The spiritual battle that Christians are engaged in is essentially a battle with deception. Our enemy is a liar and the father of lies. His great strategy is to deceive us, as he did Eve and lead our minds astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3). The weapons of our battle are weapons that battle deception. All the pieces of the Christian armor mentioned in Ephesians chapter six relate to understanding, believing, or holding to the truth. Victory in this battle begins with understanding the truth of God, and this can only happen as we properly interpret and understand God’s word. Indeed the devil’s most subtle and often most effective strategy is to deceive us through the use of God’s own Word, as he attempted to do when he tempted the Lord Jesus, boldly quoting the scripture, “It is written” (Matthew 4:6).
The apostle Paul, in his exhortations to Timothy, his fellow apostle, stressed the importance of applying diligence to rightly interpreting the Word and holding to the truth accurately. Some of his exhortations can be summarized as follows:
Timothy was to train himself for godliness, which, in context, includes avoiding godless myths and old wives’ tales and embracing good teaching. This would imply that part of his training was to rigorously study the Word. Paul states that this training in godliness is superior to physical training, since it can yield fruit not only in the present age, but in the one to come.
Timothy was to watch his life and doctrine closely it, resulting in his own salvation and in the salvation of those who heard him. Most likely, Paul had in mind a broader concept of salvation than only eternal salvation from God’s wrath, but salvation from all sorts of problems and enemies in this life as well.
Paul told Timothy to “command” and “teach,” the truths of God. Yet how could he do so with this kind of conviction and strength unless he thoroughly understood them and was convinced they were true. This implies a need for diligent study.
Paul strongly and repeatedly exhorted Timothy to “be diligent in these matters; to give himself “wholly to them, so that everyone can see your progress” and to “persevere in them.” (1Timothy 4:15-16). In context, the matters Paul is referring to are understanding and teaching the Word accurately.
In a later letter, he again exhorted Timothy to do his best to accurately handle the Word, stating that a minister who incorrectly handles the Word has reason to be ashamed (2 Timothy 2:15).
He warns that those who indulge in godless chatter (including false doctrine) will become more and more ungodly and their destructive teaching will spread like gangrene. They will destroy some people’s faith. They must be opposed and gently corrected. (2 Timothy 2:14-26).
He tells Timothy that in order for a person to become an instrument useful for noble purposes and useful to our master and prepared for every good work he must cleanse himself from several things. One of these things is incorrect doctrine (2 Timothy 2:18-21).
Paul warned Timothy that the time will come when men will not endure sound teaching. Instead they will accumulate teachers that will tell them what they want to hear. They will turn away their ears from the truth and turn aside to myths. We must strongly exhort those we lead in correct teaching, implying that we must thoroughly be grounded in it.
These exhortations show the importance for the minister of the gospel to be diligent in study and proper interpretation of the scripture.