Summary: The Bible explicitly indicates what God expects from the preacher. This sermon examines these expectations from 2 Timothy 4:1.
Marks of the Faithful Preacher, Part 1
A. The Preacher’s Charge
Studying this letter from the apostle Paul to Timothy, his young son in the faith, is like treading on sacred ground, for it’s the last words ever penned by Paul in Scripture. We can only imagine what was racing through his heart as he beseeched Timothy, who was going to take his place, to be faithful in the ministry. That changing of the guard would occur soon, for Paul knew he would soon lose his life in martyrdom (2 Tim. 4:6-9). Paul would pass the baton to a young man who was moral and virtuous, but possibly timid. It seems Timothy didn’t have the strength of character, the conviction, or the boldness of Paul. So at this late point in Paul’s life, he was compelled to give a final and solemn charge.
B. The Preacher’s Accountability
The Bible is not nebulous, but explicit, about what God expects from the preacher. Second Timothy 4:1-5 contains nine commands. Its exhortative style presents demands, not suggestions, ideas, or points of discussion. It’s the pattern Timothy and all who follow after him are responsible to fulfill.
The preacher’s role is vital, for God has designed that His people be taught by gifted men. Much of the believer’s spiritual growth directly relates to the effectiveness of the preaching he or she is under. So it’s a serious issue with God for preachers to live by God’s standards and for believers to hold them accountable. And it’s vital that people respond in obedience to proper preaching.
Today one of the tragedies in our nation and world is the demise of faithful, consistent, uncompromising, biblical preaching. Certainly some of the blame lies at the preacher’s feet, but it also lies at the feet of believers who fail to hold the preacher accountable.
C. The Preacher’s Portrait
The English preacher John Bunyan wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress, an allegory about the Christian life. He wrote that story from Bedford Jail, where he was imprisoned for preaching. Bunyan depicted the Christian life through Pilgrim, who was embarking on a spiritual pilgrimage. Pilgrim was first taken to Interpreter’s House because there were some things he needed to know to make his pilgrimage successful. Inside Interpreter’s House he was shown the painting of a preacher that he might realize the importance of the preacher’s office. The portrait "had eyes lifted up to heaven, the best of books in his hand, the law of truth was written upon his lips, the world was behind his back. [He] stood as if [he] pleaded with men, and a crown of gold did hang over his head" ([New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957], p. 28).
In 2 Timothy 4 the apostle Paul also paints a preacher’s portrait. Only his painting was inspired by God, so it’s more than instructive—it’s binding. And it delineates the preacher’s role in unmistakable terms.
D. The Preacher’s Faithfulness
Paul wrote his final letter as a prisoner and recognized that his earthly ministry was near completion. He was able to say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" (2 Tim. 4:7). He wanted Timothy to be able to say the same thing so he exhorted him to be faithful. In doing so Paul set for us the divine standard by which faithfulness is measured. It’s a running theme throughout his letter.
Second Timothy 4:1-5 summarizes Paul’s hope for every Christian pastor. Timothy had a difficult task ahead of him where he was ministering. The church in Ephesus had already begun to defect spiritually. When Paul founded the church, it was in the heat of revival. But over the years sound doctrine lost its primacy and godliness was no longer a main issue. In addition a rampant, empire-wide persecution was beginning to foment, which had the potential of costing Timothy his life. Because the ministry ahead of him was not easy, it was imperative for Timothy to be faithful. So in his parting words Paul gave Timothy the marks of a faithful preacher.
I. THE SERIOUSNESS OF THE PREACHER’S COMMISSION (v. 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."
A. His Compelling Responsibility (v. 1a)
"I solemnly charge you."
Those words speak of the seriousness of ministry. The Greek term translated "solemnly charge" (diamarturomai) means "to earnestly testify." The aged warrior Paul sought to arm his young son in the faith with a keen sense of his weighty responsibility. Such seriousness is characteristic of a godly individual committed to serving Christ. Paul was like the Reformer John Knox, who said, "Give me Scotland or I die!" When compelled to preach, it is well reported that Knox locked himself in a room and wept for days because he feared the seriousness of his calling. Timothy was to take his calling just as seriously.