An Approved Workman
2 Timothy 2:8-15; 3:14-17
This section contains the wonderful Scripture passage of 2 Timothy 2:15:
"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
Introduction Of This Section
Paul has already stressed that Timothy has an obligation to pass on the Christian faith.
As a pastor, Timothy had special responsibilities in his work and witness.
He was not to be ashamed of that task and he had the best example before him, even Paul himself,
his mentor and guide.
The gospel must be transmitted to faithful men and women who in turn would pass on the truth.
In one sense every Christian was called to this work, but Timothy as a leader had his own responsible task
Paul knew that no man was equal to the demands made upon him unless he was imbued with the right spirit
of devotion and fidelity.
He urges Timothy to be faithful and reliant, ever watchful of his life under scrutiny.
As Paul wrote, he counseled courage and action (verses 1, 2) and the endurance necessary as a soldier.
Changing his metaphors, he next saw the pastor in the life of farming (verses 4-7) so that Timothy was encouraged
to live an earnest life free from all entanglements which might hinder.
In other words, Paul pleads that a man in the ministry should be free from the business of an ordinary life
(not that such a life was wrong in itself) so that he could be free to give his whole strength and time to this one task.
As a workman before God, and to be approved, he should see himself in several relationships.
He needed the resolution of the soldier, the endurance of the farmer, and the zest of the athlete.
Added to these are the ideas of the student, the disciple, and the man of God.
1. As a student, 2 Timothy 2:8-15
Timothy is reminded of his past, and is asked to recall several important items.
(1) According to my gospel.
First in importance is the gospel itself.
"Remember Jesus Christ."
This was at the heart of the ministry.
There have been those who have been caught in the routine of their work until the glow and the spirit have gone out
of their ministry.
The saving grace is always found in the gospel.
Keep that alive in faith and experience, and all will be well.
In this ministry of the gospel to his own soul lie the seeds of blessings to others.
At the heart of the gospel is the fact of the living Christ.
"Raised from the dead" is not an empty ideal.
It is a dynamic reality which transforms life and character.
The pastoral ministry requires a resurrected life linked to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The ministry can be deadly when it lacks the aliveness of an Easter faith and gospel.
It is not the historic fact alone, but the spiritual abiding factor of that living Presence which counts.
(2) The Word of God not bound.
Although the pastor-preacher will suffer and be persecuted from time to time he knows with confidence
that the message will get through.
Enemies of Christ will seek to block out that message and threatened the life of the messenger,
but even though lives may be sacrificed, the message will continue on its way.
Nero tried to stamp out the Christians but the word of God went on its way.
Paul was imprisoned, but his pen wrote Letters which carried eternal truths to the ends of the world.
Bunyan in Bedford prison wrote the immortal allegory, "Piligrims Progress."
Tyndale wasburned at the stake, yet the translation of the Scriptures went on.
Luther gave the Gospel message by word and by writing even when in imprisoned and threatened with death.
These and many other examples abound.
The enemies of Christ have tried to stamp out the Bible, but this priceless, life-giving Book is still being published
in the millions of copies, and in more languages and tongues than ever before.
Paul was chained in prison, but he saw the word of God unchained and unfettered, and let loose in the world.
(3) Endure all things.
The sufferings endured by Paul were not to be laughed at.
During most of his life, he was under persecution because of the stand he had taken for Christ.
His journeys brought their perils from robbers, wild beasts, bad climate, and sicknesses.
He was discredited and derided many times.
His own fellow-countrymen suspected his motives and hostile enemies sought to kill him.
Physical and mental sufferings were his, yet he endured all by the spiritual grace given to him.
He bore it all patiently for the sake of God's people in order that they too might obtain salvation.
In verses 11 and 12 Paul suddenly burst out with one of the "faithful sayings" (of which there are several
in his Letters).
There are four couplets in this saying emphasizing what Paul has spoken of in his endurance.
The song of hope is heartening.
To recite it or sing it would bring Timothy fresh confidence in his task.
(4) Approved unto God.
Here Paul counsels that there is no profit in fighting over words which has no purpose in it,
but it is the ruin of those who listen.
Wrangling and squabbling do not bring peace or progress in the church.
