Dear Reader,


Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,

rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15)

The epistles of 1 and 2 Timothy were written by Paul to young Timothy to instruct him on how he should conduct himself as a Christian minister. Pastors and ministers should do well to heed the advice given in these epistles. But these epistles are also beneficial for every Christian. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). A study of these epistles would yield rich doctrine, as well as principles of how one ought to conduct himself in the service of Christ.

2 Timothy 2 is especially instructive of principles in Christian service. It contains seven pictorial descriptions of the minister of Christ (i.e. a child vv.1-2; a soldier vv.3-5; an athlete v.5; a farmer vv. 6-13; a workman; a vessel vv.20-23; and a bond slave vv. 24-26). The picture for our consideration is that of the workman.

The One who Approves

A workman (ergatēs) is a person who is engaged in much physical labour. In the context of Paul’s time, this word is often used to refer to agricultural labourers who work in the fields under the supervision of a master. They will do their best to fulfil the specific task that has to be assigned to them. At the end of their day, their work will be evaluated for the approval of the master. If they accomplish their work well, they will receive their wages.

This picture of the workman should be familiar to us in the present time. The workman would be anyone who works under the supervision of a director, master or organisation. His work would similarly be assessed by the one whom he is working under. The workmen of the world would strive to win the approval of their masters in the hope of receiving their wages, and perhaps even getting a promotion.

But what about the Christian workman? While he may be working under an earthly lord, he knows that his ultimate master is none other than the King of kings and the Lord of lords. God is the assessor of the Christian workman. The unbelieving workman works to gain the approval of the world. But the Christian workman desires to win the approval of God.

It is important to understand that the assessment of God is not one that is laissez-faire, but one that is stringent and thorough. This approval (dokimon) has the picture of metals being tested by fire to see if they are genuine. Our God is an omniscient God who knows all our thoughts, words and actions. Nothing escapes his eyes, and every single motive and action will be judged by God.

Dear reader, as you go about in your home, workplace or school, who are you working for? Are you working to win the approval of men? Or are you working for the approval of God? When God judges, will he say of us “well done, thou good and faithful servant”, or will we be ashamed of our deeds? Let there be no reason for shame in the service for Christ!

The Endeavour for Approval

Knowing the importance of having the approval of God, the Christian must therefore be diligent to stand up to the test of God’s approval. There is no option for it. It is a command that must be obeyed. The verb “study” (spoudazō) carries the idea of urgency and great assiduousness. The Christian worker must spare no effort to present himself blameless before the one living and true God, who is his assessor and judge.

This behoves us to consider our walk with God in our daily lives. Are we lazy Christians? Christians ought to be conscientious in fulfilling the high calling which the Lord has called us to. Christians must not be careless in the daily conduct. It is not just about coming to church on Sunday and fulfilling my “Lord’s Day obligation”. Our whole life must be given wholly for the glory of God. It is a life-time endeavour.

The Way towards Approval

But while a Christian workman should strive for approval, he must also know what it is that pleases God. This manual for this knowledge is none other than the Holy Bible – the Word of God.

The Bible is none other than the voice of Him that sitteth upon the Throne! Every Book of it, every chapter of it, every verse of it, every word of it, every syllable of it, every letter of it, is the direct utterance of the Most High! The Bible is none other than the Word of God: not some part of it more, some part of it less; but all alike, the utterance of Him who sitteth upon the Throne; faultless, unerring, supreme.” (Dean Burgon)

As a Christian minister, Timothy’s role is to preach and teach the word of God. Hence, Paul was especially concerned that Timothy must rightly handle the Word of God in its proclamation and application to the congregation. Hence, Paul declares that Timothy must “rightly divide the word of truth”. The expression “rightly dividing” comes from the Greek orthotomeō from which we get the modern term “orthopaedics”. It has the picture of a person who is very skilled in the use of a knife, such as a top surgeon or a master cook. A top surgeon must make sure he cuts correctly, otherwise it may result in a tragedy for the patient. Similarly, the Christian minister must be skilled in the Word of God, so that he may properly preach and teach the flock of God. He must spare no effort to make sure that he handles the Word of God correctly. He must constantly study the Word of God, and put in his best effort to make sure that the church of God is properly fed. Lazy ministers are a shame to God!

The same principle applies to every Christian. The Bible is the Christian worker’s sole authority in faith and practice. It is our sure guide in telling us how we may be found in the approval of God. There is no shortcut. We must be skilled in our knowledge and application in the use of God’s Word.

In Tabernacle BP Church, we do our utmost to provide avenues for our members to learn God’s Word. Besides the pulpit ministry, we have the Sunday School for both the adults, youth and children. We also have the various fellowship groups which meet on Saturday – The Adults Fellowship, the Shomerim as well as the Ebenezer. Spare no effort (spoudason) in making use of these means of grace to increase your knowledge of God’s Word.

Here is another avenue to study God’s Word. The Far Eastern Bible College’s Basic Theology for Everyone classes is commencing this Monday on the 21 June 2014. The Monday night module is on Life of Christ while the Thursday night class will be on Ezekiel. We spend much effort to accumulate worldly knowledge. Why not spend the effort learning how to rightly divide the Word of God?

In addition, the Christian must understand that “rightly dividing the word of truth” involves not only the right knowledge of God’s Word, but also a right application and obedience of the truth. Consider how Paul later would encourage Timothy to “flee youth lusts” (2 Timothy 2:22). VPI (Verbal Plenary Inspiration) and VPP (Verbal Plenary Preservation) is useless if it is not accompanied by VPO (Verbal Plenary Obedience). “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22).


The Christian worker must seek the approval of the one living and true God, who is assessor and judge. The way to be found in God’s approval is to know and to live out God’s Word. Let us strive to be approved workmen in the eyes of God! Amen.

Preacher Clement Chew