“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” —2 Timothy 2:15, KJV
Some people have used this verse to claim that the Word of God needs to be divided rightly—that some verses apply to Christians, some only to Jews; some only to the apostolic age, some for today. This has especially been touted in the hyper-dispensational and hyper-grace movements. However, it is a gross misunderstanding of Scripture. The terminology of the King James Version of the Bible, “rightly dividing” is imprecise and gives the wrong impression that the Word of God is to be divided. Nothing can be further from the truth.
In fact, the opposite is true: The Word of truth is not divided; The Word divides. Jesus declared, “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). This means it cannot be unbound, untied. Scripture is all tied together, not a piece here for some, and a piece there for others.
The word translated as “rightly divide” (orthotomeo) does not mean to divide in to parts. Rather, it means, “accurately handling, making a straight cut, precisely dissecting with.” The New American Standard Bible thus translates it more accurately: “accurately handling the word of truth.” The Scripture uses the image of the Word of God as a sword:
- “Take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”—Ephesians 6:17
- “The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”—Hebrews 4:12
A sword cuts; it is not cut. The Word of God, as a sword, divides and is not divided. To “rightly divide” the word of truth is not to cut the Word into parts, but rather to use the sword of the Spirit accurately. Swordsmanship is an art. One does not just flail a sword, but rather employs skillful techniques of thrusting, jabbing, guarding, etc.
Ironically, dispensationalists claim to “rightly divide the word of truth,” by dividing Scripture and church history into dispensations. Norweigan evangelist Armin Gesswein warns about dispensationalizing away the power of the Holy Spirit, explaining how man’s traditions and reasonings have truncated the gospel:
“Those who taught us the combination key of dispensationalism say, ‘God doesn’t do those things now. God doesn’t work like that any more.’. . . Dispensationalism does not open the book of Acts and the power of God; it closes them. . . . it is arbitrarily superimposed by man. . . . Wherever dispensationalism gets in, it kills the deep spirit of prayer and revival. . . . But how bracing in this day of need to know that we are still in the dispensation of the Holy Spirit just as in the Acts, and that God can baptize and fill believers with His Spirit, set churches on fire, and through them bring sinner to repentance and to Christ. . . . For neither the promise of the Holy Spirit nor the promised Holy Spirit has been withdrawn, except where men no longer want Him as the first Christians did.”
A.W. Tozer also warns about wrongly dividing the word of truth:
“In view of much of today’s dispensational teaching about Bible interpretation, the apostles, miracles of God, and the fullness of the Spirit, I must remind you that the Lord Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. . . . There is nothing that Jesus has ever done for any of His disciples that He will not do for any other of His disciples! Where did the ‘dividers-of-the-Word-of-Truth’ get their teaching that all the gifts of the Spirit ended when the last apostle died? . . . When some men beat the cover off their Bible to demonstrate how they stand by the Word of God, they should be reminded that they are only standing by their own interpretation of the Word.”
Let us wisely wield the Word as the sword of the Spirit and keep the whole Word of God intact, not try to divide it into pieces.