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 elaborates and specifies that, for a minister, serving God (workman) with a clear conscience (need not to be ashamed) primarily includes accurate handling (rightly dividing) of the Word of God (the word of truth). With this additional truth, we are now ready to consider the main teaching of 2 Tim. 2:15. The passage does not merely teach the importance of studying in general. The main teaching is that those who handle God’s word must make every effort to be approved of God, which is serving God with a pure conscience by accurately handling His 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.
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.