Remember when you got your first loan? Were you able to get it? I wasn’t. I had to have a co-signer. Then I remember the day that I finally got approved. Now I’m wishing I’d had better sense not to get a loan. But there was something great about getting approved. It was a feeling of, “I’ve arrived,” or, “I’m an adult.” I know it’s weird but that’s what it felt like. The same thing is true of being approved for a job.
Approval doesn’t come until we’ve met all the requirements.
My parents were some that I’ve sought approval from. Many relationships have thrived or been crushed by seeking for approval. There were many times I’ve chosen to seek approval from people that caused me to compromise standards and principles I was raised with. So now that I’m older, what or whose approval am I seeking?
I’m still in 2 Timothy 2. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything so I’ve been reading this section over and over again trying to understand it fully. I’ve looked in to some commentaries to see if I’m getting this right, but what I’ve read and what jumped out at me personally were two slightly different things. So, I’m going to share them both because I think they both fit. I’m not an expert in the Greek language the New Testament was written in, but I do think God reveals Himself through His Word regardless of the language we’re using. But the study helps us grasp a better picture.
I said all that to talk about this verse: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15 NASB) …and I just spilled coffee on my pants. This is going to be interesting.
Let’s gather some info on the background of what’s going on here. In the few verses afterward, Paul wrote about two guys that were messing up the faith of others by going around and saying that Jesus already came again and they missed it. So the resurrection of ourselves, God redeeming us for an eternity with Him has already taken place. Obviously that would cause quite a stir in the church at that time.
Paul likens their talk to gangrene (and yes, I did just use the word “liken”). That’s disgusting. Have you ever seen the affects of gangrene? Do you know what it is? It’s the death of skin cells that spread further and further unless cut off. It’s an infection gone terribly wrong, an infection left untreated from the beginning. It can be dry or wet, which is even grosser. It’s almost as if your body is turning into a zombie body but you’re still alive and aware of what’s going on. It typically begins on the fingers or toes and spreads elsewhere if left untreated (amputation is the only way to get rid of it). With no blood reaching that area of the limb, it turns black and stiff and becomes unusable. I’d put up a picture, but I don’t want to do a search for that. I’m grossed out enough.
That picture though, clearly gives illustration to misunderstanding God’s word or teaching something false in the church. It spreads slowly and overtakes the life of the church and God can’t use it! The only way to get rid of false teaching is to recognize it for what it is: not truth! And there’s only one way to get rid of it: cut it off! So if we don’t handle God’s Word accurately, we won’t know what’s gangrene and what’s healthy. That’s why it’s so vital to the health of the believer to know God’s Word, to be in it every day!
The example of these two men led Paul to write verse 15. These guys had no basis for the stuff they were saying. So Paul told Timothy to prove himself approved to God, to do everything to make sure he’s one seen as approved to God. What he was teaching was truth. The way he was living is what God desires of us. The example he’s setting is what should be followed because he knows and understands the truth and accurately handles it (Unlike the coffee I spilt on my pants. And yes, I just used the word “spilt.”).
Another way of reading “approved” is like what the commentaries have said, and I agree with them: What we should focus on, instead of the words and sayings and trying to figure out when Jesus is coming back, is our devotion to God, our diligence in presenting ourselves to Him as approved for Him to work in us and through us.
We identify the gangrene by pointing it out for what it is: sickness (wickedness or anything contrary to what God teaches in His Word). We cut it off by paying attention to what’s most important and teaching about it: devotion to God, seeking His approval rather than the approval of men.
It’s easy to gain followers for ourselves when we have something that catches people off guard, or provokes them because we’ve hit a nerve with our words. We can easily get lost in a battle of opinions. But our diligence should only be found in seeking God’s approval, in handling His Word accurately, and leaving no room for being ashamed in doing so because we know who we belong to. And God knows those who belong to Him anyway (vs. 19).
Maybe we should identify the gangrene in our lives and cut it off so we can pursue God’s approval to be used as His workmen who doesn’t need to be ashamed. Lord, show us how to handle Your Word accurately.