2.Tim.2:15 reads, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (NKJV). The last phrase, “rightly dividing the word of truth” literally means, “cut the word of truth straight, handle it properly.” This necessity is borne out by examining various translations, “handling aright the word of truth” (ASV), “handling accurately the word of truth” (NASV), ”correctly handling the word of truth” (NIV). All these translations clearly agree that for one to be approved of God as a worker who is not ashamed, one must understand how to properly treat the word of truth from God. At the same time, the phrase teaches that it is possible for people to mishandle the word of truth.
While many people are sincere when they mistakenly fail to rightly divide the word of truth, there are some who mishandle the word of God on purpose 2.Cor.4:2 (handling the word of God deceitfully); 11:3-4 (corrupting people by preaching another Jesus, another spirit, another gospel); 2.Pet.3:16 (twisting scriptures to their own destruction).
Following various religious discussions carried on, and posted on Facebook the last few weeks, I have observed that many of the arguments advanced by those opposed to the truth are based on a failure to rightly divide the word of truth. They draw false scriptural conclusions, based on situations that do not properly apply to the argument they are making. One of the basic things in Bible study is to study the context and understand to whom the things are written and when they are to be applied.
In the next two or three articles, I plan to notice five areas where religious differences have occurred because people are not “rightly dividing the word of truth.” 1. The difference between Faith and Opinion. 2. The difference between the Old and New Testaments. 3. The difference between a citizen and an Alien. 4. The difference between the Local church and Universal church. 5. The difference between Collective and Individual action.
Notice the first one. The difference between Faith and Opinion. It is a fact that some decide the rightness of wrongness of some religious matter simply because they have formed an opinion without a scriptural foundation. They do it because, “in their opinion,” it is right. But, basing an action on human opinion does not please God. As His children we are to “walk by faith, not be sight” 2.Cor.5:7. Since “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” Rom.10:17, and we are to walk by faith, then, logically, if we find no message from God in His word we have no right to assume that it is alright to follow our opinion. But many people do just that.
As we have seen, faith is established by what God says in His word.Rom.10:17; which is His revealed truth Jn.17:17; 16:13; 1.Thes.2:13. His word is plain enough that it can be understood if people want to understand it 2.Cor.4:13; Eph.5:17; 3:3-5. Faith lies in the realm of divine revelation, and we are told to hold fast to sound doctrine 2.Tim.1:13. When we speak as God speaks in His word, we walk by faith 2.Cor.5:7 rightly dividing the word of God 1.Pet.4:11; 1.Cor.4:6; 2.Jn.9. This is the safe course to follow Jn.8:31.
On the other hand, opinion is established by what man thinks or feels which is based on human reasoning, ideas, speculation and thoughts. ”I think” is not divine revelation. The following scriptures make it clear there is a difference between what men think and what God says Acts 26:9; Col.2:6-9; Matt.15:7-9; 21:23-27.
Opinion is dangerous because it adds to what God says. People don’t like unexplained mysteries, so if God has not chosen to reveal something, they decide to add their two cents worth to explain it. Sometimes the assumption (opinion) is harmless, unless people seek to bind the opinion on others. Note some examples where men speak their opinion about what God has not revealed. What kind of fruit came from the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Gen.3. We aren’t told, but people assume it was an apple. Is that faith or opinion? What kind of bush did Moses see burning in Ex.3:1-6? Why did Nicodemus come to Jesus by night? Jn.3:1-2. We are not told these things, but people have opinions. What did Jesus write on the ground when the woman taken in adultery was brought to Him Jn.8:6-8? Whatever people might say is opinion, not faith, since we are not told. This is opinion, not faith.
In 2.Cor.12:2-4 Paul tells us he was caught up into the third heaven. I believe this by faith because it is revealed. But what he heard and saw is not told, because he was not permitted to tell these things. Yet, a false religion exists today, based on the claims of a woman, Ellen White, who said she was caught up into the same heaven as Paul, and saw the fourth commandment, “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy,” with a halo around it. She took this to mean people were to keep the Sabbath today, and she founded the Seventh Day Adventist church. Did she act by faith, or by opinion? I believe you know the answer.
Religious differences rise over what is not said (opinion, the silence of God). Opinion confuses and divides. If you talk with people you will hear a variety of answers for the kind of fruit eaten, type of burning bush, why Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, what Jesus wrote on the ground. But they speak opinion, not the revealed word of God. One has to know the difference between faith and opinion is discussing different religions practices. Things such as baptism (how, who, why), what names to wear, the type music to use in worship services Prov.14:12. We will deal with some of these later.