Theme: Being a Skilled Workman
In this week’s lessons, Paul reminds Timothy of those things he is to avoid, as well as those that he must practice, in order to please the Lord in his life and service.
Scripture: 2 Timothy 2:14-15
In talking about a workman, Paul uses a verb that is only found here in the New Testament, and that has caused some difficulty in interpretation. Paul writes in verse 15, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” Now if you know this verse from the King James Version, you remember that where the New International Version has “correctly handling,” the King James Version translates it as “rightly dividing.” The word is made up of two Greek words: ortho, which means “straight,” and tomeo, which means “to cut.” So putting the two words together you would have a literal translation of “cutting straightly” or “cutting rightly.”
This is why the New International Version’s “correctly handling,” while not a bad translation of the Greek word, nevertheless misses the real strength of the image. Of course, it is true that we want to handle Scripture correctly. But the idea of “cutting straightly” adds something to our understanding. This verb that only occurs here in the New Testament is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which is called the Septuagint. It is found in that well-known passage in Proverbs 3: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (vv. 5-6). It’s this idea of having a straight path that is where this Greek word is used. In other words, God will cut a straight path for you.
If Paul has this idea of a straight path in mind when he is writing to Timothy, he wants Timothy to teach the Bible not only correctly, but also in a way that is clear and discernible to his listeners. Perhaps Paul even had in mind the idea of Roman roads. They built roads that were straight and went right to their destination. They were not intended to be used for sightseeing. They did not wind all over to allow people to take in the scenery. They were cut straight and directly to get travelers to their destination. Now if the geography was such that they could not build their road in a straight line, of course they were bend it to get around what was in the way. But sometimes they would alter the terrain. If there was water in the way, they might decide to dam it up to put the road down. Or if there was a hill, they might cut some away. The straightness of Roman roads were really quite remarkable. Paul wants Timothy to be just as rigorous and purposeful in his preaching of the gospel. Paul wants Timothy’s teaching to be clear so as not to be misunderstood and used in the wrong way. Timothy is to preach the deep truths of the gospel in a way that people can understand them and live them out.
Preachers get all kinds of comments after they have delivered a sermon. Some, admittedly, they try to forget; but others they remember. I suppose the comments that I really appreciate the most are when people tell me that I make the passage seem so simple. That really is what a preacher is called upon to do. We are not to try to sound profound and impress people with some difficult ideas that most hearing them will not understand. Rather, we are to make it as clear as we can. Now sometimes it’s hard to make it clear because there are times when we have difficulty understanding it ourselves. Some parts of the Bible are hard to understand. But when we get to those parts, our aim is to explain it in such a way that our listeners will learn what the Bible is teaching and then live out its truths in their lives. That’s what Paul wants Timothy to do.
Paul wants Timothy to preach the Word the way a skilled workman does his job. When he is building a house, he makes sure that the walls are at right angles and that they are perpendicular to the ground. The doors are all hung at right angles and don’t stick when they open and close. A workman like that wants everything to be done well and exactly as it should be. That’s how Paul wants Timothy to carry out his ministry.
Explain the meaning of the Greek verb in verse 15.
How does the meaning of this verb apply to Timothy’s situation?
Application: Make a list of how you are to apply this study to your own life and ministry to which God has called you.
For Further Study: Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “Workers in the Truth.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)