A Bible study through 2 Timothy
Today, we’re going to look at one of my favorite verses in 2 Timothy. This verse has encouraged and challenged me over the years. It is one of those words from God that set the standard for Christian living and constantly calls us up to greater levels of godliness and Christ-likeness. It is a standard that we all constantly need to strive for. We cannot grow complacent in this endeavor, but must constantly keep this reminder before us. This exhortation is about being an approved worker of God who knows how to properly handle and use God’s Word.
“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.”
~2 Timothy 2:15
Interestingly, the Greek word for approved literally means “properly acceptable, approved, tried.” Did you catch the last definition? Tried or tested. It gives the sense of being put under pressure and not found wanting. Think of quality control, and the scrutiny items go through before being approved for sale. Things that don’t pass the test get marked down as seconds or thrown away.
Likewise, being approved before God does not merely mean that we follow all the rules and do the right things, it means that during times of high stress and pressure we continue to live the life we profess. We are not hypocritical; rather, our lives and character stand the test of trials and is not found wanting.
To be approved by God should be the goal of all believers! While God does count our worth on Christ’s merit, Paul does encourage us to live a life worthy of the calling we have received. We cannot earn God’s approval. We’ve already got it. But we can act and live like one approved. It should be our response, our act of gratitude, for what He has done for us. Therefore, because of what Jesus has down for us, we ought to do our best to present ourselves to God as approved workmen.
Another key term in this verse is “rightly handling the word of truth.” Approved workers of God must not only withstand the testing of trials, but must also know how to correctly use God’s Words. This term “rightly handling” is a tent maker term meaning to rightly divide or “make a straight cut.” Remember, Paul was a tent maker by trade, so as he sought to convey this important truth, he naturally went to the language of his craft.
When creating something, it is important that all cuts be made perfectly and without error, otherwise the tent or article of clothing would not be shaped correctly. Precious material would also be wasted. Crooked cuts are of no value when trying to create precise, level things. Therefore, making a straight cut is very important in any craftsman trade.
So Paul uses this term to convey how important rightly dividing God’s Word is. Just like a crooked cut in a tent will ruin the entire project, so also an inaccurate or crooked application of truth can damage and destroy faith. Therefore, approved workmen must also be proper stewards and users of God’s Word. We must know how to rightly divide the truth and appropriately apply it to life’s challenges. This is an ongoing exhortation we must keep in mind. As stewards of God’s truth, we must be very careful how we administer and use God’s Word. It is powerful and active, with the power to heal or destroy.
Therefore, may we constantly keep this exhortation in mind and always seek to rightly handle God’s Word so that we can give life to those in need and allow the truth to bring freedom to those in bondage to sin. Then we can remain unashamed and confidently face the world as approved, faithful workmen of God.