Be diligent to present yourself proven to God, a workman having no cause for shame, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
It is apparent from Paul’s letter to Timothy, that, while there is one word of truth, it can be divided two ways – rightly and wrongly. This is evident, too, in the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Satan came to Him and invited Him to throw Himself from the pinnacle of the temple, saying, “it is written…” and quoting from Psalm 91 (See Matthew 4:5-7). Thus, Christians have to come to grips with the fact that the Bible is Satan’s handbook too. Not a handbook of life, of course, but a handbook of deception.
It is important then, to understand what is meant by rightly dividing the Word of truth and how this happens. The first thing to note, of course, is that it requires diligence on our part. This word, spoude in the Greek, conveys a sense of earnestness or zeal in the thing being undertaken. “Earnestness”, “earnest care”, “carefulness” and “diligence” are all translations of this Greek word spoude in the New Testament. So there is nothing passive about it – it requires the action and commitment of the believer.
This diligence is required, we are told, that we might present ourselves “proven” to God; that is, that we might show evidence of study and application in the searching out of scripture. It is utterly vital that, when we stand before God, we can do so without any sense of shame at having failed to make the effort to understand and apply the Word of God in our lives.
Now as to dividing the Word of truth, note firstly that there is only one Word. We will unfold the process of rightly dividing and then wrongly dividing this word.
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
Firstly, if the truth is to be rightly divided, then the heart of the believer must be utterly yielded to the Lordship of Christ. It is one of the mysteries of the Word of God that it can only be rightly divided to the extent that the one seeking to understand is surrendered to Christ. After all, Satan knows the Word, having quoted it to Jesus, but he doesn’t rightly divide it nor is it life to him, because he refuses to surrender his will to God. So it is for man – You will not receive light if you are not intending to obey it. So the first principle is that if you want to know the truth, you must be prepared to yield your heart to it.
If you do this, the second step is that you will receive grace – that is, God will open up to you the opportunity of a two-way communication with Him. You will receive the grace to understand what it is you are seeking to know. God sits upon a throne of grace and it is to that throne that we must come to find the “grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Thirdly, having received that grace, it must be applied if more grace is to be received. God’s economy works in this way; “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 what he hath” (Matthew 13:12).
The Hellenistic paradigm of the western world teaches us that faith and obedience are able to be separated, but that is not so to one who is begotten again from God. Faith and obedience are inseparable, just as in the same way you cannot separate Christ the Saviour from Christ the Lord and Master (although many attempt to do so to their eternal cost). Faith allows one to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3); but it is obedience that allows one to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5).
This is the life cycle of the true believer – seeking grace, finding it and obeying it, then receiving more grace. These steps are repeated ad infinitum. We will continue to learn as we continue to obey. When we refuse to obey something of God’s grace to us – the revelation of His Word – we will cease to learn anything from God until we come back to that point of refusal, and repenting, let it find application in our lives. Only then are we able to receive more grace.
The fourth step is that righteousness results from the application of grace in the life of the believer; that is, he comes to a right understanding of the Word, so that he is right thinking, right speaking and right acting. This righteousness is a reflection of the grace that has been applied. In hearing and obeying, the man is altered, as indeed he must be; “….but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind….” Paul wrote to the Romans. Thus, there is brought about an alignment between what is written and what is lived and this alignment can only be truly achieved by the Holy Spirit. Man cannot do what God has decreed that the Holy Spirit will do – “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit then, acts upon yielded hearts to bring the Word of Truth that, alone, can effect the necessary transformation in the believer’s life.
The essential ingredient in all of this – and what only the believer can bring – is the yielded heart. This is the key to rightly dividing the Word of Truth; the vital element in the transaction. God will not speak to those who are determined to follow their own will, in spite of what the Word has to say. It is only to a yielded heart that the Spirit can minister the Word of Truth. God has done everything for us, but there remain some important things that we must do for ourselves. Repenting is one of those and another is the yielding of our hearts.
This then, is rightly dividing the Word of Truth.
It is the Way (Greek hodos) of which Jesus spoke in John 14:6 – “I am the Way….”
It is the “narrow way” of which Jesus spoke in Matthew 7:14.
It is the way to the kingdom of heaven “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
On this way, the Holy Spirit is our guide “….He will guide you into all truth….”, John 16:13.
This way is walked by those who are “kingly priests”, comprising a “holy nation”, and “God’s possession” (1Peter 2:9).
This way is taken by the sheep whose hearts are devoted. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
This way, and only this way, ends in salvation.
Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth
Where the heart is not totally and exclusively yielded to the Lordship of Christ, the Word of Truth will, inevitably, be wrongly divided. Such a heart retains a desire for “different things”, such as the deceitfulness of riches (materialism), the cares of this world and the pleasures of this life (Parable of the Sower – Mat. 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8).
In an unyielded heart, the Word of Truth is acted upon not by God’s grace, but by Satan’s guile. Guile acts upon our unyielded hearts in such a way as to cut across the Word by bringing us what we want to hear, rather than what God wants us to hear. “Wiles” is another name for Satan’s guile and the Greek word for “wiles” is metahodos where meta means “after” and hodos means the way. Thus, the wiles of Satan literally mean “after the way”; that is, imitating the Way. Using the one Word of Truth, Satan is able to deceive the unyielded heart into accepting an interpretation from that Word that is false. “It is written” Satan said to Jesus, (Mat. 4) quoting to Him from Psalm 91 and inviting- Him to throw Himself off the pinnacle of the temple. But the heart of Jesus was yielded to the Lordship of the Father and He was not deceived.
Where this guile is received into the unyielded heart, it has the result of giving “the enemy a place” (Ephesians 5:27). It takes root and is applied in the life of the one receiving it. Soon that place becomes a stronghold, affecting all that the believer thinks and does. The broad way beckons. It is crowded with Christians.
Lawlessness is the consequence of wrongly dividing the Word of Truth – that is, an incorrect understanding of the Word of God. Wrong thinking, wrong speaking and wrong acting result. This deception is effected by the demonic forces of Satan, of whom Paul wrote; “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
Thus the believer is overcome, all because of his refusal to surrender his heart and his will to the sovereign Lordship of Christ. He relinquishes his priesthood to religious functionaries who take away the key of knowledge (Luke 11:52).
This is not the hodos (Way) but the metahodos. Thus, this seems like the Way, it is still based on the Word of Truth, but it is only “after” the way; that is, it is a counterfeit way (Ephesians 6:11).
This is the “broad way” of which Jesus spoke (Mat. 7:13).
On this metahodos, the guide is Satan, who “disguises himself as an angel of light” and whose demons “disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11 above).
This is the metahodos to the kingdom of darkness.
This metahodos is walked by those who “surrender their crowns” to religious functionaries, they are those “who go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth”, they are Satan’s possession.
This metahodos is taken by the goats whose hearts are divided.
There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death (Proverbs 14:12, 16:25). This is the metahodos.