Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: March 12, 2021
“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).
Welcome to HBS
Introduction to Paul’s letters to Timothy (Part 2)
We’re about to engage in a verse-by-verse study of Paul’s letters to Timothy. Before we get to that let’s first consider the fact that Paul’s prison epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon) were written during a period of imprisonment which Paul eventually overcame by securing an acquittal by using his own expertise in the law to attain his freedom. It’s worth noting the crime(s) his Jewish opposition accused him of amounted to nothing more than “trumped up” charges (no pun intended) meaning there was no truth in them. So it’s during this period of freedom between one imprisonment and another to follow that he wrote 1 Timothy and Titus, two personal letters, to two of his closest companions.
Last week we learned although these two godly men shared some similarities, their personalities were quite different. With this in mind Timothy was put in charge of the grace church in Ephesus located in Asia Minor, and Titus was charged with caring for the grace Believers on the island of Crete. When Paul is imprisoned in Rome the second time (a year or two after his first imprisonment), he awaits another trial before Caesar but this time he will not be acquitted he’ll be martyred. So, this is the setting then for these letters to Timothy. Bear these things in mind as we study them.
The next thing I want y’all to be aware of is this H. L. Hastings (1831-1899) wrote about a group of archeologists that discovered a huge marble slab, evidently very old, high atop a mountain where no one would be able to find it or move it for that matter. Experts in the field were called upon to interpret the writings on it. They found them to be a declaration by an ancient ruler as to his great exploits, and an explanation that he had used these means of recording his deeds to secure for himself a place in history for all time. The trouble with that is no one could find any historical account of a king that bore this name or who had accomplished the exploits he had recorded on his memorial. Thus, the archeologists had found, engraved in marble, a glowing tribute to a John Doe, as it were, and no one to this day has been able to solve the riddle.
In contrast, Timothy has been and continues to be a personality that is well-known by the Bible believing community all over this world for two thousand years. During this time he has been read about, written about, preached about, and used as an example of what consistent and faithful service to the Lord looks like. Yet, there’s no mention of any of his great exploits, or his sermons, or even one letter written by him in the Bible.
Some people think he wrote the book of Hebrews because some of the phrasing and the doctrine appear to be Pauline, but there’s no way of knowing for certain. We only operate on what we know and what we know about Timothy is found in Scripture. He was a close colleague of Paul, he accompanied Paul on his 2nd missionary journey (see Acts 16), and was taught the Scriptures from his early youth by his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. Thus, Paul could honestly say: “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:5, 3:15).
The role of Timothy's father is a bit unclear. He could have been a non-believing Greek and therefore is not mentioned as having contributed to Timothy's spiritual knowledge. Or he might have died when Timothy was young. Opinions vary on this subject, so we’ll leave it at that. What we do know is Timothy means, “honoring God” or “Honored by God.” As previously mentioned Timothy, apparently, was a native of Lystra, and one of Paul’s converts. This might be the reason Paul refers to him as, “my own son in the faith” and “my dearly beloved son” (1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; 1 Corinthians 4:17). He proved his worth and became a close companion of Paul on his 2nd missionary journey (Acts 16:1-5). After a period of faithful service, we note Timothy’s transition from being Paul’s “own son in the faith” to a faithful co-laborer in the ministry, “Timotheus my workfellow” (Romans 16:21a). He was sent as Paul’s representative to oversee the affairs of the grace church in Asia Minor located in Ephesus. So, this was the occasion that prompted Paul to write 1 Timothy. He had appointed him the pastor of that assembly (1 Timothy 1:3) and gave him detailed instructions for the care and oversight of that house church.
Timothy’s Church Office or Pastorate
Now let’s carefully consider Timothy and his pastorate or church office. To set the stage for this we’ll first turn our attention to a few O.T. writings beginning with Jeremiah 3:15. Here we find the LORD God (Jehovah) pleading with Israel (His unfaithful wife), to return to Him again, and He promised to send her pastors: “And I will give you pastors (literally, a shepherd) according to mine heart, which shall feed you (not with bread but) with knowledge and understanding.”
This Bible verse states quite clearly the quality of the true “pastor.” He is a shepherd whose chief aim it is to “feed his flock with knowledge to build them up in the faith” (Ephesians 4:11-16). Our Lord and Savior was such a “pastor.” At the young age of 12 we find Him teaching His first sermon at the synagogue in Nazareth. He began immediately to teach the people, showing them how to “rightly divide” and understand the Word of God. He found Isaiah 61:1-2 in the scroll before Him and read out loud, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; Because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord…” Then, in the middle of the passage, He closed the scroll, sat down, and said, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:16-21).
