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Does the Bible REALLY Say Study to Show Yourself Approved?

Mark Virkler's picture

I sure hope the Bible says to study, because when I was a young Christian, I memorized this important command from the King James Version:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15 KJV).

This resulted in me devotedly applying my mind and intellect to the acquisition of knowledge of the Bible for many years. However, one day I discovered that the New King James Version replaced the word “study” with the accurate meaning of the Greek word spoudazo (G4704), which is, “Be diligent.”

Two newer translations correctly translate this verse

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15 NKJV).

Well, so much for study with my mind! Diligence is an attitude of the heart, not an activity of the head.

Then along comes my favorite translation of the Bible, the New American Standard Version. I love it because it is so incredibly accurate, and very easy to read.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (NASB).

So the NASB agrees: we approach the Bible with a heart attitude of diligence. Nice!

Diligence is an attitude of the heart where I humbly, prayerfully listen to God through Scripture

According to both Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words and Thayer’s Greek definitions, spoudazo means “to hasten to do a thing, to exert oneself, endeavor, give diligence.”

The correct definition is,Be diligent to present yourself to God…” 

So as I approach the Bible, I present myself before the Lord, allowing Him to speak and open up Scriptures so my heart burns with revelation. For a biblical example of this occuring, we can note Luke 24:32.

The disciples on the road to Emmaus said, "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?" 

I’m sure you have had the same experience the disciples had. You are prayerfully meditating on a Scripture verse, and all of a sudden it leaps off the page with a flash of revelation, straight into your heart. You are instantly aware that God has spoken directly to you from the passage, and this illuminating flash of revelation changes you!

You are not the same person afterward. You see things differently, with new insight. Old patterns are broken, new patterns are established. Pause for a moment and ask the Lord to remind you of a time when you had a listening heart, and He spoke a spontaneous, enlightening revelation to you from Scripture. You felt this burning sensation within your heart and your life was dramatically altered from that day forward.

This is the Living Word, coming through the Holy Spirit, impacting our hearts and minds and transforming us. Solomon had such a “listening heart.” He was able to receive great revelation and wisdom from the Lord. In 1 Kings 3:3, we find that Solomon loved the Lord. In verse 5 God appeared to him in a dream, and in verse 12 said, “Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart.”

So what is it that granted Solomon great wisdom? Was it great intellect? No, it was great love and divine revelation, transmitted on a heart level, through a dream. Wow! Very different from Western study.

Look at how the KJV translates “spoudazo” every time it appears in the Bible

  • Diligence, 2 times (2 Tim. 4:9,21)
  • Diligent, 2 times ( Titus 3:12; 2 Pet. 3:14)
  • Do, 2 times (2 Tim. 4:9; 21)
  • Endeavor, 1 time (2 Pet. 1:15)
  • Endeavored, 1 time (1 Thess. 2:17)
  • Endeavoring, 1 time (Eph. 4:3)
  • Forward, 1 time (Gal. 2:10)
  • Labor, 1 time (Heb. 4:11)
  • Study, 1 time (2 Tim. 2:15)

“Feel” the definition of spoudazo by meditating on all verses it is found in the KJV Bible. The underlined words are spoudazo.

Would you say the word "study" or "diligence" more accuratly translates spoudazo?

  1. Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me (2 Tim. 4:9).
  2. Do thy diligence to come before winter (2 Tim. 4:21).
  3. Be diligent to come unto me (Titus 3:12).
  4. Be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace (2 Pet. 3:14).
  5. Moreover I will endeavor that ye may be able … to have these things … (2 Pet. 1:15).
  6. Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3).
  7. We should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward (i.e., eager) to do (Gal. 2:10).
  8. Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest (Heb. 4:11).
  9. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).

How many times is the word “study” in the King James Version of the Bible?

The word “study” appears ONLY three times. Once is in 2 Timothy 2:15, which we have seen is a mistranslation. It is also found once in the Old Testament.

Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh (Eccl. 12:12).

Well, that sure is not an endorsement to study!

The final verse where “study” appears is First Thessalonians 4:11: “Study to be quiet, and to do your own business.” According to Thayer Dictionary, the definition of this Greek word translated study is “from a love of honor to strive to bring something to pass.” Well, this is not mental cognition. Love and honor are both heart realities.

In trying to understand how such an apparent error in translation could occur, I learned that “study” was an accurate interpretation for the time it was written. When the King James Version of the Bible was translated, the word “study” actually did mean “to be busy with, devote oneself to, concentrate on.”

The problem is that the meaning of the word has evolved since then to the very different meaning of “application of the mind to the acquisition of knowledge.” This is one case where it is definitely beneficial to use a more contemporary translation of the Bible if we want to understand it more accurately.

This brings us to the conclusion that the Bible nowhere commands us to do Western study. I was shocked and said, “God, study is a kingpin in Western education. I can’t believe You never endorsed it. What am I to do?” He replied, “Biblical meditation is My counterpart to Western study.”

So I went on to explore the nine words translated “meditate” or “meditation” in the Bible. These nine words appear about 60 times in Scripture! Wow! I sure want to examine in detail these 60 verses and switch from Western study to biblical meditation. I made this switch about 30 years ago.

Biblical meditation is a huge topic, and I have written many blogs and even books on it. My commitment is that “I fully understand and do ONLY biblical meditation, never Western study.”

Resources on biblical meditation – God’s alternative to Western study

Satan would love to have me accept any of these lies!

  1. Skip those walks and talks with God in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8).
  2. You can know (Gen. 3:5). YOU became humanism, “It’s all about me” and KNOW became rationalism, “It’s about what I think.”
  3. If you hear God’s voice, the fire of God will consume you and you will die (Deut. 5:23-25), so turn down God’s offer of a relationship through hearing His voice.
  4. Hearing God’s voice is only for spiritual leaders. It is so very hard to do (Matt. 18:3; Gal. 3:2, 3).
  5. Hearing God’s voice is not for today (Acts 2:17).
  6. That wasn't really God's voice. It was just your own thoughts (Heb. 11:6).

My decision is…

  • I choose to reason ONLY when in His sanctuary and in His presence (Ps. 73:16,17).
  • I choose to reason ONLY together with God (Isa. 1:18).
  • I choose revelation knowledge over reasoned knowledge (Isa. 55:9)
  • I choose true knowledge over man’s knowledge (Col. 2:2; 3:10; 2 Pet. 1:3, 8).
  • I choose knowledge from above, rather than earthly, natural knowledge (Jas. 3:15).
  • I choose to die daily to self-effort, including reasoning on my own (Gal.2:20; 1 Cor. 15:31)
  • I choose to live completely out of the Father’s initiative (Jn. 5:30; 8:28, 42; 12:49; 14:10; 16:13).

If God doesn’t speak an idea into my heart, I will not come up with my own ideas to make something happen. Doing so creates results that may have a greater negative effect than we can imagine. This was the case when Abram and Sarai concocted their own idea of how to generate God’s vision for their life, and they brought forth Ishmael (Gen. 16:1-4).

Well, the war between Ishmael and Isaac is still going on thousands of years later as the Arabs fight the Jews. My thoughts and plans create chaos. God’s voice leads me to the Promised Land. I choose to listen to and obey ONLY the voice of the Holy Spirit and by so doing, to enter my Promised Land.

Thought: A loving, meek, prayerful, listening heart receives wisdom from above.



Related Blogs: 

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