TFR Blog

Study to show thyself approved


“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15, KJV).

The preceding verse as cited from the King James Version of the Bible has been what I sometimes refer to as an “anchor text” among those committed to the restoration principle and the restoration plea. It was a passage that I memorized early in my life as a Christian and one that I often quoted in my early preaching efforts (and still quote). It is a tremendous passage, but it needs some unpacking and some understanding as to what the apostle Paul is actually saying.

The passage, while applicable to all Christians, was originally addressed to Timothy, a young preacher whom Paul regarded as his son in the faith (I Timothy 1:2). Paul had taken Timothy “under his wings” and nurtured, tutored, and mentored him in the gospel (see Acts 16:1-3). When Paul urged Timothy to “study to show yourself approved to God,” he was not speaking so much of the study of scripture or sacred writings (academic study), as he was urging Timothy to give serious reflection, thought, and attention to showing himself a man that was approved by God. Paul wanted Timothy to “study on” (think about) the kind of life he was to live, showing himself to be a diligent worker for the Lord, one who would never be ashamed of his own conduct or of the work he was doing. Included in this was the responsibility Timothy had to correctly handle and properly dispense the word of God to his hearers.

Other versions of the Scriptures will show the true significance of what Paul had in mind for Timothy (and, by extension, for all Christians of all time). The New King James Version says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God.” The American Standard Version says, “Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God.” The New American Standard Version says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed.” The New International Version says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

What a great description of a faithful preacher! Every man today who preaches the gospel needs to take to heart Paul’s exhortation to Timothy! And, as we shall later see, so does every elder, deacon, Bible class teacher, Bible professor in colleges operated by the Lord’s people, and individual Christian! Look at some other key passages in I and II Timothy and see how they reinforce Paul’s command In II Timothy 2:15.

“These things I write to you, hoping to come to you shortly, but if I am delayed, that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Timothy 3:15).

“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (I Timothy 4:12).

“Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (I Timothy 4:16).

“But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness” (I Timothy 6:11).

“Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (II Timothy 1:13).

“But you continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them” (II Timothy 3:14).

“Preach the word! Be ready in season, out of season. Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching” (II Timothy 4:2).

“But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (II Timothy 4:5).

Yes, Paul wanted Timothy to study (i.e., give diligent, careful thought and attention) to make himself approved to the Lord! Much as the conscientious farmer, lawyer, doctor, businessman, teacher are always “studying” their ways, their techniques, and trying to become better in their chosen field, so the preacher of the gospel will “study” (give diligent attention and thoughtful reflection) to how he can be approved of God, both in his life and in his doctrine. And, of course, it goes without saying that in so doing, the approved preacher will spend much times in the reading and study of God’s word, for without such he cannot know God’s will, either for himself or for his hearers.

But, II Timothy 2:15 is not limited to preachers. Elders, deacons, Bible school teachers, Bible professors, and all Christians (young and old) need to constantly be studying, thinking, and giving attention as how they can be approved to God. The challenge for every child of God is that they “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [their] mind, that [they] may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).

When a Christian arises in the morning and begins his or her day, he/she needs to thoughtfully and reflectively ask himself/herself, “How am I going to go about my life today so that I will be a workman that will be approved to God, one that will not be ashamed of the way I conduct myself as a member of the household of God?”

Find time, make time every day for reflective thought as to how you can “let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). Give studied attention each day to your relationship with the Lord. “Study to show yourself approved to God”!

Brother Hugh publishes a weekly ezine called “Hugh’s News & Views.” This article was reproduced from that ezine with his kind permission.


Forthright Staff