Summary: God wants us to understand His Word.
Divide It Right
Woodlawn Baptist Church
July 24, 2004
Today I want to take a short break from our series in the book of Esther and speak to you about a subject that is going to become more and more of an issue as the day of Christ draws near, and that is the mishandling of God’s Word. It is something that is today and always has been an issue faced by the Lord’s churches, and something that should not be tolerated in any form. Scripture teaches us that God’s Word can and should be handled correctly, and that we will give an account one day for the way we teach and preach it to others.
How important is it to understand the Bible? Is it possible for you to really understand it? Let me answer both of those questions briefly. First – it is of utmost importance that you and I understand the Bible. If it is God’s Word, revealing God’s will, then there is no more important thing in your life than to understand what it says: nothing. Secondly – if the Bible was given to reveal the truth and not to hide it, God must intend that we understand it. If we do not, then the fault must lie with us, not with Him. That leads us to the verse of Scripture that we’re going to consider today as we deal with the subject: Divide it Right. Writing to Timothy, who was at the time pastoring the church at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul said,
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
There were some problems that had already begun cropping up in the church at Ephesus, problems which Paul knew of and addressed to Timothy, but problems which Timothy was going to have to address to the people himself. If you look at chapter one with me, you will see in 2 Timothy 1:7 that Paul was encouraging Timothy not to be afraid of his opposition, but to be willing to endure afflictions for the sake of the gospel. He tells him in verse 13 to “hold fast the form of sound words.” In chapter 2, he uses some analogies to get the idea across: to be strong, to endure hardness like a good soldier; to follow the rules just like an athlete has to do in order not to be disqualified, and to work like a farmer does, enjoying the fruits of his labor.
These were no small orders from this seasoned missionary. Timothy was filled with apprehension and fear, but attending to his duties would help to take his mind off the fears and would at the same time strengthen him. So in 2 Timothy 2:14, Paul tells him to remind the people of God’s truths, because they were getting into wordy battles that weren’t profiting anyone. While the church was being persecuted from the outside, the people were subverting the unity of the church with their trivial, unimportant issues. They needed to concentrate on matters of life and death, time and eternity, judgment and reward – the “things” about which Paul had just been writing – instead of striving over words. Of course, these were not the only problems at Ephesus. Paul spoke about members who were blasphemers, others who were teaching false doctrines, and as our text implies, some were misapplying the Scriptures either knowingly or unknowingly.
In this message, I want to share with you in brief some reasons you must be a lifelong student of the Scriptures, and some of the basic principles for understanding what the Bible says and teaches. First let’s take a closer look at what 2 Timothy 2:15 says.
“Study to show thyself approved unto God…” If Timothy was going to address the issues of his day, then he was going to have to apply himself to more diligent, systematic and thorough in his Bible study. The word “study” means to be diligent. It conveys the idea of hurrying to do something and of exerting oneself. When it gets right down to it, it means that you must be willing to put in some hard work. You’ve got to give it some effort if you are going to learn what it teaches. You can’t study the Scriptures and obey this command with a casual glance or by listening to a sermon. Some of the most dangerous people I know are those who have heard a sermon or two, or have read something somewhere and then decide they are experts on some Bible passage or subject. It takes time and effort to get it right.
And what is the goal of our study? Is it to impress you or someone else? Is it to get a degree or a diploma? No! We study so that we might be presented to God in such a way that He approves of our efforts. The next time you sit down to study the Scriptures and are tempted to quit or move on, ask yourself a simple little question: Would God approve of my efforts? Have I given to Him my best?