Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15
Does Paul mean by this that through our good work, by what we do, we present ourselves as ‘approved’ ?
I walked an old lady across the road today, so therefore I am approved.
I gave to a charity. Volunteered at an orphanage, worked with drugs addicts, helped the street kids, fed the homeless.
Is that what Paul means?
Though these ‘good works’ are all valuable and the “good work God has prepeared for us in advance to do”, they are not how we present ourselves ‘approved’ to God.
We are not approved by our work, but by Christ’s work.
How does Paul begin this chapter?
You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
2 Tim 2:1
Be strong in the grace.
Grace is God’s unmerited favour.
Through grace we have received the gift of righteousness.
The Free Dictionary defines ‘righteousness’ as
Morally upright; without guilt or sin.
By a free gift from God, because of Christ’s sacrifice, we stand before God morally upright, perfect, without guilt or sin.
We have the righteousness of God.
He made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we may become the righteousness of Christ.
– 2 Cor 5:21.
We are the righteousness of Christ.
But what exactly is this righteousness?
The Christian Defense website states the word Paul uses is
a declarative act of God pronouncing the guilty sinner innocent.
According to Bible Hub the word can also mean “a judicial verdict” or judicial approval.
It means the verdict of approval.
The approval of God.
Paul knew that He was approved by God.
Paul knew that, according to God’s court of law, the verdict on him was the verdict of approval.
He knew that he was approved by God, even though he called himself the ‘chief of sinners.’
So when Paul tells Timothy to present himself “approved to God who does not need to be ashamed” he’s telling him that his approval doesn’t depend on his own moral performance. He does not need to be ashamed about what good he has or hasn’t done.
As Paul explains to the church at Ephesus:
Not by works, so that no one may boast.
– Ephesians 2:8.
When Paul calls Timothy a ‘workman’ he’s talking about the work of ‘accurately handling the word of truth.’
He is talking about truly understanding the gospel and passing that understanding on.
And what is the gospel?
Paul sums it up in Romans 5:1.
Therefore, since we have been justified (approved) by faith, we have peace wth God.
And we, too, are approved by God.
Therefore, be strong in the grace!