Also available as MP3: Things To Remember – 2 Timothy 2:14-15
The “things” Paul told Timothy to put them in remembrance of were the things of his gospel that he told Timothy himself to remember in v.8. If a grace pastor re-minds his people of Paul’s gospel it will keep them from “words to no profit.” Those words “no profit” are asso-ciated with idolatry (Isa.44:9,10; Jer. 2:8-11; 16:19,20).
The spiritual Ephesians to whom Timothy ministered wouldn’t bow to idols of wood or stone, but Paul is talking about “words to no profit.” That’s a reference to religion (Jer. 7:8-10), the religion of Judaism. Since Paul is talking about words of no profit that “subvert” the soul, we know he was talking about the law (cf.Acts15:24). The Jews of the circumcision were subverting believers with the law in those days (Tit.1:10,11; 3:9-11). So Paul was warning Timothy about striving about the words of the law.
“You can make an idol out of the law?” The Jews did! They trusted in the law of Moses (John 5:45) rather than in the God of Moses (II Sam.22:31). They rested in the law of Moses (Rom.2:17) rather than in the God of Moses (Ps.37:7). When the Lord tried to introduce the New Covenant, they made a god out of the Old Covenant. It happens whenever God changes things (IIKi.18:1-4). We know the Galatians made a god out of the law for Paul compared their worship of idols to turning to the law (4:8-10). Keeping Paul’s gospel in remembrance prevents this.
We know this is important, for Paul charged them not to fall for the law, a word he only used for important things (IThes.2:11,12;5:7). And the “they” of v.14 refers to the “faithful men” of v.3, so this warning was very important.
After telling Timothy what to warn the faithful men about, he tells him to study to show himself approved to God (v.15). The solution to the law is rightly dividing the Word! The Law is in the Word, just not in the part of the Word that is written to us. That makes it of “no profit” to us. “All Scripture is…profitable” (3:16), but only if it is rightly divided!
“Study” (2:15) can mean to “do your best,” as the context shows it does in IThessalonians 4:11. But the context in Ecclesiastes 12:12 shows that “study” there means to study books, as it does in II Timothy 2:15. If you don’t study the Word, you’ll think it is all written to you. Only those who study it notice the dispensational differences and so know to rightly divide it. You can’t be “approved” of God if you think you are still under the law (cf.Lamentations 3:36).
But you have to do more than just study, you have to work as a “workman” to be approved of God (2:15 cf. Phil.4:9). And the work we should be involved in is building up the Body of Christ (Eph.4:12). Paul uses the word “workman” because the only workmen in the Bible either built the tabernacle (Ex.35:35) or idols (Isa.40:20). If you build the law today, you’re building an idol. If you are building up the Body of Christ, you are building the house of God.
If you build up the law, you’ll be “ashamed” because you’ll be minding “earthly things” (Phil.3:18,19). When God doesn’t make you prosperous when you’re good as He did under the law, you’ll be ashamed of Him. There were probably healers glorying in their supposed ability to heal, and ashamed when they couldn’t heal people. Paul says our conversation is in heaven, from whence we look for the Lord to heal us (Phil.3:20). No one will be ashamed then!
We don’t rightly divide the Word to throw any away (cf.Jer.36:23). Wise students of the Word teach old things of Israel’s program as well as new things from our program (cf.Mt.13:52). Of course, you won’t get famous rightly dividing the Word, but you’ll be as approved as Apelles (Rom.16:10), an unsung hero who rightly divided the word. It all boils down to whether you want the approval of God or men. Ishmael lived and died “in the presence of his brethren (Gen.16:12; 25:18), not for God’s approval.
Some say rightly dividing isn’t important, but that phrase “the word of truth” is used for the very gospel of salvation itself (James 2:18; Eph.1:12,13). Since the Bible presents more than one way to be saved, even the word of truth of the gospel must be rightly divided!