By R.B. Shiflet
It is a common thing in our time to hear a believer say, “I’m not concerned with dispensational Bible study; I’m just going to preach the gospel and emphasize the walk of the believer.”
This feeling has no doubt come as a reaction to the hair-splitting policy of many of our Bible teachers and the confusion that has come from an effort on the part of some to force their dispensational views upon others, or to make these views a test for fellowship. In an effort to get away from a dispensationalism that has degenerated into little more than “profane and vain babbling,” many have tried to forget 2 Timothy 2:15, and have reached a position that is untenable.
In the first place, we cannot preach the right gospel without dividing the Word of truth to some degree. The term “gospel” merely means “good news,” and God’s Word contains many messages of good news. Not all of them are directed to us, however. God had the good news of the kingdom proclaimed to Israel, but Israel rejected this good news. Today, He is offering the gospel of the grace of God, the glorious gospel of Christ, and unless we study the Word with a view to the right division of it, we will be preaching the wrong gospel, or a perverted gospel. Such is the case when men bring carnal ordinances, works, the law, miracles, signs, a healing program, Sabbath keeping, etc., into the gospel message today. Any man, then, who preaches a clear message of grace, has practiced the right division of the Word to some degree.
Secondly, one cannot live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world without dividing the Word of Truth correctly. Note 2 Timothy 2:15 in its context:
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour and some to dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the master’s use, and prepared for every good work.” (2 Tim. 2:15-21)
Note verse 16. “Shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” Shun means to turn one’s self about in order to avoid. Profane means unholy. Vain babblings are empty discussions of useless matters. To increase is to advance, and ungodliness is absence of fear or reverence for God. This, you will notice, is placed in contrast with rightly dividing the Word of truth.
Next follows an example of two who, failing to divide the Word, have come into grave error. Through this error in doctrine, brought about as a result of failure to study the Word dispensationally, the faith of some has been overthrown. The teachers given as an example have been holding that the resurrection was already past. Perhaps they had taken Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:5-6, “even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus;” and failing to divide the Word right, had taken these words to teach that the only resurrection was a spiritual one, and that it was past, that is, it took place when we believed.
After showing the dreadful results of failing to heed the exhortation to right division, comes the assuring statement that God knows His own, but His own should depart from iniquity and strive to be vessels of honor. How can this be done? “If a man therefore purge himself from these (who fail to divide the Word and overthrow the faith of some) he shall be a vessel unto honor.” The interesting word in this verse is “purge.” Harper’s Analytical Greek Lexicon defines the original word as follows: “to cleanse thoroughly; purify; purge out; eliminate.” Thayer shows that it means: “to avoid defilement from one, and so to keep one’s self pure.” The word is a combination of two words, one meaning “utterly,” the other meaning “to cleanse or purify; to free from every admixture of what is false; to prune.” Isn’t this in itself a process of right division? If we study the Word of truth and rightly divide it, we shall know which things to purge from our lives. We will know what must be pruned out in the way of ungodly moral practices that were not brought into our dispensation.
What will be the result of this purging? We shall be vessels unto honor, consecrated, profitable for our Master’s use, and fit for accomplishing unto every good work (2 Timothy 2:21). For further proof that the “rightly divided life”—utterly free from admixture—is dependent upon a rightly divided Word, see 2 Timothy 3:16-17. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
“Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work” (2 Thess. 2:16-17). Doctrine and deed are inseparable!