Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
It’s a great pity that so many translations omit the word ‘study’ from this verse, as it then excludes a critical facet of the Christian life – study of the Word. Many Christians haven’t yet grasped the critical importance of reading, meditating on and studying the Word of God for themselves, over and above the ‘food’ they receive from the pulpit, from their home groups and in discussion with other Christians.
The real tragedy is that they are depriving themselves, through busyness, frenetic lives and all kinds of commitments, of a fundamental provision of God for their daily walk, ministry preparation and spiritual growth. It’s far more serious than many believe, especially when we consider that many churches don’t rely on the Word of God in their preaching. How then, are these believers to grow and build a solid, biblical faith?
The Bible tells us that we are to ‘work out our salvation with fear and trembling.’ The very core of this is knowledge of the Word, and this verse means, essentially, that we should not rely on others to ‘feed’ us, but should be feeding ourselves. We cannot hold anyone responsible for our own ignorance of the scriptures, and the resulting lack of both faith and fruit. If we don’t grow, if we rely entirely on a handful of scriptures passed on by others, if we life a faith based on the smallest portion of scripture, we cannot expect to reach a deeper level of fellowship with God.
This is why so many today seek after signs and wonders and the apparent manifestations of the Spirit. The hunger and thirst for the Word is misplaced onto visual and emotional experiences, and this becomes the measure of ‘spirituality.’ The foundation is lost, and we grasp after ephemeral things that ultimately lead to deception.
Today’s verse reminds us that there is only one way – study. Even ten minutes a day is better than none minutes a day. Only through studying the Word will we be able to ‘divide’ or discern the word of truth. The Bible also says God’s people perish through lack of knowledge. Our ignorance can ultimately lead to our destruction – we can be easily deceived, or we can miss the promises that God intends for us to walk in, we can begin to doubt or fall into error, and we will never achieve the full fellowship in Christ that is our inheritance.
Jesus reminds us of this in John 15, and it’s worth reading verses 1 – 8 for a grim picture of what results from not having right fellowship with Christ. For saved, baptised, Spirit filled people, it’s often hard to read these words and accept that they might well apply to us – after all, we go to church, home group, prayer meetings, and even work in ministry perhaps. We should remind ourselves that Jesus is the Word. Abiding in Him is abiding in His Word. And abide doesn’t mean to visit now and then, or to hear about Him from someone else. Abide means ‘to live.’ We are to live in the Word. That is the critical cornerstone of our faith.
No amount of works or even corporate worship, or simply singing worship songs alone can replace this. Christian life demands worship in Spirit and in truth, the Holy Spirit and the Word. That is the source of real fruit – abiding in the Word means Christ Himself is daily growing within us. With His life flowing through us we are kept supple and strong, we bring forth growth and fruit, and others are blessed.
We cannot ignore verses that make us uncomfortable. No one wants to hear that branches – that’s us – who don’t bear fruit are cut off and burned. The real truth is that God doesn’t want that either, and that’s why He reminds us continually that we should apply ourselves and get the Word in us. It isn’t something we can do ‘in part’ or ‘by halves.’ Therein lie all the things believers are seeking after, wholly and completely and perfectly provided. It simply requires that ‘abide’ in it and allow it to work the purpose for which it was sent.
What we receive from God through our different stages of growth is directly proportional to how much we have of Him inside us at any given time. As His Word grows within us, so He grows within us, and so we grow within Him. There absolutely is no other way. It’s not up to the pastor, or the home group leader, or the worship leader, or even our best friend. It’s up to us, and whether or not we desire His righteousness.
Father, my prayer today is that You would stir up a hunger and a thirst within Your people for Your Word. Help us to abide there, to learn from You, to come to a place where Your Word is truly our ‘life’ and ‘daily bread.’ Teach us, Lord, through the power of Your Holy Spirit, and help us to love Your Word more and more each day.