By Pastor Albert Tiangco
When I was in my second year of high school, I bought a bookmarker that has on it the wordings of 2 Tim. 2:15--Study to shew thyself approved unto God a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. I had that bookmarker everyday with me in that school year because, in my mind, the text teaches that studying results into “approval” of God. It is my impression that Study to shew thyself approved unto God is commonly understood this way.
Contrary to popular understanding, study in 2 Tim. 2:15 does not mean “study.” The main New Testament sense of the Greek word spoudazo (spoo-dad'-zo) underlying study is to “be zealous/eager, take pains, make every effort, be conscientious” (BDAG). The majority of the words that KJV translators used to render spoudazo proves that this (be zealous...) is the main sense of the word. spoudazo occurs 11x in the New Testament. Five times KJV translators translated it in connection with the word “diligence” (2 Tim. 4:9, 21; Titus 3:12; 2 Pet. 1:10; 3:14). Three times it was rendered as “endeavor” (Eph. 4:3; 1 Thess. 2:17; 2 Pet. 1:15), and once it was translated as “labor” (Heb. 4:11). Paul, therefore, was not merely exhorting Timothy to read books and study but commanding him to be zealous, eager, to take pains, to make every effort or to be diligent.
Paul commands Timothy to be diligent or make every effort to present (shew) himself approved unto God. While the world and, sadly, even many Christians are making effort to gain the approval of man, Christian ministers must diligently strive to gain God’s approval. But what does it mean to be approved unto God? A divinely approved minister is a person who is laboring for the Lord (a workman) with a clear conscience before self and God (that needeth not to be ashamed). It is not enough that we labor for God; Christian ministers must labor for the Lord with a clean conscience. Serving God does not always result into being approved of God.
The primary purpose, therefore, for preachers and teachers of God’s Word is not merely to prepare sermons that people would like to hear but to prepare sermons that faithfully reflect what the Word of God says; It is to this that we must apply our utmost diligence and effort. Those who minister God’s Word have a mandate from God to handle His Word accurately. We, preachers and teachers, are disapproved of God and ought to be ashamed of ourselves whenever we handle the word of God carelessly. Pastors specially are reminded of the paramount attention they need to be giving to prayer and the ministry of the Word.
We must handle the Word of God with great care or not handle it at all. Clearly, God does not approve every preaching and teaching done from and about His Word. But to those who diligently labor to teach and preach what God has revealed in His Word, God’s approval is certain.
Reading, learning, growing. God calls us to be changed through His Word. At BJMBC, our goal is to speak truthfully and clearly about that Word, while we prepare a future generation of students to proclaim it.