During this time of year, many people’s thoughts are turning back to school and education, from preschool and elementary school all the way up to college and university… even seminary.
And, many Christians’ thoughts turn to 2 Timothy 2:15 – you know, that verse in which Paul tells his co-worker Timothy to get a good Christian education… right?
This is the verse that I’m talking about (in the KJV translation):
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 KJV)
In fact many schools, colleges, universities, seminaries, and educational programs have adopted this verse as their motto because of the clear command to “study” along with the promise that those who study are “approved unto God” and do not need to be “ashamed” and now know how to “rightly divide the word of truth.”
But, is that really what Paul told Timothy? If so, then we need to understand how to study. But, if that’s not what Paul told Timothy, then we need to understand what he actually said, because it may help us in our own walk with the Lord.
By the way, here is the verse in context in the KJV and two other translations:
Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker… (2 Timothy 2:14-17a KJV)
Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. (2 Timothy 2:14-17a ESV)
Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. (2 Timothy 2:14-17a NASB)
Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. (2 Timothy 2:14-17a NIV)
So, if the ESV, NASB, and NIV translators are correct, then Paul does not actually tell Timothy to “study” in 2 Timothy 2:15. But, what does Paul intend by that exhortation?
For the next several days, I’m going to be examining this passage and trying to understand what Paul intended by this command to Timothy and how it applies to us today.
For now… what do you think Paul meant by 2 Timothy 2:15? Do you think it has anything to do with “study” in the modern sense of the term?
Series on 2 Timothy 2:15
- Study to show thyself approved unto God?
- Did Paul tell Timothy to “study” in 2 Timothy 2:15?
- In 2 Timothy 2:15, what does Paul mean by “word of truth”?
- What did Paul mean by “rightly dividing the word of truth” in 2 Timothy 2:15?
- 2 Timothy 2:15 – Putting it all together