By Edwin Christiaan
The scripture 2. Timothy 2:15 is the only place in the Bible (King James Version and New King James Version) where the words “rightly dividing” are used.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”2. Timothy 2:15 NKJV
Right now, there are many preachers, especially the so-called “Grace” teachers, who use 2. Timothy 2:15 as the first foundational pillar in explaining how to read and understand the Bible. Based on their understanding of this scripture, they say that we are to “rightly divide” scripture in order to know which of the scriptures are meant for the Jews and which are meant for the Church. According to them, since the apostle Paul was called to the Gentiles, we as Christians are to only follow Paul’s writings, (which they refer to as the ‘Pauline Gospel’ or ‘Pauline Christianity,’) and the other Bible books such as the Gospels, Hebrews, James, Peter and Jude are only written for the Jews.
So the big question is: Does the entire content of the Gospels not pertain to us gentile believers then? They argue that the Gospels were written “before the cross,” while Jesus was still alive and hadn’t commenced the New Covenant yet, so everything He taught was basically “under the Law.” If that’s true, then are we not to follow Jesus Christ and His teachings? Do they not apply to the New Testament church?
In their “rightly dividing” philosophy, they state that the cross divides the New Testament from the Old Testament (which by the way include the Gospels because Jesus was sent to the “lost sheep of Israel” and that everything He said was coined for Israel and the Jews only.) While that is all partially true, my issue is with the usage of the verse in 2. Timothy 2:15. Is this really what Paul meant when he instructed Timothy, saying, “rightly dividing the word of truth”? No! That wasn’t the meaning of this scripture. And it bears consequences when we misunderstand and therefore misuse scriptures; essential points and important doctrine is being twisted and ultimately falsely applied.
See, the Greek translation for “rightly dividing” is orthotomeo, which literally means to make a straight and accurate cut. When used metaphorically, the word means to proceed on straight paths, hold a straight course, equivalent to doing right. By using this word, Paul was instructing Timothy to preach God’s Word accurately, correctly, and with precision. Had Paul instructed Timothy to divide God’s Word into various parts, he would have used the Greek word ‘diaireo,’ which means to divide into parts. You won’t find any directions or explanations as how to “rightly divide” God’s Word in the Bible in the way they erroneously put it. It never happened!
As a matter of fact, The New Living Translation gives a good picture of what Paul was actually saying to Timothy:
“Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive His approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.”2. Timothy 2:15 NLT
With this wrong type of “rightly dividing” the Word of God, they also divide the Bible into books we should read and books we shouldn’t read, character’s we should follow, and character’s we should not follow. That is how they actually end up undermining the authority of the entirety of the Bible, by excluding and ignoring certain parts. Paul never did and would never teach the Word this way.
Instead, we should always read the Bible with the understanding that some things are addressed specifically to Israel and the Jews, some things Jesus said pertained to being under the Law, and some things are directed specifically to the Church (the Bride, the New Covenant believers.) Yet other things are said about unbelievers and the “World,” including at times also those who claim to be Christians or Jews, but are exposed to not be.
So, we see that an important part of correct interpretation is to determine the context of a passage to see who is being addressed in the section we are reading. But we cannot, as these teachers do, begin to exclude whole Bible books and their authors!
THE WHOLE COUNSEL OF THE WORD
The following scriptures prove that the apostle Paul himself always meant to include the entirety of scripture:
“For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.”Acts 20:27 NKJV
“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”Romans 15:4 NKJV
“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”1. Corinthians 10:11 NKJV
And last but not least,
“ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”2. Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV