25/08/19 “Rightly dividing the Word of Truth”
2 Timothy 2:15 – Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
study – to hasten, make haste; to exert one’s self, endeavour, give diligence.
approved – dokimos (accepted, particularly of coins and money; pleasing; acceptable)
In the ancient world there was no banking system as we know it today, and no paper money. All money was made from metal, heated until liquid, poured into moulds and allowed to cool. When the coins were cooled, it was necessary to smooth off the uneven edges. The coins were comparatively soft and of course many people shaved them closely. In one century, more than eighty laws were passed in Athens, to stop the practice of shaving down the coins then in circulation. But some money changers were men of integrity, who would accept no counterfeit money. They were men of honour who put only genuine full weighted money into circulation. Such men were called “dokimos” or “approved”. (Donald Barnhouse)
dokimos is the opposite of adokimos (which is translated “reprobate” 6 times, “castaway” 1 time and “rejected” 1 time).
adokimos (not standing the test, not approved, properly used of metals and coins; unfit for use; unproved; spurious; reprobate)
rightly dividing – orthotomeo (to cut straight, to cut straight ways; to proceed on straight paths, hold a straight course, equiv. to doing right; to make straight and smooth, to handle aright, to teach the truth directly and correctly) This is its only occurrence in the NT.
Study the Bible, rightly dividing the word of truth, that is, straightforward, openly and honest, no crooked or devious interpretations. A good Bible scholar will accept the plain meaning of the verse unless context shows otherwise. Do not twist the meaning or distort the truth in any way.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 – Prove (test) all things; hold fast that which is good (genuine; honest; approved).
Never assume that what you are told is right without checking it out for yourself. This does not necessarily imply that the other person is trying to deceive you, though, noting that Paul encouraged others to test all things as per Acts 17:11 – These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
After all, it is what you believe that matters. Never let someone else believe for you!
1 Peter 3:15 – But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and [be] ready always to [give] an answer to every man that asketh you a reason (logos) of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
give an answer – apologia (verbal defence; reasoned statement or argument) We get “apologetic” from this word.
If you cannot explain why you believe something from the Bible, then study until you can explain it! If you believe without a good understanding why you believe, you are letting someone else’s opinion be your truth!
There are a number of things you can do to assist with a proper understanding of biblical doctrine.
Check the context of the verse or teaching you are looking at. Your interpretation must be consistent with the context. What is the teaching referring to? Is it a general teaching or does it appear to be more specifically applied to something?
Check out all other passages (as far as is possible) which deal with the same topic. If another verse or passage appears to be opposed to your interpretation, then there is a problem somewhere. Biblical doctrine will always be consistent across all occurrences throughout the Bible.
If there’s a key word in the verse or passage, check out how it is used in as many other places in the Bible as you can find. This may involve a lot of time but can be a very good way of seeing what a word really should mean. For example, the word “castaway” in 1 Corinthians 9:27 is the Greek word adokimos which is used 8 times in the NT, once translated as “castaway”, once as “rejected” Hebrews 6:8) but the other 6 times as “reprobate” (Romans 1:28; 2 Corinthians 13: 5, 6, 7; 2 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:16). The word “castaway” seems harmless enough, giving the impression that he is a Christian who has been sidelined a bit for lack of effort as a Christian. But when you compare it with the rest of the occurrences of adokimos, it becomes obvious that “castaway” is too harmless a translation, and that totally rejected as a Christian, that is, “reprobate”, is more in line with the true meaning. (“reprobate” = to condemn strongly as unworthy, unacceptable, or evil; to foreordain to damnation; to refuse to accept; reject (Merriam-Webster) or to give it its more biblical definition, rejected by God from salvation. 1 Corinthians 9:27 would then read “But I keep under my body, and bring [it] into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be reprobate (or rejected/ by God as worthless, unfit to enter heaven).”
