Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
Is it really necessary to study the Bible? After reading the above Scripture, God seems to think so. I have come to the conclusion that many Christians think that only those who preach, teach, or evangelize, as a profession, need study the Bible. However, others are mightily blessed by doing so. Even though the passage above was written by the Apostle Paul to his protégé Timothy, God means for it to be taken seriously by all who are His children.
It doesn’t take a very long conversation with another Christian to determine if they are a student of the Word, and their level of understanding. I have heard Christians make comments on spiritual matters that have embarrassed me on their behalf.
We live in a society where mysteries are solved in an hour or less on the television. We can even get the short versions in a very old and popular magazine. Meals are prepared in minutes in microwave ovens as opposed to hours in a conventional oven. Travel destinations have been cut to a fraction of the time from not too many years ago. Even most church services today last an hour or less. Church revivals and/or evangelistic meetings may go for three days or a week end. I remember well when the church services would be closer to two hours and the revivals and/or evangelistic meetings would start at two weeks, then proceed from there. Vacation Bible School was two weeks, and they actually taught the Bible, from the Bible. I remember when the Bible was actually taught in the church services, and at home. But now, we just don’t have time.
Let’s take a closer look at the verse above. First compare 2 Peter 1:21 and 2 Peter 3:15-18. We find in these passages that all scripture is the Word of God in written form. He used different men to write the text, but it is all God’s Word.
2 Timothy 2:15 starts out with the word “Study”. This is an imperative command from God that we are to study His Word. We could probably stop at this point, since the case is made to study the Bible. There is absolutely no excuse for any Christian to do otherwise. If you are not a student of the Word, you are disobeying a direct command from God. This word also does not mean to just browse or do a casual reading. It means to study to the point that effort must be applied in understanding what the Lord is saying to you.
Then He tells us why we should study, and that is “to show thyself approved unto God”. When we study the Bible, we are breathing in, so to speak, God’s Word. As His Word is planted in us, it grows, and is exhaled out from our life to the lives of others. This is when we begin growing or maturing as a Christian (sanctification). We are now a disciple, or a student. As we learn, He can now use us for His work in an area that matches our understanding and maturity. We study so that we meet God’s approval, not just for our lives, but also for the lives of others He may help through us. Sometimes Christians are quite busy in the Christian sphere, but are like a car’s tire spinning in the snow. They’re going nowhere. Far, far too many times I have witnessed people teaching or preaching in the church who just talk in circles. They haven’t a clue of what they are talking about. They are either not a student (disciple) of the Word, or they are attempting to teach or preach beyond their ability. In other words, don’t try to teach trigonometry, if you are still learning basic math.
The next phrase says, “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed”. A lot of people think, “Well I’m a Christian now. I’ll just show up at church once in a while on Sunday morning and pay my respects, but the rest of the week belongs to me.” This is easily determined by the attendance from Sunday morning to Sunday night to Wednesday night. If you are a Christian, God expects you to put your working clothes on and get to work. He will place you in an area of His choosing for service. I cannot find anywhere in the Scriptures, and I have tried, where our Lord expects anything less than complete surrender and service to Him. If you are a “fly by night” christian, who thinks you can say the magic words and now you’re in, and then sit on your keester until the Lord comes to pick you up, you do not belong to Jesus. You are not one of His sheep. I fear this may apply to many Sunday morning christians. God chooses those who will bow the knee to Him at all times, not just when they may be in the mood. Christians work, not for salvation, but because, now, they are a child of God and there is work to do for Him.
The verse ends with “rightly dividing the word of truth”. Right here is the reason why there are so many different opinions even on scriptural matters that are crystal clear, such as; salvation by grace alone, works cannot save, homosexuality, Jesus is the only way to the Father, eternal security for the true Christian, the Church has not replaced Israel, seven years of Tribulation, Heaven, hell, lake of fire, judgment, and others. One of the key reasons for this is due to not listening objectively to what God is saying through His Word. The Bible needs to be studied with an open mind, tossing out all preconceived opinions. It isn’t to say that every Christian will agree on everything, but there should be no conflict over scriptural matters that are so clearly defined.
I’ve said before that to actually study the Bible takes a great deal of hard work, and it takes time. God does not have a funnel in Heaven that he sticks in our ears, and pours in our minds everything we need to know about His Scriptures, all in one big whoosh. It also takes a thorough mixing of prayer for guidance. It takes a humble heart that is willing to learn at the feet of the Master, and not a know-it-all who thinks he already has it all figured out. We must remember that He is the teacher, not us. We are the disciple, which simply means “student”. When the student gets “too big for his breeches” he is going to wind up in the coat room (for those of you who are old enough to know what I am saying).
Let me close by saying that studying the Bible is not a chore. It is an honor. Many in this world do not have the advantages that we have in this country, and would give anything to be in our place. The more you walk through the pages of the Scriptures, the more humble and excited you become. All of the Scriptures are actually about one subject … Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The more you learn of Him, the more you want to know. God said, “Learn of me”. Let’s get started.