The religious leaders of His day were confused and then angered by his statements (4:21), but had He continued reading He could not have said this for Isaiah’s prophecy goes on to speak of “the day of vengeance of our God,” which had not yet happened.
Then, at another time, as He prayed in a secluded spot, away from the clamoring crowd, a great multitude of men, women, and children gathered to await His return, “And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34).
The Jewish religious leaders of His day, rather than helping the people understand the Word of God, i.e., what the LORD God had actually said, had “taken away the key of knowledge” (Luke 11:52), and had left them spiritually starved of “the truth” of God’s Word. A “key” is made to open a lock or door. By their misinterpretation of the O.T. they had not only taken away the true key or method of understanding it, they had also hindered the people from understanding it correctly.
What is a False Teacher?
A false teacher is not one who teaches error through ignorance. Martin Luther taught many errors which he carried over with him from the Roman Catholic Church, but he was not a false teacher. He took a noble stand for the light he was given and, with the watchwords “grace alone” and “the just shall live by faith,” shook all of Europe and recovered much lost truth for the people of God. Later Darby and Scofield, though still not completely out of the Roman woods, as it were, recovered still more lost truth for the Church as they expounded the great doctrines of the “One Body” and the “imminent return of Christ.” The errors these men taught on certain subjects did not mean they were false teachers, for who of us has all the truth? Sad to say, there are many sincere men of God today who are teaching error with regard to the Messianic kingdom, the Great Commission, Pentecost, water baptism, and so on, yet this does not make them false teachers. They are merely in error on these subjects. It is true that they should not be in error. They have the Scriptures, which, when diligently studied and rightly divided, teach beyond doubt what is God’s message and program for this dispensation. But, still, this does not make them false teachers. They may be careless, unfaithful teachers, who themselves need to be taught correctly but they are not false teachers per se. The term “false teacher” denotes deceit and faithlessness in the teacher himself, i.e., in his character and conduct. A comparison with similar terms in the N.T. Scriptures bears this out:
Matthew 7:15 refers to “false prophets” as “wolves” parading “in sheep’s clothing.”
Matthew 24:24 predicts that “false Christs” will seek to “deceive” even “the very elect.”
2 Corinthians 11:13 speaks of “false apostles” as “deceitful workers.”
Galatians 2:4 tells of “false brethren” who were “unawares brought in;” who “came in privily to spy out” the Gentile Believers’ liberty in Christ and bring them into bondage.
Similarly 2 Peter 2:1-2 warns that “false teachers” will “privily... bring in damnable heresies” and that “many shall follow their harmful ways.”
All this indicates that “false teachers” are deceitful, dishonest men who knowingly, willfully, and deliberately teach what is untrue. Indeed, the word “false” in each of the five terms cited above in the Greek means “lie” or “liar.” It’s a fact that many sincere but uninstructed Believers fail to realize there are ungodly, dishonest men who present themselves as ambassadors for Christ in order to lead them astray. They wrongly suppose all who teach from Scripture must at the very least be honest and sincere, but the Holy Spirit, who is the author of Scripture, specifically warns us through the Apostle Paul’s pen this is not the case: “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;” (Ephesians 4:14).
If there is any sin of special significance, it is deliberately keeping the people in the “dark,” i.e., in ignorance; and few people are so guilty as they who by false teaching prevent them from coming to a knowledge of the truth. The Lord was aware of this and also knew the people desperately needed to be “fed” with “knowledge” of these aforesaid truths. This, then, brings us to the primary responsibility of the “pastor.” With this in mind we find Paul urging the elders in Ephesus (where Timothy was now their “pastor”) to carefully consider these words, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).
Having said this, and having added a warning to the effect that this would not be easy, he reassured them with a blessing that would encourage every true man of God, “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” (verse 32).
Thus, it really goes without saying the “pastor” cannot adequately “feed” the flock if he has not been “built up” spiritually through the study of God’s Word himself. Plainly said, he cannot dispense “the truth” of God’s Word unless he, himself, has studied Scripture using right division. This is the trouble with many pastors of our day. They are ignorant of God’s Truths meant for this dispensation because they do not meditate (study) Scripture. As I understand it, many people attending Bible college are not studying the Bible. They’ve turned their attention to the money aspect of the ministry instead, asking such questions as, “How big a church can I build… and how much money can I make?” So, instead of complying with the Lord’s command to: “Study (Scripture) to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), we find them doing almost anything but studying God’s Word with a view to “rightly dividing” it. Hence, they are incapable of “feeding the flock” with a healthful and nourishing steady diet of God’s Word, i.e., “the truth” which is something the Lord in His ministry on earth insisted on and continues to be adamant about in this dispensation.
