You have probably heard the expression that we must rightly divide the word of God, but have you ever really wondered what this means? The scriptures actually states from 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (KJV). In other translations it reads, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” ESV; “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.” NIV; “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” NASB; and “Do your best to win full approval in God's sight, as a worker who is not ashamed of his work, one who correctly teaches the message of God's truth.” You may have noted that nowhere does it say, “rightly dividing the word of God;” instead it speaks of rightly dividing or accurately handling the “word of truth.”
Some will argue that 2 Timothy 2:15 means to “rightly divide the Bible,” but when Paul wrote this there was no “bible” as we know it, just Old Testament scriptures. Therefore in context, Colossians 1:3-6 tells us quite clearly what the word of truth is. “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard about your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all the saints—the faith and love proceeding from the hope stored up for you in heaven, about which you have already heard in the “word of truth,” the gospel that has come to you.” Moreover, Ephesians 1:13-14 states, “And in Him, having heard and believed the “word of truth”—the gospel of your salvation—you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the pledge of our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession, to the praise of His glory.” Finally, James 1:18 reads, “He chose to give us birth through the “word of truth,” that we would be a kind of firstfruits of His creation.” Therefore, the “word of truth” is in fact the gospel message! Having faith in Jesus Christ through the gospel of salvation, we become new creatures, citizens of heaven. Yet, this is not how most “bible scholars” use 2 Timothy 2:15 and would quickly want to argue, which can only cause quarrels and division among believers. Therefore, the intent of this message is for clarity, not to engage in argument. “Remind the believers of these things, charging them before God to avoid quarreling over words, which is in no way profitable and leads its listeners to ruin. Make every effort to present yourself approved to God, an unashamed workman who accurately handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 14-15).
With this clearer understanding of what the word of truth is let us address what it meant by rightly divide in 2 Timothy 2:15. The term “rightly dividing” translates into a single Greek word. It is a form of the Greek verb “orthotomeo” only appearing this once in the New Testament. In New Testament times, orthotomeo was primarily a civil engineering term used, for example, as a road building term. The notion was to cut straight, or to guide on a straight path. Such as cutting a roadway in a straight manner and without deviation. Orthotomeo was also a mining term meaning to drill a straight mine shaft so that the miners can travel their path quickly and safely. It is important to note that there is another Greek word, katatomeo, with the meaning “to cut into sections.” However, that is not the word that the Apostle Paul used in 2 Timothy 2:15. Paul is not talking about “rightly dividing” in terms of dissecting the scripture. However, Paul does use the word katatomeo (cutting up) in Philippians 3:2 stating, “Beware of those who would divide you up.” Thus, the proper meaning of orthotomeo, “rightly dividing” the Word of truth, is not intended to divide, but means that we are to teach the scriptures accurately. Moreover, to teach the scriptures in their totality without the influence of false teachings, manmade traditions, etc.
We know that, “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 complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). However, we are cautioned by Paul in 2 Timothy 23-26, “But reject foolish and ignorant speculation, for you know that it breeds quarreling. And a servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome, but he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, and forbearing. He must gently reprove those who oppose him, in the hope that God may grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, who has taken them captive to his will.” The Word of Truth is the gospel of Jesus Christ who, “became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). Many of today’s “Christian Religious” leaders have a lofty belief that they are wise and keepers of spiritual truths. They carry themselves just as the Scribes and Pharisees who confronted Jesus. Their human intellect and the spirit of this world is what drives their understanding of the scriptures.
There is a message for these religious leaders who follow manmade teachings and traditions. Those who may or may not even realize they are teaching unsound doctrines to gain or maintain popularity. “For the time will come when men will not tolerate sound doctrine, but with itching ears they will gather around themselves teachers to suit their own desires. So they will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Yet, “the message of the cross (the simple word of truth) is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks search for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).
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