“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The Apostle Paul urges Timothy to do his best in order to receive God’s approval. Divine approval from God is based upon man’s unashamed work in handling the word of truth.
Every Christian is called to rightly handle the word of truth. The weight of proper hermeneutics lies in the dangers behind mishandling the word of God. All of Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for mankind because it teaches, reproofs, corrects, trains us in righteousness, and equips believers for good works. Mishandling the word of truth leads to inaccurate application of the truth. In other words, twisting scripture directly severs the fruit of righteousness that is received from rightly interpreting and obeying God’s revelation to mankind.
There are three inherent dangers in twisting Scripture:
Twisting Scripture leads to Sin.
Satan twisted Scripture in Genesis 3, leading to Adam and Eve’s sin against God. In John 8:44, Jesus affirms Satan is a liar and the father of lies. These same lies escape from the lips of Peter as he rebukes Jesus for declaring the Son of Man will experience suffering, death, and will rise again after three days (Mark 8:31). Jesus rebukes Peter saying, “Get behind me Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Mark 8:33). Sin was crouching at Jesus’ door in Peter’s sinful and man-centered view of the Messiah.
Twisting Scripture leads to Confusion and Disunity.
Paul identified Hymenaeus and Philetus as two men who “swerved from the truth” and twisted Scripture by saying “the resurrection has already happened” (2 Timothy 2:17-18). These men were upsetting the faith of some and causing both confusion and disunity. Hymenaeus is further identified alongside Alexander as blasphemers who shipwrecked their faith (1 Timothy 1:20).
Twisting Scripture leads to Destruction.
Peter identifies “the ignorant” and “unstable” as those who twist the Scripture to their own destruction (2 Peter 2:16). False teachers are to be removed from the church and “handed over to Satan” (1 Timothy 2:10). This practice is consistent with an unrepentant sinner and the need for church discipline through removal (1 Corinthians 5:5).
Beware of False Teachers
False teachers propound the lies of Satan. Jesus said that those who do not accept the word of God “are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires” (John 8:44). He further stated “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God” (John 8:47).
In Acts 20:28, Paul instructs the Ephesian elders to pay careful attention to their own teaching and to the flock in which God has made them overseers. He warns them of “fierce wolves” speaking “twisted things” in order to “draw away the disciples” (Acts 20:29). Paul knows the word has the power to build up the church and to give salvation (Acts 20:32), and thus he charges the elders to guard the word against their enemies. Paul carries this same warning throughout both letters to Timothy at Ephesus.
Paul begins the fourth chapter of his letter to Timothy saying, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared” (1 Timothy 4:1-2).
Part II in a series on Hermeneutics.