A Spokane man, John Underhill, was painting the home of an 89 year-old woman when he noticed a large family Bible prominently displayed on the coffee table. She proudly pointed out that it was 116 years old and a priceless heirloom.
John commented on how remarkable that was, then added, “It doesn’t matter how old the Bible might be, what’s on the inside is what matters.”
She immediately replied, “Oh, I know. That sure is the truth. Why, we have family records and births and marriages and deaths that go so far back, all recorded in that Bible; we could never replace them.”
God didn’t give us the Bible to just display in our homes, but to be read, studied, digested and lived. It is this goal to which Paul commands Timothy when he wrote: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
Carefully look at what is being said.
(1) Give Diligence.
I recall as a kid the old King James version began “Study to show yourself approved..” While the end result in the passage is Bible study, the word here means “to exert oneself..to endeavor…to be active…to be zealous.”
The ESV translates this “do your best.” The emphasis in this verse is that God’s servant needs to be diligent in his spiritual efforts, endeavoring to give his best to God.
(2) Be a Worker.
We are workers in God’s Word and in His Work. It is the same word used by Jesus in his parable about the laborers in the vineyard (Matt 20:1-16). The laborer works for the Master to accomplish the tasks assigned to him at His bidding.
Indeed, “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).
Our diligent efforts allow us to be approved by God. To find favor with Him. And to present our lives and our works before him unashamedly.
(3) Accurately Handle the Word.
“Rightly dividing” means to “cut straight.” It can be applied to different tasks. Plowing a straight furrow. Cutting a straight board. Sewing a straight seem. When it comes to the Word, we must “cut it straight.” Exactly as God revealed it.
To “rightly divide” the Word means to “correctly handle” it. It begins with seeing the big picture. God’s plan for mankind. And God’s purpose in Christ. It requires an understanding of the different dispensations covered in the Bible. It demands careful exegesis of the text. It involves meditation, reflection and thoughtful application.
J. Robertson McQuilkin put it this way, “The goal of all Bible study is to apply the truth of Scripture to life. If that application is not made, all the work put into making sure of the author’s intended meaning will have gone for naught. In fact, to know and not do, doubles the offense of disobedience”
“Some of us love to take the simple and make it complex,” wrote Joseph Smith a retired minister from Maryland. “Some of us thrive on taking perfectly obvious matters and making them as obscure as possible.” Smith related seeing his neighbor’s car with a bumper sticker on it that says, Eschew obfuscation. “After about a half-hour with the dictionary,” he said, “I found out that means, Keep it simple, stupid.”
Never forget what’s in the Bible is important. Let’s get into the Word. And then let’s allow the Word to get in us.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman