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Preach the Word

Date: Aug. 20, 2017

Author: Michael Mark

2 Timothy 3:10-4:22

Key Verse: 2 Timothy 4:2

“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.”

This past Wednesday we participated in the Student Involvement Festival and got a chance to meet new faces.  When people ask what our organization does, I will usually answer that we have weekly group Bible studies on campus, Sunday worship service every Sunday at the Chapel, and personal one to one Bible studies.  That is a lot of studying the Bible, but why do we do it?  It is because, as we learned last week, that the Holy Scriptures are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  “All Scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  The word of God is the focal point of this worship service.  It is central to everything we do, because the way of salvation is only found in the Bible.

How does the Bible equip us for every good work?  Just look at Paul’s life.  The Bible teaches us faith, patience, love, and endurance, even through sufferings and persecutions.  Faith, patience and love, don’t we need more of that in this world?  When we do things with faith, patience and love, we are doing good things.  Paul commended his way of life to Timothy as an example of the power of living according to what the Bible teaches.  Now Paul was near the end of his life.  As many of you know, Paul wrote this letter from prison, and he knew he was about to be martyred, or killed, because of his faith.  This second letter to Timothy, that we have been studying over the past 5 weeks, is Paul’s last letter in the Bible.  We now come to the conclusion of this letter, in chapter 4, and consider these the last words Paul will write in the Bible. These are the final wishes of a dying man.  The tone becomes earnest and serious. 

Look at v.1, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge.”  Here you can get a picture of Paul’s prison cell.  He was not alone; he was in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus.  Walls cannot keep God out.  Even in the depths, God is there.  Regarding Christ, Paul says that he will judge the living and the dead.  This should get our attention, and stir us to action.  On the day you meet Jesus, you will have to give an accounting for the things done while in the body.  We are all very familiar with being reviewed.  Every year at work, you go through an annual performance assessment.  When you are in school, everything you do gets reviewed.  It would be the same at the end of your life.

Paul also had in view his appearing and his kingdom.  This will be the end of times.  When Jesus Christ appears, the end will come, and his kingdom will be established on the earth.  We can understand very clearly here that Jesus is the King.  Paul is now passing the baton to Timothy, with God and Christ Jesus as his witnesses.  He now shows us what is the most important thing to do before the imminent coming of Jesus Christ and his kingdom, by impressing upon Timothy this charge: “Preach the word.”  Preach the word. 

Today, when you think of “preaching,” you might think of someone explaining God’s word, as I am doing now.  In Timothy’s time, preaching meant to deliver the king’s message to the people.  Before telephones, internet and the postal service, and because in general masses of people were illiterate, messages were delivered by town criers, or heralds.  It was the herald’s duty to accurately transmit the message of the king, and the people’s duty to obey.  Rejection of the king’s message was an offense to the king.  The herald was to speak authoritatively, and misrepresenting the king was an equally terrible offense and subject to punishment.  It was important to transmit news accurately.  This is the meaning Timothy would have understood when Paul said, “Preach the word.”  It would mean to “Proclaim the message of the King.”

To preach the word means to proclaim the gospel.  It means to tell others that salvation can be attained through faith in Jesus Christ.  It means to tell people that God so loved the world, that he sent his one and only Son to die on the cross for our sins.  It means to tell people that though they are sinners, all of their sins can be forgiven through repentance and faith in Christ Jesus.  When Jesus sent his disciples to preach, he told them, “proclaim this message: ‘the kingdom of heaven has come near.’”  Indeed, the kingdom of heaven has come to us when Jesus Christ came to this earth.  The most important thing we can do before Jesus comes again is to preach the gospel, because it is the gospel that will lead people to salvation.  Paul writes in Romans 10:13-17, “’Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one in whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?  As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feed of those who bring good news!’ …Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” 

The preacher must be prepared to preach in season and out of season, that is another way to say, be prepared to preach at all times.  How can we always be prepared?  I’ll tell you a couple of things we are always prepared for.  We are always prepared to answer phone calls or text messages, or snap chats (I heard that was the latest thing).  Our phones are always on us.  In season or out of season, we’re ready to communicate.  We might plan to call our loved ones at certain times, or we might get that unexpected call from a dear old friend, or sometimes bad news from a dear old relative.  We can find similar advice from Col 3:16, “Let the message of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”  You can find precious nuggets of the gospel all over the Bible, like in the Psalms, or in classic hymns or inspirational modern Christian music.  In Col 4:2,5,6 Paul writes, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful…Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”  There is a little bit of effort involved in preparation, but the effort will be well worth it.

The word can be used to correct, rebuke or encourage.  To correct someone is relatively gentler than a rebuke.  You can correct someone who might be a little sloppy or careless.  But you might rebuke someone who has been stealing or slandering.  To encourage is the positive use of the word, like cheering someone up or strengthening them with support with kind words.  Notice also that all these uses of the word are to be done with great patience and careful instruction.  A wise man wrote: “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).  It might be easy to lose patience with someone who needs to be corrected or rebuked, and in an angry state we might not be careful with our words, so the word of God must be applied with much mindfulness.

