“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
By Dan Wesol
This scripture can be divided into five primary parts to better understand and apply it.
(1) Study — Study the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, and our own conduct. Does our conduct match what we study in the Scriptures? If not, why not? Our conduct must change to match what the Scriptures teach us. To be acceptable to God, our conduct should not be our own way of thinking, but the new and living way opened to us through Jesus, our example. Our thinking needs to transform us, as Romans 12:2 commands, “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
The word “study” comes from the Greek word spoudazo, Strong’s 4704, meaning to use speed, make effort, be prompt, or be earnest. We are to make earnest effort, “study,” to show ourselves approved to God.
(2) Approved — show thyself approved to God. This word is from the Greek dokimos, Strong’s 1384, meaning acceptable and approved. What does it mean to show yourself acceptable or approved to God? What actions can we take, so Jehovah would approve of us as His servants? What is He looking for in our words and actions, so that He would allow us to serve His Word of Truth to others, and to bless His people?
Isaiah 52:11 tells us, “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of Jehovah.” We are to be spiritually clean to carry the good tidings of great joy to all people. The saying “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” bears repetition here respecting our character. A spiritually clean character, that loves righteousness and hates iniquity, a Christlike character, is next to Godliness.
(3) Workman — A workman is someone with a job to do, a mission to fulfill, working, actively engaged in a task. The Greek word ergates, Strong’s 2040, means a toiler, and figuratively, a teacher. As followers of Christ, we are each to be teachers of the good news in our words, deeds, and our living examples.
The Apostle Paul describes the active and working Christian as a living letter in 2 Corinthians 3:2,3. “Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it — not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives — and we publish it” (The Message translation).
(4) Not Ashamed — Paul says we should be workmen that need not to be ashamed.
● The Christian worker is not ashamed of not performing — because he or she is actively engaged in the task before them.
● They are not ashamed to be caught lounging — because they are diligently working.
● They are not ashamed to be sleeping on their watch — because they are alert and awake. They scan their daily duties, responsibilities, and opportunities for serving God. They thus let their light shine, live according to the Spirit, and see God’s overruling providences in their lives and in the lives of their brothers and sisters in Christ.
We are to see and read current events from the high watchtower of scriptural truth. We rejoice and our faith is strengthened by the fulfilled prophecies of Scripture. High among the signs of the approach of the Kingdom, we rejoice in the rebirth of Israel, the prophetic fig tree of Matthew 24:32 and Luke 21:29.
Jehovah speaks of our time in Amos 9:14, “I will bring back the captivity of my people Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards … they shall also make gardens … (15) I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be plucked up out of their land which I have given them, saith Jehovah thy God” (ASV).
God has surely blessed His fig tree at the young age of 73. Restored Israel is a nation among the nations (all the trees). It shares innovation after innovation with the world, from drip irrigation to desalination technology. 86% of Israel’s waste water is re-used for agriculture, leading the world in waste water recycling.
When earthquakes and other disasters strike around the world, Israel provides aid and expertise to rescue and save lives. According to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it is “By tragic circumstance, Israel is a world leader in handling mass casualties. No other country can dispatch search and rescue teams and field hospitals as fast and effectively.”
Sadly, many of the other trees are not grateful for the blessings offered from this tiny nation putting forth its leaves. Kelly Craft, former US ambassador to the United Nations, addressed UN member states, September 20, 2019:
“Unfortunately, on matters related to Israel at the United Nations, many Member States do not play fair. I could speak endlessly about Member States’ excessive attention to the affairs of Israel, including complaints, unwarranted criticism, and the incessant number of resolutions condemning this great nation.
“I do not wish to dwell on these well-worn points. … I wish to instead highlight Israel’s astonishing record of achievements. Since its creation, Israel has served as a refuge and sanctuary for those fleeing persecution and repression.
“Israel has stood tall and steadfast, despite constant threats to its peace and security. … In this threatening environment, Israel strongly supports press freedom, defends gender equality, and houses a robust and innovative free market economy … a nation that deeply respects the rule of law. Indeed, we have much to learn from her.
