There is a vast difference between being accepted and being approved. It is one thing to be accepted into college but an entirely different thing to be approved to graduate summa cum laude.
As we accept God’s promise of salvation by faith, we are accepted entirely without merit, and our heart’s desire is to be approved by our Savior, not for ourselves, but to show Him honor. He is worthy of receiving.
In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul commanded Timothy (and us as well) to “make every effort to present yourself before God.” The imperative means “to do one’s best, be diligent, or desire eagerly”—that is, we must persevere to accomplish a particular objective.
The point is “to decide from now on to present yourself before God,” “to stand alongside of or before God,” or to live in His presence. We should do things to be accountable to God for whatever and however we seek to serve Him.
A believer’s goal is to become “a proven worker”—that is, we should be able to pass a careful examination to be counted as worthy. Just as great athletes bring honor to their coaches, so great students of God’s word bring honor and respect to their Savior and Lord. The diligent worker is one who labors long and hard at a task, as a farmer or an artisan, to teach something correctly and efficiently.
The phrase “who does not need to be ashamed” refers to false teachers who inject their own ideas into their teachings. It implies that they will be brought to shame. The purpose of the diligent teacher is always to please God and seek His approval, especially in the way he teaches God’s word.
Paul wrote to the Galatians, “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (Gal 1:10). Just as Jesus warned us not to be men-pleasers (Matt 6:1), Paul sought approval only from “God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men but God, who examines our hearts” (1 Thes 2:4).
The thrill of accurately discovering the original sense of God’s mind through the divinely inspired authors is worth every effort. Do you love His word enough to be diligent in studying and teaching it?
“Your word, Lord, is so important to me that my heart’s desire is to diligently explain it as You meant for men to understand it. Keep me disciplined to master Your meaning as You want Your church to know You.”