In 1 Timothy 1:4-7, Paul instructed Timothy to focus on the faith and not be drawn into useless talks of those who misunderstand our doctrine of salvation. In 1 Tim 2:5-7, Paul presented probably the best three verse summary of our saving gospel of grace. Within First Timothy, Paul provided the qualifications for bishops and deacons.
In 2 Timothy 2:1-4, Paul instructed Timothy to be strong in the faith and serve as a good soldier of Christ. In 2 Tim 3:14-17, Paul spoke to Timothy concerning his knowledge of the scriptures and the importance of studying God’s word.
Going back to 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul gave his young pupil a very important command. First of all, he was instructed to study. The Greek word it is translated from is spoudazō. This word appears several times in the Greek writings. One such occasion is Ephesians 4:3, in which it is translated as “endeavoring”. Studying the word of God is going to be an endeavor. Two things can be true at once; the gospel of salvation is simple and clearly presented in scripture but there is still much to learn and understand. One’s own journey of studying the Bible will take determination and perseverance.
Then, at the end of this verse, Paul makes a very interesting statement. He instructs Timothy to rightly divide the word of truth. The phrase “rightly divide” is translated from the Greek word orthotomeō. This is the only time in the Bible the word is used. However, it is a combination of two Greek words: orthos and tomos. The word orthos appears in Acts 14:10 in which Paul healed the lame man in Lystra. Orthos in its most literal meaning is straight. The word tomos appears only once in the Bible, in Hebrews 4:12. In its most literal meaning, tomos means to cut. However, it's more specific than that. It means to cut surgically. Therefore, when the words combine, they mean to cut straightly and precisely.
Unfortunately, many modern translations fail to transliterate this word. Instead, they interpreted it. The problem with interpretations is that they are men’s opinions. The most accurate and true translation of orthotomeō is “rightly dividing”.
Why would Paul instruct Timothy to rightly divide the Bible? To be very literal, why would there need to be straight cuts made in the word of God? This almost sounds like a bad thing we shouldn’t do. Yet, what if the Bible has divisions within it? What if in one area it is talking about one thing, but in another segment it is talking about something completely different? In which case, there would be a need to rightly divide the word of truth.
The question we need to ask is, do we see portions of the Bible that talk about different things? Is it possible that the Bible may, on the surface, appear to have contradictions?
Leviticus 4:13-20 explains that through the sacrifice of a sin offering, Israel could be forgiven of their sin. However, in Galatians 2:15-16 Paul taught that no one could be justified by following the law. Why did God tell Israel they would be forgiven through sin offerings if following the law did nothing for them? It would appear that we have a clear contradiction in scripture.
Yet, remember that Paul received a mystery dispensation of grace. God revealed to Paul a revelation that was hidden in him from the beginning of the world. This gospel was one of salvation by grace through faith, and not of works. It was completely outside of the law. Is it possible that Paul would instruct us to rightly divide between Israel’s commandments to follow the law and our grace gospel outside of the law? If so, there is no contradiction here. These are simply two different dispensations.
If we can learn to rightly divide the Bible, we will realize that all the so-called “contradictions” in scripture completely and totally go away. There is a freedom that is in rightly dividing which allows us to simply take the Bible for what it says. All of the sudden God’s word becomes incredibly straight forward.
Take Mark 16:9-20 for example. In modern translations there will be brackets around this passage. This is supposedly because the oldest and best manuscripts do not contain these verses. In reality, the post modern scholars and seminary professors want to reject these verses because they are miraculous and do not line up well with modern Christianitiy. So what do they do? They look for an excuse to dismiss the word of God.
This is all because they do not know how to rightly divide the word of truth! Jesus was talking to his apostles. They were given special gifts by Christ for the purpose of going out and proclaiming Jesus as the risen Messiah.
Because these so-called “experts” want to make everything in the Bible about us, they discredit scripture. If they would just read 2 Timothy 2:15 they would see that Paul gave us the instructions for how to correctly read and understand the Bible!
Rightly Dividing the word of truth is the key to sound Biblical doctrine. Through right division we are able to…
avoid theological train wrecks.
prevent mixing prophecy and mystery.
evade name it and claim it theology.
stop devaluing Jesus’s sacrifice.
understand the end times.
Moving forward we are going to study to show ourselves approved unto God, as workmen needing not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth!