Q. Can you explain what the phrase Rightly Diving the Word of Truth means?
A. The phrase “rightly dividing the Word of truth” has been given a meaning Paul didn’t originally intend. It comes from the King James translation of 2 Tim. 2:15. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
The Greek word translated “dividing” literally means to make a straight and accurate cut, and when used metaphorically it means to hold a straight course. Paul was instructing Timothy to teach God’s word accurately, correctly, and with precision so he wouldn’t be ashamed to stand before God and be judged for his teaching (James 3:1).
In the 1800’s 2 Timothy 2:15 was used to justify dispensationalism, which divides the age of man into seven distinct periods, as a system of theology. Lately some people have been teaching that because the gospels were written about the time just before the cross, they belong in the Old Testament, and don’t really apply to the church. They say the cross “rightly divides” the Old Testament from the New. Some also exclude the first part of the Book of Acts, the letters from Peter, James, and John and the letter to the Hebrews saying they were written to Jewish believers and not to the Gentiles. And because the Book of Revelation deals with the time after the Church is gone we really don’t need to pay much attention to it either.
All this is done under the banner of “rightly dividing the Word” and basically leaves the Church with the last half of the Book of Acts and Paul’s epistles. Even though I identify myself as a dispensationalist, and can see differences between what Jesus taught in the Gospels and what Paul taught in his letters, I believe these are incorrect uses of 2 Tim. 2:15.
Obviously, the Bible says some things specifically to Israel and some things specifically to the Church. But Paul said he didn’t hesitate to proclaim the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). He said that everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15:4), and that Israel’s history contains examples that were written down as warnings to us upon whom the end of the age has come (1 Cor. 10:11). To me that means the entire Bible has value for all of us.
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).