DUNCAN/Preach the word
Please turn with me in your Bibles to 2 Timothy 4:1-4. In chapter 3, Paul was primarily focused on exhorting Timothy and the Ephesians and you and me to live by the Word of God. Now we transition to chapter 4 where Paul exhorts Timothy to faithfully preach God’s Word. In other words, we move from “live the Bible” to “preach the Bible” as the exhortation that Paul is bringing to bear in these verses. And this passage is just as practical, just as applicable, just as important, and just as relevant to us as it is to those who preach and teach the Word of God. This passage can easily be divided into three sections. First, in verse 1, Paul explains the seriousness of the charge that he gives to Timothy. Secondly, in verse 2, he supplies the content of that charge. Thus, he explains what it is that he’s charging Timothy and other faithful preachers to do. And then thirdly, in verses 3-4, Paul gives a context to his charge to Timothy.
I. The Charge to Timothy.
In verse 1, Paul is about to give a charge to Timothy, but before he gives that charge, he wants to impress upon Timothy the seriousness of this charge. He’s administering here an oath. It’s almost like Paul is taking Timothy into the divine courtroom and he’s swearing him in as a minister; and, as he administers this oath to Timothy, he calls on God to be witness, and he adds to his charge in order to stress its solemnity. In relation, Paul uses five qualifying phrases in this charge to Timothy.
First, Paul says “I solemnly charge you.” In other words, he is saying, “Timothy, do you think I was solemn when I was telling you what the Word of God was? Or what following me in suffering was? Or when I was telling you about how false teachers were going to get into the church and harm the sheep? Well, now I’m really going to get solemn with you.”
Secondly, Paul says, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God.” He says to Timothy that the One who is the true Judge is not a federal judge, or on the Supreme Court, but the Maker of heaven and earth. He wants Timothy to be aware that what he does, he does in the arena of God’s presence. He wants Timothy to know that God is his audience.
Thirdly, Paul says, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus.” So Paul calls on Timothy to swear allegiance to this duty under the watchful gaze of his Redeemer. Timothy’s job is to proclaim the salvation which has been brought about by Jesus Christ.
Fourthly, Paul says, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead.” In other words, he is saying, “Timothy, I want you to remember something about the Redeemer. He’s not only your Savior; He is coming to judge the living and the dead.” He is reminding Timothy that ministers are going to be judged in accordance to their faithfulness by the Lord Jesus Christ in the Last Day. It’s a very solemn occasion that Paul is addressing here.
Fifthly, Paul says, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, by his appearing and his kingdom.” Paul is reminding and encouraging Timothy here of the Day of the coming of the Lord, when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the heavenly Father.
II. The Content of the Charge to Timothy.
In verse 2, Paul is telling Timothy what his prime calling is. The minister’s task is to herald the divinely authorized message of God. And Paul piles up five imperatives in this little verse. Specifically, Paul says, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” All of these imperatives – preach, be ready, reprove, rebuke, and exhort - are pointing to one central charge which is to proclaim the Word of God. Timothy is, above all else, to publicly proclaim God’s message to others. Furthermore, Timothy is to be ready to do that in season or out of season whether it’s convenient or not, whether it’s popular or not, and whether it’s welcome or not. Timothy is to both warn the people of God against their sins and against the errors of this world, aiming for conviction and repentance, and he is also to admonish and exhort them with patience and fatherly affection.
There are two specific applications of this truth for you and me. First, if Paul is telling Timothy what he must do for the people of God, then as the people of God, we must need what Paul tells Timothy he must do. In other words, we need to hear the Word of God preached by a faithful minister. But there’s a second application as well. The second application has to do with wanting what we need in preaching. When we come to a passage that tells a minister to faithfully preach the Word, then we ought to pray that we would come to worship wanting what God says we need rather than what we think we need. We ought to pray, “Lord, make me long to sit under the ministry of Your Word.”
III. The Context of the Charge to Timothy.
In verses 3-4, Paul gives a pastoral context of his charge to Timothy that explains its urgency. Specifically, Paul tells Timothy that there is going to come a time when people won’t listen. He is saying to Timothy, “There’s going to come a time when they’re going to prefer messages to their own liking, as opposed to God’s Word.” The task of preaching God’s message from God’s Word is so urgent because of the imminent spiritual dangers to the flock of God. Unfortunately, we see those dangers everywhere in churches today. We see worship services where the Word of God is never read. Furthermore, we see worship services where the Word of God may be read, and then the message has absolutely nothing to do with it. Additionally, we see worship services which lead the people astray with false teaching and congregations where once the Gospel was clearly proclaimed and now it is completely lost. This passage is not just a passage that is relevant for preachers; it’s relevant to people who sit under the ministry of the Word regularly. And we need to pray, and we need to want that Word, and we need
to long for that Word, and we need to long that God would work His Word in our
hearts and transform us by it.