Make every effort to present yourself approved to God, an unashamed workman who accurately handles the word of truth.
I. HE MUST BE LABORIOUS. The term "workman" implies this fact as well as the direct admonition to "give diligence" to his ministry. The ministry is a good work, demanding industry, study, and care, and no man is sufficient for it without the grace of God. It is a comfort as well as an honour to think that ministers are "workers with God" (1 Corinthians 3:9).
II. THEY MUST SEEK GOD'S APPROVAL IN THEIR WORK. They must not study to please men, else they will not be the servants of Christ; but they must approve themselves to God, showing all good fidelity, and commend themselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
III. THEY MUST WORK WITH A SINCERITY AND EFFICIENCY THAT WILL NOT BRING SHAME UPON THEMSELVES. The negligent, or unskilled, or ignorant workman will produce work which may well put him to shame. But the true workman loves to produce good and abiding work, such as will stand the fiery test of the last day (1 Corinthains 3:13). He may often fee] his insufficiency; but he will never be ashamed of the gospel, nor of his sufferings, nor of his faithful ministrations of the Word.
IV. HE MUST HAVE SKILL IN THE USE OF THE WORD OF GOD. "Handling aright the Word of truth."
1. His one book, his one weapon, his one interest, is the Divine Word. His mind, his heart, his will, must be concentrated upon this Word. It must form the matter of his preaching, the mould of his thoughts, the inspiration of his imagination.
2. He must be able to handle it aright, with due regard for the authority of God, to its own intrinsic claims, and to the welfare of the souls of men. He must be able to "divide it aright," distributing to babes in Christ and to full grown men according to their capacities and their circumstances; he must not pervert it or wrest it from its true sense; he must not keep back anything that is profitable, but declare the whole counsel of God. He must not wander to the right or left, but keep a straight course forward in the path of truth. - T.C.
Study to show thyself approved unto God.σπουδάζειν) is one which scarcely occurs in the New Testament, except in the writings of St. Paul. And the corresponding substantive is also much more common in his Epistles than it is elsewhere. It indicates that ceaseless, serious, earnest zeal, which was one of his chief characteristics. And certainly if the proposed standard is to be reached, or even seriously aimed at, abundance of this zeal will be required. For the end proposed is not the admiration or affection of the congregation, or of one's superiors, nor yet success in influencing and winning souls; but that of presenting one's self to God in such a way as to secure His approval, without fear of incurring the reproach of being a workman who has shirked or scamped his work. The apostle's charge is a most wholesome one, and if it is acted upon it secures diligence without fussiness, and enthusiasm without fanaticism. The being "approved" implies being tried and proved as precious metals are proved before they are accepted as genuine.
(A. Plummer, D. D.)I. IN WHAT WAY AND MANNER A MINISTER OUGHT TO SHOW HIMSELF APPROVED OF GOD. It appears to me that something more is required to convince men that a minister has the smile of God than his own belief. Our text evidently implies that by his work a minister must show that God is with him. In his work four things will be found which tend to show this.
1. Its quality. It must be such as God commands.
2. Its quantity; which shall evince diligence.
3. The difficulties attending its performance; which is the trial of sincerity.
4. The spirit in which it is done. It is a work which requires a spirit of compassion and kindness.
II. WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF A MINISTER'S APPROVAL OF GOD WHICH SHOULD BE ACCEPTED BY PERSONS?
1. I would place conversions as an evidence of Divine approval. They show Divine favour. The moral miracle of a true conversion evinces the Divine presence and power equally with any other miracle.
2. The convictions of truth and duty, which are made by his preaching to the consciences of sinners.
3. The last sign we shall notice of God's approbation of His minister, is the effects of his preaching on the hearts of them that believe. Those that are spiritual can judge whether his preaching is scriptural.
(H. L. Hastings.)ἀνεπαίσχυντος). is a rare formation, which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Its precise meaning is not quite certain. The more simple and frequent form (ἀναίσχυντος) means" shameless," i.e., one who does not feel shame when he ought to do so. Such a meaning, if taken literally, would be utterly unsuitable here. And we then have choice of two interpretations, either(1) that which is adopted in both A.V. and R.V., who need not feel shame, because his work will bear examination, or(2) who does not feel shame, although his work is of a kind which the world holds in contempt. The latter is the interpretation which adopts, and there is much to be said in its favour. Three times already in this letter has the apostle spoken of not being ashamed of the gospel (2 Timothy 1:8, 12, 16). Does he not, therefore, mean here also, "Present thyself to God as a workman who is not ashamed of being in His service and of doing whatever work may be assigned to him"? This brings us very close to what would be the natural meaning of the word, according to the analogy of the simpler form. "If you are to work for God," says Paul, "you must be in a certain sense shameless. There are some men who set public opinion at defiance, in order that they may follow their own depraved desires. The Christian minister must be prepared sometimes to set public opinion at defiance, in order flint he may follow the commands of God." The vox populi, even when taken in its most comprehensive sense, is anything but an infallible guide. Public opinion is nearly always against the worst forms of selfishness, dishonesty, and sensuality; and to set it at defiance in such matters is to be "shameless" in the worst sense. But sometimes public opinion is very decidedly against some of the noblest types of holiness; and to be "shameless" under such circumstances is a necessary qualification for one's duty. It is by no means certain that this is not St. Paul's meaning. If we translate "A workman that feeleth no shame," we shall have a phrase that would cover either interpretation.
