2 Timothy 2:15
Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
We will suppose a workman dealing with the yet unrenewed and unshapen material — with the unconverted of his hearers; and we will study to show you how, if he would "rightly divide the word of truth," and approve himself of his Master, he must use different modes according to the different characters upon which he has to act. To illustrate this we may refer to a passage in St. Jude, where the apostle thus expresses himself "Of some have compassion, making a difference; and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire." Here you have gentle treatment prescribed; and you have also harsh treatment. Let us see how both will be employed by "a workman, that needeth not to be ashamed." Of some, the minister is to "have compassion." Is he not to have compassion of all? Indeed he is. Let him lay aside instantly the ministerial office; let him be pronounced utterly wanting in the very first qualification for its discharge, if there be the sinner whom he does not pity, for whom he is not anxious, or whose danger does not excite in him solicitude. All are to be regarded with a feeling of pity, but all are not to be treated with the same mildness and forbearance. Behold that young man whose family is irreligious, who, with perhaps a sense of the necessity of providing for the soul, is laughed out of his seriousness by those who ought to be urging him to piety — hurried to amusements which are only fitted to confirm him in enmity to God, and initiated into practices which can issue in nothing but the ruin of the soul. I could not treat that young person sternly. I could not fail, in any intercourse with him, to bear in mind his peculiar disadvantages. And though it would be my duty — else could I be "studying to approve myself unto God"? — to remonstrate with him on the madness of allowing others to make him miserable for eternity, the very tone of my voice must show that I spake in sorrow, and not in anger. Or, behold, again, that man in distressed circumstances, on whom press the cares of a large family, and who is tempted perhaps to gain the means of subsistence through practices which his conscience condemns — Sunday trading, for example. Could I go to the man in harshness and with severity? I must not, indeed, spare his fault. I must not allow that his difficulties are any excuse for the offence. I had "need to be ashamed as a workman," if I did this; but, surely, when I think on his peculiar temptations, and hear the cries of his young ones who are asking him for bread, you will expect me to feel great concern for the man, and so to "divide the word of truth," as to show that concern, by the manner in which I reprove his misdoing. Or, once more, a man of no very strong intellect, and no very great reading, is thrown into the society of sceptical men perhaps of brilliant powers, and no inconsiderable acquirements. Why, he will be no match for these apostles of infidelity! His little stock of evidence on the side of Christianity will soon be exhausted; and he will not be able to detect the falsehoods, and show the sophistries of the showy reasoners; and presently, by a very natural, though most unfair process, he will be disposed to conclude that what he cannot prove wrong must be right. Towards a man thus seduced our prevailing feeling will be compassion — a feeling which you cannot expect us to extend towards those who have seduced him, except in the broad sense that we are aware of their danger, and would snatch them from ruin. Again, it is melancholy to think how many an inquirer may have been repulsed, how many a backslider confirmed in apostasy, how many a softening heart hardened, how many a timid spirit scared by the mode in which the truth has been pressed on their attention. It requires great delicacy and address to deal successfully with a very sensitive nature; more especially where — to use the language of the world — there is much to excuse the faults which we are bound to rebuke. But if there be a right division of the word of truth, it is evident that whilst some of you may require the gentle treatment, others will need the more severe. There are cases of hardened and reckless men, reckless men, of the openly dissolute and profane — men living in habitual sin, and showing unblushing contempt for the truth of God. And we must not so speak as to lead you to suppose us sure that there are none amongst yourselves requiring the harsh treatment. There are men who cannot possibly be in any doubt as to the wrongness of their conduct, who cannot plead ignorance in excuse, or the suddenness of temptation, or the pressure of circumstances; but who have a decided preference for iniquity, and a settled determination to gratify their passions, or aggrandise their families — pursuing a course against which conscience remonstrates, and who would not themselves venture to advance any justification. And if we would "rightly divide the word of truth," what treatment must we try with such men? Oh! these men may yet be saved! The word of truth does not shut them up to inevitable destruction. We are not despairing of any one amongst you, and we will not. We can yet again bring you the message of pardon. And thus whilst directed to make an effort to save you, and, therefore, assured that you are not past recovery, the word of truth enjoins severe and peremptory dealing. These are those of whom St. Jude uses the remarkable expression — "Others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire."
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.