In the first article, I defined Bible engagement, and the steps in a process to determine if a situation is a Bible engagement crisis.  In my previous article (i.e., the second article of the series), I explained that God’s Word mandates a Christian carry out Bible engagement, but such engagement must be consistent with the biblical standard for Bible engagement. 

In this third article, I analyze 2 Timothy 2:15 to arrive at a foundation for the biblical standard for Bible engagement. 


In 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV), Paul defines for Timothy (and for application to 21st Century Christ-followers) the biblical standard for Bible engagement:

15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

By using word meanings and grammar aspects, I examine this verse to provide a foundation
for the biblical standard for Bible engagement.

Looking at verse 15, the ESV translates the Greek verb spoudazō [Strong’s 4704] as “do your best.”  This
verb means to be zealous, to have a keen interest, an intense desire, an impatient expectancy, or to work hard.  One translator translates this verb as “bend your every effort.”  Spoudazō gives the sense of intensity of purpose and intensity of effort to accomplish that purpose.  This verb brings to mind acting with a laser-like focus to accomplish a specific goal. 

The ESV translates the Greek adjective dokimos [Strong’s 1384] to read “as one approved.“  This adjective carries with it the meaning of being tried and true, respected, genuine, dependable or sincere.  It conveys the sense of a metal being put through the refiner’s fire (i.e., a testing) and coming out the other side more pure and proven.  It also has the sense of being generally approved or as something compelling recognition.  Dokimos modifies Timothy so that he is to be the “one approved.”  By being approved, Timothy is a man of integrity who would not accept anything counterfeit, but accept only that which is genuine.

The ESV translates the Greek verb pariatēmi [Strong’s 3936] as “to present.”  This verb has the sense to formally present something or someone or to demonstrate to a superior.  Here, that superior is God.  Timothy (the inferior party) stands before God (the superior party) presenting himself for careful inspection in order to gain approval by God.  Some have used the expression of gaining the degree A.U.G., i.e., “approved by God.”

The ESV translates the Greek adjective anepaischyutos [Strong’s 422] as the phrase “who has no need to be ashamed.”  It means having no cause for shame or disgrace for one’s actions, and it modifies Timothy.

The ESV translates the Greek verb orthotomeō [Strong’s 3718] as “rightly handling” and it means to analyze correctly or teach correctly or expound rightly.  This verbal adjective refers to Timothy with the sense that he continually expounds God’s Word rightly.  Spurgeon comments on this verb (see [emphasis added]:

A ploughman stands here with his plough, and he ploughs right along from this end of the field to the other, making a straight furrow. And so Paul would have Timothy make a straight furrow right through the word of truth. I believe there is no preaching that God will ever accept but that which goes decidedly through the whole line of truth from end to end, and is always thorough, honest, and downright. As truth is a straight line, so must our handling of the truth be straightforward and honest, without shifts or tricks.

Barclay comments (see on this verb [emphasis added]:

The Greeks themselves used the word in three different connections. They used it for driving a straight road across country, for ploughing a straight furrow across a field, and for the work of a mason in cutting and squaring a stone so that it fitted into its correct place in the structure of the building. So the man who rightly divides the word of truth, drives a straight road through the truth and refuses to be lured down pleasant but irrelevant bypaths; he ploughs a straight furrow across the field of truth; he takes each section of the truth, and fits it into its correct position, as a mason does a stone, allowing no part to usurp an undue place and so knock the whole structure out of balance.

The ESV translates the noun logos [Strong’s 3056] as “word” which means a message, i.e., the content of the communication.   The ESV translates the Greek noun alētheia [Strong’s 225] as “truth” and it means that which is consistent with reality.  One theological dictionary discusses the word alētheia:

  1. The Original Greek Usage and Its Differentiations. Etymologically alḗtheia means nonconcealment.” It thus denotes what is seen, indicated, expressed, or disclosed, i.e., a thing as it really is, not as it is concealed or falsified. alḗtheia is “the real state of affairs,” e.g., the truth in law, or real events in history, or true being in philosophy. Links develop with lógos, whose function it is to reveal, and pístis, since one may rely on truth and is also trustworthy when speaking it. alḗtheia can thus denote “truthfulness” as a personal quality. The philosophical question of absolute truth as distinct from relative truths, while alien to the OT, raises the similar concept of truth as a norm, which in practice yields the sense of “correct doctrine” that indicates the truth.

Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1985). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (p. 38). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.  Emphasis added.

2 Timothy 2:15 lays a foundation for the biblical standard for Bible engagement.  The biblical standard requires the Bible engager to possess an intense desire to exert his or her best efforts in their exegesis of
Scripture.  The quality of Bible engagement must be excellence.  The interpretation must be accurate, i.e., conforms to the reality of the content of the message of the text, so that when tried and tested it passes the test.  To pass the test means the interpretation is approved by God with no room to be ashamed of the result.

2 Timothy 2:14, 16-26 provide the literary context for 2 Timothy 2:15.  In the next article, I will look at two
actions found in verses 14 and 16 of 2 Timothy 2 that identify actions which are in contrast to those comprising “rightly handling the word of truth.”  

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