14 Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:14–15, NKJV)
A contrast of two “words” is made in today’s text. First, there are words of strife which are profitless and ruinous to those who listen to them (v. 14). Then, there is “the word of truth” which is to be rightly divided by the diligent worker to be approved to God. Words of strife are catastrophic (ruin, Gr. “katastrŏphē”), demolishing the faith of those who teach and accept them. On the other hand, when the word of truth is dissected correctly (rightly dividing, “to make a straight cut”), the result is God’s approval without shame. Scripture teaches us the difference between words of strife and words of truth in the next sentence. (We can know truth, and we can know error.) Paul went on to say the “profane and idle babblings” of false teaching are the ruinous words we must avoid (2 Tim. 2:14, 16-18). To diligently present ourselves approved to God we must not embrace false, profitless, strife-filled words. Rightly dividing God’s word is required to know these words for what they are. When we have ears to hear (receive) truth we must also have ears that recognize (and refuse) false teaching. “Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess. 5:21-22).
28 … And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. (Acts 8:28–31, NKJV)
This man from Ethiopia was reading the Scriptures. He wanted to understand them, yet he recognized his need to be taught their meaning. He put his desire into action by asking Philip to join him in his chariot, upon which he identified the text he was reading and asked Philip, “of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of someone else” (Acts 8:32-34)? Philip started with that Scripture and preached Jesus to him (Acts 8:35). Our willingness to be taught the Scriptures says some important things about us. It says we want to know God’s will. It says to learn we must have the humility to ask for instruction. It says we do not have all the answers, but the Scriptures do. We learn from this encounter that the Scriptures can be understood. We learn the Scriptures are the source of information to learn about Jesus (not human wisdom, church traditions, credal confessions, etc.). And, we learn God wants us to teach His Scriptures to others. So, we must want to learn from the Scriptures. And, we must want to teach the Scriptures. Both are crucial to faith and salvation in Jesus (Acts 8:36-39).
2 The works of the Lord are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them. 3 His work is honorable and glorious, and His righteousness endures forever. (Psalm 111:2–3, NKJV)
The ways of the Lord are past finding out by our finite minds (Isaiah 55:8-9). “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33) Only by the aid of divine revelation are we able and permitted to gaze into the righteous purposes of God’s mind (1 Corinthians 2:9-11). We are moved to study the works of the Lord when we grasp that we are the benefactors of His fathomless wisdom and mighty deeds. We ought to seek after and explore the honor, glory and righteousness of His works. God’s work of creation, when studied, shows His power and divinity (Romans 1:20; Psalm 8; 19:1-6). God’s work of redemption delivers sinners from sin’s bondage and gives us the promise of an eternal inheritance (Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:15). God works in the Christian’s life through faith, to accomplish His purposes in us (Philippians 2:12-13; 1 Peter 1:5; Ephesians 3:20-21). Study the works of God and praise Him with your whole heart (Psalm 111:1). Without a doubt, “The works of His hands are verity and justice; All His precepts are sure” (Psalm 111:7).
5 Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, 6 from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. (1 Timothy 1:5–7, NKJV)
To faithfully teach the gospel one must first be willing to be taught (see 2 Timothy 2:2). Commitment to the commands of God produce love from a pure heart, a good conscience and sincere faith. Love for God, for truth, and for others compels us to learn God’s word before trying to teach it. Desire to teach the gospel without having a knowledge of it may well result in leading a person astray from the very truth he desires to teach. Like zeal without knowledge, desire to teach that is not fettered to knowing the truth produces vain, yet confidently asserted babbling, instead of “godly edification which is in faith” (1 Timothy 1:4). Take time to study and learn God’s word. Examine your motive for desiring to be a teacher of the word. Is it “love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith?” And remember, faithful teachers never stop studying to learn and know the truth they teach.
12 And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh. 13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. (Ecclesiastes 12:12–13, NKJV)
As you see from the above notation, this is the 1200th Sword Tip. Seeing that number reminded me of today’s passage. People will always write books. And, people will continue to read and study them. Yet, making intellectual pursuit the goal of one’s life “is grasping for the wind,” as Solomon explained in Ecclesiastes 1:17-18. God’s word, the Bible, is complete; it will not be added to by God, and it cannot be improved upon by human wisdom (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Jude 3; Revelation 22:18-19). Bible study is essential. But, Bible study is not an end in itself. Reading and knowing God’s word is vanity, unless we “fear God and keep His commandments” (verse 13). That is the purpose of life. The Bible teaches us why to fear God and how to obey Him. This is why we read, learn and study the Bible – so that we may live reverently, obey God completely, and thereby, fulfill our God-given purpose. By God’s good grace, may that ever be the purpose that drives our lives (2 Peter 3:17-18).