2 Timothy 2:15

How important is it to make people you love happy? In your mind and heart, is there a connection between being a source of love and being a source of happiness?

Let me ask you some questions, and you honestly answer them in your own mind and heart. In your answers, do not substitute wishes for answers. As you answer to yourself, answer in terms of what you can do.

The questions:

I apologize for not having a closer connection between our study of 2 Timothy 3:16,17 and tonight's lesson which focuses on 2 Timothy 2:15. I conclude that it is very important to understand Paul's emphasis rather than our emphasis. If we are not careful, we create a division in emphasis, a problem that God never intended.

  1. Let me begin with a brief review of my thoughts on 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
    1. I stressed that the scripture the first century church used (for the most part) was what we call Old Testament writings.
      1. Printing had not been invented.
      2. Christians did not have personal Bibles to read and study.
      3. The Old Testament scriptures were used extensively in New Testament writings as documentation and authority.
    2. Paul, with admiration, spoke in 2 Timothy 1:5 of the sincere faith existing in Timothy.
      1. Paul said this admired faith originated in his mother and grandmother.
      2. This faith was not produced by devotion to New Testament writings (which did not exist when Timothy's grandmother developed closeness to God).
      3. It was produced by what we would call an understanding of the Old Testament's emphasis on being a righteous person.

  2. Allow me to transition to another statement Paul made to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:14-17a, with specific attention to verse 15.
    Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene.
    1. As a preacher, Timothy was to remember he was a reminder--he was to help those Christians remember.
      1. I conclude in this particular injunction Paul spoke of the things that were to be entrusted to faithful people. (2:2)
        1. Suffer hardship as a good soldier which involves keeping yourself free to respond to the orders of those in control.
        2. Compete according to the rules as any good athlete must do.
        3. Persevere as a farmer who understands he will be the first to receive a share of the crops.
      2. Depend on the Lord to give you understanding.
        1. Remember Jesus Christ, the resurrected one, the descendant of David.
        2. Remembering him your foundation reason for enduring.
        3. He (Jesus Christ) will keep his word and honor his promises.
      3. Remember what is important.
        1. Do not wrangle about words.
        2. Those confrontations are useless and cause listeners to be ruined (spiritually).
    2. I want you to focus on the very familiar verse 15.
      1. First, consider it in the King James translation, which is likely the translation most of us used as we learned this verse.
        2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
        1. When I was a boy, this was my understanding of the emphasis that I was taught.
          1. Study--do a lot of reading of the New Testament.
            1. It is good to read the whole Bible. (Reading the Old Testament is fine.)
            2. But your focus of serious study needs to be the New Testament.
          2. If you are to have God's approval, you need to develop expertise in your knowledge and understanding of the New Testament.
          3. The only way that you can become an unashamed worker for God is to understand the New Testament.
          4. No one will be able to properly separate scripture, the word of truth, unless he is an expert in the New Testament.
        2. That was the emphasis I heard as a boy, but Paul was not talking to Timothy about focusing on the New Testament--the New Testament as such did not even exist when Paul made that statement. So what was Paul saying to Timothy?
      2. Now let me direct you to the same verse in the New American Standard translation:
        2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
        1. Notice Paul's emphasis to Timothy and notice how that emphasis is consistent with the emphasis in the verses before 2 Timothy 2:15.
        2. "Timothy, be serious in your commitment to God; be diligent as your seek God's approval as His workman."
        3. "Remember that you are a workman."
          1. The concept here is that of a servant, a laborer.
          2. Timothy is to remember that is what he chose to be.
          3. There is an implied contrast here: (a) a man who serves by choice who wants God to be pleased with his service versus (b) a man who serves by necessity, who wants to look good when he is noticed ("front and center") but who does not care about God if he thinks he is not noticed.
        4. "Remember your chosen objective--you want to be God's unashamed laborer. (It was God's evaluation of him that was important, not people's evaluation.)
        5. "You must not use scripture, God's word, to excuse or justify ungodly behavior--you emphasize in your life God's emphasis; you are concerned about God's concerns, not yours."
        6. "You do not make scripture say something it does not say."

  3. We desperately need to understand that some things have never changed.
    1. The nature and character of God have not changed.
      1. What God wants in the hearts and minds of His people has not changed.
      2. God's values and priorities have not changed.
      3. The nature of righteousness has not changed.
      4. The nature of godliness has not changed.
      5. The fundamental expectations of God 5000 years ago in righteous people are still the fundamental expectations of God in righteous person today.
    2. Let me ask you to consider some specific examples.
      1. Consider Psalm 24:3-5.
        Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the Lord And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
        1. That is a timeless description of a righteous human life.
        2. Never has there been a time when people could dirty their hands with evil, be unconcerned about pure hearts, be liars, be deceitful people, and live in God's presence.
        3. The person who will be blessed with God's salvation is the person devoted to purity in life and honesty in dealing with people.
        4. That has always been true!
        5. Do you not remember Matthew 5:8?
          Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
      2. Consider Proverbs 6:16-19:
        There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.
        1. God despises arrogance, deceit, those who cause the innocent suffering and death, hearts that plan evil, people who enjoy and reinforce evil, those who spread lies, and those who promote conflict.
        2. That has always been true!
        3. When God resurrected Jesus, those evils did not suddenly become righteous acts with God.
      3. Consider Isaiah 1:16,17:
        Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.
        1. Isaiah just completed an emphasis on two facts:
          1. Israel, compared to a body, was covered with horrible sores.
          2. Their technically correct acts of worship made God sick.
        2. What would reverse the situation? What did they need to do?
          1. Become concerned with being pure instead of just being technically correct.
          2. Stop evil behavior in their daily deeds.
          3. Quit doing evil.
          4. Learn to do good (they did not know what good was!).
          5. Start being fair in all circumstances to everyone.
          6. Start caring about those who were at the mercy of the ruthless, and start condemning the ruthless.
        3. That has always been true! It continues to be true!
        4. Rightfully handling God's teaching in the Old Testament and New Testament will lead to no other conclusion.
        5. Do you remember James 1:26,27?
          If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Paul's encouragement to Timothy was not about Old and New Testaments. It was simple: "Timothy, be serious and devoted to being God's righteous servant."

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 15 June 2003
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