This then leads into the next point which is to check what word is used in the original languages, and how it is/was used in other applications of the word. For example, note the use of the word “fulness” in Romans 11:25 – For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
That word “fulness” is the Greek word pleroma (that which is (has been) filled; that which fills or with which a thing is filled; completeness or fulness of time; fulness, abundance). At the time of Paul writing Romans, it was in common usage to describe a ship inasmuch as it is filled (i.e. manned) with sailors, rowers, and soldiers, or those things which a ship is filled, freight and merchandise, sailors, oarsmen, soldiers. That is, it was used of the ship’s manifest that had to be ticked off as the items and people came on board. When everything was ticked off as on board, the ship had its full complement of people and merchandise and therefore was ready to sail. This was “pleroma”. This then gives a very good meaning to what is meant by “fulness” in Romans 11:25. It is very clear that the fulness of the Gentiles refers to a time when all the Gentiles are “on board”; thus it is describing the rapture.
Another example is that word “foreknowledge” that the calvinists hate when given its proper meaning. They try to redefine it as God’s loving relationship with His people. However, it was used in the Greek language of its day to describe the prognosis given by a doctor concerning the future of the patient after observing their symptoms. The Greek word was prognosis, and it was used as a medical term by Hippocrates as early as 400BC. It is this usage outside the Bible that denies the calvinists their efforts to redefine it. (Remember that Luke was a doctor of medicine.) It clearly meant to somehow try to fathom what might be in the medical future of a patient given the symptoms beforehand, thus foreknowledge, or a diagnosis of the future, given the symptoms present before the future arrived. It meant to be able to somehow predict the future by “seeing” it in the present before it occurred.
Another word is the word “hated” in Romans 9:13 – As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. The Greek word used here is miseo which can mean to hate or to detest. But it is a comparative term
Luke 14:26 says we must hate (miseo) family compared with God – yet a parallel passage in Matthew 10:37 teaches that we must love family less than we love God. Thus “hate” can be the equivalent of to “love less”.
When I wanted to research the word “all” (Greek pas) in the NT, I looked up every occurrence of “all” using a word search. Calvinists love to redefine “all” in many cases as “all kinds of” or “some of every kind” etc. For example, instead of Jesus drawing all men to Him on the cross (John 12:32), they redefine “all men” as “people from all nations”, that is, all kinds of people. But if the verse can make logical and consistent sense with “all” meaning “all without exception”, then that is the preferred interpretation. In any case, in order to prove their interpretation correct, they would have to prove that “all” could not under any circumstances mean “all without exception”.
But the Greek word pas is best translated “all” without qualification except in cases where “all” cannot be the best translation. It may be translated as “all kinds of” (or similar) in cases where “all’ on its own makes little or no sense.
For example, “all” on its own makes little sense in Matthew 4:23 (And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.)
Jesus obviously didn’t heal all diseases here because then there would have been no more to heal elsewhere, and there would be a number of times where Jesus healed all diseases that were present. Therefore it makes sense only to say “all manner or kinds of diseases”.
Also note these further examples: Matthew 5:11 (Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.), Revelation 18:12 (The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble,) Revelation 21:19a (And the foundations of the wall of the city [were] garnished with all manner of precious stones.)
It’s all too easy for false teachers to dismiss the correct teachings in favour of false teachings by simply speaking lies so confidently as if they were the truth itself. MacArthur (in 61-17/A-Portrait-of-False-Teachers-Part-2) acknowledges that one view is to see these false teachers as bought by Christ’s sacrifice, yet refuse to submit to His authority. He even admits that this could teach a universal redemption for all mankind. He uses 2 Peter 2:1 (But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.) to make his point here.
But he then dismisses this possible universal redemption by saying that he thinks there is a second sense in which we can understand this. Mind you, he “thinks” there’s another option, yet never disproves universal redemption!
MacArthur says in message 61-17: And he says they even deny the Master who bought them. And that completes the analogy of the despotēs. Some people have wondered why he added “who bought them.” It’s because a master, a despotēs, of a house bought the slaves and the slaves owed him allegiance as their sovereign. They bore his name, they were associated with his estate, but they refused to submit to his authority. That’s the analogy. This describes those who claim to believe in Christ. They affirm the atonement; they affirm that He bought them with His death. They affirm that they belong to Him. The word “bought” is agorazō, simply means to buy, to purchase.
