Rightly Dividing The Word of Truth
First printed in May 2016
It has been said that if God’s spiritual food was physical food, then most Christians would be skin and bones. As believers we need to be people of the book—the Bible. We need to study to show ourselves approved unto God. We need to be workmen who are not ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (II Tim. 2:15).
PAUL’S ADVICE TO A YOUNG MINISTER
Paul, knowing that the time of his execution was close, wrote to Timothy to encourage him in the faith. This important verse begins with an imperative verb. An imperative is simply a command. Paul wasn’t suggesting that we study to show ourselves approved unto God; he was commanding it.
The idea presented is that of a workman whose finished product is brought for inspection. Seeing that the one inspecting our work is God Himself, the work must be diligently performed. The Greek word for study is spoudazo meaning “to give diligence, earnestly presenting yourselves unto God.” Everybody wants to be approved. Sometimes we are more diligent in seeking man’s approval than we are in seeking God’s approval. Paul made it clear that it’s not the approval of man that we need to be diligent to receive but the approval of God.
AN UNCHANGING STANDARD
For something to be approved, it has to be tested against a known set standard of excellence. For doctrine, that standard is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It is the same for you as it is for me. It is not a subjective truth, which varies from person to person or from situation to situation. It is an objective truth, which remains the same regardless of the person or the circumstances.
In Greek, the phrase “rightly dividing” is orthotomeo meaning “cutting straight, to hold a straight course; generally, to make straight; to handle rightly” (Vincent Word Studies). As a tent maker, Paul knew the importance of cutting a straight line. Spiritually, it means not to deviate in our interpretation or application of God’s Word. We do not make God’s Word line up to what we want it to say; we line up our lives to what God’s Word says.
I have seen some pretty crooked lines and shoddy workmanship presented as teaching from preachers not spending time in God’s presence. If you don’t know God’s Word, you’ll fall for some of the foolishness passing as “new revelation.” The Bible is the basis by which new revelations, prophecies, or the newest “revivals” are evaluated. The church must examine every sermon, prophesy, word of edification, and occurrences in the church using God’s Word. Only accept it if it’s 100 percent scriptural. Cut straight, my friend, and make sure your work is approved unto God.
BUT IT’S IN THE WORD
Just because it’s found in the Bible does not mean that it is to be used as a pattern in the church today. You have to rightly divide God’s Word. Is it a unique example or a normative pattern? The Jerusalem church, having everything in common, was a historic fact—a unique example. No other church followed in its footsteps. Whereas speaking in tongues upon first receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit was clearly a pattern (normative pattern) in the book of Acts. We can’t establish doctrine on unique examples of historic facts.
SCRIPTURE INTERPRETS SCRIPTURE
Since everything should be interpreted in the light of Scripture, it is imperative that we use Scripture to interpret Scripture. We cannot formulate doctrine based on an obscure interpretation of a solitary verse. True doctrine will always harmonize with all of God’s Holy Word.