One of the last things Paul told Timothy was, “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” 2 Timothy 2:15.
Note the phrase “correctly handles the word of truth.” The Greek word for “handles” is orthotomeō. It only appears once in the New Testament. Strong’s Concordance defines orthotomeō like this: to cut straight, to proceed on straight paths, hold a straight course, to handle aright, to teach the truth directly and correctly. Visually, we should picture it as a clear and unobstructed pathway, i.e. no impeding obstacles.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were no obstacles to correctly handling the word of truth? Unfortunately, many obstacles need to be overcome. Maybe the biggest is the misguided notion that everyone’s opinion should be valued. But truth isn’t subjective, it’s objectively knowable. We do not have the liberty to make the Scriptures mean whatever we want them to mean.
So how do we handle the word of truth fittingly and appropriately? Here are five foundational guidelines:
- We should begin with understanding the master plan. When we study Scripture, we must determine where it fits into God’s plan. Every verse of Scripture must be understood in the context of its passage, every passage in the context of the chapter, every chapter in the context of the book, every book in the context of the Testament, and the Testament in the context of the whole Bible.
- We must be governed by the overarching principle of Scriptura sui interpres (Scripture interprets itself). Remember that God’s Word is living and active (cf. Hebrews 4:12). Throughout the Bible we see Scripture quoting Scripture. Scripture itself is the best theology professor to teach truth. When we carefully contemplate and consider different accounts of Scripture, the Scriptures will enable us to understand and correctly handle the word of truth.
- We must do it in community. When we handle truth, we must consider and interact with the writings/teachings of theologians past and present (insofar as they agree with Scripture). There is no new truth. God has revealed truth to Christians down through the ages. As a guiding principle, if we think we have a new interpretation, we’re probably wrong.
- We must look for Jesus. The theme of the Bible from beginning to end, though sometimes hidden or obscure, is Jesus (cf. John 5:39). Jesus is Truth (cf. John 14:6). Bible engagement is more than saying the Bible is true, it’s saying that our faith is in the living truth, Jesus Christ. To rightly comprehend and apprehend the truth, we must engage with Scripture the Emmaus Road way (cf. Luke 24:13-35), i.e. open the Scriptures to see Jesus (cf. Luke 24:27).
- We must ask God to illuminate the Scriptures. To correctly handle the word of truth we need insight and understanding from the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:26). It’s only when the Holy Spirit shines His light on a text, that we’re able to properly analyze, accurately explain, and rightly apply the Scriptures.
There’s much more that could be said. Please add your comments.
© Scripture Union Canada 2019