Timothy’s Age Not a Factor
“Let no man despise thy youth;” (1 Timothy 4:12a).
Before we begin our study of 1 Timothy we should consider his relatively young age. Both of these epistles to Timothy (written about a year or less apart) have much to say about “youth,” especially Timothy’s. When Paul took Timothy with him on his second missionary journey he was either 17 or 18 years old, so at the time of these writings he would have been 30-something. This helps to explain why, on one hand, Paul placed great responsibilities upon his capable shoulders, while on the other hand took the time to caution him regarding the pitfalls, temptations, and blunders that can certainly derail if not destroy the ministry of a god-fearing, well-meaning man of God. We often read of a church official that was tempted and succumbed to one of Satan’s snares. So, it is with this in mind we find Paul warning Timothy, even though he’s in his 30s, about these dangers, saying, “flee (as an animal being hunted by hawks) youthful lusts (2 Timothy 2:22).
Some people misinterpret Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 4:12a. Please know, therefore, Paul’s not saying Timothy should show the people he’s the boss by throwing his spiritual weight around, as it were. Instead, this verse is saying Timothy should be careful not to say or do anything that might cause others to despise his youth; “but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (4:12b).
Paul’s saying Timothy was not to let anyone scorn him or his service to the Lord simply because of his age. In Paul’s day, as in ours, older men are apt to dismiss or disregard youthful teachers, simply because they are “young.” In order to counter this mindset, the young leader should strive to influence others through their “example.” Paul gives us five specific areas in which Timothy is to serve as “an example” to others:
First is his words (1 Timothy 4:12b).
Second his actions, which should reflect an example of godliness;
Third, his love was to be an example (1 Timothy 1:5, 14; 2:15);
Fourth, Timothy was to be an example in faith. This is similar to 1 Timothy 1:5 where Paul said, “Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:”
Fifth, Timothy's example was to include his "purity," or his behavior around women his age (1 Timothy 5:2) and in his spirituality (1 Timothy 5:22).
Thus, we learn “pastors” are to lead by “example” just as the Lord Jesus Christ and our Apostle Paul did in their ministries (John 10:27, 14:6; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1-2). By doing this the pastor demonstrate their confidence in everything God has said in Scripture as it applies to one’s life (or walk), rightly divided of course, with regard to one’s godliness and/or their moral purity.
What do you think of when you hear the word “pure?” A few things come to mind I’m sure, but I immediately think about sexual purity for Paul commands the Believer to “flee sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18, 2 Timothy 2:22). However, the word “purity” speaks of much more, in fact, it also means being without sin of any kind. This is often the case in the Bible. In fact, there are many instances in which the N.T. points to “purity” being free from not only the appearance of evil but the actual sin itself. (See 2 Corinthians 6:-10). Please note the following Bible verses.
“Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11)
“And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-10).
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).
“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” (Colossians 3:17).
As you read/study Paul’s writings, you’ll find many exhortations to Timothy that are related to his godly character and conduct. Below is a brief list of these exhortations:
“War a good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18).
“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:16).
“Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12).
“Keep (guard) that which is committed to thy trust” (1 Timothy 6:20).
“Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2). Why?
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry” (2 Timothy 4:3-5).
As we Paul’s Pastoral Epistles one thing ought to become clear. The humblest pastor, i.e., one who has had little opportunity for formal education and may have few natural endowments, may take heart in the knowledge that the key to true effectiveness in the service of Christ, is true spirituality. And the greatest pastor, well-educated and liberally endowed with natural talents, had better remember it, “for God resisteth the proud,” but “giveth grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5), nor does the size of the ministry necessarily reflect God’s blessing upon it, as some believe.
The sincere, spiritual pastor will give much time to the study of God’s Word and will be earnest and instant in prayer. He will not be self-satisfied or high-minded, but will walk humbly, praying to God everyday to make him the pastor he ought to be as well as “an example” for all to follow.
(To be continued)
© Copyright 2011/GJ Heitzman’s Ministry/All Rights Reserved