(A. Plummer, D. D.)I. Look, first, at the DESIGNATION the Christian minister must try to earn for himself, to be "a workman approved of God," one whose work will bear trying in the fire; having nothing counterfeit about it, but discovering the fine gold of an unadulterated service — truthful, hearty, honest towards God and man.
1. Such a man will strive to be approved of God for his diligence, his earnestness, the anxious concentration upon the duties of the ministry of all the powers which God has given him.
2. "Approved of God," again, a minister should strive to be for his faithfulness. Now, this faithfulness, in relation to the stewardship of souls, consists in a bold and unfaltering adherence to the terms of our gospel commission; in a jealousy, before all things, for the honour of the Lord we serve; in a deter mination that, neither in public nor in private, will we exercise any timid reservations whether men will hear or whether they will forbear.
II. But the text invites us, in the next place, to consider the Christian minister in His OFFICE as a public teacher.
1. Where note, first, it is the "word of truth" he has to divide; an expression with which we may compare the language of the same apostle on another occasion, where he says, "When ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as is in truth the word of God." This mode of speaking of Holy Scripture seems well calculated to meet that irrepressible craving for certainty on moral subjects, which is the first need of the awakened mind.
2. But this word or truth, we are told, is to be "rightly divided"; that is, we may interpret the expression, to have all its parts distributed and disposed after some law of connection and coherence and scientific unity. The general spirit of this injunction goes to reprove all that mutilated or partial teaching in which, through an over-fondness for particular aspects of theological truth, a man is betrayed into negligence, if not into culpable reticence, about all the rest.
III. But I proceed to the last point which calls for notice in our text, or that which leads us to contemplate the CHRISTIAN MINISTER IN HIS PERSONAL CHARACTER AND QUALIFICATIONS.
1. "Needeth not to be ashamed," in regard of his mental culture, and attainments,, and general fitness to cope with the demands of an intellectual age.
2. "Needeth not be ashamed," once more, in regard of his personal and experimental acquaintance with the truths he is ordained to teach. Every profession in life has its appropriate and distinctive excellence. We look for courage in the soldier; integrity in the merchant; wise consistency in the statesman; unswerving uprightness in the judge. What is that which, before all things, should distinguish the Christian minister, if it be not pre-eminent sanctity of deportment, and the spirit of piety and prayer?
(D. Moore, M. A.)
Rightly dividing the word of truth
Speaker's Commentary.Literally "cutting straight." The figure has been very variously derived; from a priest dividing the victim, the steward distributing the bread or stores, a stonemason, a carpenter, a ploughman, a road-cutter. The last has been most frequently adopted. Perhaps they are right, who, like Luther and Alford, consider that the figure had become almost lost sight of in common usage, and that the word had come to mean little more than to "manage" or "administer."
(R. H. S.)
(E. H. Plumptre, D. D.)recte tractantem), and translating simply "rightly handling." But this right handling may be understood as consisting in seeing that the word of truth moves in the right direction, and progresses in the congregation by a legitimate development.
(A. Plummer, D. D.)
(H. R. Reynolds, D. D.)I. The Vulgate version translates it — and with a considerable degree of accuracy — "Rightly HANDLING the word of truth." What is the right way, then, to handle the word of truth?
1. It is like a sword, and it was not meant to be played with. It must be used in earnest and pushed home.
2. He that rightly handles the word of God will never use it to defend men in their sins, but to slay their sins.
3. The gospel ought never to be used for frightening sinners from Christ.
4. Moreover, if we rightly handle the word of God we shall not preach it so as to send Christians into a sleepy state. We may preach the consolations of the gospel till each professor feels "I am safe enough: there is no need to watch, no need to fight, no need for any exertion whatever. My battle is fought, my victory is won, I have only to fold my arms and go to sleep."
5. And, oh, beloved, there is one thing that I dread above all others — lest I should ever handle the word of God so as to persuade some of you that you are saved when you are not.
