The Word of Truth


Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2Ti 2:15).

The word orthotomounta (Gr ὀρθοτομοῦντα) is used only once in the New Testament. The prefix ortho is recognized, for example, in the word orthodox. Used in the context of Paul’s letter to Timothy the word is interpreted as accurately handling (NASB), rightly dividing (KJV), and straightly cutting (INT) the word of truth.

To understand Scripture within its proper context we must keep in mind basic principles of Exegesis, or what is the Bible saying as opposed to Eisegesis which is a conclusion based on what the reader thinks it means. Hermeneutics is a method of theology that seeks to interpret our exegetical explanation. Take, for example, this passage from Paul’s letter to the assembly at Thessalonica:

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever (1Thess 4:16-17).

We can exegete, or explain, that these verses speak of the resurrection of the saints. By our method of Hermeneutics we might determine that this event comes before or after the Great Tribulation. Your theology will determine whether you are a Preterist (the Great Tribulation has already occurred), or Futurist (the time of trouble is an event yet to be fulfilled).

The Apostle Paul admonished the assembly at Corinth that there be no divisions amongst the brethren (1Co 1:10). Denominations had lined up behind the teachings of Paul, Apollos, Peter and Christ. Those divisions have continued through 2000 years of church history. Christians, in modern times, follow the teachings of any number of men and women: Wesley (Methodists), Luther (Lutherans), Calvin (Presbyterians), Miller and White (Seventh Day Adventists), Smith and Young (Mormons); and Baptists who can trace their origin to the Separatist movement that emerged in Holland (1608) under the guidance of Anglican priest John Smyth.

Many, who are turned off by division, simply turn on the television and divide themselves among a plethora of TV evangelists from Joyce Meyer to Joseph Prince. I listen and watch, too; but with an opened Bible and discerning spirit. It is imperative that we be equipped to determine if the teacher is rightly dividing the word of truth.

A television pastor who teaches verse by verse through the scriptures believes that the Bible — from Genesis to the Gospels — was written exclusively to, and for, the Jews. His proof-text is found in Matthew 15:21-24:

Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and [began] to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.” But He answered and said, I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

The context is that a Gentile woman pleaded with the Lord that He might be merciful and heal her daughter. The disciples were in a frenzy that this woman would dare to even approach Jesus who explained that He was sent only to minister to the Jews.

The pastor (who exhorts his listeners to rightly divide the word) ends the discussion at verse 24, but that is an exegetical mistake for we read in the following verses that the woman persists in her pleading and Jesus is so compelled by her faith that He heals the woman’s daughter (Mt 15:28). This is in harmony with Paul’s teaching to the Romans that there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, but that all who call upon the Lord will be saved (Rom 10:12-13).

Another example he cites as proof that the Gospel was intended only for the Jews is found in the Book of Acts. Stephen had been stoned to death, and the assembly was scattered because of the persecution. Luke (who authored Acts) wrote that the disciples made their way to Phonecia, Cyprus and Antioch speaking the word to no one but the Jews (Acts 11:19). Again, he ends the discussion prematurely because in the very next verse Luke records that some of the men went to Antioch and preached to the Gentiles (Acts 11:20).

As well, he contends that nowhere in the Gospels is reference even made of the “church”, or what we might call the assembly of believers. Please examine the following passage from the Gospel of Matthew:

I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it (Mt 16:18).

Clearly, our Lord is referencing the Day of Pentecost when Peter stood before the assembly in Jerusalem, preached the Gospel and 3000 souls were baptized into the body of Christ. In this passage, the word for “church” is ekklēsian (Gr ἐκκλησίαν) meaning those called outassembly or congregation — and it is mentioned by no greater authority than our Lord.

This is what we mean by rightly dividing Scripture.

One of the Christian networks was having a monthly pledge drive. At the end of the segment a gathering of ministers prayed over the names of those who had made a contribution. (So, those viewers who didn’t give were excluded from the blessing?) For the specific prayer of physical healing the pastors cited this verse from Isaiah:

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed (Is 53:5).

How many times have we heard a TV pastor cite this passage, and command supernatural healing of all the viewers who are physically afflicted? By His wounds you are healed of (fill in the name of your ailment).

This, however, is flawed exegesis. Isaiah is referring to the healing of our sin condition. Sin is a disease that, for a believer, was put into remission when Jesus Christ shed His blood upon the cross. Without the shedding of blood there can be no remission, or forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:22). David pleaded unto the LORD, Heal my soul for I have sinned against Thee (Ps 41:4). Peter declared that Christ bore our sins in His body on the cross that we might receive spiritual healing (1Pe 2:24). By His stripes our afflicted soul is healed of its anguish and spiritual poverty. Beware the prosperity teachers who preach the salvation of your finances. [1]

How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding for her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold (Pr 3:13-14).

Wisdom counsels that we might occasionally turn off the television preachers, read the Bible and listen to the Holy Spirit. Present yourself, therefore, a workman who is diligent and not ashamed of the truth.

That, my brethren, is good exegesis and sound theology.

Notes:

1. Compare Matthew 8:17 with Isaiah 53:4 to see how the gospel writer interpreted the context of these passages. There is no contradiction, but that the ministers of healing might quote Matthew instead.

Suggested Reading:

How to Interpret the Bible

What is Good Biblical Exegesis?

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