Preach the Word
Topic: Preaching Passage: 2 Timothy 4:1–5
Martin Luther ignited the greatest revival in the history of the church and demolished the stronghold of medieval Catholicism but he said, “I did nothing. The word of God did everything. I simply taught, preached and wrote God’s word.” He did what Paul commanded Timothy to do! “Preach the word!”
There is a lot at stake if we choose to ignore this command. We can spend years, believing spiritual lies and half truths; we can spend years living by inspirational thoughts, motivational quotes, spiritual ideas that are not in the Bible, or are distortions of the word of God. We can listen for years to certain kinds of teaching, but never know the power and the truth of God’s word.
We are to preach the word of God! And we are to listen to the word of God! We are to listen to those who preach and teach the word of God. This is HOW we should choose who we listen to!! And who we don’t listen to!!
Paul said many people will abandon sound teaching and will choose teachers who teach myths, things not based on the word of God. We all DO pick and choose our teachers! The choice you make for your teachers, can cause spiritual success or shipwreck. Teachers make the difference between a life built on a rock or a life built on sand, a life built on God’s word, or a life built on myths, superstitions and human ideas.
All exhortations in the Bible matter, but some are of special importance. This is one. The exhortation is “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and teaching.” And Paul’s introduction to this command show the weightiness of it!
Verse 1, “I charge you in the presence of God!” Paul wanted Timothy to receive this with a strong awareness of God’s presence. I charge you before God, or literally before the face of God. And..
I charge you “in the presence of Jesus Christ who is to judge the living and the dead”. Christ himself is looking on! The One who is coming to judge all people. He is the only judge that matters. His opinion of you is all that matters. And he is coming again to establish his everlasting kingdom. Paul said I give you this charge before the face of Christ.
This immediate presence of Christ looking on and searching our hearts and minds is seen in a remarkable way in Revelation 2,3. The churches are called lampstands. And Christ walks among the seven lampstands! He lives and walks among believers and among his churches! Christ said, I know you….I know where you live, I know your hard work, I know your endurance, I know you faith, and love. I am he who searches minds and hearts. I stand at the door and knock. Christ knows every church and every person in the churches!
As WE hear God’s word this morning, we hear it in the very presence of God. God is completely aware what you and I are hearing this morning, and he is completely aware of our response. That produces both deep encouragement, and deep reverence, and a sense of weightiness about carrying out this duty.
What then is this weighty command that comes to us with such a solemn charge? *Preach the word!!!
*First: We are told WHAT to preach! We are to preach what God has ALREADY spoken! Paul was saying, “Don’t preach yourself, your own ideas or speculations, your favorite topics or funny stories, don’t preach a different message. Don’t preach what people want to hear, or only what the culture will tolerate. Preach the word!
Why do we preach the word and not something else? Because all scripture is God-breathed. It is God speaking to us. Luther said, “We must make a great difference between God’s word and the word of man. A man’s word is a little sound that flies into the air and soon vanishes. But the word of God is greater than heaven and earth, yes greater than death and hell. For it is the power of God and endures forever. We should study it and believe that God himself speaks to us in it.”
Paul said in chapter 3 the word of God leads to salvation. And it “makes the man of God complete, fully equipped for every good work”. The word makes us into worshipers, lovers of God, it sanctifies us, leads us into sexual purity. It teaches us to love one another. It changes us from grumbling to gratitude. It leads us into joy and peace. The word of god makes the man or woman of God complete!! It is sufficient to transform, and heal the whole person, inside and out! The word is what we need, and what the world desperately needs!
*Second point: The word of God is to be preached! The scripture is not to remain in a closed book. It is to be preached, taught, proclaimed, and explained! In 1 Timothy 4:13 Paul said, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.” Preaching is boldly announcing, this is what the Lord says! Teaching helps us understand and how to apply what the Lord has said. They work together.
Of course God works directly in our lives, as we read his word by ourselves. But the gift of teaching and preaching is given, by the Holy Spirit, to help us hear and respond to God’s voice in the scripture. Even if you know a scripture very well, does it not come to life and come to you again with fresh power, through good teaching and preaching?
You will probably run into Christians who say we don’t need church, we don’t need preaching or teaching. We just need to get together with a few Christian friends now and then. But God ordained preaching and teaching to nourish and feed us from his word.
We do also need fellowship. We need the other gifts of the Spirit. We need those who encourage, and give generously, and those who who help and have faith, and prophecy. But the very foundation of our lives is God’s truth, revealed in God’s word. And that is to be taught and preached!
Certainly this charge had special application to Timothy and for those called to preach and teach, to pastors and elders. But all of us should all preach the word to our own hearts, to our families, our children, to brothers and sisters in the church, and to those outside of Christ.