II. But my text has another meaning. It has an idea in it which I can only express by a figure. "Rightly dividing, or STRAIGHT CUTTING." A ploughman stands here with his plough, and he ploughs right along from this end of the field to the other, making a straight furrow. And so Paul would have Timothy make a straight furrow right through the word of truth. I believe there is no preaching that God will ever accept but that which goes decidedly through the whole line of troth from end to end, and is always thorough, earnest, and downright. As truth is a straight line, so must our handling of the truth be straightforward and honest, without shifts or tricks.
III. There is a third meaning to the text. "Rightly dividing the word of truth" is, as some think, an expression taken from the priests dividing the sacrifices. When they had a lamb or a sheep, a ram or a bullock, to offer, after they had killed it, it was cut in pieces, carefully and properly; and it requires no little skill to find out where the joints are, so as to cut up the animal discreetly. Now, the word of truth has to be taken to pieces wisely; it is not to be hacked or torn as by a wild beast, but rightly divided. There has to be DISCRIMINATION AND DISSECTION.
1. Every gospel minister must divide between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.
2. We need also to keep up a clear distinction between the efforts of nature and the work of grace. It is commendable for men to do all they can to improve themselves, and everything by which people are made more sober, more honest, more frugal, better citizens, better husbands, better wives, is a good thing; but that is nature and not grace. Reformation is not regeneration.
3. It is always well, too, for Christian men to be able to distinguish one truth from another. Let the knife penetrate between the joints of the work of Christ for us, and the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Justification, by which the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, is one blessing; sanctification, by which we ourselves are made personally righteous, is another blessing.
4. One other point of rightly dividing should never be forgotten, we must always distinguish between the root and the fruit. "I want to feel a great change of heart, and then I will believe." Just so; you wish to make the fruit the root.
IV. The next interpretation of the apostle's expression is, practically CUTTING OUT the word for holy uses. This is the sense given by . I will show you what I mean here. Suppose I have a skin of leather before me, and I want to make a saddle. I take a knife, and begin cutting out the shape. I do not want those parts which are dropping off on the right, and round tiffs corner; they are very good leather, but I cannot just now make use of them. I have to cut out my saddle, and I make that my one concern. The preacher, to be successful, must also have his wits about him, and when he has the Bible before him lie must use those portions which will have a bearing upon his grand aim.
V. One thing the preacher has to do is to ALLOT TO EACH ONE HIS PORTION; and here the figure changes. According to Calvin, the intention of the Spirit here is to represent one who is the steward of the house, and has to apportion food to the different members of the family. He has rightly to divide the loaves so as not to give the little children and the babes all the crust; rightly to supply each one's necessities, not giving the strong men milk, and the babes hard diet; not casting the children's bread to the dogs, nor giving the swine's husks to the children, but placing before each his own portion.
VI. Rightly to divide the word of truth means to TELL EACH MAN WHAT HIS LOT AND HERITAGE WILL BE IN ETERNITY. Just as when Canaan was conquered, it was divided by lot among the tribes, so the preacher has to tell of Canaan, that happy land, and he has to tell of the land of darkness and of death-shade, and to let each man know where his last abode will be.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. The truths of God's Word must be carefully distinguished from error.
2. But it is necessary to divide the truth not only from error, but from philosophy, and mere human opinions and speculations.
3. The skilful workman must be able to distinguish between fundamental truths, and such as are not fundamental.
4. Rightly to divide the word of truth, we must arrange it in such order as that it may be most easily and effectually understood. In every system some things stand in the place of principles, on which the rest are built. He who would be a skilful workman in God's building must take much pains with the foundation; but he must not dwell for ever on the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, but should endeavour to lead His people on to perfection in the knowledge of the truth.
5. A good workman will so divide the word of truth, as clearly to distinguish between the law and the gospel; between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.
6. Another thing very necessary to a correct division of the word of truth is that the promises and threatenings contained in the Scriptures be applied to the characters to which they properly belong.
7. But finally, the word of God should be so handled that it may be adapted to Christians in different states and stages of the Divine life; for while some Christians are like "strong men," others are but "babes in Christ, who must be fed with milk, and not with strong meat."
(A. Alexander. D. D.)
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
(H. O. Mackey.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
(H. O. Mackey.)
(Sword and Trowel.)
1. "The studying of my sermons very frequently cost me tears.
2. Before I preached a sermon to others I derived good from it myself.
3. I have always gone into the pulpit as if I were immediately after to render an account to my Master." All who knew that devoted man would have united in expressing his secret in three words, "In the closet."
(Sword and Trowel.)
(Sword and Trowel.)
(J. C. Miller, D. D.)docere, placere, movere. Energy depends on the state of mind and body, ease on calmness and self-possession; lifts on constant intercourse with people and variety of ranks, and much practice. Read aloud various passages and portions. Think much, and read select authors. Converse with refined and well-informed persons. Prepare well for each public occasion. Exercise your powers in public often, and always do your best. Let your public manner be an enlargement of your private, and let that be natural and simple, graceful without awkwardness or affectation."
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