An explanation of the principle enjoined in 2 Timothy 2:15, particularly addressed to those who may be seeking
some simple outline of its meaning, application and goal.
A cause of stumbling explained.
One of the most fruitful causes of misunderstanding of the Scriptures among those who are saved is the failure to
distinguish things that differ, or, as Paul puts it in 2 Timothy 2:15, failure `rightly to divide the Word of truth'. The
words of Miles Coverdale are much to the point here:
`It shall greatly helpe ye to understande Scripture,
if thou mark
not only what is spoken, or wrytten,
but of whom,
and to whom,
with what words,
at what time,
to what intent,
with what circumstance,
considering what goeth before, and what followeth'.
The principle of right division.
What are we to understand by the term `rightly dividing'? The word in question is orthotomounta, which is
made up of orthos `right', and temno, `to cut'. The word apotemno occurs in the Septuagint Version of Jeremiah
36:23, where Jehoiakim wrongly cut up or divided the Word of truth. We mention this because it shows that the
idea of `cutting' and `dividing' is an essential part of the word. The Septuagint supplies us with another helpful
passage, for in Proverbs 3:5,6 we read:
`Trust in the LORD with all thine heart,
And lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall RIGHTLY DIVIDE thy paths'.
Here we have a close parallel with 2 Timothy 2:15. In both cases the fear of man and the assistance of man are
put aside, and the Lord divides or opens up aright the tangled pathway. There are some who would turn the edge of
2 Timothy 2:15 by rendering it `Cutting a straight pathway along the Word of truth'. Now although this is good
advice, it is false interpretation. It is the Word itself that has to be divided in this passage, not the pathway of the
Failure regarding this principle leads to subversion.
The Galatian church, recently brought out of pagan darkness into the light of grace, were easily intimidated by
the Judaisers who descended upon them quoting chapter and verse to prove that, apart from the law of Moses and
circumcision, they could not be saved. Had they known the great principle of 2 Timothy 2:15 they might have
recognised the deception. A realisation of the distinction between `law' and `grace' would have made it clear that the
mere quotation of Scripture was not sufficient.