In a very real way, we preach to one another in our conversation, and even in our singing! Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, AND as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
*Third point: God’s word is to be preached with a sense of urgency. Verse 2 begins, “Be ready”. Other translations say, “be urgent”, or “keep your sense of urgency”. Do not be slack, unprepared, lackadaisical. That applies to preachers, but it applies to all of us. Romans 12:11 “never lack in zeal but be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.”
*Fourth: God’s word is to be preached regardless of the results or the response. Preach the word, “In season and out of season.” Preach when it’s convenient and accepted. Preach when it’s hard and rejected. Preach “through glory and dishonor, slander and praise.” We are called to that kind of spiritual tenacity.
All of us experience seasons when things are going well, and seasons when things are not going well. Seasons when we see God powerfully at work, and seasons when it seems God is not working. It is tempting to serve only “in season” and withdraw from people and serving Christ “out of season”.
But God calls us to be “in season” AND “out of season people”? May God deliver us all from serving only when it is convenient, safe, easy, when we have nothing else going on, when we feel like it. God calls us serve Jesus Christ with relentless faithfulness, whatever season it is!
*Fifth: We should follow teaching that changes us into godly people. Biblical preachers are commanded to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”
Preaching is not merely communicating information; it is not entertaining people for 30 minutes. Preaching is to change lives! Preaching should cause us to abandon sinful thoughts, values and behaviors. It should cause us to pursue new levels of godly thinking and living.
Reproof and rebuke both mean pointing out things that are wrong! Preaching involves coming up against what people are thinking, and how they are living, and saying, “That’s a problem!”. It is showing people what is sinful, or false.
In many churches today, reproof and rebuke are completely out of bounds. Only what is positive, encouraging, non-offensive, and easy to listen to is acceptable. That kind of teaching should raise a red flag.
And next Paul said to “exhort”. Exhorting is urging or encouraging people to do what is right and pleasing to the Lord. Preaching should challenge us to press on, to endure, to love each other and so on. So Biblical preaching both must tear down false ideas, ungodly attitudes and practices, then build up goodness, faith, love, purity…
AND Biblical preaching is done with “complete patience and teaching”. People may not get it the first time or the tenth time. We are to show great patience as we remind people of truth again and again. We are to be bold and courageous but never arrogant and harsh.
And we are to do it with teaching. We are to take time to show people from the Word what God says about how we are to live. We are to take time to explain the word and show why it is important. Paul explained that we are to forgive because God forgave us. He taught us to be imitators of God in the way we love and forgive others. Teaching does more than just give commands or quote verses.
*Sixth point: Be on guard against the trend to defect from sound teaching. Verse 3,4 “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”
Paul gives a prophetic warning, that times are coming when people will not endure sound teaching. The word endure means to bear with or have the patience for, or put up with.
This word tells us something important about HOW we listen to God’s word. It tells us that WE should “endure” sound teaching. Not that teaching should be bad or boring, but that we must be willing to endure, keep listening, do the work, have the patience, to be taught the word of God! Heb.13:22.
“I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation.”
Sound teaching is sometimes hard on the flesh! It disturbs our thinking, it challenge long held habits or false ideas we’ve held about certain things. It is so much easier to just hear what we want to hear!
So, some, having itching ears, will turn to something that sounds better, and feels better. The word itching means to scratch or tickle. The NASB translates “but wanting to have their ears tickled”. This was obviously an expression in Paul’s day that described people who would only listen to what they wanted to hear, or made them feel good.
*Verse 3 goes on, “they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions or desires”. The KJV says, “they will heap up for themselves teachers.” They listen to one, and then another until they have a whole pile of teachers.
In a very real sense, people create false teachers. If people didn’t want them, read them listen to them, they would die out for lack of an audience. The massive amount of shallow teaching today is because that is what a lot of people want.
So they follow teachers to suit their own desires. Micah 2:11 says, “If a liar and deceiver comes and says, ‘I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,’ that would be just the prophet for this people!” Or “That would be the kind of preacher you want!”
The sad result is explained in verse 4. And (they) will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. He is talking about people who at one time listened to the truth, but they will “turn away” and “wander off”. They will wander off into myths. To Paul, any teaching about spiritual matters, that was not rooted in the word of God was a myth.
Last point: Be loyal to the word of God and the work of God.
Because of the number of people who will turn away from God’s truth, Timothy is exhorted to be even more dedicated to God’s work. Verse 5 “But as for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
Many will stop preaching the word. Many will turn away from those who do faithfully preach the word. But as for you.. Be sober, be stable and steady, not changeable, not fickle; do not going after novel teaching. Endure suffering. Follow the lonely road with Jesus. Endure the reproach that comes with preaching the word. Do the work of an evangelist. Point people to Christ, not to spiritual nonsense. Fulfill your ministry. Finish the work God gave you to do. Faithfully preach the word of God.
Fidelity, faithfulness, loyalty are the great need of the hour!
May we be faithful to God and to his word, enduring what ever hardship may come with that.
“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” Amen.