This message is also available on YouTube: What Difference Does Rightly Dividing Make to My Worship? – 2 Timothy 2:15
Rightly dividing means to see the difference between God’s grace program for us and His law program for Israel. When Paul began to preach it, the Jews accused him of worshipping “contrary to the law” (Acts 18:12,13). He refuted that, insisting he worshipped “believing all things… in the law and the prophets” (24:14). That means we worship in some of the same ways they did back then.
Abraham worshipped by being willing to obey God whatever the cost (Gen. 22:5), and so should you. “The lad” worshipped by being willing to give his life as a sacrifice, and so should you (Rom. 12:1). You can worship God by believing all things in the law by putting God first in your life (Deut. 26:10). If you can worship God when you lose your baby son (II Sam. 12:20) or all your children (Job 1:20,21), you can worship by believing all things in the law.
The Lord said the unsaved Jews worshipped Him “in vain” by teaching incorrect doctrine (Mt. 15:9), which means teaching correct doctrine (as we do) worships Him correctly. If teaching the commandments of men made for vain worship, then teaching the commandments of God would make for true worship. And Paul repeats the commandments!
But we worship differently in that the Jews were told to keep the commandments or be cursed (Deut. 11:26-28). We are told to keep them out of love, not fear (Rom. 13:8-10). If you love your neighbor, you won’t lie to him, steal from him, etc. And the love He showed you by not sending you to hell for your lying and stealing should constrain you to keep them (II Cor. 5:14,15).
But there were 603 other commandments in the law, many of them like the “touch not, taste not” of Colossians 2:21. Paul called them “the commandments…of men” (v. 22) because commandments of God imposed on people out of their proper dispensation become commandments of men.
But worshipping God by keeping His commandments involves more than just recognizing that some of the commandments of God are no longer in effect. It involves recognizing that God gave some new commandments through Paul. Circumcision was a commandment of God, so for Paul to say it was nothing, but keeping the commandments was everything (I Cor. 7:19), he must have been talking about keeping the commandments given to him (I Cor. 14:37 cf. I Thes. 4:2; II Thes. 3:6,12). Paul gave hundreds of commandments, and if you teach them you’ll avoid worshipping God in vain, for you’ll be teaching the commandments of God for this dispensation.
The only other time Paul tells us how we should worship (besides Acts 24:14) is when he says we worship God “in the spirit” (Phil. 3:2,3). That means to recognize that Gentiles used to be dogs (Mt. 15:26), but now the Jews are (Phil. 3:2) because we are the circumcision (v. 3), the spiritual circumcision.
We were circumcised with Christ (Col. 2:10,11) when He was “cut off” (Isa. 53:8; Dan. 9:26). God told the Jews that He wanted that for them (Deut. 10:16 cf. Rom. 2:29), and promised to give it to them in the kingdom (Deut. 30:6). But we have that now, so we have no confidence in the flesh. The Jews had all their confidence in the fact that their flesh was the circumcised flesh of Abraham (Mt. 3:9), and in the fact that three times a year they had to march their flesh to Jerusalem for Israel’s feasts. But we observe the feasts in the spirit (cf. I Cor. 5:7). Our confidence isn’t in the flesh of a passover lamb, but in the Lamb of God that was slain!
We gave examples of how we worship as they did under the law, but we gave none of how we worship as they did in the prophets. But the prophet Isaiah said that in the kingdom the Jews will worship God by looking into the pit of hell to see the suffering of the unsaved (Isa. 66:23,24). This answers the question I’m often asked of how we’ll enjoy heaven knowing our loved ones are in hell. God won’t erase our memories, He’ll change how we think about them. We will agree with God that they are getting what’s coming to them (cf. Rev.16:7). So if you don’t ever want your loved ones to be “an abhorring” (Isa. 66:4), tell them about Christ!