Yesterday, I found myself at the air pump at my local gas station. I took my tire gauge out of my car to check the air pressure in my tires. I was able to successfully check the air in my tires and top them off appropriately. Now that tire gauge has one purpose and it’s important if you want to check your tires. Without it, you wouldn’t know how much air you needed or how much air you had put into your tires. A flashlight won’t do you a lick of good in checking the pressure of your tires, a tape measure won’t accurately tell you if you need more air, a wrench will only help you remove your tires and a utility knife will do more harm than good. You see you need the right tool for the right job. Each tool serves a specific purpose and they all serve a purpose in your toolbox.
“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. (2 Tim. 2:15)
In the same way, we each need certain tools to dig into God’s Word. There are things that each of us can do to help us as we study God’s Word. It’s easy to read God’s Word quickly – almost skimming it and moving on to the next project. It’d be easy to pop open a commentary to have someone else tell us what it means and how it applies to us. So first thing you need to do is just read over the verse. Then the next thing you should do is read it in a different version.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
NKJV. (2 Timothy 2:15)
You see how reading the verse over in a different translation can help you better understand the meaning of the text? It helps you see greater depth and understanding of the text. The next thing you should do after checking the verse out in some different versions is read the surrounding verses.
14 Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.
NIV. (2 Timothy 2:14–16)
Now what do we note out of the surrounding verses? What is the point of this particular passage? Well there are lots of points we can pull out but let’s focus on what reoccurs over and over in this passage. Paul is reminding Timothy of something. He warns that quarreling about words has no value and will only ruin those who listen. Interesting, God doesn’t want us to get into pointless petty fights over words or to split hairs over small things which will only lead to the ruining of those who listen. Instead he wants us to present ourselves to God. God wants us to seek our approval from Him, to be someone who is approved and not ashamed who can handle the word of truth. He then warns us to avoid godless chatter or as another translation states to avoid “irreverent babble”. I don’t know about you but I see and hear a lot of godless (or irreverent) babble and chatter each and everyday. This passage clearly has a lot to say about words. It has a lot to inform us about how we talk, read and write. It seems God has some things to say about how we use our words.
Again, before we look at a single commentary, devotional book or sermon on the passage in question let’s use that handy cross reference tool. (If your Bible doesn’t have cross reference built in please feel free to get a new Bible that does). In cross-reference, Romans 6:13 reminds us that we’re not to present our ourselves as instruments or tools for sin but to (much as he explained to Timothy) present ourselves to God as an instrument for righteousness. Similarly, Paul states in Philippians 1:20 that he will not be ashamed (much like he exhorts Timothy) that Christ will be honored/exalted in his body. Paul desires God’s approval. In Ephesians 1:13 Paul reminds the Church of the word of truth which is the gospel that the people in Ephesus had heard. Paul wants Timothy to proclaim the Word of Truth and handle it correctly as Timothy offers himself as a tool and instrument of righteousness and seeks his approval not from Paul or from the Church but from God alone.
When we read the Bible, if we’re reading simply to get more knowledge or even grow closer to God, we’re reading for the wrong reasons. We’re to study to be approved by God. So we should read in a spirit of worship. We study the Bible as an offering to God. We study the Word as a sacrifice of praise to God. We read the Scriptures in obedience to God. We study the Word of God to be approved by God. We read the Bible to be pleasing to our Heavenly Father, so that He will be proud of us. That’s the motivation behind studying the Scripture and hopefully that gives you a few tools to use the next time you’re studying a passage.