Rightly Dividing (Introduction)

Rightly Dividing Introduction

2 Timothy 2:15

In this series we will be studying the subject of Rightly Dividing the word of truth. This is an important subject because without it the Bible would contradict and not make much sense. But as you will see from this study that once you make the proper divisions then the Bible becomes a lot easier to read and to understand. The proper divisions will also be important in avoiding the false doctrine that is being taught and spread throughout the world today.

Why do we say there are divisions?

The topic of rightly dividing is not accepted by everyone and some will say that we are making divisions where we should not. But in 2 Timothy 2:15 we are simply told to rightly divide the word of truth. If we are told to rightly divide, then there must be divisions that must be divided between.

For an example compare Galatians 2:16 with James 2:24. Now if there are no divisions in the word of God then these two verses would have to contradict one another. But the answer is simply Galatians 2:16 deals with what is referred to as the Church Age. In this division we are justified by the faith of Jesus Christ without the deeds of the Law. James is speaking of Abraham and during the time in which he lived Jesus had not even been born let alone crucified and risen again. So, in Abraham’s time justification was by works. (This will be covered later in our lesson; we are just giving it here for an example.)

How can we then rightly divide?

The first word in 2 Timothy 2:15 is “study”. You will find this word several times in a King James Bible, but this is the only place where it is a direct reference to us studying the word of God. So, if we are going to rightly divide the word of truth then we must study. As with all studying there is a right way and a wrong way to study the Bible. Below we will give some guidelines for how to study the word of God.

Guidelines for studying God’s Word:

1)  Compare scripture with scripture to get the correct interpretation of the Bible (1 Corinthians 2:13)

  • When it comes to teaching the Bible, many people will just teach what they think the passage means or what they have been taught that it means. This is no way to teach the Bible.
  • If there is a passage or verse that we do not understand, we must let the Holy Spirit guide us to the truth of the passage or verse. This is what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do (John 14:26 ; 16:13).
  • The Holy Spirit will help us by reminding us of a passage that says the same thing as or has a connection to the passage we are trying to understand. This is called comparing spiritual things with spiritual things. This is the reason both reading and studying are so important. The more familiar we are with other passages in the Bible, the more the Holy Spirit can bring them to our remembrance.
  • Remember, in literature, the only one who truly knows the meaning of what is written is the one who wrote it. Since God is the author of the Bible, then we must let him show us what he meant. This is accomplished many times by comparing scripture from one place in the Bible to another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

2)  Use the word of God to define the word of God.

  • When studying the word of God, you may come across a word that you do not understand or know the meaning of. The first thing to do is to look at the word in other places in the Bible and see how God uses it there. Once again, comparing scripture with scripture.
  • For example, in Jonah 1:17 the word of God says that a great fish swallowed up Jonah. What is meant by a great fish? In Matthew 12:40 Jesus says that Jonah was in the belly of a whale for three days and three nights. So, the word of God defines the great fish from the book of Jonah as a whale in the book of Matthew.
  • Another example is found in Ephesians 2:1. This verse says “you hath he quickened”. What is meant by quickened? If you look in Numbers 16:30-33 you will see that the word quick is used to mean alive. (Note the word “quick” in verse 30, is “alive” in verse 33.) Therefore, in Ephesians 2:1 we see the word quickened means to be made alive.

3)  Never add to, subtract from, or change the word of God.

  • God gave three specific warnings about adding to, subtracting from, or changing his word throughout the Bible. The first one is near the beginning of the Bible, the second one is close to the middle of the Bible, and the last one is at the end of the Bible (Deuteronomy 4:2 ; Proverbs 30:5-6 ; Revelation 22:18-19).
  • The temptation here for some is to add to or change the word to make a verse or passage teach what they want it to teach, but this always leads to error. (Remember that what a verse says defines what it teaches. If you change the words, you may make it teach something different than what the verse says.)

4)  Always take the word of God to be literal unless the context shows you that it is figurative.

  • For example, in Matthew 3:11 the baptism of fire is literal because in the context (verse 10 & 12), it is connected with unquenchable fire, which is a literal fire. The baptism of fire is not the baptism of the Holy Ghost as some teach but is a literal baptism of fire in the Lake of Fire. (We will look at this in detail when we study the different baptisms later in this series.)
  • In John 6:53-63 we see that eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus is figurative. How do we know it is figurative? If it is literal then we would be going against the word of God by drinking blood (Leviticus 17:11-14 ; Acts 15:28-29). If it is literal, then Jesus would be eating and drinking the Father because he says that he lives by the Father (verse 57).  The key to the passage is found in verse 63. This verse says the flesh profiteth nothing, and the words Jesus spoke were spirit and life. Therefore, Jesus is speaking figuratively in the passage.
  • Some, when teaching the Bible, take everything figuratively instead of literally. That just leads to private interpretation which is also in contradiction to the word of God (2 Peter 1:20-21).

5)  Remember that every scripture has 3 applications.

  • The three applications are Historical, Doctrinal, and Spiritual.
  • To explain these applications, look at the Ten Commandments for an illustration. In Exodus 20:1-17 we see the Ten Commandments given to Israel as a part of the law. The Historical application for this passage is that Moses is on the Mount, and God is giving him the Ten Commandments to give to the children of Israel. The Doctrinal application for this passage is that Israel will have to keep these commandments to be right with God. This is the reason that in the Old Testament, under the law, righteousness was obtained by doing the works written in the Law (Deuteronomy 6:25). Doctrinally then, the Law applies to Israel before the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The spiritual application for the passage is that, even though we are not under the Law because of what Jesus Christ has done for us, we can benefit from following these commandments. Just remember that our righteousness is from Jesus Christ, not the law (Galatians 2:16). Some of these commandments are repeated for us in Paul’s writings to the church.  For example, children are still told to obey their parents in the New Testament (Ephesians 6:1-3).

6)  Never take a verse out of its context.

  • The context is extremely important to a passage. We must never take a verse out of context. In the previous guideline we learned that there are 3 applications to scripture.
  • The helpful thing to do when reading and studying the word of God is to ask yourself three questions when considering a passage. First ask, “Who is speaking?” Then ask, “To whom are they speaking?” Lastly ask, “About what time period are they speaking?” For instance, are they speaking about the past, present or future?
  • These questions help us to define the context of the passage so that we can make the correct application and apply it to the right people at the right time.

There are 3 good things to practice also for learning the word of God. First separate the things that do not go together. Second study the things that do go together. The words “like” and “as” are usually very helpful here. And last of REPITION is the best teacher.

Rightly Dividing Introduction : Handout

2 Timothy 2:15

1)  Why must we rightly divide the word of truth?

2)  Give an example showing that without divisions in the word of God, there would be contradictions.

3)  List some simple guidelines for how to study the word of God.