Could you explain what “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth” really means?
You are referring to 2 Timothy 2:15 which reads: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
In our Q&A “How Does the Church of the Eternal God and its International Affiliates Differ from Other Christian Churches? (Part 1) we state the following:
“In charging Timothy with ‘rightly dividing the word of truth,’ Paul brings out the fact that God’s Word must be read and studied, ‘here a little and there a little’ (Isaiah 28:9-10). All Scriptures to a given concept must be consulted, to avoid reaching a wrong conclusion. The Word of Truth must be taught honestly, while nothing is to be added or deleted. In dividing or ‘cutting straight’ God’s Word, error and false interpretations are being cut off. As Paul admonished Timothy to preach God’s Word ‘in season and out of season’ (compare again 2 Timothy 4:2), and not to be ‘ashamed of the testimony of our Lord’ and the gospel (2 Timothy 1:8), so Paul also did not shun ‘to declare… the whole counsel of God’ (Acts 20:27).”
The word “orthotomeō” (Strong’s Number: G3718) meaning “‘rightly dividing’ can be understood as follows: ‘To cut straight, to cut straight ways. To proceed on straight paths, hold a straight course, equivalent to doing right. To make straight and smooth, to handle aright, to teach the truth directly and correctly.’”
The Bible clearly says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Also, we read in John 17:15-19: “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.”
We are clearly told that Jesus prayed that His disciples would be set apart by the Truth of God. They would be able to rightly divide the word of Truth.
From the Scriptures already quoted we can see that we must read the Bible, study it, and diligently seek correct understanding from it. As we do, we can show ourselves approved unto God as workmen who need not be ashamed.
We must also realise that the Bible, in its original form, is the Word of Truth. There are no contradictions; otherwise, the Bible could not be trusted.
Let us break down 2 Timothy 2:15 which is Paul’s instruction to Timothy who was a minister in the New Testament Church of God. However, just because this was an instruction to a minister at that time doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t apply to all Church members as well down through the ages to the present time. We are admonished to “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) – again, an exhortation that applies to all members of the Church of God whether they are ministers or members.
2 Timothy 2:15 starts out by saying: “Be diligent”; that is, to make every effort, be studious and unflagging in this endeavour. Barnes Notes on the Bible states the following:
“Study to show thyself approved unto God – Give diligence or make an effort so to discharge the duties of the ministerial office as to meet the divine approbation. The object of the ministry is not to please men. Such doctrines should be preached, and such plans formed, and such a manner of life pursued, as God will approve. To do this demands study or care – for there are many temptations to the opposite course; there are many things the tendency of which is to lead a minister to seek popular favor rather than the divine approval. If any man please God, it will be as the result of deliberate intention and a careful life.”
As mentioned, this admonition applies to all ordained and unordained members of God’s Church. We all must be diligent in discharging our individual duties and responsibilities—whatever they may be.
“…to show yourself approved unto God.” In Matthew 25:23 we read: “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’” This is part of Christ’s teaching in the parable of the talents and must be our aim in life. We must remember that our calling now is the only opportunity that we will have, and we must make it fully count as there is no second chance for anyone.
“… a workman who does not need to be ashamed.” This must be our goal. Three verses earlier, in 2 Timothy 2:12, we are told that if “If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He will also deny us.” That is a pretty stark warning for us to do the right thing. Timothy was given the task of reminding them “of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers” (2 Timothy 2:14). God will surely be pleased when we take His Word seriously and rightly divide the Word of Truth. While ministers are to preach the Word of God in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2), we all have the responsibility to answer those with meekness and fear who ask us regarding the hope that is in us (compare 1 Peter 3:15). In 1 Timothy 4:16, a warning is given: “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”
“… rightly dividing the Word of Truth.” The word “rightly dividing” literally means “to rightly cut, to cut straight.”
As mentioned above, there are warnings about not adding to or taking away from God’s Word. We read in Deuteronomy 4:2: “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.”
Deuteronomy 12:32 states: ““Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.”
Revelation 22:19 adds: “… and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
We also read in Mark 7:13 about those who are “making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things that you do.” This follows on from verse 7, which reads: “And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
It should be further added that in Romans 8:9 & 14 we read that “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” In order to obtain the Holy Spirit, we need to repent, believe and be baptised (see Acts 2:38). God only gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (see Acts 5:32). It follows that those who are not obedient to God will not receive His Holy Spirit and, therefore, will not be able to properly divide the Word of Truth. Even those who might be called by God and who are on their way towards baptism must be careful not to reject or second-guess the teachings of God’s Church, which is the foundation and the pillar of the Truth (2 Timothy 3:15), and to replace them with their own personal opinions.
It is clear from mainstream Christianity that tradition can play quite a part in their “understanding” of the Way of God. On the website carm.org/catholic/roman-catholicism-bible-and-tradition, we read:
“One of the great differences between Protestant and Catholic doctrine is in the area of Tradition. The Protestant church maintains that the Bible alone is intended by God to be the source of doctrinal truth (2 Tim. 3:16). The Catholic Church, however, says, ‘Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God . . .’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 97).
“The Catholic Church reasons thusly:
“‘1. The apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority’ (Par. 77).
“‘2. This living transmission, accomplished through the Holy Spirit, is called tradition…’ (Par. 78).
“‘3. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence’ (Par. 82).
“Within the Catholic scope of Tradition, many doctrines have been ‘revealed’ to the Church over the centuries. For example, there is the veneration of Mary, her immaculate conception and her bodily assumption into heaven. There is also the Apocrypha, transubstantiation, praying to saints, the confessional, penance, purgatory, and more. Protestantism as a whole differs with Catholicism in these additions.”
This article states that “The Protestant church maintains that the Bible alone is intended by God to be the source of doctrinal truth (2 Tim. 3:16),” which is incorrect. For example, the Bible clearly teaches the keeping of the seventh-day Sabbath and the annual Holy Days, which neither Roman Catholicism nor Protestantism accepts. They have replaced them with Sunday and man’s holidays (Christmas, Easter, etc.), which have no biblical basis whatsoever. For more differences, please see our “Statement of Beliefs,” which will show a great disparity between the Church of God and mainstream Christianity.
From what we have seen, these churches have not rightly divided the Word of Truth. In addition, they have added things and taken away things through tradition and faulty reasoning and the outcome of such practices is not favourable!
Two additional examples of how the Bible has not been the basis of understanding can be seen in the false belief in the Trinity. In the New Bible Dictionary we read the following: “The word Trinity is not found in the Bible, and, though used by Tertullian in the last decade of the 2nd century, it did not find a place formally in the theology of the Church till the 4th century.” In other words, this is something that has been “added” which is condemned in God’s Word.
Another example is that of the Rapture. Wikipedia, under the heading of “Rapture,” makes these observations: “Pre-tribulation rapture theology originated in the eighteenth century, with the Puritan preachers Increase and Cotton Mather, and was popularized extensively in the 1830s by John Nelson Darby and the Plymouth Brethren, and further in the United States by the wide circulation of the Scofield Reference Bible in the early 20th century.” The rapture is not mentioned in the Bible and is another example of a belief not shown in the Bible being “added” which is contrary to the clear teachings of Scripture.
As stated above, other examples of changing God’s Word to suit man’s requirements is that of the weekly Sabbath. Saying that a change was made because Christ was raised from the dead on a Sunday morning is both incorrect (it was Saturday evening) and has no biblical basis whatsoever. It was, in brief, a change not approved of or authorised by Scripture.
There are many other examples of similar “adding to and taking away” from the inspired Word of God, which would clearly come under the heading of NOT rightly dividing the Word of Truth.
We must always let the Bible interpret itself. It is infallible in its original form and must be our guide to life, and we must never fall into the trap of human reasoning. We must always rightly divide the Word of Truth as the Bible instructs!
Lead Writer: Brian Gale (United Kingdom)