Approved to God


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16 minutes

Be an Approved Workmen of Christ

Read in:

16 minutes
Be an Approved Workmen of Christ

Approved Workmen are not Ashamed – 2 Timothy 2:15

Immersion in the Word of God should play an essential role in the life of the believer. The Psalmist, in Psalm 119:105, declares that “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” The Bible is not merely a book to be read; it is a guide to be lived, an instruction manual for navigating life’s many twists and turns and the literal word to us from God.

Jesus, in Matthew 4:4, declares that:

As followers of Christ, we’re called to a life nourished by God’s Word, deeply ingrained in every aspect of our existence. It is our spiritual sustenance, shaping our thoughts, words, and actions. One particular verse that encapsulates this truth and serves as an urgent call for Christians to strive to Godly approval is 2 Timothy 2:15. The Apostle Paul, in his final letter before his martyrdom, wrote to his young protégé Timothy:

This verse is rich in instruction for our Christian walk. As we explore these truths together, let us be reminded of Paul’s exhortation in Romans 15:4:

Let us approach this exploration of 2 Timothy 2:15 with anticipation and hope, confident that our Lord will guide us into a deeper understanding and application of His Word.

Understanding 2 Timothy 2:15

As we turn our focus to understanding 2 Timothy 2:15, it’s necessary to first understand its context and authorship. The Apostle Paul wrote this epistle during his second imprisonment in Rome, shortly before his execution – likely sometime between A.D. 64 and 65. This letter is among Paul’s pastoral epistles, written to Timothy, a young leader in the early church whom Paul regarded as a son in the faith (1 Timothy 1:2).

Paul’s second letter to Timothy is a personal and somewhat melancholic correspondence, but one filled with encouragement, advice, and a reaffirmation of faith in Christ. It was written during a time when the early Christian community was grappling with increased persecution as well as false teachings in the church (2 Timothy 2:17-18).

An approved workman is not ashamed

Within the second chapter of 2 Timothy, Paul encourages Timothy to persevere in his ministry – to “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1) and remain steadfast in teaching sound doctrine despite the challenges. He uses various metaphors – a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer – to underline the commitment, discipline, and patience needed in Christian service (2 Timothy 2:3-7).

In the verse 14 we see Paul is encouraging Timothy to remind his congregation of the teachings and truths they’ve previously discussed in verses 11 – 13. Paul’s use of “charging them before the Lord” is a strong exhortation, suggesting a sense of serious commitment and responsibility.

Paul is concerned with what is a common challenge in the early church, and remains so in many religious and philosophical communities: engaging in contentious debates about words or teachings that don’t have practical or beneficial outcomes (“to no profit”). Such unproductive disputes could lead to confusion, division, or disillusionment among those listening (“the ruin of the hearers”). These ideas lead Paul to encourage Timothy to strive for approval to God, a worker who is not ashamed and one who is able to clearly understand and interpret the word of God accurately.

This takes us directly into the key verse of 2 Timothy 2:15 as we unpack the key elements therein.

Presenting oneself to God as approved: Paul is urging Timothy, and by extension all believers, to strive for a life conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) is foundational to this. It points us towards an ongoing transformational process, often referred to as sanctification, whereby we progressively grow to resemble Christ in our thoughts, words, and actions. It is a journey, not a destination, marked by ongoing spiritual growth and maturity.

In this journey, we are encouraged to offer ourselves as “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1). This metaphor denotes total dedication, signifying a life wholly given over to God’s service and glory. Just as a sacrifice in the Old Testament was set apart for God, we too are to set apart our entire lives – our ambitions, resources, talents, and time – for His purposes.

This sacrificial living also involves the pursuit of holiness. As the author of Hebrews writes in Hebrews 12:14:

Presenting ourselves approved to God, therefore, calls for us to embody godliness and righteousness in our everyday lives. It is not about earning God’s love or salvation, but responding to His grace and reflecting His holiness.

Furthermore, presenting ourselves as approved to God implies a life of authenticity and integrity. It means that we should strive to be the same person in private that we are in public, living a life that aligns with God’s Word even when no one is watching. In this sense, 2 Corinthians 5:9 sums it up beautifully:

Being an unashamed worker: This involves serving God and others with sincerity, integrity, and steadfastness. It implies an authentic commitment to God’s kingdom and His righteousness, not just in our words but, more importantly, in our actions. James 1:22 reminds us:

As unashamed workers, we are called to walk the talk, embodying the teachings of Christ in our day-to-day lives. Moreover, unashamed workers serve diligently. They do not merely do the minimum required but instead go the extra mile in their service, working “as unto the Lord, not unto men” (Colossians 3:23). They understand that the work they do in the name of Christ is not in vain but bears eternal significance (1 Corinthians 15:58).

