Cutting It Straight
Oh the joy of studying the bible! There is nothing like having a pile of commentaries and dictionaries stacked up on my desk just to go over a passage! The pure joy of plumbing the depths of New Testament Greek just to understand one word! The utter feeling of satisfaction that comes from knowing exactly what you have to do when you get home-STUDY! Yes!
My words may seem sarcastic to some, but it should be apparent that I really love studying the bible! It is my hobby and my pastime, if I may describe it as such. Most and more important than all that, it’s my calling. It is what God has given and gifted me to do for Him as a contribution to His church. I teach, and if I teach for Him, it must be right. My approach, my preparation, my perseverance, and my presentation must be proper.
Bible reading and especially bible study are obvious necessities of the Christian life. Along with prayer, they are commonly known as spiritual ‘disciplines’. They’re called disciplines because they don’t come naturally to us. We will do them and do them to a greater degree as we surrender ourselves to the Spirit of God. Without bible reading we will not know fully what the Lord wants to communicate to us, and without bible study, we will remain in a state of spiritual infancy. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. (Hebrews 5:12).
As I study the Word, first my approach must be right. I must believe that it is His Word and not my own. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6). I must be careful not to insert any of my own bias into it. I must not force a meaning into it that is not there. When this is done, it plants the ungodly seeds of false doctrine.
When it comes to bible study, the scripture we love to tout the most, and rightfully so, is found in 2 Timothy 2:15. It says, Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. Having said that, it is important to note that the word ‘study’ in this verse (in the original Greek), actually has no direct reference to reading or studying as we understand it. It is from a verb that means ‘to make haste’, ‘to be zealous or eager’, or ‘to make every effort.’ So what is it that we are supposed to be eager and making every effort to do? We are to be presenting or showing ourselves as approved unto God. But how? Stay with me.
Secondly, my preparation to study the Word must begin with prayer. Asking the Lord to quicken His Word in the mind and heart and remove any obstacle so that they are ready to receive from Him. The fact that the Holy Spirit here uses the word ‘workman’ here, indicates that I am a laborer, and that the business of being approved unto God will not be easy. Satan will do all he is able to do to sidetrack and derail our faith. This is why we must keep our eyes on Christ and His cross, knowing that the battle was already won there. That leads directly into the third point. Perseverance will only happen on my part as I continue to rest my faith in Christ and all He accomplished on the cross. Anything less weakens me and pulls me away from Him.
Finally, there is the presentation of the Word. Approval also has to do with a proper handling of the Word. The phrase ‘rightly divide’ is one word in Greek and it means ‘to cut in a straight line.’ As I prepare to teach or preach, I am to be honest in my handling of it. The Word must be taught and preached in a straightforward manner, being careful not to tickle any ears in the process. In other words, as a minister of the Word, I must resist the temptation to tell people what they want to hear; which will probably make them feel good. Rather, I should speak exactly what the bible says, mincing no words. It should be understood that the Word does not always bring comfort as we know it. In 2 Timothy 3:16, we read among other things, that scripture is useful for reproof, which has the idea of bringing conviction, and also for correction; two things that we need from time to time as we traverse this life in the Lord.
As it pertains to the Word, when I approach, prepare, persevere and present the Word with these things in mind, and make every effort to do so, I will know that I have been approved unto God; maybe not unto man, but that doesn’t matter. When it comes to the Word, cut it straight–and no tickling!
That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.