"Word-fighting" and disputes in controversy is not profitable in itself.
The faith must be defended, but pastors should not use their privilege for personal ends.
Many divisions and separations among believers has come, not from principle, but from personalities
fighting over words.
It is more important that the aim is to be approved by God.
As a workman for God, Timothy was asked to give diligence to his work and witness.
Diligence here means to study and apply oneself.
To be approved is to be like metal which is tested and true.
Timothy, in leading his people in the knowledge of the word of God was to "rightly divide" it,
that is, he was to plow a straight furrow through its soil of truth.
The ministry must be honest in dealing with truths, no matter what personal prejudices or ideals
may have to be corrected.
Some teaching in the pulpit can stray away from the centrality of the gospel, and in dealing with the contemporary life
omit the eternal and become profane, like gangrene.
Some preachers evade the truth when the truth should cut like a surgeon's knife.
Timothy, as a good workman, was urged to be concerned with the central truths, and never deviate
from a dynamic quality of the truth as it was in Christ.
Only in this way could God endorse and approve his workmanship
2. As a learner, 2 Timothy 3:14-16
As Paul has indicated the difficulties and questions of life are to be met with the truth.
This was the task of Timothy.
As a student he had to be diligent.
Now he adds the idea of the disciple or learner always learning and increasing in knowledge.
(1) Continue in learning.
Although Timothy had been ordained to the pastoral office this did not imply that he was fully equipped
for his work.
He had limited experience, and therefore, he must continue to advance in knowledge.
There is no way to a fuller knowledge and influence in the ministry than by patient study and a disciplined life
Many men give up here.
They rest on their past studies or training for the ministry.
They do not grow mentally or spiritually.
This is tragic.
No church can grow unless the pastor leads them in the Christian life by his own example and self-mastery.
One of the opportunities of the ministry is the time for study and reading.
No clock has to be punched as in a business, and no one need check the hours of work put in by a pastor.
He can easily let the hours slip away with nothing done, or he can be the busiest man in the church.
To save himself from laziness and idleness the pastor must learn this disciplined habit of the daily
devotional life and study.
He must abide in the things already learned and experienced.
He must stand firm for these things.
The things indicated were the Scriptures in which he was taught and trained from youth.
His grandmother and his mother were the early teachers.
From childhood he had been given this religious training and instruction.
From the Old Testament word of God he had heard of the coming of the Messiah and like Paul had absorbed
the truth that Jesus was the Christ.
In this faith he had found salvation.
His life had been re-created in Christ.
As Augustine said, "the New is in the Old contained; the Old is in the New explained."
Like others of that day of education was the memory work that was done with great literature.
The Bible gave Timothy a familiarity with the Law, the Writings, and the Prophets.
His Bible was limited in comparison to the one we have now, but it was sufficient to give him a liberal education
in literature and language, plus the spiritual faith derived from it.
Timothy was a young man and a pastor who stayed consistently with the things he believed.
Trained and nurtured in youth, the truth of the Christian faith remained with him throughout his life.
Study and meditation, prayer and preaching, let him to a deeper appreciation of its value and influence.
He did not hold these things as "opinions" (as some have done) or the holding of his own views,
but as basic convictions.
They stayed with him and in his early belief as something which had eternal power.
Some preachers pride themselves that they have left their early belief, but Timothy advanced in knowledge
without surrendering the content of the gospel.
Truth may be proclaimed with new images in various modes of expression, yet remain the same eternally.
A comparison of the preaching across the centuries will show how united men have been in proclaiming
the eternal gospel.
(2) The place of Scripture.
At the heart of the learning process is the Word of God.
For Timothy this was the Old Testament, although parts of the New Testament were then in circulation.
We have no knowledge of how much of the New Testament that Timothy had read.
Surely Paul's Letters were familiar to him in substance as he kept company with Paul and would know
his thinking on many doctrines.
Gospel writings also were being passed on from place to place, and these also would be available.
However, the Old Testament was the basis of Timothy's early years and his solid faith.
Now Paul urges him to apply himself more and more to Bible study.
In this exhortation he has a reason why he should do this and verse 16 sums it up.
The holy writings known to Timothy could be trusted as coming from God.
They were "inspired."
They were the oracles of God.
