Study, study, study!
Words sometimes change their meaning over time.
Whoever would have thought that “wicked” would have the meaning of “good” as so many milennials use it? Certainly the word “gay” has a totally different meaning today than when I was a boy! I’m sure you can come up with plenty of other examples on your own.
This happens with Bible translations too. Don’t get me wrong, the meaning of God’s word does not change over time, but sometimes the words used in our translations do, and not understanding their original meanings can cause us to miss out on the message at best, or go off in a wrong direction at worst. For example: “In my Father’s house are many mansions” [John 14:2 KJV]. “Mansion" in the 17th century meant the same as “apartment” does today, not a huge stately castle!
Here’s another example: 2 Timothy 2:15. People of my generation would correctly quote the KJV as: “study to shew thyself approved, a workman that needeth not be ashamed…”.
But compare that with the more contemporary Amplified Bible (Classic Edition): “Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.”
We tend to think of “study” as being an exclusively intellectual process by which we accumulate data, facts and knowledge — and certainly the word in Greek has a little of that in it. But the more important aspect of study in the greek word is the purpose and outcome. It’s a “hands-on” experiential activity as much as it is a mental exercise. Paul tells Timothy that the purpose of the study is to show God’s approval of the information you have acquired.
I’m sure you probably realize that quoting scripture has been employed by evil men to justify some of the most most ungodly positions and practices in history. Satan himself got in on that act trying to divert Jesus from his mission. There are many so-called “Christian” churches today who are grossly misusing scripture to justify teaching doctrine which is totally inconsistent with the teaching of Jesus.
It is important that we study in a way that confirms that what we are learning or discerning is indeed approved by God, and that what we are communicating is, in fact, the Word of Truth.
You will notice that in the Amplified Bible translation above they include the parenthesis “tested by trial” after the adjective “approved”. This gives us a major clue for how we know we are on the path to the right answers! We need to test what we have learned in our study against the standard of truth. I will remind you of one of the assertions of Jesus when he said, “…I am the Truth…”. [John 14:6] So a preliminary test of truth is to compare against the standard of what Jesus taught and did. If what we learn is not consistent with that then we are most assuredly on the wrong track!
Another aspect of “study” which has become lost in translation but which you can see in the Amplified translation is “… be eager and do your utmost…”. There is a sense of urgency and thoroughness in the activity so that we are ready to present ourselves to God knowing we have done our very best to understand His will. If we do this we will be fully equipped to explain the scripture we read in a way which correctly interprets the Word of Truth.
In reminiscing about my past (although nostalgia is not what it used to be!), I realize that we have so many more resources at our fingertips today for the study of God’s word than when I started on this journey. Yes, Google and the internet can be your friend! — so let’s fire up our sense of urgency and dive into scripture so we can be truly enlightened and delighted in His will!
I wish you delight in His Word this week!
Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black