The word “study” in this passage does not mean to pursue knowledge by reading, etc. Rather, it is the Greek verb “SPOUDAZO,” and this Greek word means “make haste...to exert oneself, endeavor, give difference” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon).
It involves much more than just taking in knowledge. The Liberty Bible Commentary states, “Study (Gk. SPOUDAZO) is not the normal word you think of as a student but a word used of a workman meaning ‘give diligence,’ ‘endeavour,’ or ‘exert oneself.’” This is the reason the word “workman” was used later in this same verse.
This Greek word was used eleven times in the New Testament, and this is the only time it was translated “study.” It was translated “forward” (Galatians 2:10), “endeavoring” (Ephesians 4:3), “endeavored” (1 Thessalonians 2:17), “endeavor” (2 Peter 1:15), “do thy diligence” (2 Timothy 4:9 and 21), “diligent” (Titus 3:12 and 2 Peter 3:14), “diligence” (2 Peter 1:10), and “labour” (Hebrews 4:11)
The most common way this verse is interpreted is to say that if we study well, God approves of us and what we have done. It is more correctly interpreted that through our study, we prove to ourselves that we have been approved, or accepted, of God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
The English word “shew” was translated from the Greek word “PARISTEMI,” and PARISTEMI means “to stand beside, i.e....to exhibit, proffer, (specially) recommend, (figuratively) substantiate” (Strong’s Concordance). It is through our study that we substantiate or exhibit that we are already accepted in Christ (Ephesians 1:6).
Studying doesn’t make us more accepted by God, nor does our lack of study make us less accepted by God. By our study, we will be made more aware that God has already accepted us, and our lack of study will make us less aware of that.