They communicated the divine revelation.
God's process in producing this might be a ministry, but the result was clear.
The breath of God, the spirit of God lay in each Scripture.
God's mind and heart lie within these words.
Human agents were used to write and produce them, but superintending them was the Holy Spirit.
In this verse Paul points out the fourfold use of Scripture.
(a) Profitable for teaching.
One of the chief functions of using the Scriptures is to teach others.
A pastor not only reads the divine words, but he attempts to explain them for others.
Before the coming of more facilities for education, many people, limited or illiterate, could hear the word of God,
and learn from it.
It became their textbook and guide in knowledge and in salvation.
Many people owe their education and wisdom from the reading and knowledge of the Bible.
The teaching implied here may refer especially to the doctrines of the Christian faith.
(b) Profitable for reproof.
Sin must be condemned in society, and sin must be condemned in the church.
The pastor in his work of ministry uses the Scripture for this end.
The Word of God is like a mirror in which men see themselves as they are before God.
They discover they are sinners.
They sense their need of a Saviour.
They are convinced and convicted.
They are moved to action.
The law reveals to them their loss condition.
The gospel imparts to them their salvation in Christ.
The word comes like a hammer to break the rock, and is a sword to pierce and divide asunder.
It is a lamp to guide our pathway.
(c) Profitable for correction.
A Christian life requires not only knowledge to be received and believed, but the word of God must be obeyed.
In this sense, there is a discipline and application.
Profit comes as that word is put into action.
The Christian is corrected when he strays, and the sinner is told of the error of his ways.
The plumb line of the prophet's word is such that crookedness is estimated for correction.
This is a continuous work of grace.
Christians often need to be set straight in their thinking in the church.
Error can creep in and wrong practices prevail unless the pastor-teacher is regularly expounding the truth
as the standard for Christian living.
(d) Profitable for instruction.
The teaching ministry is always in view when the pastor's work is mentioned.
He is an under-shepherd, and charged not only with protecting the flock but to counsel and to feed the flock.
The church members must be trained in the Christian faith and be ready to witness for their Lord and Master.
Part of the pastoral ministry is this most important work.
Today many pastors have no contact with the Bible class teaching in the Sunday school.
Where pastors teach a class of young people or adults nothing is more rewarding than the training of people
for church service.
Future leaders are also given the benefit of the indoctrination to a faithful pastor who sees the unique
opportunity to teach.
Preaching is a teaching opportunity, but more needs to be done by a pastor in teaching.
The training is in righteousness in that the character is developed in high standards according to the will of God.
3. As a man of God, 2 Timothy 3:17
The final word brings into focus the chief end of the pastor.
Paul's exhortation to Timothy finds expression in this Old Testament designation.
"That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work."
To be an approved workman for God finds this goal possible for the pastor.
Here is the perfection indicated for the man of God.
He is complete in that he becomes mature in faith and experience.
Here Paul uses the words "perfect-complete" and "thoroughly furnished" from the same root connected
with a limb of the body, a joint exactly right.
Let something go out in the body, and physically a man is incomplete and not fully supplied for his work.
In the same manner the spiritual life of the pastor depends upon the proper balance of the total spiritual
functioning of his person.
The godly man will avoid speculation concerning truth.
He will stay away from unfruitful discussion and empty controversy.
He will diligently seek to subdue his own selfish interests.
His life and ministry is set to an example in faith and conduct.
Paul's ideal of the workman for God is that of a man like young Timothy who is willing to learn and willing
to be corrected.
Mistakes will be made and failures will come, but there is a way for this man to rise to godly heights of holy living.
He can heed Paul's counsel given out of rich and sacrificial experience.
As in Isaiah 40:6-11 the shepherd-spirit is displayed so the New Testament man of God is given grace
to enter upon an incredible life of usefulness among his people.
While this is true of the pastor like Timothy, it is also the opportunity of all Christians.
Growth in grace, and then knowledge is encouraged for every Christian.
The Bible is the textbook and by reading and meditation any one can add to his or her spiritual character
the stature of maturity, and find thereby greater usefulness in the service of the church.
This concludes An Approved Workman.
Next is the Testimony of Paul's Life.
2 Timothy 3:10-13; 4:1-8, 17, 18