“Handling the Word of the Truth Aright”
THE Word of God is a storehouse of principles that are vital for a successful life. It can help a minister to teach, to reprove, and to correct. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) However, to benefit fully from this divinely provided guide, we must follow the apostle Paul’s counsel to Timothy: “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.”—2 Timothy 2:15.
God’s Word is likened, among other things, to nourishing milk, solid food, refreshing and cleansing water, a mirror, and a sharp sword. Understanding what these terms imply helps a minister to use the Bible skillfully.
Dispensing the Milk of God’s Word
Milk is the food that newborn babies need. As the babe grows, solid food is gradually introduced into its diet, but to begin with, it can digest only milk. In many respects, those who know little about God’s Word are like babes. Whether a person is newly interested in God’s Word or has been acquainted with it for some time, if he has no more than a rudimentary understanding of what the Bible says, he is a spiritual babe and needs easy-to-digest nourishment—spiritual “milk.” He is not yet able to digest “solid food,” the deep things of God’s Word.—Hebrews 5:12.
This was the situation in the newly formed congregation in Corinth when Paul wrote to them: “I fed you milk, not something to eat, for you were not yet strong enough.” (1 Corinthians 3:2) The Corinthians needed first to learn the “elementary things of the sacred pronouncements of God.” (Hebrews 5:12) At their stage of development, they could not have digested “the deep things of God.”—1 Corinthians 2:10.
Like Paul, Christian ministers today demonstrate their concern for spiritual babes by giving them “milk,” that is, by helping them to become firmly founded in basic Christian doctrine. They encourage such new or immature ones to “form a longing for the unadulterated milk belonging to the word.” (1 Peter 2:2) The apostle Paul showed that he discerned the specialized attention new ones need when he wrote: “Everyone that partakes of milk is unacquainted with the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.” (Hebrews 5:13) Patience, consideration, understanding, and gentleness are required of ministers of God as they share the pure milk of the Word with new and inexperienced ones by home Bible studies and in the congregation.
Handling the Solid Food of God’s Word
In order to grow to salvation, a Christian needs more than “milk.” Once the primary truths of the Bible are clearly understood and accepted, he is ready to move on to the ‘solid food that belongs to mature people.’ (Hebrews 5:14) How can he do this? Basically, through a regular routine of personal study and association at Christian meetings. Such good habits will help make a Christian spiritually strong, mature, and effective in the ministry. (2 Peter 1:8) We should not forget that in addition to knowledge, the doing of Jehovah’s will also constitutes spiritual food.—John 4:34.
Today, a “faithful and discreet slave” has been appointed to supply God’s servants with food at the proper time and to help them understand “the greatly diversified wisdom of God.” Jehovah, by his spirit, reveals deep Scriptural truths by means of this loyal slave, which faithfully publishes spiritual “food at the proper time.” (Matthew 24:45-47; Ephesians 3:10, 11; compare Revelation 1:1, 2.) Each individual Christian is responsible to make the fullest use of such published provisions.—Revelation 1:3.
Of course, some things in the Bible are “hard to understand,” even for mature Christians. (2 Peter 3:16) There are puzzling sayings, prophecies, and illustrations that require much study and meditation. Hence, personal study includes digging into God’s Word. (Proverbs 1:5, 6; 2:1-5) Elders especially have a responsibility in this regard when they teach the congregation. Whether conducting the Congregation Book Study or the Watchtower Study, giving public talks, or serving in any other teaching capacity, elders should be thoroughly familiar with their material and be ready to give attention to their “art of teaching” as they convey solid spiritual food to the congregation.—2 Timothy 4:2.
Water That Refreshes and Cleanses
Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that he would give her something to drink that would become in her “a fountain of water bubbling up to impart everlasting life.” (John 4:13, 14; 17:3) This life-giving water includes all of God’s provisions for gaining life through the Lamb of God, and these provisions are explained in the Bible. As individuals who thirst for that “water,” we accept the invitation given by the spirit and the bride of Christ to “take life’s water free.” (Revelation 22:17) Drinking this water can mean everlasting life.
Further, the Bible sets the moral and spiritual standards for true Christians. As we apply these divinely set standards, we are cleansed by Jehovah’s Word, “washed clean” of all practices that Jehovah God hates. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) For this reason, the truth contained in the inspired Word is called a “bath of water.” (Ephesians 5:26) If we do not allow God’s truth to cleanse us in this way, our worship will not be acceptable to him.
Interestingly, elders who ‘handle the word of truth aright’ are also likened to water. Isaiah says that they are “like streams of water in a waterless country.” (Isaiah 32:1, 2) Loving elders fulfill this description when they visit their brothers as spiritual shepherds, using God’s refreshing Word to impart upbuilding, comforting, spiritual information that strengthens and fortifies.—Compare Matthew 11:28, 29.a
Congregation members look forward to visits by the elders. “I know how soothing the elders can be, and I’m so happy Jehovah has made this provision,” says Bonnie. Lynda, a single mother, writes: “With Scriptural encouragement, elders helped me cope. They listened and showed compassion.” Michael says: “They made me feel part of an organization that cared.” “Elders’ visits helped me overcome periods of severe depression,” says another. A spiritually uplifting visit from an elder is like a cool, refreshing drink. Sheeplike ones are comforted as loving elders help them to see how Scriptural principles apply to their situation.—Romans 1:11, 12; James 5:14.
Use God’s Word as a Mirror
When an individual takes in solid food, the purpose is not just to enjoy the taste. Rather, he expects to get nourishment that will enable him to function. If he is a child, he expects that the food will help him to grow up to become an adult. It is similar with spiritual food. Personal Bible study can be enjoyable, but that is not the only reason for it. Spiritual food should change us. It helps us identify and produce the fruitage of the spirit and assists us to put on “the new personality, which through accurate knowledge is being made new according to the image of the One who created it.” (Colossians 3:10; Galatians 5:22-24) Spiritual food also helps us to grow to maturity, making us better able to apply Scriptural principles in dealing with our problems and in helping others to deal with theirs.
How can we tell whether the Bible is having that effect on us? We use the Bible like a mirror. James said: “Become doers of the word, and not hearers only . . . If anyone is a hearer of the word, and not a doer, this one is like a man looking at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, and off he goes and immediately forgets what sort of man he is. But he who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and who persists in it, this man, because he has become, not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, will be happy in his doing it.”—James 1:22-25.
We ‘peer’ into God’s Word when we examine it closely and compare what we are with what we should be according to God’s standards. Doing this, we will become “doers of the word, and not hearers only.” The Bible will be having a fine effect on us.
God’s Word as a Sword
Finally, the apostle Paul helps us to see how we can use God’s Word as a sword. When warning us against “the governments, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places,” he urges us to “accept . . . the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word.” (Ephesians 6:12, 17) God’s Word is an indispensable weapon that we can use to cut away at any ideas that are “raised up against the knowledge of God.”—2 Corinthians 10:3-5.
Unquestionably, “the word of God is alive and exerts power.” (Hebrews 4:12) Jehovah speaks to mankind through the pages of his inspired Word. Use it well in teaching others and in exposing false doctrines. Avail yourself of it to encourage, upbuild, refresh, comfort, motivate, and spiritually strengthen others. And may Jehovah “equip you with every good thing to do his will,” so that you will always do what is “well-pleasing in his sight.”—Hebrews 13:21.
a See the Watchtower article entitled “They Compassionately Shepherd the Little Sheep,” September 15, 1993, pages 20-3.
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Elders encourage others, “handling the word of the truth aright”