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)
The letter of 2nd Timothy is one of three Pastoral Epistles written by Paul to instruct both Timothy and Titus in their duties as pastors of the Lord’s the churches. The term “pastor” means “shepherd.” The chief duty of a pastor is to shepherd the flock of God. When Jesus was speaking to Peter after the resurrection, He asked, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” Peter responded, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee,” to which Jesus rejoined, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15). This statement is equivalent to, “If you love me, shepherd my sheep.”
Our King James Version has rendered the first part of 2 Timothy 2:15 as “Study to show thyself approved.” This translation is good if we understand what “study” meant to the translators. Commonly, we take this to mean, study as in hitting the books to prepare for a final. This kind of study is implied, but the more accurate rendering of the word is diligence—Be diligent to show thyself approved unto God. Paul is instructing Timothy to be diligent about teaching the people of God. He is to use all physical and spiritual means to search the scriptures and impart truth to God’s people. This diligence will cause him to receive God’s approbation.
Superimposing Jesus’ words to Peter upon this text, Paul instructs Timothy to shepherd the sheep with the utmost care and concern for their spiritual welfare. A pastor wears many hats and is charged with many responsibilities, but the most important of these is teaching the Bible. Our spiritual strength comes from God’s word. Even regeneration itself is a product of the Holy Spirit’s work using the scriptures to bring us to repentance and faith. Peter wrote: “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever” (1 Peter 1:23). After salvation, the Bible continues to be the Christian’s strength for daily living. Later in 2nd Timothy, Paul writes that scripture is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). The result of knowing scripture is that we become mature in the faith and equipped to perform every good work enjoined upon us by our salvation in Christ (2 Timothy 3:17).
With these facts in mind, the meaning of 2 Timothy 2:15 for the pastor, is unmistakably clarified. The pulpit ministry is the most important work of the church. We can do without programs if we must; we can do without socials if we must; we can do without any of the peripherals of ministry, but we cannot do without the Word. The pastor will stand before God and give an account of how faithfully and diligently he fed the people with the Word.
I am concerned that we are very clear about the doctrines of the Bible. We will not abandon the teaching of justification by faith alone; we will not abandon God’s demand for righteous, holy living. We will not abandon the call of complete repentance from sin, nor the wrath of God because of sin, nor the punishment of eternal hell for unbelievers. Accompanying these doctrines, this church will do its best to teach her people to know Christ better. Faith is increased by knowledge and knowledge comes from being a diligent student of God’s word.
Pastor V. Mark Smith