Study 5 HOW TO GAIN GOD’S APPROVAL
PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO TIMOTHY
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: Psalm 119:89-105. Key verse: 2 Timothy 2:15
Our key verse contains a summary of Paul’s advice to Timothy in this second letter, but it is also God’s word to us today. Notice the following truths:-
- (1) As Christians and as God’s servants, our chief concern should be to gain God’s approval. We should not seek the approval of men, even of our family and friends, but of God Himself. Sometimes, in order to gain God’s approval we have to lose men’s approval. John the Baptist discovered this (Matthew 14:8) and so did the man in John 9 (verse 34). Stephen also lost the approval of men but gained God’s approval (Acts 7:59). The same was true of Paul and Silas - look up Acts 16:23-24.
- (2) Whether we gain God’s approval depends upon how diligent we are. The words “do your best” or “study” (KJV) are very important. They mean ‘be diligent’. There is a tendency for us to remain content with the fact that God has saved us from wrath (John 3:36); and has given us eternal life (Romans 6:23). Are we content with the fact that we have escaped Hell? Are we satisfied to have a saved soul even though our life is lost? No success can be achieved in any sphere without hard work and diligence.
- (3) Whether we gain God’s approval or not is an individual matter. Notice how careful Paul is to say “yourself” - and compare Romans 14:12. So many Christians are careless and lack spiritual discipline. It is so easy for us to go with the crowd; to be worldly rather than spiritual (1 Corinthians 3:1-4); to live for ourselves instead of for Him (2 Corinthians 5:15).
- (4) Not to gain God’s approval means to be ashamed before Him. There is a day coming when the Lord will review our life and service. This truth is brought before us in 1 Corinthians 3:13-15, and it will be most solemn if we have to blush with shame at this review - look up 1 John 2:28.
We can now ask the all-important question: How do we present ourselves to God as one approved? Notice the answer to this question: It depends upon our faithful handling of God’s Word in relation to ourselves and our service. The Word of God is our final authority in all matters of faith and practice, and if we “correctly handle” Scripture then we shall live to His glory and serve to His praise. What does it mean to correctly handle the word of truth?
1. IT MEANS TO ACCEPT THE BIBLE AS THE WORD OF TRUTH.
We cannot ”correctly handle” the Bible unless we accept the Bible entirely. There are those who think that they can accept and believe parts of the Bible (the parts they choose) and reject other parts; but if we do this we can never correctly handle the Word, because we must accept it as a whole. Confusion arises immediately if parts of the Bible are not considered reliable. Which parts? Who is to decide? And if some of the book is not to be relied upon who is to say that any of it is authentic? Thank God for a Bible that is wholly inspired and trustworthy! - look up 2 Timothy 3:16.
2. IT MEANS TO APPLY EVERY PART OF THE BIBLE TO LIFE AND CONDUCT.
There are those who say they believe the Bible, but their lives deny the fact. Theoretically they boast that they are fundamentalists, but experimentally they are very inconsistent. We cannot have the Bible in the head and not also in the heart. Let us accept the full inspiration and authority of the whole Bible as the Word of God, and live accordingly. It is tragic to believe the Bible ”from cover to cover” and to be dishonest, disobedient, careless and perhaps even consciously living in sin. The Word of God is a sword (Ephesians 6:17 and Hebrews 4:12) - and a sword pierces and cuts. Do we allow the Sword of the Spirit to do its work when we read and study it? Do we seek to bring our lives into subjection to it? Do we allow the Word to criticise us and to adjust us to the will of God? - look up 2 Timothy 3:17. This is the way to gain God’s approval.
3. IT MEANS TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THINGS THAT DIFFER.
Our key verse contains a picture of the priest cutting up the sacrifice upon the altar. It was not easy to cut up a lamb correctly - to find out where the joints were and to dissect the different parts of the body. The Word of God is like the body of the animal, and it requires some skill to handle it correctly into its different parts. For example we must always distinguish between the following:-
- (1) LAW and GRACE (John 1:17; Romans 6:14).
- (2) SALVATION and REWARDS (Ephesians 2:8-10; 1 Corinthians 9:23-24).
- (3) HIS work and OUR work (John 19:30; Hebrews 10:12; Ephesians 2:10).
- (4) BIRTH and GROWTH (John 1:12; 2 Peter 3:18).
- (5) The OLD nature and the NEW nature (John 3:6; 1 John 5:18).
- (6) Our STANDING and our STATE (1 Corinthians 1:2 and 5:1).
- (7) JUSTIFICATION and SANCTIFICATION (Romans 5:1; 2 Corinthians 7:1).
4. IT MEANS TO DECLARE THE BIBLE WITHOUT DISTORTION.
This expression “correctly handling” contains the idea of cutting a straight road or path. To correctly handle the Word means - look up Acts 20:27! Those who preach and teach must see that we do not speak of Heaven without Hell, repentance without faith, faith without works, or the first coming without the second. It is so easy for the preacher to select pet themes and to neglect to proclaim the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:19-21 and 26-27).
5. IT MEANS TO GIVE TO EACH WHAT IS NEEDED.
Here is the head of the household carving the joint. What does he do? He knows what each needs - a tender piece of meat for the children, not too much for mother, a small portion for grandma and plenty for the boys! To correctly handle the Word is to know how to select the right portions for those we are seeking to help - this portion for the dying, this for the bereaved and this for the backslider. So the apostle would say to us:-
- “Earnestly seek to commend yourself to God as a workman who, because of his straightforward dealing with the Word of Truth, has no reason to feel any shame” (2 Timothy 2:15 – Weymouth).