What Is II Timothy 2:15 Really Saying?

In II Timothy 2:15, the apostle Paul gives advice to a young preacher whom he has been mentoring. Among this advice, he gives a nugget of wisdom which, due to the archaic verbiage of the King James Version, is all too often misunderstood. I take the following from the KJV:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Most folks use the opening of this verse (“study to shew thyself approved”) to emphasize that we are to study the Bible regularly. While there is no doubt that studying the Scriptures is a good thing for a Christian’s strength and growth, they are unfortunately using the wrong verse to prove their point.

The Greek word Paul used, and has since been translated into “study” is spoudazo, which, according to Strong’s Concordance, means “hasten, make haste; exert one’s self, endeavor, give diligence”.

When the King James Version was translated in 1611, the use of the word “study” was not inaccurate. At the time “study” did not refer specifically to educating one’s self or doing homework. It was more broadly intended to mean “work” or “be diligent” or “try hard”. As time progressed into our own times, “study” came to be equated with taking classes and delving into books. Its synonymous nature with “endeavor” was lost.

Today, people insist that this verse strictly means that we should read the Bible in an effort to understand it. While there is no doubt that studying in our current sense of the word is healthy for the Christian walk, that is not all Paul meant. He was telling Timothy to work hard to live a pure life, to overcome his flesh, and to live righteously and charitably. If we achieve this end, we can, as Paul said, shew (show, present) ourselves approved (pleasing or acceptable) to God, workmen that need not be ashamed.

We can thus gather from this verse that we must work hard to be good followers of Christ. If we are lazy and complacent, we run the danger of not being “approved” or acceptable to God. And we know the fate of those who are not acceptable or pleasing to God.

Peter also says in 2 Peter 1:10:

Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.

These are admonishments to Christians to be alert, to be strong in godly labor and righteousness.

Notice the grounds for another if/then logic scenario:

IF we shall never fall if we give diligence,

THEN we shall fall if we do not give diligence.

When we fall, we, as workmen, will have cause to be ashamed, as Paul said to Timothy.

And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him. — 1 John 2:28-29

John says that if we do righteousness we are born of Christ — born again. If we abide, or remain in Him, we will not be ashamed when He returns and the Day of Judgment arrives.

If we are ashamed before Christ at His return, does this still mean we will spend eternity with Him?

Jesus explains in John 15:6 that if we do not abide, or remain in Him, we will be cast away.

If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

It is up to us to remain in Christ, doing His work, laboring for Him, growing in spirit, bearing good fruit. Otherwise we are cast away into eternal condemnation, because we were useless to Him.

Therefore we see that not only is this verse often misused, but it is a powerful piece of evidence against the false Calvinistic doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints, or eternal security. Once completely understood, this apparently innocuous verse becomes a weapon against falsehood.

Thank God for the power in His Word!

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