Stand Strong in Preaching
by John Lowe
2 Timothy 4:1, 2 (NIV)
1. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2. preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
If the chapter division were not here in our Bibles, we would not be distracted from seeing the logical progression: a high view of the Bible (3:14-17) should lead to a high opinion of biblical preaching (4:1-4). Unfortunately, some hold to the inspiration of Scripture, but their actual preaching is not rooted in the Scriptures. I think the best approach for applying verse 2 is “Preach the Word!” (NKJV) is expositional preaching. Expositional preaching is word-driven preaching. It is preaching so that the main point of the selected passage is the sermon’s main point. It is taking the listeners for a swim in the Bible. Notice 5 ways we should do word-driven preaching.
Preach the Word faithfully (4:1-2a)
The proper motive of preachers is a desire for faithfulness to God, not worldly fame. The God-centered explanation is noted here in verse 1 as Paul set up his exhortation with this stunning introduction. Nowhere else did Paul give this type of preface to a charge. “I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and because of His appearing and His kingdom” (v. 1). Feel the force of this verse. Paul put preaching in a religious context with these words.
1. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom
Timothy is to remember that he preached before God. No preacher goes unnoticed. Unnoticed by people? Sure. Overlooked for significant speaking engagements? Yes. But he is never out of the eyes of God. This should give all of us who preach a correct perspective on our task. Our audience, primarily, is God. Because of this, the popular unknown pastor should not be discouraged by his lack of fame and recognition. He should remember that his ultimate call is faithfulness to God and that His ministry is eternally important even if his church is small. The popular, “famous” pastor should not be arrogant. His ultimate evaluation is not from people but from God.
The questions that should concern every pastor-preacher are questions like these: Is God pleased with my treatment of His Word? Is He happy with my motive? Is he satisfied with my attitude and care for the flock? In a day filled with those who preach for the applause of man, we need faithful preachers who preach for the pleasure of God. God told Jeremiah, “The prophet who has only a dream should recount the dream, but the one who has my Word should speak my Word truthfully” (Jer. 23:28).
Paul also reminded Timothy of the coming of Christ with three images: “appearing,” “judgment, and “kingdom.” In 2 Tim. 4:8, he spoke of “all those who have loved His appearing.” Paul believed Christ would make a visible, glorious appearance (Titus 2:13). When He does appear, He will judge the living (the “quick”) and the dead. Christ the King will bring about His kingdom in its fullness. Christ’s appearance and His kingdom are not the same things. His appearing is the epiphany, the church's rapture, Christ’s return in glory; His kingdom refers to the revelation of Christ when He returns to earth to establish His kingdom. Twice he will do some judging. He will judge His own when he takes them out of the world. Also, he will judge those who turn to God during the Great tribulation. All of us who are believers will come before Him at one time or another for judgment. Our lives are going to be tested to see if we are going to receive a reward or not.
We must live and preach in light of this holy accountability. James jolts us by reminding us, “Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1). The author of Hebrews also puts the task of pastor-teacher in proper perspective: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17).
2. preach the Word (to proclaim the Word, give it out, to herald it); be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
In verse 2, Paul says, “preach the Word (the Gospel)!” – the chief task of every preacher. “To preach” means “to herald” or “to proclaim publicly” (1:11). As preachers, we proclaim the message.” For us today, the news is the entire written Word of God. Throughout this section, Paul uses various phrases to talk about the truth of God’s Word, such as sacred Scriptures (3:15). “Scripture” (3:16), “sound doctrine” (4:3), and “the truth” (4:4) We have the sacred responsibility and unspeakable privilege of heralding God’s timeless truth to people. Like EZRA, let us study it, obey it, and teach it (Ezra 7:10; Neh. 8). Paul told Timothy earlier, “Until I come, give your attention to public reading, exhortation, and teaching” (1 Tim. 4:13).
Martin Luther said concerning the Reformation, “I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word. Otherwise, I did nothing: . . . . The Word did it all . . . . I did nothing: I left it to the Word . . . . But it brings him satan distress when we only spread the Word and let it alone to do the work.”
Preach the Word consistently (4:2b)
Next, Timothy is told to persist in His faithfulness to God’s Word, “whether convenient or not,” or as one translation renders it, “Be ready in season and out of season.” This speaks of urgency and readiness. We should be ready to preach at any time. There should always be a sense of urgency in light of the truth that we are communicating. We are preaching on matters of life, death, and eternity. And the preacher-soldier is always on duty! Let your ministry be noted for readiness, not for laziness!
Preach the Word Pastorally (4:2c)
The pastor-preacher should apply the Word to the lives of his flock in a variety of ways. Paul gives us three ways of doing it: “Rebuke (threaten), correct (should be given with conviction., and encourage (comfort).” Pastors need to know the flock’s condition and remain sensitive to how a particular passage addresses them. Sometimes God’s people need to be “rebuked” for their wrong beliefs or ungodly lifestyles. Paul illustrates this skill in his letter to the Corinthians (rebuked for their immorality) and the Galileans (rebuked for their failure to continue in the Gospel of grace).
At other times, God’s people need to be “corrected” to get back on the path to righteousness. This means church discipline is done every week as the pastor teaches the Bible. We call this “formative discipline” (Mat. 15:18-27; with the other kind of discipline being “restorative discipline” (Mat. 15:18-20; Gal. 6:1). The Bible corrects us when we wander away from God’s will.
Preach the Word Patiently (4:2d)
There is a beautiful Bible story about a man by the name of Simion who preached at a church where he was unpopular. How did he endure there for 54 years? A friend of his explained it this way – “Simion invariably rose every morning even in the winter at four o’clock; and after lighting a fire, he devoted the first four hours of the day to private prayer and the devotional study of the Scriptures. . . . Here was the secret of his great grace and spiritual strength.”
How can we grow in patience as pastor-preachers? Since patience is a fruit of the Spirit, then the simple answer is to walk by the Spirit. Commune with God. Abide in Jesus. As you spend time in God’s presence, in unhindered and unhurried prayer and worship, meditate on God’s patience. “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and great in faithful love” (Ps. 143:8). Work the Gospel deeply into your heart daily. Remember what patience God has shown you! Then, by His grace, display His fatherly patience to His people.
Preach the Word Theologically (4:2e-4)
Paul also adds that Timothy must proclaim the message “with . . . teaching” (v.2). Interestingly, one of the most famous verses in the Bible about preaching also calls for “teaching.” This is important because some want to make too sharp a distinction between teaching and preaching, saying preaching is for evangelism while theological teaching is for believers’ discipleship. This is helpful, but it can be pressed too far.
Jeremiah said of the people of Judah in his day, “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their authority. My people love it like this” (Jer. 5:31).
Today, we have all kinds of preachers who “tickle the ears” of people. Some teach that one cannot believe the miracles of the Bible. Others draw attention as they deny the historical reliability of the Bible. Many fill stadiums with their corrupt health and wealth prosperity teaching. We must teach the truth because there is an absence of it in every generation. We need courageous prophets who will declare, “Thus says the Lord” with power and grace. Remember, if you are a pastor-preacher, you are the church's theologian and apologist. Become a better theologian so that you might become a better pastor-preacher-leader.
Continue in the Word. Keep learning it. Keep believing it. Keep preaching it.