Preaching the word becomes even more important as the church grows.  As more people come into the church, chances are higher that there will be some that come in that will not put up with sound doctrine.  Some people might complain, “Oh I’m tired of hearing the same old gospel.”  “I’m bored of the Bible.”  “Tell me something new, give me a fresh word from your gut.”  The problem is not with the Bible, but with the lust of flesh and selfish desires.  To suit their own desires, people will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  There’s a song by the David Crowder Band that goes, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”  People naturally prefer comfort and pleasure over pain and discomfort, but sometimes this desire gets to the point of rejecting the teachings in the Bible.  People want heaven, but they don’t want holiness.  People want blessings, but they don’t want God.  They want to be called Christian, but they don’t want to turn away from wickedness.  For this reason they turn their ears form the truth and turn aside to myths.  Why is it that some false teachers are so immensely wealthy?  Now there is no problem with wealth in itself, but how come some false teachers, who are clearly doing wrong, who clearly tell lies, be so successful?  It’s because there are people paying the false teachers to tell them lies. 

The challenge to preaching the word are those who will not put up with truth, and sometimes preachers will be drawn into stupid arguments.  It may be a difficult time or environment to preach the word.  But Paul tells Timothy this in v.5: “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”  When Paul says “keep your head,” he means to be calm and collected – to keep cool and have a presence of mind.  It means to not get into anger, nor to be irrational.  And notice he says: in all situations.  Keep cool in not just some, but all situations.  Have you ever seen the internet meme, “Keep Calm and Carry On?”  Does anyone know where that’s from?  It’s actually a poster created in 1939 by the British government to encourage the people to stay strong in the midst of bombing threats on major cities prior to the start of World War II.  It was urging the British people to show strength, self discipline and calm during adversity, and carry on with life.  Now it’s an internet meme “Keep Calm and X,” with people adding in their own sayings for X.  But that was what Paul was urging Timothy to do: to keep calm in every situation, show strength, endure hardship, and carry on the work of the ministry.

Paul told Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”  This shows all the different tasks that Timothy had to do.  An evangelist is someone that proclaims the gospel.  Some of you are probably familiar with the term.  Not only did he need to evangelize, but also to carry out the duties of an elder.  He was taking over the jobs that Paul did.  He was a preacher, a teacher, and a church administrator.  Paul’s time was coming to a close, the time for his departure was coming near.  He uses his one of his favorite metaphors to describe his life, one that was well known to everyone – the athlete.  Paul says in v.7-8, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”  Do you long for the appearing of Christ?  Or are you fearful?  Let the word of Christ give you peace about this.  The gospel tells us that Jesus Christ has paid for all our sin.  Think about it, and meditate on that.  There is a crown of righteousness in store for all those who long for his appearing.  It excludes those who are terrified of Christ’s return.  In light of the gospel, knowing that Jesus himself paid it all, how might you live so that you will want him to come?  Jesus himself will give the reward, the crown of righteousness to all, not some, but all who long for his appearing.

After Paul gives his final charge, he concludes this letter with some personal remarks.  Look at v.9, “Do your best to come to me quickly.”  Paul was condemned to die, but there was still a little bit of time left.  His wish was to see Timothy.  Timothy was in Ephesus, about 1200 miles (2000 km) away, but it was Paul’s desire to see him.  He told Timothy to try his best to get there before winter, perhaps the journey over the sea would be more dangerous or unavailable at that time.  Paul longed to see him just to be filled with joy.  This was how much he loved Timothy as a son.  Demas deserted Paul because he loved this world.  He might not have wanted to suffer going to prison or persecution, so in order to save himself he abandoned his brother.

Alexander the metal worker caused a great deal of harm to Paul because he opposed the message.  It’s not specified what that harm his – either it was physical, or to his reputation.  But Paul entrusted Jesus to judge rightly what Alexander deserved.  He warned Timothy to be on his guard against him, so it seems Alexander might be in Ephesus.  Paul also talks about his first defense.  This was a public trial he had to go through, as Christians were being persecuted by the government.  In this trial, no one came to his support, but he forgives all who deserted him.  Though it seemed like Paul was all by himself, he was not.  Look at v.17, “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.  And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.”  The Lord gave Paul strength to preach the word to the Gentiles.  He was not angry that he was all left all alone, because he trusted God to protect him while he was doing God’s work.  God used Paul’s situation in prison to carry the good news to the crowds of the unbelieving world.  And he was delivered from extreme danger.  We know eventually he was martyred, but after his first defense he was spared to live long enough to write this letter to Timothy. 

He says in v.18, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.  To him be glory for ever and ever.”  This does not refer to physical attacks, though the Lord can protect us from those too.  But we know that Paul would eventually be killed.  But what Paul says here is similar to saying that the Lord can keep him blameless until he comes again; that is, the Lord can rescue him from being defeated by evil or by the devil, and will ultimately bring him safely into heaven.  Jesus can keep us strong to the end, so that we will be blameless on the day he appears (1 Cor 1:8).   In Christ, we can have confidence to long for his appearance, and on that day we will be brought safely into his heavenly kingdom.  Paul ends his letter with some greetings, and closes with a benediction (a blessing): “The Lord be with your spirit.  Grace be with you all.”  Amen, we need the Lord and his grace to be with us.

Let’s look at Paul’s final charge to Timothy again in v.1-2, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.”  Preach the word, tell a neighbor, tell a friend what the gospel is: it is the good news of Jesus Christ.  This summer we titled this series of Titus & 2 Timothy “Ministry,” because we wanted to prepare for major transitions in our ministry: the new semester, the new Bible Club leaders, and now a new Rwandan ministry.  In this passage, we have gotten to the heart of ministry: to preach the word.  This is the one of the best ways to serve our King and our neighbor – to be heralds of his message and proclaim the good news to all people.  When you believed the gospel, you were clothed with righteousness.  When Jesus comes again, you will be crowned with righteousness.  In light of these things, preach the word.

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