In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul writes, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” There are several things the church needs to hear about this text.

In the first place, the Christian ministry must be populated by men who work hard. Like the farmer in 2 Timothy 2:6 who is described as “The hardworking farmer,” ministers are to labor diligently in the word and doctrine. Second, the Christian minister is to seek the approval of God, not men. This is not to say that he should purposefully try and offend men, but he should not cater to men by sacrificing the truth of God’s word. If God is pleased with the minister of the gospel, that is the minister’s greatest reward. Third, it is only as the minister is diligent and approved by God that he will have a clear conscience (“a worker who does not need to be ashamed”). If he is lazy, seeking the favor of men, and otherwise negligent in his calling, then he should be ashamed.

There is, unfortunately, a common misunderstanding concerning the ministry of the word that is associated with Jesus’s words in Matthew 10:19. Jesus said, “But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak.” In the context, Christ gives specific instructions to the apostles for their missionary endeavors. Verses 16-23 deal specifically with the persecution the apostles would face when they preached the gospel to unbelieving Jews and later in the Roman Empire (note Acts 4:8-12 for the specific application of this promise in the ministry of Peter). It should be obvious that Christ is not giving universal rules for the normative conduct of gospel ministers, but He is giving an extraordinary promise of the Spirit’s aid for the coming persecution that His apostles would face. France writes, “As in [Matthew] 6:25-34, the assurance is not an excuse for failure to make responsible provision for foreseeable needs; to take this assurance as an excuse for lazy preachers, insisting that all Christian utterance must be spontaneous and unprepared, is to take it seriously out of context.”[1]

The normative instruction for gospel ministers is found in our text, for Paul says the minister of the gospel must rightly divide the word of truth. This is consistent with Paul’s emphasis on sound doctrine throughout the Pastoral Epistles (cf. 1 Tim 1:10; 2:4; 3:2; 3:15; 4:6; 4:13; 2 Tim 1:13; 3:16-17; 4:3; Tit 1:1; 1:9; 2:1). For the minister to rightly divide the word of truth (or, handle “accurately the word of truth” NASB), he must study; he must prepare; he must strive to accurately expound the Scriptures. He does this, of course, with prayerfulness and with dependence on the Holy Spirit, but he must “Be diligent to show [himself] approved to God…”

It is not an either/or scenario: godly ministers will only depend on the Holy Spirit, or godly ministers will only study. Rather, it is both/and: godly ministers will give themselves to the study of God’s word and do so in dependence upon the Holy Spirit. Only then will they be able to prepare sermons that will feed the sheep of Christ.

[1] R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007), 392.

The Bible teaches what has been commonly referred to in the history of theology as “Calvinism.” The second point of the Five Points of Calvinism is called “unconditional election,” which means that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4) according to His good pleasure (Mt 11:26). He did not choose us because we were “holy and without blame,” but so that we would become “holy and without blame” by virtue of our union with Christ (Eph 1:4). As John Gill wisely commented, “Election does not find men in Christ, but puts them there; it gives them a being in him, and union to him.”[1] The comfort this doctrine affords is obvious: If God had not chosen men unto salvation, they would have never chosen Him and would have perished under the just judgment and wrath of God forever.

The challenge this doctrine affords is also obvious: How does a sinner know that he is elect? In 2 Peter 1:10, the Apostle Peter writes, “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure…” This text, however, does not address the challenge concerning election, for Peter writes to Christians, those already saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and he essentially calls them to live in light of the salvation they already experience. As far as unbelievers are concerned, the Bible never calls on them to determine whether or not they are elect before coming to the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather, God in the Bible calls sinners to come to Him immediately, without first trying to determine whether or not they are elect. For instance, in the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord God declares, “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (Is 55:1) The Lord does not call men to look inside to see if they may or may not be elect, He calls them to come and live. In Matthew 11:25-30, the Lord Jesus highlights the sovereignty of God in salvation (including election) in verses 25-27, and then calls sinners to “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (verse 28). The Lord Jesus does not call sinners to determine whether or not they are prepared to come to Him, He calls them to come to Him and He will give them rest (verse 28). In Acts 16:25-34, there is the situation of the Philippian jailer who fears judgment at the hand of the civil authority for what would have been considered dereliction of duty in his part if the prisoners had escaped (verses 25-26). Instead of facing the wrath of his superiors, the jailer reckons he will commit suicide (verse 27) but is thankfully interrupted by the Apostle Paul (verse 28). When the jailer asks Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (verse 30), Paul and Silas do not respond, “make sure you are one of the elect” or “make sure you are prepared to meet God.” Rather, Paul clearly tells the man, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (verse 31).

A good rule of thumb concerning the challenge of election: On the way to the cross, sinners should not concern themselves with it, they should simply look to Christ in faith for the salvation that God promises to those who believe. After having come to the cross, believers should endeavor “to make [their] call and election sure” (2 Pet 1:10) by living in a manner that is consistent with their salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

[1] John Gill, A Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity (reprint, Paris, AR: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 2007), 181.

 

The Bible often speaks about the “fear of God.” There are two types of the fear of God, the first is a slavish fear, and the second is a filial fear. Both are referred to in Exodus 20:20, “And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear [slavish]; for God has come to test you, and that His fear [filial] may be before you, so that you may not sin.’” John Murray described the fear of God (in this second sense) as “the soul of godliness.”[1]
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