2 Timothy 2:15 ESV
“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.”
First of all, we must be approved by God, and thus we must read the Scriptures which tell us what meets God’s approval and what does not. For not everyone who says to Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” is going to enter into the kingdom of heaven but only the one DOING (in practice) the will of God the Father who is in heaven. For if anyone would come after Jesus he must deny self, take up his cross daily (daily die to sin and to self) and follow (obey) him. For if we claim to know God, but we do not obey him, we are liars.
[Matt 7:21-23; Lu 9:23-26; 1 Jn 2:3-6; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17]
Second of all we must be workers, but not doing works in our own flesh, but who do the works God prepared in advance that we should walk in them. For we are required to do works but not our own fleshly works. And if we do not do the works of God, and if we do not repent of our sins, and if we do not obey our Lord, then we don’t know him and we will not inherit eternal life. For we are all going to be judged by our works. And if we sow to please the flesh we will reap destruction, but if we sow to please the Spirit, we will reap eternal life. So don’t believe the lies that no works are required of you.
[Eph 2:8-10; 1 Co 15:58; 2 Co 9:8; Gal 5:6; Php 2:12-13; Col 1:9-14; 2 Thess 1:11-12; 2 Tim. 2:21; Tit 2:11-14; Jn 15:1-11; Tit 3:8; Jas 2:17; Lu 9:23-26; Gal 5:16-21; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 1:28-32; Rom 2:6-8; 1 Co 6:9-10; 2 Co 5:10; Eph 5:3-6; Col 1:21-23; Col 3:5-11; Rom 6:16; Rom 8:3-14; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Heb 10:26-31; 1 Pet 1:17-21; Jn 15:1-11; Rev. 2-3; Rev 18:1-6; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15; Matt 7:21-23]
Thirdly we must learn to rightly handle the word of truth.
Now, we aren’t all Bible scholars, and even the Bible scholars do not agree on everything in Scripture. And we all had different upbringings, and we were all taught some things right and some things wrong. I know that I had to unlearn several things I was taught early on in my life which I realized were wrong as I dug deeper and deeper into the Scriptures, in context. And so we may not get everything exactly right, especially since we are subject to human translations which may not all be perfectly accurate.
So, how can we rightly handle the word of truth if our translations are not completely accurate in every case? Or if we have ingrained within us from childhood certain interpretations of Scripture which may not be entirely accurate? How can we unlearn what is wrong and learn what is right? And again, I know this was written to Timothy, but all of us should rightly handle the word of truth so that we don’t lead others astray. All of us should do our best to make sure that what we are sharing is truth. And that is the point.
So, if we are doing our best to rightly handle the word of truth, what should that look like? Well, let me share from my experiences.
Listening to and Heeding the Spirit’s Voice
I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s, so during that time most evangelical church congregations seemed to lean toward legalism. Now, if we are in genuine relationships with Jesus Christ, by God’s grace, via God-given faith which dies with Christ to sin and lives to Christ and to his righteousness, then we have the Holy Spirit (God/Jesus) living within us speaking to our hearts, teaching, nudging, counseling, encouraging and empowering us to live righteously and to follow Jesus Christ in his ways.
So, if we are sensitive to his voice because we are in the habit of listening to the Spirit within us, then the Spirit is going to give us that gentle nudge in our spirits when something isn’t right. Especially as we are studying the Scriptures and we are reading them in context, he is going to let us know when something we learned previously is wrong and he is going to open our eyes to see what is right. But if we hold on to our religious traditions and we refuse to see anything different, then we aren’t going to be able to rightly handle the word of truth. We have to be willing to see what is wrong.
So, I was in my early 20’s before I had a Bible translation I could understand. I know some people love the KJV but for me it was like reading Shakespeare, and I didn’t understand him, either. And that is mainly because I had poor reading comprehension. In fact, I tested as reading on a 4th grade level when I entered college for the first time. And I believe the KJV was written more on a 12th grade level. So, when my pastor recommended we get the NASB, all of a sudden the word of God began to come alive to me, even though that translation is difficult, too.
We also had a missionary stay with us for several weeks and she taught me how to read the Scriptures in a way with the intent to get something from them for my life personally. So she taught me how to journal and how to ask myself questions and how to break down verses word for word, which is still my practice, and all of a sudden I was not only learning things I never learned before but I was realizing that I had learned several things wrong.
But the other thing our missionary friend taught me was how to engage the Holy Spirit in my reading of the Scriptures, and how to listen to him speak to my heart, and how to recognize when he was showing me that something was wrong and then how to learn what was right. And one of the biggest things I learned is to interpret Scriptures in their context, which includes comparing Scripture with Scripture to get the whole big picture on any particular teaching. So if I am reading a Scripture and it doesn’t add up to another one, then I put the two together to get to the whole.
But one of the other big things, which I already mentioned, is that we have to be willing to unlearn things we learned wrong. We can’t stubbornly hold on to wrong teaching because then we are just blocking out the Spirit’s voice. And we can’t rely on what others taught about the passages, either, for many of them tried to find ways around certain things that they didn’t want to accept. We have to be willing to examine the Scriptures to find truth even if that truth goes against what we previously believed.
Now I had no issues forsaking legalism. It was not hard to see that it was wrong. And by legalism I mean an adherence to externals and man-made rules that are not specifically in the Scriptures, kind of like the Pharisees added on human traditions and rules that were not originally in the law. But I also had a distorted view of the gospel and of our salvation from sin which stemmed largely from Scriptures taught out of context. So I had to relearn what the gospel taught by examining the Scriptures and their context, and by comparing them one to the other. And WOW! I learned so much!
So, if we are going to do our best to rightly handle the word of truth we need to be willing to read the Scriptures as though we are reading them for the first time with no prejudices and just let the Holy Spirit open up our ears and our minds to hear what he wants to teach us. And we need to be willing to reject wrong teaching and to embrace right teaching, even if it goes against what we were always taught or against our human traditions. For truth must triumph so that we are moving in the right direction and so that we are leading others in the right direction, under the leadership of God.
He Touched My Mouth
An Original Work / June 13, 2012
Based off Isaiah 6:1-8; Jeremiah 1:4-9
Oh, I saw the Lord seated on His throne,
High and lifted up; Holy is the Lord!
The earth is full of His glory.
“Woe to me,” I cried,
“I’m of unclean lips.”
My Lord touched my mouth
With His cleansing pow’r;
Removed all my guilt, paid for by His blood.
He asked, “Whom shall I send;
Who will go for us?”
I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Before I was born, God set me apart;
He appointed me to His servant be.
I said, “I don’t know how to speak.
I am but a child.” Then, the Lord replied:
“Do not say to me, ‘I am but a child.’
You must go to all, and do what I say.
Do not fear them, for I’m with you.”
My Lord touched my mouth;
Gave me words to say.