An unashamed worker is also marked by courage and conviction. This means standing firm for the Gospel, even when faced with opposition or hardship. As the Apostle Paul encourages us in Romans 1:16:

Finally, an unashamed worker is faithful, consistently obedient to God, and loyal to His Word, reflecting the qualities of the good and faithful servant in Matthew 25:21. They persevere in service, remaining steadfast even amidst trials and challenges, holding on to the promise that their labor in the Lord is never in vain.

Rightly handling the word of truth: This charge speaks to the responsibility of accurately interpreting and teaching the scriptures. Thankfully we have God’s own spirit to help us understand and interpret His word.

“…everything—from the basic message of the gospel to the deepest theological truths—is bound up with the active work of the Holy Spirit because the Spirit of God alone comprehends the thoughts of God”

Paul writes in this regard in 1 Corinthians 2:11:

The Spirit reveals the deep things of God, illuminating our understanding and empowering us to grasp the truths of Scripture. This divine enlightenment goes beyond our natural capacities, allowing us to discern spiritual realities that would otherwise remain hidden.

As we delve deeper into 2 Timothy 2:15, we see Paul offering clear direction to believers seeking to live out their faith sincerely and effectively. This verse challenges us to seek God’s approval, to serve Him with sincerity, and to handle His Word with precision and care. This verse sets a high bar but offers a clear direction for those desiring to live out their faith in an authentic, impactful way. This, according to Paul, is the model of a faithful believer and servant in God’s kingdom.

Theological Significance

The theological significance of 2 Timothy 2:15 is vast, touching on several vital aspects of Christian faith and practice.

An approved workman is not ashamed studying the Word of God

A. The call to personal responsibility in spiritual growth: Spiritual growth is not a passive process; it requires our active engagement with God through prayer and reading and meditating on the word of God. Only through the work of the Holy Spirit can we truly grow as a Christ follower. Peter, in his second letter, urges believers to “make every effort to supplement your faith” with virtues such as knowledge, self-control, and love (2 Peter 1:5). This echoes Paul’s call in 2 Timothy 2:15 to present ourselves as approved unto God, requiring individual effort and commitment to spiritual development and sanctified living. Approval to God also reminds us of or “reasonable service” and Paul says in Romans 12:1 to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God”. In Ephesians 4: 25-32 Paul takes us on tour de force of what failing to live an approved life looks like and delivers the antidote to the illness in verses 23 and 24 where he says:

B. The importance of integrity and diligence in serving Christ: Paul was concerned that Timothy continue to run the race and finish strong, that his work as a pastor, leader and teacher be honoring to God. This is his encouragement to us as well as Christians regardless of our role in the body. An unashamed worker is one who serves with integrity and diligence. It is someone who does not allow themselves to be derailed from the calling that God has laid on their hearts. This aligns with Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:7:

Paul’s expectation is that we too will finish well. When we serve Christ our service should reflect our deepest reverence and commitment to Him and our desire to reflect His character in all we do. We give this as a sacrificial offering of ourselves remembering that His sacrifice for us can never be measured.

C. Emphasizing the authority of the Bible and its correct interpretation: The command to rightly handle the word of truth underscores our conviction of the authority and infallibility of word of God. The Scriptures are not merely a reference point or a set of stories, but rather the basis and foundation of our faith and life. We recognize it as the living word of God that “pierces even to the division of soul and spirit,” (Heb 4:12). The Bereans were commended for their diligence in examining the Scriptures daily to confirm Paul’s teaching (Acts 17:11). Such a commitment to understanding and rightly interpret the Bible is crucial for every believer.

D. Nurturing a desire to be Christ-like: This verse, like much of Paul’s writing, encourages a the follower of Jesus to seek to be Christ-like. We should be living and acting in such a way that emulates Christ. This is made possible through the work of the Holy Spirit and Christ himself – who inhabits us. Paul expressed this sentiment succinctly in Galatians 2:20 where he says:

This is more than seeing life through the “lens of Christ” as others have suggested, rather it is the actual and literal indwelling of Christ. He has been made Lord of all (1 Peter 3:22) and as such we are compelled to kneel before Him and permit him to be the Lord of our life, our decisions, our dreams and our very desires.

In essence, the theology of 2 Timothy 2:15 points to an active, diligent, Bible-centered, Christ-focused Christian life. It’s a call to personal responsibility in spiritual growth, integrity, and diligence in service, a commitment to sound doctrine, and above all, a life where the Christian is striving to live more like Christ every day.

Practical Applications

As we move from theological understanding to practical application, let’s explore how 2 Timothy 2:15 can shape our daily lives.

