THE NEW TESTAMENT ECONOMY
The New Testament reveals clearly that when the church is degraded, we need to walk not only by the Spirit but also in the truth. The last two Epistles of John were written after degradation had come into the church life. John lived longer than the other apostles, and these Epistles were written near the end of his life, much later than 1 and 2 Timothy. At that time the church had already sunk deeply into degradation. It is significant that in these Epistles John does not mention the Spirit. However, he speaks of the truth again and again. For example, he says, “The elder to the chosen lady and to her children, whom I love in truthfulness, and not only I but also all those who know the truth, for the sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever” (2 John 1-2). In verse 2 John specifically mentions the truth abiding in us. This shows the importance of truth during a time of degradation. Then John goes on to say, “I rejoiced greatly at the brothers’ coming and testifying to your steadfastness in the truth, even as you walk in truth. I have no greater joy than these things, that I hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 3-4). Especially when the church is degraded, we need to walk in the truth. During times of degradation, there is nothing but darkness. Thus, there is the urgent need for light. If we walk in darkness, we may be injured. You could very easily get hurt if you walk on an unlighted street at night. The Bible reveals that truth is of crucial importance during the degradation of the church. We need to know the truth and to walk in the truth.
In 1 and 2 Timothy the apostle Paul began to emphasize the truth. Although truth is mentioned frequently in these Epistles, the Spirit is rarely mentioned. As we have pointed out, in 2 and 3 John the Spirit is not mentioned at all, although the other writings of the apostle John reveal that he was absolutely for life and the Spirit.
Recently, some have said that we should only drink the Spirit and not take the word of the ministry. One person has even suggested that eventually some may no longer use the Bible. This is the subtlety of the enemy. In times of darkness and degradation we need the Word to shine forth with the truth. The truth must be our guide. However, those who have been deceived are saying that we should not take the principles of the Word. This means that they do not receive the truth, and it exposes the fact that they are not in the way of the truth but in the way of darkness.
CUTTING STRAIGHT THE WORD OF THE TRUTH
In 2 Timothy 2:15 Paul issued a charge: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, an unashamed workman, cutting straight the word of the truth.” Every Bible student pays attention to this verse. When I was young, the Brethren teachers stressed the importance of cutting straight the word of the truth. Paul charged Timothy in this way because the truth regarding any matter is not found all in one place in the Bible. Rather, it is found throughout various books of the Bible, with a part in one place and another part in a different place. In His wisdom the Lord reveals the truth in this way. Perhaps He did this so that those who are careless will have difficulty knowing the truth. To know the truth we must be diligent. Hence, Paul charged Timothy to “be diligent.”
Some say that we should not be strict or legal in studying the Word. They insist that we should read the Bible only when we are inspired by the Spirit to do so. This is like saying that there is no need to eat three meals a day but a need to eat only when the Spirit inspires us. This means that if there is no inspiration, we should not eat. Paul, on the contrary, charges us to be diligent. If we are truly diligent to present ourselves approved to God, then when we read the Word, we will find the truth revealed in one place after another, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. We need to put all these pieces together in order to see the picture, the vision. According to Isaiah 28:13, the word of the Lord is “rule upon rule, rule upon rule; / Line upon line, line upon line; / Here a little, there a little.” This means that we find the truth a little at a time.
In reading the Bible and in knowing the truth, I am very aggressive, more aggressive and more diligent than I was years ago. Because I am so diligent to get into the depths of the Word, sometimes my wife must call me several times before I come to breakfast. The Word is like an inexhaustible gold mine; I am always finding something new in it. We all need to be diligent to get into the Word.
Paul’s charge about cutting straight the word of the truth was spoken to Timothy, a young co-worker, one who had been commissioned by Paul to help the churches. If you would be such a servant of the Lord, you need to be diligent to present yourself approved to God in knowing the truth and in cutting straight the word of the truth. The first qualification of one commissioned to help the churches is the proper knowledge of the word of the truth. No doubt, the cutting straight of the word of the truth is not only for our personal understanding of the Bible but also for teaching others. We need to learn how to put all the puzzle pieces together in order to make a clear picture for others to see. Many Christians have read through the Bible without seeing the picture. They have the pieces but no way to put them together. We all need to get into the Word, find the pieces, and put them together so that others may see the picture. This is to cut straight the word of the truth.