Matins Devotion: January 30, 2023
Paul is writing what may be his final letter to his young protégé, pastor Timothy. Paul knows that his time on earth is growing short—and he writes to Timothy with a sense of urgency—wanting to impart his final words of instruction, encouragement, and wisdom so that Timothy might be “strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus” for the purpose of continuing the ministry that God has called him into. (2:1-2)
Paul’s ultimate desire for Timothy is that he might prove himself to be a good workman for the Lord. What are the characteristics of a good workman? Paul lists several—but they all in some way have to do with the right handling of the chief thing that makes us Christians: the Word of God. (2:15) The word that Paul uses here is orthotomeō. It carries the sense of carefully looking something over in order to cut or divide it properly. For example, suppose you need to travel through some particularly difficult backcountry terrain. Before undertaking the journey, you might consult some topical maps—planning out the best route that will take you safely across. As you journey—you take along a machete so you can clear the trail and make it visible. You paint blazes on the trees—marking the trail so that others may follow.
That’s how Paul wants Timothy to handle the Word of God. Wisely. Reverently. Faithfully. The Word of God isn’t a private plaything. It is the “true holy object above all holy objects” as Luther teaches in the Large Catechism—“the treasure that makes everything holy.” (1.3.91)
On a practical level, this is one of the chief benefits of knowing the Lutheran Confessions. When pastors in the LCMS are ordained, they vow to teach in accordance with the confessions because they are a faithful exposition of Holy Scripture. The confessions are the straight path that has been blazed by the Church so that we might understand and teach the Word of God rightly. To neglect the study of the confessions or to depart from their instruction puts the Church on dangerous, uncharted territory—making it vulnerable for those who would come in and lead it astray. The confessions keep us safely within the boundaries of the One, Holy and Apostolic Church. They teach us to recognize and distinguish law from gospel—so that we might hear Scripture rightly when it both accuses us of our sin and comforts us through the promise of forgiveness on account of Christ.
May we, like Timothy, be those who handle the Word of God rightly so that we “obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” (2:10)