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Rightly Dividing The Word Of Truth

 January 17, 2010

If we want to grow and mature in the Lord, we must be able to correctly understand God's message to us. Many men and women have a diverse range of explanations for things in the Holy Bible, but they don't always get them right. How can we know this? By learning to divide aright --stay true to the meaning of -- the word of God. The most important thing that you can do in studying the Bible is to keep the words in their context. That is, examine basic questions, such as: Who wrote, or spoke, it? To whom were they writing or speaking? Where did they live? (Helps put things into geographical and historical perspective.) Why did they write or speak this message to that person, or those people? When was it written? (This can help put it into historical perspective.) What was the outcome expected? Examine verses before and after the one being considered, as they are part of a longer message. Compare similar teachings in other books of the Bible.

Bernie Parsons

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Rightly Dividing The Word Of Truth


By Bernie Parsons


Presented to Load church of Christ on 01-17-2010



As part of our Christian growth, we need to know how to study the Bible correctly. Otherwise, we will either misunderstand what we read, or we will allow others to teach us incorrectly.


Some religious groups don’t see the necessity of studying at all, saying that the Holy Spirit teaches them everything that they need to know. Others say that they don’t have to study because their church leaders do the studying for them. Still others argue that the church has every right to make new laws, which they say are just as binding as the teaching of Jesus and His apostles.


John 5:37 "And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.

38 And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.

39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life."


Jesus instructed His Jewish critics to study the scriptures, for in doing so, He knew that they would find the prophecies and testimony that showed Him to be who He claimed to be. He reprimanded them for thinking that they had God’s word living in them, when they did not.


Revelation 3:16 “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.”


As the Lord told the church at Laodicea, it is possible to think that we have it all figured out, while merely fooling ourselves. It is a form of self-delusion, of self-righteousness, in that we think that we alone have all of the answers, and no one else sees more than do we. Jesus also cautioned the Pharisees about this.


Matthew 13:11 "He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.

13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:

15 For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them."


If we are not careful, God will try to show us His will, and we will close our eyes and ears to it. We must be alert, ready to see and hear what God wants to reveal to us. With our hearts and minds prepared to receive His word, it will find good and fruitful soil in which to grow.


The apostle Paul told the younger preacher, Timothy, to study the scriptures, all the while making a real effort to understand them correctly. We can study in the wrong way, and completely take the scriptures out of context, thereby altering their meaning.


2 Timothy 2:14 "Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.

15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness."


Arguing about words reminds me of what Jesus said about straining out the gnat, but swallowing a camel. Some strive about words, but miss the bigger picture. Paul told Timothy to study in a way that would win God’s approval. The Greek word for rightly dividing indicates holding to a straight line.  Timothy was also told to avoid empty and worldly talk, which leads to more ungodliness. We need to speak of God’s word, and not the words of men. Men philosophize, as the Greeks loved to do, but that philosophy runs counter to God’s truth. Studying a word to understand it is one thing, but arguing about it senselessly is another.


2 Timothy 3:16 "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."


Paul told Timothy in this part of the letter that all scripture is profitable for several purposes, including doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness and leads to spiritual maturity – perfection – supplying one with the means to perform all manner of good works. That is why it is important for us to study the Holy Bible. By staying true to God’s word – that is, rightly dividing it – we form the basis for our doctrine, or that which we believe to be true.


This is also why we need to avoid man-made rules and ideas for our doctrine. Where the doctrine that comes from God is true, that which comes from man is not. Which shall we choose? 


Mark 7:6 "He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do."


When we accept traditional doctrine, and embrace the commandments made up by men, we negate the word and will of God. We replace that which is important – that which comes from God – with that which is empty and meaningless to God, that is, the teachings of men.


In order to produce good works, as we have already read and discussed, we need to study the scriptures, increasing our knowledge of God and His will for us. When we think upon the heavenly, the spiritual things, then we mature in our Christian approach to life.


Colossians 1: 9 "For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;

10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;"


Paul wrote of the importance of being filled with the knowledge of God’s will to the point that we have all wisdom and spiritual understanding. Once we have this understanding, we are able to be fruitful in every good work, and will continue to grow in our knowledge of God. The end result of our growth is that we will do good works. Knowledge is not the ultimate goal; rather, it is the means to accomplishing the things that God wants us to do in our lives.


Romans 8:29 "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren."


Knowledge of God came to us through Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit of God working through the apostles. As we learn to be like Christ, we are changed, conformed to His image. The root meaning of the word conform is to take the same shape or outline. We take the image of Christ.


2 Corinthians 3:12 "Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:

13 And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:

14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.

15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.

16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.

17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."


In Christ, we speak directly, relaying the words of God to our listeners. We do not give them our opinions, our ideas, our traditions, and our man-made doctrines and commandments. Only by presenting a clear image of Jesus can we lead ourselves and others to be made into that image.


2 Corinthians 4:3 "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:

4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.

6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."


We who learn of Jesus and take His image are a light to the world. His light shines in us and is dispersed abroad into the world of darkness. We learn of His ways, become like Him, and do His work in this world. Those who refuse to learn of Christ remain in darkness, blinded to the truth.


Matthew 5:14 "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid."


James 1:22 "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:

24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed."


Matthew 7:24 "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:

27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it."


It is not enough to study the word of God. It is not enough to learn it. Nor is it enough to continue to add to our knowledge of the Lord. We must do the things that we have learned to be true. We must grow in the Lord. If we do not mature to the point that we can do what God has told us to do, then our house will not stand. We will not stand.


Ecclesiastes 12:12 "And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."

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