Second Timothy 2.15
KJV – Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
NIV – Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
ABP – Hurry to present yourself unadulterated to God! a worker unashamed, cutting straight the word of truth.
CJB – Do all you can to present yourself to God as someone worthy of his approval, as a worker with no need to be ashamed, because he deals straightforwardly with the Word of the Truth.
I have heard this particular verse most of my life. I have heard many a preacher preach this verse. Even when the preachers are from different sections of the Christian faith, it appears to me that they all seem to believe they are the only group who can “rightly divide the word of truth”. So what is another minister supposed to do in order to contribute to this verse?
Someone out there has to be close to the truth, in what it means to correctly divide. This is one reason why I have provided four different translations. But here is one thing I do know, it does not seem possible for every one who divides the word of truth to rightly divide the word of truth, otherwise John would not have left us with this caution, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”1
Yet, it does seem proper to recognize that dividing of the word of truth depends on two things, one’s theology and one’s hermeneutic. Even Paul seems to have recognized that not everyone is going to “divide” the word of truth in exactly the same manner. This is why it is important to consider that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write the contents of what we have come to know as Romans Chapter Fourteen.
At some point, whether a believer or not, someone is going to think that I have not “rightly divided the word of truth”. Perhaps I will have the same response to them. Which of us is correct? Which is wrong? Both. Neither. The interesting thing is that both of us, while aiming for the correct interpretation, can both be inaccurate and imprecise in our aim. The challenge is to always seek greater accuracy and greater precision while encouraging each other, instead of pushing each other away from the faith.
The Divine Rightly Dividing
So what does it mean to “rightly divide”? That is the question. Whether we like it or not, there is no easy answer. There does not seem to be specific hermeneutic (one’s Biblical interpretation). Now, it is true that one hermeneutic can and will have a greater validity than another or all the others, but hermeneutics is simply the beginning point for the intellect, the mind, to begin to understand God’s Will. As it is written in Isaiah “ ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares YHWH.”2
While that quote is from Isaiah and has an immediate context, what we need to realize is that human intellect is limited. I recognize that we humans, in our prideful stance, don’t really care for that, but I truly find the following humorous. Sometimes believers will quote Isaiah 55.8 to the nonbeliever attempting to persuade the nonbeliever, but I frequently wonder how believers respond when they realize that God is addressing the believer not the nonbeliever.
I have pondered, and perhaps it just applies to me, when will we recognize that our argumentations about Scriptures, while worthwhile, really are stupid. Here is what I mean, Paul told Timothy3 and Titus4 to stay away from things that cause strife and sometimes that meant not to argue about the Law (while Law for us means the Books of Moses and in a general sense the whole OT, it seems proper to incorporate the NT into Paul’s statement). Yet, here we sit two thousand years after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus and argue to the point of destroying each other’s faith, and in turn diminishing the desire of unbelievers to find hope in God.
God’s Ways are not our ways. His Thoughts are not our thoughts. This simply and emphatically means that what is written could very well mean something different than what we first thought it meant. God is Unlimited. Humans are limited. And while believers have in their formerly sin-stained fingers the Words from God, possession of God’s Word does not automatically indicate that the saints can or ever will perfectly understand the Almighty.
The Human Rightly Dividing
While in human flesh, the human, any human cannot possibly fully one-hundred percent grasp the breadth, length, depth, and height of Jehovah, the Messiah, or God’s written word. That is why we as believers, while sanctified, still stand in awe of God, seeing temporarily through a glass, darkly. Because we are finite, He is infinite.
Consequently, it seems that learning how to “rightly divide the word of truth” is a life-long journey for every believer, as each believer grows in faith, and has the Holy Spirit move in them, through them and guide them. It is the Holy Spirit, and only the Holy Spirit that guides each and every believer into all truth because He is the Spirit of Truth,5 not a specific hermeneutic derived by the minds of men, even though they are believers.
This is why we believers need to somehow grow in the ability to speak to each other about our Faith, our perceptions of God, our convictions of the Word, yet do so without having to have victory over another believer’s interpretation. Debates are endless and unprofitable, yet we still need to grow. I, as a minister, am wondering where is the church filled with believers that encourage each other to grow in Faith, allowing each other to ask embarrassing, almost heretical questions because we feel and believe that God gives us the safety and security to Ask, Seek and Knock?
1. John’s Caution, 1 John 4.1, KJV.
2. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts.” Isaiah 55.8, TS98.
3. Timothy to stay away from arguments. 2 Timothy 2.23-24, NIV.
4. Titus to stay away from arguments. Titus 3.9, NIV.
5. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. John 16.13, NIV.
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