There are two ways to understand this, apart from the analogy. The analogy simply says “unthinkably, unimaginably, having been bought by a master they refuse to submit to his authority.” In the spiritual dimension you would ask the question: In what sense did Christ buy these false teachers? Two ways to view it. First of all, you can view it as universal provision for the redemption of sinners, even though they refuse it and are damned.
But I think there is a second sense in which we have to understand this, that they have made an earthly identification with Christ’s redemption so that they claim Him as the one who bought them and they claim Him as their Redeemer, testifying that He indeed has bought them and their word then is taken at face value. No matter what they say, though they say they are Christ’s, they refuse to say yes to His sovereign lordship and thus they are false teachers.
Far from demonstrating that the universal redemption is false, MacArthur says it’s a possible interpretation, yet builds the rest of his message on what he “thinks” is his preferred point of view, which is that these false teachers only claim to be bought, yet they actually weren’t! But, if you teach something as if it is fact, so many gullible people will accept it as truth without checking it out at all. But MacArthur has not proven universal redemption to be wrong; in fact, he says it is possible. But his “thinking” carries more weight than Scripture itself for those who listen to his heresies, the ones who are besotted with MacArthur’s “perfection” of teaching and cannot accept that he could ever be wrong!
The best key to biblical interpretation is to research as much as possible all relevant information and not just what might be called sufficient information. After you have checked out context, consistency of meaning throughout the Bible, original language meanings, and also checking out how the people of that day might have understood certain phrases and words, then it’s a good idea to look at cultural and historical aspects of the passage. For example, knowing that the Hebrews were being persecuted does assist with understanding what the writer to the Hebrews might have meant by such as Hebrews 12:1 – Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience (endurance) the race (fight) that is set before us,
And knowing that the Greek word for “inn” in Luke 2:7 could also have meant the guest room in a friend or relative’s house assists with our understanding of where Joseph and Mary actually stayed.
After researching all the above aspects, then finally meditate upon it. Prayer must be a major part of this because satan will do his best to turn you away from the truth. Often something will fall into place if you give it enough time to do so. And because all the Bible is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16), then if it is written, then there must have been a reason for writing it. That is, there is nothing irrelevant or useless in the Bible, only things that that you don’t understand yet.
Some more thoughts:
When writers like Paul in the NT quote OT verses or passages, then look back at these passages, for an understanding of the quoted passages will be necessary to understand the NT passage. Romans 9 is notable here, where it refers back to Pharaoh and also back to the Jeremiah 18 passage of the potter and the clay.
Often Paul quotes the OT in the Septuagint (LXX) version which was probably the most accessible version of the OT for the people of his day, Greek being the most universal language at that time. Therefore it is necessary to access the LXX wording to determine what Paul actually means. The writer to the Hebrews also quotes from the LXX.
Most of all, the best interpretation may be obtained by doing as much research as possible in as many ways possible and then putting it all together so that it is consistent. Any inconsistency means either a lie somewhere, or that the information may not be relevant.
When you have done everything possible to determine what you think about the passage, then check with commentaries and such to see if they have an approach that you hadn’t considered. It may be a cultural or even a language clue that helps you understand better. Commentaries are not necessarily bad; it’s only when you use them to shape your thinking that they are bad. Always determine for yourself what you believe and think about a passage before you apply it. Commentaries are useful but can be greatly misused. Think of them as giving advice which you must decide to use or reject based upon your own understanding.
Also, there is no person who actually knows all things (other than God) so accept that just because you have always believed something to be true that it must therefore always continue to be true. What if we were wrong? We must be refining what we believe as an ongoing process. Someone else might point out an important aspect of a doctrine that you hadn’t noticed before. Don’t be too quick to assert your correctness. Check out what they say. If you still believe you are right, then stand firm on it. But if you see that you were a little out on that belief, then also be ready to admit that what you had believed, you now understand better. Not one of our beliefs should be set in concrete, unable to be changed. This was the weakness of the independent Baptist doctrine; while an excellent fundamentalist doctrine, it contained little or no allowance for refining its beliefs, and this was largely responsible for its near-demise in much of Australia. So never assume that you know all things now. However, if your beliefs are based upon your understanding of the Bible, then you should also place some confidence in those beliefs and be prepared to give a logical reason for why you have such beliefs at this time.