“Further, as a hub for innovation, Israel has cultivated and earned its reputation as a startup nation. It is a global leader in research and development and has a vast network of international collaboration in this space. In fact, it is a leading investor in research and development as a percent of GDP and has been home to 5000 new startups in the past 10 years alone.
“Israelis have used their spirit of courage, faith in education, and … determination to help their brothers and sisters around the globe.
“Many nations, eager to condemn Israel … should … study its constant efforts towards making the country stand as first among equals to any of the modern world, and study its benevolent pursuits in arts and sciences … all that Israel is and all that the world can gain from this great nation.”
It is truly refreshing to hear a description of this tree, based on the fruit it bears and shares with the other trees. We look for the full accomplishment of the prophecies yet to be fulfilled, knowing that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10).
(5) Rightly Dividing — The fifth and final part of 2 Timothy 2:15, is “Rightly dividing the word of truth.” The Greek word translated “rightly dividing” is orthotomeho, Strong’s 3718, which means to make a straight cut, to dissect correctly.
We are to correctly expound the Scriptures by examining the context and looking at the subject topically, knowing that the Word of God must harmonize with itself. The Bible indeed is its own interpreter. Recompiling the five parts of this scripture, we are to make earnest effort, diligent study, to show ourselves approved to Jehovah, a toiler, apt to teach, accurately dissecting the Word of Truth. How do we accurately dissect the Word of Truth? Here are six ways.
(1) Look to Jehovah. Ask for His wisdom and leading in prayer. Read and study the four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ words and life.
(2) Look at when prophecies were fulfilled, partially fulfilled, or are still to be fulfilled.
(3) Look at the Hebrew and Greek meanings of words. Check different translations of the Holy Scriptures.
(4) Study contextually and topically, using “Studies in the Scriptures,” and other helps.
(5) Look at the context of the words spoken. As yourself, Who was speaking? Who was the audience? What was the object of the book or letter? Is there an application to faithful Christians throughout the Gospel Age, or in our day, the harvest, or end of the Gospel Age?
(6) Look at the same topic in other areas of Scripture and make sure the Scriptures can be harmonized. This is what Br. Russell did. He and we have been greatly blessed, as the truth on multiple topics poured out from this wise and faithful servant, including — (A) the truth about hell, (B) the truth about the soul, (C) the truth about the nature of God.
The Truth about Hell — It is not a place of eternal torment, but the death condition. Death is the absence of life. “There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in sheol [the grave] wither thou goest” (Ecclesiastes 9:10 ASV).
Jesus’ words in John 11:14 about his friend Lazarus were, “Lazarus is dead.” He was not in heaven, nor being tormented, but dead. “In that very day his thoughts perish” (Psalms 146:4). Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, giving honor to God in prayer. Then he called Lazarus from the grave, and he was alive again. “He that was dead came forth” (John 11:44).
This was a beautiful picture of the resurrection when all that are in their graves will hear the voice of the son of God and come forth, some to a resurrection of judgment (a highway of holiness for the world), and some to a resurrection of life (for the church, the great company, and the ancient worthies) (John 5:25-29).
The Truth about the Soul — The soul is not immortal. What would be the point of resurrection if the soul does not die? “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). James 5:20 says, “He who converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death” (ASV). The soul is not something nebulous. Everyone is a soul. “Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7 ASV).
When Jacob and his family joined Joseph in Egypt, “All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, that came out of his loins … were threescore and ten” (Genesis 46:26 ASV).
The Truth about the Nature of God — Jehovah is not a pagan triune god. He is the one and only true and living God who made heaven and earth. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD” (Deuteronomy 6:4).
Jehovah is “the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy” and dwells with those of a “contrite and humble spirit” (Isaiah 57:15).
Jesus is God’s son, who reflects His image, His character (John 5:17-26, John 11:4). “Thou art the son of God … the King of Israel” (John 1:49). “Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). “Thou are the Christ, the son of God” (John 11:27). “I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God” (John 20:17 ASV).
Let us each apply ourselves to the earnest work of our Christian life. Let us study our conduct, character, and understanding, intent on being pleasing to God. Let us rightly divide the Word of Truth — its principles, exhortations, and guidance — that we may stand approved.