Improve your sermon prep with our brand new study tools! Learn all about them here.
Preaching Articles

“But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels” (2 Timothy 2:23).

In Second Timothy 4, Paul’s final charge to his young protégé is to “preach the word, be ready in season and out, reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (4:2). After all, he says, in the end times people are going to be clamoring for false teachers who will say what they want to hear, who will spread myths and will shape doctrine for their own purposes.

So, God’s people—and particularly His preachers—must hang tough and “endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (4:5).

However, no quarreling please.

That’s what he said. “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition ... ” (2:24-25).

Tough assignment, to be sure.

Stand firm, preach the word, rebuke error and be nice about it.

And sometimes, you simply walk away from an argument.

1. In 2:14, there is to be no word-wrangling. Why? It is “useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers.”

2. In 2:16, there is to be no “worldly and empty chatter.” Why? Because “it will lead to further ungodliness.”

3. In 2:23, we are to avoid “foolish and ignorant speculations.” Why? Because “they produce quarrels.”

4. In 4:4, try to stay away from those who “turn away their ears from the truth.” Why? They “will turn aside to myths.”

There are among us preachers and theologians who love a good fight. Some denominations put a high prize on their debates and even publish the accounts verbatim. Perhaps there’s some value to this, I don’t know.

Our New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary does something most unusual. Each winter, they sponsor what they call the Greer-Heard Debates in which they invite in several well-known pastors and/or seminary professors to defend the faith in a series of conferences. In particular they invite a prominent atheist or, shall we say, heretic to engage in a debate on the subject for which he is notorious. In past debates, they’ve focused on whether the Bible is inerrant, evolution is plausible for Christians and Jesus Christ is divine. (Anyone wishing more information may google “Greer-Heard” or go to the campus website www.nobts.edu. Dr. Bob Stewart directs the event each year.)

The fascinating thing about these debates, perhaps, is that they are conducted respectfully and intelligently. The prominent atheist gets a warm and gracious reception. No one attacks him, either publically in the services or privately in the dining hall.

More and more, the outside academic community across New Orleans is drawn to the seminary campus for these events. Humanist professors from secular schools have remarked that their respect for Christians in general and Baptists in particular has gone through the roof as a result.

Has an atheist been converted to orthodox Christianity as a result of these debates? Probably not, and I will venture to say that is not the point.

The greatest benefit, as far as I can see, comes to the men and women sitting in the pews across Leavell Chapel who are taking in all of this, hearing charge and defense, counter-charge and comeback. Whether they follow the finer points of the debate or not, one thing is sure: these seminary students and pastors walk away with a stronger confidence that their faith is able to stand on its own feet and need not fear attack, questions or differing opinions.

After all, God has not given His preachers and missionaries and teachers the spirit of fear, timidity or cowardice. He is not pleased when His preachers shy away from controversial teachings that someone may find offensive. The preacher who pleases the Heavenly Father will preach the Word, will be ready in season and out of season, will reprove, rebuke, exhort and endure hardship.

To accomplish this—a big order to be sure—God has given to His children a spirit of power with which to face the enemy, a spirit of love with which to deal with people, and a spirit of a disciplined mind with which to face all unknowns which lie ahead.

No one can do any of this in the flesh and by himself.

We will be needing the power of Christ within us and the people of God surrounding us. Preachers need to belong to a larger community of ministers of the same faith to encourage and assist one another.

Paul said, “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, preach the Word!” (4:1-2)

Indeed.



Dr. Joe McKeever is a preacher, cartoonist and the retired Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. Currently he loves to serve as a speaker/pulpit fill for revivals, prayer conferences, deacon trainings, leadership banquets and other church events. Visit him and enjoy his insights on nearly 50 years of ministry at JoeMcKeever.com.

Browse All

Related Preaching Articles

Talk about it...

Dennis Cocks

commented on Feb 22, 2014

Very well put Joe!

Rev. Phyllis Pottorff-Albrecht, United Brethren Communi

commented on Feb 22, 2014

I believe that two important passages which pastors should study before entering into conversations, during which they will be "contending for the faith," are Jude 1 and Zachariah 3. Jude cautions against making "railing accusations" while contending for the faith. In Zechariah 3:2 we read that, in an encounter with he Adversary, "And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan." Perhaps the worst mistakes which Christian leaders make when they are "contending for the faith" in the public arena is to resort to "cute" name-calling of their adversaries. Jude recommends to his audience that they should -But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. Christian leaders who know they ill be contending for the faith need to remember to ask for the prayer support of fellow believers as they prepare to take on the task of contending for the faith.

Joseph Sylvester

commented on Feb 22, 2014

Very correct...we must be careful when debating or arguing with anyone be christian or otherwise base on Jude :10a "...these people blaspheme all that they do not understand" the best way to actually win an argument is by avoiding it.

Kashif Chand

commented on Feb 26, 2014

I am very encouraged and learnt that with a decent manner we need to defend faith and on the same time strengthen the faith of believers

Minister Sanders

commented on Jul 8, 2014

The Apostle Peter says it best, "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear."-1 Peter 3:15. When we have God and His Word set in our hearts, we are prepared to give an answer to those who question us about the things of God and asks us about our faith and hope we have in Christ and we are able to respond to them in a humble and respectful manner without sounding or being argumentive.This should be the conduct of the Christian that is contending for the faith.

Join the discussion