Commitment to personal study and discipleship: The command to present oneself approved to God implies personal study and discipleship. Just as the Bereans examined the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11), we too should immerse ourselves in God’s Word, allowing it to instruct, correct, and guide us (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Pursuing excellence in Christian service: Being an unashamed worker is about striving for excellence in all we do in service to God. Colossians 3:23 tells us to work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. Our service, whether it be teaching, giving, leading, or showing mercy, should be done with utmost integrity and diligence (Romans 12:6-8).

Developing discernment in biblical interpretation: Rightly handling the word of truth means honing our skills in biblical interpretation. This requires an ongoing commitment to study and an openness to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who Jesus promised would guide us into all truth (John 16:13).

Cultivating a humble and teachable heart: Our approach to God, His Word, and our service to Him should always be characterized by humility and a teachable spirit. Proverbs 3:5-6 advises us to trust in the Lord with all our heart and not lean on our own understanding. As we seek His guidance, He promises to make our paths straight.

Living out the teaching of 2 Timothy 2:15 in our daily lives is a dynamic journey. It involves a daily commitment to God’s Word, striving for excellence in our service, developing discernment through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and maintaining a heart posture of humility and teachability.

Benefits of Claiming 2 Timothy 2:15 as Our Own

Study to be an approved workman that is not ashamed

Embracing the principles outlined in 2 Timothy 2:15 promises profound benefits that reach every aspect of our spiritual journey.

Strengthened relationship with God: Presenting oneself as approved to God requires an intimate relationship with Him. As we seek Him through His Word, we come to know Him more deeply (Jeremiah 29:13), understand His will (Romans 12:2), and experience His transforming power (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Enhanced effectiveness in ministry and service: By being unashamed workers who rightly handle the word of truth, we become more effective in our service to God. As Jesus taught in the Parable of the Talents, faithful and diligent service results in greater responsibility and the Master’s commendation (Matthew 25:21).

Growth in personal character and spiritual maturity: Following the call of 2 Timothy 2:15 promotes growth in personal character and spiritual maturity. As we continue in Scripture and apply its truths as revealed by the Holy Spirit, we grow to resemble Christ more closely (Ephesians 4:15), demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23).

Positive influence on the wider Christian community: When we commit to diligent study, integrity in service, and accurate handling of the Word, we inevitably impact those around us. We become a light to others (Matthew 5:14), encouraging them towards a similar commitment and thereby strengthening the wider Christian community.

In essence, by incorporating the principles of 2 Timothy 2:15 into our lives, we enter a transformative process. This transformation not only enhances our personal relationship with God, our service, and character, but it also extends to influence our community, leading to a stronger, more vibrant expression of the body of Christ.

Overcoming Challenges and Obstacles

While the benefits of living out 2 Timothy 2:15 are many, there are also challenges and obstacles we might encounter along the way. However, the Bible provides practical wisdom on how to overcome these difficulties.

A. Addressing the potential difficulties of living out 2 Timothy 2:15: Committing to regular study, diligent service, and accurately interpreting God’s Word can be daunting tasks. We may face time constraints, distractions, or discouragement. Yet, we have the promise of Philippians 4:13:

Make a commitment and start small. Aligning our desires with God’s desires can often help us to identify areas in our life where we can make sacrifices and discover more time for God, for study and for development of an intimate relationship with Him. This alignment can also show us things we are giving our time and money to which may not be honoring to God; We should strive to eliminate these.

B. Strategies for maintaining consistency and focus: Maintaining consistency in study and service requires discipline. To avoid spiritual stagnation or drift, we must ‘run with perseverance the race marked out for us’ (Hebrews 12:1). Implementing regular routines of Bible study and prayer, setting attainable spiritual goals, and regularly reflecting on our progress can all help maintain our focus. Remember that we do not do this alone.

C. Seeking support and accountability within the Christian community: No believer is meant to navigate their spiritual journey alone. The early Christians devoted themselves to fellowship and mutual accountability (Acts 2:42). Being part of a community not only provides encouragement but also fosters accountability, helping us stay committed to living out 2 Timothy 2:15. Finding a personal mentor of the same gender and spending time with them and holding each other accountable has vast benefits here. Proverbs 27:17 tells us:

It’s worth remembering that every challenge we face is an opportunity for growth and dependence on God. As James 1:2-4 reminds us, trials test our faith, producing perseverance and leading us towards maturity and completeness. While the path to living out 2 Timothy 2:15 can be challenging, it is also a journey rich with divine promise and transformative power.

Final Words

As we navigate the challenges and celebrate the victories of this journey, let us remember that we do so in the strength of the Lord (Isaiah 40:31) and for His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). For it is not merely about us being approved workers; it is ultimately about God being glorified through our lives. Let this be the desire of our hearts as we strive to embody the principles found in 2 Timothy 2:15.