):
“For the love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all then were all dead. And that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
What’s more, God reminds His people He “…is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love” (Hebrews 6:10); “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11); “If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward” (1 Corinthians 3:14).
No true Believer that serves God satisfactorily, or in accordance with His expressed will, will ever come up empty-handed. They will receive a reward, and we may be certain the Lord’s rewards are worth striving for. Our good works done in the Lord, or for God’s glory and His honor, are not done in vain: (1 Corinthians 15:58). In Colossians 3:17 Paul instructed us Believers how to serve God if you expect to receive a reward: “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”
Read carefully Hebrews 12:1-2: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Here I note two things. 1) The Lord Jesus Christ’s path to glory went through the cross of shame and not around it. 2) I note that we cannot depend upon our own abilities, no matter how clever or talented we might be. And while the Lord’s redeemed ones should always help one another to run their race well and fight the good fight of faith, we know that they often fall well short of the mark. So, if we look unto ourselves, or if we fix our sight upon our human circumstances, then most likely we’ll not be steadfast.
To be steadfast (unmoveable) means a great deal. Note Paul’s words in Colossians 1:23: “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;”
To be steadfast (unmovable) means to be spiritually grounded. The true Believer knows what he or she believes and why; they cannot be “…tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, (nor) by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; ” (Ephesians 4:14). A steadfast person can recognize false teaching in whatever form it takes, engage non-believers about spiritual matters, and defend the truth of God’s Word without having their faith shaken.
In his second letter to the saints in Corinth, Paul expressed his concern for that church because some of them were being led away from the faith: “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Even through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). Here we note these Believers who had been personally taught the Word of God by Paul were victims of deception. To remain steadfast, therefore, we have to know the Word of God, especially that which is written directly to us, i.e., the Body of Christ. In 2 Timothy 2:15 we find an oft ignored or overlooked command of God to every true Believer (See 1 Corinthians 14:37): “(Insert your name here because this is addressed to you) Study (God’s Word) to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, (by) rightly dividing the word of truth.”
The flip-side of this marching order from Head-quarters is rather obvious. If you are not “studying” the Bible and using right division, then you’ll stand before God saved but ashamed. So then, how does one become a spiritual workman (craftsman), skilled in their understanding and teaching of the Word of God? The answer is found in the verse. The Believer must “study.” The Koine Greek word for study is spoudazo (pronounced spoo-dad-zo), a verb, Strong’s Greek #4704; meaning: to agonize, to hasten, be eager, zealous. I pray that info helps you understand what Paul’s implying. He’s saying you are to apply yourself wholly to getting this good work done, i.e., to diligently study the Word of truth.
Now a few words to those folks who have dealt irresponsibly with the expression “rightly dividing” as found in the KJV Bible. Some of the modern versions have changed the term “rightly dividing” to “rightly handling” (See the Revised Standard Version, the NIV, and the New American Standard Bible). Thus, we learn the whole idea boils down to dealing correctly with what God has said in His Word, rather than dividing it correctly.
Generally speaking, these modern Bible versions do not believe in “rightly dividing the Word of truth.” But the Koine Greek word, “dividing” is Orthotomeo (pronounced or-thot-om-eh'-o); Strong’s Greek #3718, meaning: to cut straight. Paul most likely had a carpenter (craftsman) in mind when he used this term because they were known to measure twice before making one straight cut. You’ll find the Orthopaedic Surgeons diligently doing likewise.
So, “to cut straight,” so as to “divide” truths on one side from those on the other, and this the Scriptures themselves instruct us to do so. For example, Paul in his letter to the church at Rome makes a sharp “division” between law and grace. On the one side of this “division” (as under the Dispensation of Law) it would be wrong to fail to bring animal sacrifices for one’s sins, while on the other side (as under the Dispensation of Grace) it would be wrong to bring them to church with you on Sundays. This is but one example, but it’s an important one, that’s why I selected it, but it’s also a telling demonstration of the importance of “rightly dividing the word of truth.”
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Here our apostle Paul referred to the sacred Scriptures, also called the Bible and the Word of God. All of it he said is “God-breathed and profitable,” to “teach,” to “reprove,” to “correct,” and to “instruct.” Since that’s true, why have so many heresies and false teachings sprung up over the years? Why have so many thousands of sincere people been led astray by these same false teachings? The reason is that preacher and teachers and their followers have failed to heed God’s command to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
To be clear, the Bible can prove “profitable” to us only as we obey God’s command to “rightly divide” it. We do this for the simple reason that if we do not do this we pervert the truth of God’s Word and change it into error. Through the centuries God has periodically altered His dealings with mankind. Many religious rites which were commanded in O.T. times are positively forbidden in this present dispensation of grace.
For example, according to the Mosaic Law, God required that His people bring animals to be sacrificed for one’s transgressions, and from the appearance of John the Baptist through to the Day of Pentecost water baptism was required for the Jew (Leviticus 17:11; Mark 1:4; Acts 2:38). But some years after the death of Christ Paul was sent forth with “the preaching of the cross,” and he declared that: “We have redemption through (Christ’s) blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7); “Being justified freely by (God’s) grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).
And then we have his own words communicated to the Corinthian assembly: “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:17-18).
Summing up, studying the Bible dispensationaly might seem confusing at first, but it actually dispels confusion, solves difficult problems, and resolves those so-called contradictions people continue to refer to. But make no mistake God is not the author of confusion – man is.
(To be continued)
GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
All Rights Reserved
(To be continued)
© Copyright 2011
GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
All Rights Reserved