THE NEED FOR STUDY
T. PIERCE BROWN
Almost every person who wants to emphasize the need for study of the Bible quotes 2 Timothy 2:15, which says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (KJV). It is somewhat ironic that a proper study and exegesis of the verse that is almost universally used to teach that a person needs to meditate on God’s word does not mean that, although its meaning includes that. So its improper use to show that a person needs to study does show that we need to study, in spite of the fact that the verse in the original text does not mean that!
The word translated “study” is from the Greek “spoudazo” and is properly translated in the ASV as “give diligence.” Most persons apparently assume that the verse means that if a person studies or meditates properly on God’s word, he will be approved of God, for he can now rightly divide the word of God. The first time I remember hearing a sermon on that about 65 years ago, the preacher indicated that it meant that if you studied properly, you would know the difference in the Old and New Testaments and thus rightly divide the word.
That exegesis of the passage does very little harm to truth, for it is true that without studying, or meditating on God’s word, you will not be approved of God. Probably you would not be able to realize the difference between the use or value of the Old and New Testaments, which you would need to do to be approved of God. But the verse does not directly relate to either thought, for there was not even a New Testament when this was written.
The word “spoudazo” has to do with earnest care, or careful haste. It is the word used in 2 Corinthians8:16, where Paul says, “But thanks be to God who put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.” What Paul is saying in 1 Timothy2:15is not that we should meditate on God’s word, although this is abundantly taught elsewhere. What he is saying is that we should immediately, constantly and carefully make sure that all we do is approved of God. Of course we cannot do that without meditating or studying, but we can study and meditate all day without doing what Paul says in this verse.
To be approved of God, and have no need to be ashamed involves hastening with earnest care to be a workman who makes a straight course through God’s word. It has little to do with recognizing the difference in the Old and New Testaments, but has to do with turning neither to the right hand nor the left when you come to a scripture that applies to you. Of course you cannot do that properly without study and meditation, and recognizing the scope of the Testaments, but that is not his subject.
We know of church members, and even preachers, who do not make a straight course through the word of truth. When they come to a passage that condemns their actions or doctrine, they give a good imitation of a broken field runner in a football game, who zigs and zags his way past the opposition. Deuteronomy5:32fairly well sums up his thought, “Ye shall observe to do therefore as the Lord your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.”
My hope in this article is to point out the need for more studying and meditating on what the text actually says before we make a point about it. In cases like 2 Timothy 2:15, 1 Thessalonians 1:22, which says, “Abstain from all appearance of evil” and Ephesians 1:22, which says, “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,” there is not much harm done by the usual wrong exegesis of the passages, for we DO need to study and meditate on God’s word. Generally, it is good to abstain from anything that appears to be evil, but 1 Thessalonians does not teach that. It is not talking about something that appears or seems to be evil, but when evil appears, or is actually there, abstain from it. And although Christ is head of the church, Ephesians1:22does not say that. It says that Christ is head over all things. God gave him, who is head over all things to the church.
So, let us give diligence to be approved of God, not only by studying and meditating on God’s word to see what it actually teaches, but by emphasizing what it actually teaches and giving earnest care that we practiced it. Only then have we acted in such a fashion that we have no reason to be ashamed.