Rightly Dividing The Word Of Truth (Part 7)

Who inspired the Apostle Paul to write the Letters included as Scripture in the New Testament? That’s right – the Holy Spirit did. When Paul told Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” he was writing what the Holy Spirit told him to write (2 Timothy 2:15). It is the Holy Spirit saying to us, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” The Spirit of God wants us to be diligent to present ourself approved to God. He wants us to present ourself to God as a worker who does not need to be ashamed. The Spirit of God wants us to rightly divide the Word of Truth. Simple and direct. That’s God’s Will for us.

Rightly dividing means “cutting straight, handling correctly,” God’s Word. We start the straight cutting by reading every Book of the Bible from the beginning (e.g. Genesis 1:1; Luke 1:1; Romans 1:1). Our concern is accurate exegesis (critical explanation or interpretation of a text). We study the Word of Truth in context (the parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning). Would we read an important letter from a friend or family member by starting somewhere in the middle or toward the end? Not if we wanted to understand the purpose and intent of the writer. The same is true with the Bible. We start at the beginning and read it carefully all the way to the end. As we are reading the Bible in context, we observe everything. We take notes about everything we see. Then we ask questions about what we see. Answering those questions will lead us to begin the process of interpreting the meaning of the words we’ve read.

Many years ago I heard someone say that every verse of the Bible can be interpreted in many ways – as many ways as there are people who read it. Does that make sense to you? Did the Holy Spirit inspire the writing of the Bible for the purpose of everyone coming up with their own individual truths? If I say to you, “the building across the street is on fire,” how many ways can my words be interpreted? If I say the same words to 20 people who are standing nearby, could they come up with 20 different interpretations of the meaning of “the building across the street is on fire?” Can anyone believe my words mean something other than the fact that the building across the street is on fire? Can someone interpret it as “the building across the street is not on fire?” Can another person interpret my words as “the building across the street used to be on fire, but that happened a long time ago?” Can someone else interpret my words as “the building across the street may one day be on fire, but it is not on fire today?” I think not. I was quite clear – “the building across the street is on fire.”

Here’s an example from the New Testament. Matthew wrote this in his Gospel account – “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” (Matthew 16:21) How many different interpretations of this verse can we have if we rightly divide the Word of Truth? What I see is that beginning at that time Jesus told His disciples that He had to go to Jerusalem, had to suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, had to be killed, and had to be raised the third day. Can we interpret this verse to mean that John the Baptist began to show to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and die at the hands of the elders and priests and scribes? Can we interpret the verse to mean that Jesus told some strangers that He was traveling to Nazareth? Can we interpret the verse to mean that Jesus told His disciples that He was going to Jerusalem to meet with elders and chief priests about opening a restaurant? Can we interpret the verse to mean that Jesus told some priests He was going to Bethel to die at the hands of His disciples? Can we interpret the verse to mean that Jesus told His disciples He was going to Jerusalem to join with the elders and chief priests and scribes to get their advice about how best to bring in the Kingdom? Can we interpret the verse to mean that Jesus told His disciples He was going to Jerusalem to fake His death and then start a family with Mary Magdalene? Can we interpret the verse to mean that Jesus told His disciples He was going to Jerusalem to die from pneumonia and remain in the grave? Of course not. All of those interpretations are ridiculous because the meaning of the verse is clear. Jesus told His disciples that He “must” go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.

Why can’t we do that with every verse in the Bible? You think it’s impossible? Then why does God tell us to rightly divide the Word of Truth? Why does God tell us to be workers who do not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, if that’s not possible? You think it’s hard to rightly divide the Word of Truth? It is. That’s why the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to use the word “worker” (ergates – laborer). The word was used for people who were hired to work outside all day long, especially those who labored in the fields. Yes, rightly dividing the Word of Truth is hard work. It’s also rewarding. God rewards those who labor for Him with His approval. Most importantly, it brings glory to God!

In our next study, we’ll look at the vital process of interpretation and what it can mean to the Church.

Also, read the companion apologetics study – Can I Trust the Bible?

In Christ’s Love and Grace,

Mark McGee

GraceLife Ministries

“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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