the weblog of Alan Knox

An addendum to my study of 2 Timothy 2:15

Posted by on Aug 17, 2013 in scripture | 6 comments

So, this week, I’ve attempted to “study” 2 Timothy 2:15 in order to show that Paul did not exhort Timothy to “study the Bible” in that passage. Of course, the very exercise that I undertook shows that I think that the study of Scripture is extremely profitable and important. My blog series was not an attempt to dissuade anyone from studying, but instead to point out that Paul had a different point in mind when he penned 2 Timothy 2:15 to his young apostolic co-worker Timothy.

I’m glad that Dave Black caught my point and wrote about it this morning on his blog (Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 9:38 a.m.). This is what he wrote:

Seems that the “study” in “Study to show yourself approved unto God” is a mistranslation. My thoughts, for what they’re worth…

The Christian faith is unapologetically intellectual. But 2 Tim. 2:15 is not the right place to go for proof of this. Not that Christians shouldn’t study. Augustine once wrote, “Everything that is believed is believed after being preceded by thought.” In all of my publications I have tried to show the indispensability of sound logic to Christian living. Christian thinking is anchored in the Scriptures — hence the necessity of knowing the biblical languages. From the beginning of the Reformation, the church has nurtured an active intellectual life. I reference Alan’s post not simply to show how easily we are misled by translations. (We’ve all had that happen. Growing up in Hawaii I recall making sure to slurp the last drop of grape juice during communion. After all, had not the Savior commanded, “Drink ye all of it”?) My purpose is to remind us just how commonplace misunderstandings can be. The threat is a grave one. It is grave in that we sometimes have those leading our churches whose ability to deal honestly with the biblical texts is obviously in question. Again, to quote Augustine, “Treat the Scripture of God as the face of God.” The more profoundly one understands Scripture the more deeply one relates to its Author and great Subject. And vice versa.

I think that for all of us, there are those passages of Scripture that we simply know what they mean without thinking about them… they’re obvious… we’ve understood them our whole life…

And, perhaps, that is the very passage of Scripture that we should study…

But, never see study as the goal… study does not make us approved by God… study does not make us an unashamed worker… study does not indicate that we are “rightly handling/dividing the word of truth.”

Instead, while we’re studying, let’s remember Paul’s exhortation to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15… no, not an exhortation to study the Bible… but an exhortation to continue living by the “word of truth,” the gospel, because we are an approved person and an unashamed worker.

By the way, one of the things that I’ve appreciated about Dave Black as I’ve known him the last few years is that he’s a great example of this… both him and his wife. Yes, they study the Scriptures relentlessly and carefully… but they also live the gospel with their students, friends, neighbors, and strangers.


Series on 2 Timothy 2:15

  1. Study to show thyself approved unto God?
  2. Did Paul tell Timothy to “study” in 2 Timothy 2:15?
  3. In 2 Timothy 2:15, what does Paul mean by “word of truth”?
  4. What did Paul mean by “rightly dividing the word of truth” in 2 Timothy 2:15?
  5. 2 Timothy 2:15 – Putting it all together


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 8-17-2013


    Hey that’s great, I’m happy for Dave Black, but my main point is this:

    We don’t STUDY to be approved unto God… like you said

    But study to get TO the rightly-divided Word…

    Once we HAVE the rightly divided Word and APPLY it…

    We HAVE AND REAP the rewards, But HOW do we get TO the rightly-divided (by studying it) Word so were GOLDEN?

    That’s all, no more

    Simple question, because if we teach people this, they can do it themselves,

    Most People ask questions and then most teachers give the answers without teaching them how to do it themselves.


  2. 8-17-2013


    I don’t think study will lead us to “rightly dividing/handling the word of truth (the gospel).” It may be one step, but the final outcome must be our way of life. The Scriptures can help us in this. As Paul says, the Scriptures are profitable toward a life of good works. But, like Jesus warned the Pharisees and Scribes (in John 5), studying the Scriptures alone does not guarantee recognizing/finding Jesus or (in Paul’s words) “rightly dividing the word of truth.)

    I think our goal should be both helping people understand Scripture and helping them study Scripture on their own, but even more out goal should be helping people follow Jesus Christ / the Holy Spirit and live according to the gospel.


  3. 8-17-2013

    Thanks for responding,

    That’s a great point, if someone studied the Word and didn’t apply it, where would he be?

    Or in other words, how else would someone reap the fruit of the spirit, right?


  4. 8-17-2013


    I think we’re using the term “word” differently, but I agree. Unfortunately, it’s very possible to study the Scriptures without actually following Jesus Christ.


  5. 8-18-2013

    Alan, would love to see a post with your thoughts on:
    “The Christian faith is unapologetically intellectual”


  6. 8-18-2013


    I agree with that statement. The life of following Jesus is unapologetically intellectual, physical, emotional, spiritual, individual, social, etc.