photo © 2008 George Bannister | more info (via: Wylio)Second Timothy 2: 15 admonishes, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”This passage sums up one of the key themes in Paul’s letter to Timothy, that is that the “standard of sound words (2 Tim. 1:13)” must be retained-guarded.
In John 6:63, Jesus says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” Jesus says His words will lead to eternal life as the Holy Spirit enables us to respond to the truth, but His words must be understood as He intended them to be understood.
If, as 2 Timothy 2:15 indicates, there is a right way to handle God’s Word, then there is also a wrong way to handle it. If there were any doubt that handling God’s Word inaccurately is a very bad idea, listen to 2 Peter 3:14-16, “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” One is wise to take to heart this cautionary tale; mishandling God’s Word leads to one’s destruction.
God can and will equip believers to do the things He calls them to do (Hebrews 13:21) including interpreting His Word. God created man to be in relationship with Him and that requires the ability to communicate clearly. Hence, God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27), giving Adam intelligible language with which he could communicate with God, with other human beings, and he could understand God’s written Word.
Not only does God give us the tools we need to rightly handle His Word, He also gives us a message that is meant to be understood as He intended. Second Peter 1:19-21 says, “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” In other words, God had an intended meaning and the only interpretation that is accurate is the one He intended.
Unfortunately, we live in a “do what feels good” world. As a result, rather than seeking God’s intended meaning, too many practice eisegesis rather than exegesis. It should come as no surprise, that God foreknew we would be about this bad business and He gave us instructions in Deuteronomy 4;2 and 12:32, “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the lord your God which I command you. … Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add or take away from it.” The Revelation closes with a similar command, “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19).
So, God has given us His intended message, that is fully available to us, and can be interpreted with the gift of language He’s given to mankind. He has commanded us to handle His Word accurately, and He’s told us what will happen if we add to or take away from His Words … destruction. But the greatest resource He gives us for accurately handling the Word of God is found in 1 Corinthians 2:12-14, Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” God has given us the Holy Spirit, by which we can attain the full knowledge of God and His will for us.
Handling God’s Word accurately is vital in our relationship with our Lord and Savior. It is a command, not an option. It leads to eternal life, not destruction. It is entirely do-able with the tools with which He has gifted us.
But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes,
He will guide you into all the truth;
for He will not speak on His own initiative,
but whatever He hears, He will speak;
and He will disclose to you what is to come.
He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.
~ John 16:13-14