At the center of today’s chapter, 2 Timothy 2, is a verse that is one that most of us have memorized or at least is very familiar to us. It is verse 15. If you are like me, I memorized it from the King James Version since that is what we used in Bible Drill when I was a child. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” As I have mentioned before, we are challenged by our goal of correctly translating the Scripture not only from the original language, Greek, but also the need to accurately capture the original meaning. The New American Standard Version that is my translation preference renders the verse like this: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.” Check out the verse in your favorite translation and you will find something a little different. Well, when it comes to accurate in translation, the KJV gets it wrong and right. The word KJV translates “study” in not the best meaning of the Greek. The NASB nails it with “be diligent”. However, that KJV “rightly dividing” does sound strange but comes closer to being accurate to the verb. NASB not so much.
The Greek verb in question more literally means “to cut straight”. More often in Greek literature it was used to refer to cutting whatever was necessary to create a straight path or road. To say in the literal that we should “cut straight” God’s Word does not make a lot of sense to us, but “handling accurately” (NASB) or “correctly teaching” (ESV) does, right? So, the meaning is more accurately captured though not worded literally.
If you have not already, read all of chapter two. You will see that Paul is concerned with those who would teach incorrectly and behave badly to boot. Poor Timothy is called to Pastor this challenging church and community. Paul is giving him advice about how to minister in the midst of false teaching, quarreling factions, gossip, and unchristian conduct. Can you believe that? He says in verse 15 to work hard at “clearing a path” that enables people to walk (live) as Christians should. How does he clear this path? With his words and actions. He teaches and lives the gospel faithfully. Yes, it takes work and diligence. But it wins God’s approval and Paul tells Timothy he will not have to be ashamed by leading people on the straight path of God’s Truth.
Our society is full of junk that litters the road of life. We, too, are called to cut a straight path through the error for folks to follow the Life, the Truth, and the Way found only in Jesus. We do that by our words and our actions that are faithful to Scripture. Are we being diligent to do that? Are we winning God’s approval with what we say and do?
Today’s author: Randy Babin