Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, the Scriptures
(Handling God's Word Correctly and Accurately)
- Summary: The Scriptures are a sacred trust to us from God. He looks with approval upon our handling His word correctly, accurately, and with integrity. Come see how.
2 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.
NASB: Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
NIV: …a worker…who correctly handles the word of truth.
To be a workman approved in God’s sight, we are told to do two things:
- 1) “Study” (KJV), according to most translations, has the meaning of “Be diligent … make every effort.” An approved workman in God’s eyes is diligent in God’s word. He or she makes every effort to excel in the word of God.
- 2) The one approved of God accurately, correctly handles the word of truth. Greek expert W.E. Vine says about “rightly dividing” the word (as the KJV translates it) that the Greek word means literally to “cut straight.” Vine says that the word passed to the more general sense of rightly dealing with a thing and, in this verse’s context, teaching Scripture accurately. How then can we rightly handle the word of God and thereby incur God’s approval? Let’s look at some Scriptures.
Psalm 119:18 Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.
- • Pray before you open your Bible. Ask God to open your eyes to the truths you will read in His word. Since I discovered this Scripture many years ago, I begin with a brief prayer from this verse each time I read or study God’s word. By doing this, I am acknowledging my own inability to properly understand God’s word and am asking Him to reveal its contents and truths to me.
Deuteronomy 17:18-19 When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees.
- • We will accurately handle the word of truth better if we know the word of truth! Like Israel’s kings, we should develop a habit of reading God’s word daily. And read it as the next verse teaches us.
2 Peter 1:20-21 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
- • The Bible was written by inspired men who were “…carried along by the Holy Spirit.” That’s the same way we should read it — primarily by the Holy Spirit’s illumination, not by our intellectualizing it. As you read the word, allow yourself to be “carried along” by the Spirit of God as He gives you insight into the things of God.
John 5:39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.
- • Look for revelation of Jesus in the Scriptures. He said that the Scriptures testify about Him. Why would that be important? The Bible tells us why — “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being…”(Hebrews 1:3).
- • God wants us to know Him, and the only way to the Father is through the Son (John 14:6 “No one comes to the Father except through me [Jesus]”). It is the Son of God who exactly represents God the Father, so that Jesus could rightly say to Philip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
So in sum, pray for God to open your eyes to Jesus as you prepare to read the Bible … read His word often, daily if possible … submit yourself entirely to the Holy Spirit’s illuminating the Bible’s truths to you … and look for a revelation of Jesus Christ, and through Him a revelation of God the Father. Having done that, you will now be a workman well prepared to share God’s word with others.
1 Peter 1:15-16 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I [God] am holy” [Peter quotes from Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7].
1 Peter 5:5 In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” [Peter quotes from Proverbs 3:34].
- • Peter (and the other Bible authors) understood the safeguarding principle that Scripture will confirm Scripture. Making a point about holiness, Peter quoted God’s holiness commands from several places in Leviticus. Other Bible authors — and Jesus Himself! — frequently quoted other Bible verses in support and confirmation of things they were writing, preaching, or teaching. The point, worth repeating, is that there is a strong safeguard in building all our beliefs upon clear confirmation from the word of God.
Titus 2:7-8 …In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
- • The Christian who “correctly/accurately handles” God’s word will honor these three apostolic exhortations:
- 1) In your teaching show integrity. Be sure that your motives are pure. Be certain that you are not just trying to convince someone of a “pet doctrine” that you have not carefully established on the bedrock of Scripture. Guard your heart against ministering the word to gain honor or reputation for yourself, rather than for God’s glory. And God forbid, resolve never to “peddle the word of God for profit” (2 Corinthians 2:17) in the ungodly sense of “making merchandise” of your hearers (2 Peter 2:3).
- 2) In your teaching show seriousness. Sharing God’s word with others is a sacred trust. Do it graciously, with appropriate dignity, honor, and respect for the God whose holy word you are sharing.
- 3) In your teaching show soundness of speech. A few verses earlier (Titus 2:1) the apostle Paul had charged Titus to teach “sound doctrine” to the believers. Soundness of speech will reflect beliefs based upon the solid foundation of Scripture, not upon the whims, fancies, and personal preferences of the speaker.
Much more could be said. For example, the entire 119th Psalm (the Bible’s longest chapter) contains a wealth of insight about God’s word and how it applies to our lives. And many more sermons could and should be preached on rightly dividing the word of truth. But we have looked at some very simple, but vitally important, principles:
- • As you open your Bibles, pray that God will open your eyes to its truths.
- • Develop a habit of spending daily time in His word.
- • As you do that, remain fully open to the Holy Spirit’s illumination.
- • Keep always in mind that the Scriptures testify of Jesus.
- • As you learn God’s word and begin to share it with others, be sure that you allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. Most Bible themes are revealed in multiple places in the Bible. In your reading and study, you will learn and develop a growing, interconnected web of Scriptures to give you a sound and increasing knowledge of God’s truths.
- • In your sharing of God’s word with others, do it with unblemished integrity; pure motives; a respectful manner; and always based upon sound doctrine, which will be reflected in a soundness of speech that will have a godly and beneficial impact upon your hearers.
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©2014, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.