A Workman Approved

Q. Can you explain in further detail 2 Timothy 2:15? What’s the context in which Paul wrote it?

A. 2 Tim. 2:15 reads,

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

The Greek word translated approved is dokimos. It came from the world of finance and is the key to understanding this verse. All money was coinage in those days and was valued by weight. Dishonest money changers would shave some of the metal from the coins they handled, making them worth a little less than their face value. The little bit shaved from each coin was a hidden profit that over time could be used to make additional coins that cost them nothing.

But some money changers were men of integrity, who would neither accept nor distribute lightweight money; they were men of honor who put only genuine, full-weight money into circulation. These men were called dokimos. They were approved because they correctly handled the money entrusted to them. (Donald Grey Barnhouse, Romans: God’s Glory, p. 18.)

The King James version uses the phrase “rightly dividing” in place of “correctly handles”. The Greek word there is “orthotomeo” which means “to proceed on straight paths, hold a straight course, equiv. to doing right”. Timothy was a young man and one of the Church’s very first pastors. Paul was advising him not to get caught up in debates over different interpretations but to study so he could deliver the full weight of God’s Word in its proper context, not some light weight version. Then he could present himself to God as a teacher of integrity, as one approved, a dokimos who correctly handled the word of truth, and would not be ashamed of what he had taught.

Some extreme dispensationalists have used this phrase as an excuse to decide which parts of the New Testament are meant for the Church and which are not. In my opinion this improperly exceeds Paul’s intent in his instructions to Timothy.

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