Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15
This is an applicable command for all Christians, as we are all called to “cut it straight” when it comes to God’s Word. However, this is particularly applicable to those who teach God’s Word, and that does not mean that only teachers of God’s Word may need to understand this verse. Those who sit under the teaching of God’s Word may also need to understand it. Let’s look at it.
Notice that it begins with the word, study. This could also be translated as “be diligent” or “be earnest.” It denotes a strenuous activity that requires the one who is teaching God’s Word to apply every possible faculty of their being to that teaching. It requires one to be entirely devoted to the task of teaching God’s Word for the purpose of understanding as much of a given text as possible, and doing this in order to apply the meaning of that text to one’s life, that one may become more like Christ.
Next, notice that the Holy Spirit gives us a purpose or end to this diligence: to shew thyself approved unto God. This means that one is devoting themselves to the teaching in order to be approved by God. God is the most strict examiner of one’s work, and thus, if one has in mind the purpose of being approved by Him, one must strive with all of their might to be the best teacher possible.
Next, the Holy Spirit labels the one who is diligent to be approved by God in their teaching as a workman. This means that the task of teaching is work. In fact, it should be one of the hardest jobs that a human being can undertake.
Further, the Holy Spirit emphasizes that the one who is diligent to be approved by God in their teaching does not need to be ashamed. This means that those who are not diligent and earnest in their teaching ought to be ashamed of themselves. Furthermore, this means that those who fail to obey this command in their teaching are not approved by God.
Finally, notice that the Holy Spirit equates being diligent to be approved by God, as a workman who needs not be ashamed, with rightly dividing the word of truth. The phrase, “rightly dividing” literally means “cutting straight.” It was used when speaking about stone-cutting, in which the worker had to have an almost perfectly straight cut in the stone in order for the job to be done. However, in this context, we see no margin for error. The one who would truly teach God’s Word must cut it perfectly straight. This requires meticulous attention to detail, a devotion to prayer, being controlled by the Holy Spirit, a devotion to striving to completely understand a given passage of Scripture. If one is going to teach God’s Word, one ought to strive to do it in the best way possible. This means that one needs to understand every single word of a text, every relationship between every single word, the relationship that a text has to the rest of the book in which it resides, the relationship of that book to the rest of Scripture, what the rest of Scripture teaches about that text, who the human author of the text is, who the original audience of the text is, what the purpose of the text is, how the text fits into God’s plan of redemption, how the text must be applied to the life of a believer, how the text relates to the gospel, and perhaps much more. If one is to teach God’s Word to God’s people, one must make sure that he knows God’s Word, and that he is teaching nothing but God’s Word. Lastly, he must understand that the thing he is handling is the word of truth. This means that, if he corrupts the Word in any way, mixes any error into it, then he has just mixed lying into the truth.