Marks of the Faithful Preacher, Part 2
2 Timothy 4:2
The faithful teacher and preacher will pay attention to whatever undergirds the quality of his spiritual life. Although those qualities may never become public knowledge, they are under the watchful eye of God, who will evaluate all things. Paul ministered in light of that coming evaluation and wanted Timothy, his son in the faith, to do the same. We too are to manifest spiritual excellence before God and others. That comes by adhering to the marks of a faithful teacher.
I. THE SERIOUSNESS OF THE PREACHER’S COMMISSION (v. 1)
II. THE ESSENCE OF THE PREACHER’S COMMISSION (v. 2a)
"Preach the word." Although that command is brief, it states the essence of the teacher’s task.
When I was a young boy, I told my father that I believed God had called me to preach. He gave me a Bible and wrote these words inside it: "Dear Johnny, Preach the Word! 2 Timothy 4:2. "It was a simple statement, but it became the compelling charge of my heart. Ever since that day, his biblical advice has remained with me.
The Greek verb translated "preach" (kçrussô) means "to herald" or "proclaim publicly." Back in the days before radio and television an emperor made a public proclamation or announcement through a messenger. In its biblical sense kçrussô refers to one who publicly proclaims God’s Word. In saying he "was appointed a preacher" (1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11), the apostle Paul identified himself as a public herald of Scripture.
A. Timothy’s Character
Publicly proclaiming God’s Word isn’t an easy task. Perhaps that was especially true for Timothy. It seems he was timid and lacked Paul’s strength and courage. His young age apparently caused some believers to be suspicious of him (1 Tim. 4:12). Furthermore, Timothy might have felt inadequate in proclaiming Scripture for fear he would have to debate sophisticated false teachers and counter their well-developed polemic. Timothy knew that proclaiming God’s Word meant facing hostility and persecution. In those days opposition came from both the Jewish people, who as a whole were antagonistic to the gospel, as well as from the Romans, who held Paul prisoner.
B. Timothy’s Message
Timothy was to preach "the word" (2 Tim. 4:2): God’s Word. Timothy was also told to "retain the standard of sound words" he received from Paul (1:13). Paul also said, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth" (2:15).
Timothy was to guard the truth (1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:14) as well as proclaim it. That two-fold responsibility is so basic, yet many preachers teach something other than God’s Word. In Romans 10 Paul carefully explains the importance of emphasizing Scripture: "Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ’How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!’. . . So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (vv. 13-15, 17).
By applying human reason, logic, and wisdom, gifted orators can move audiences by the power of their persuasive speech. But no man can be a faithful preacher without preaching the Word.
Let me tell you why preaching the Word is the only way to preach.
1. It allows God to speak rather than man.
When we preach the Word of God, we aren’t preaching the word of man. Men can say things that are entertaining, interesting, informative, or even helpful. But it’s imperative that you and I allow God to speak through His Word. One way God gives voice to His Word is through the preacher.
2. It brings the preacher into direct contact with the mind of the Holy Spirit.
Since the Holy Spirit is the divine author of Scripture, digging deeply into the Word is like delving into the Holy Spirit’s mind. For that reason, studying Scripture is even more exhilarating to me than preaching. Interacting with the Holy Spirit’s reasoning, logic, and truth provides a tremendous time of communion with God. Expository preaching—a verse-by-verse explanation of Scripture—allows both the preacher and the listener to interact with the Holy Spirit’s thoughts.
3. It forces the preacher to proclaim all the revelation of God.
Expository preaching allows the preacher to declare "all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:27, KJV). He will preach passages that convict him as well as his hearers. That produces integrity in his ministry.
4. It promotes biblical literacy.
If the preacher told only interesting stories, you would know the stories, but not God’s Word. However, the most important thing for you to hear is God’s Word! I want to study and proclaim God’s Word so others can know it better. That should be your desire too.
5. It carries ultimate authority.
The preacher’s wisdom, voice, or demeanor might carry a certain amount of human authority, but it’s no match for the divine authority of Scripture. If you want the Spirit to use you to compel people toward obedience, proclaim God’s Word because it’s the ultimate authority.
6. It transforms the preacher.
The power of the Word is what the Holy Spirit uses to transform lives. If I only preached sermonettes, book reviews, entertaining stories, or simply rehashed the same message, God’s Word wouldn’t have an opportunity to interact with my life and transform me. And transformed preachers lead to transformed congregations.
III. THE SCOPE OF THE PREACHER’S COMMISSION (v. 2b-d)
"Be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction."
A. He Is Always Ready to Minister (v. 2b)
"Be ready in season and out of season."
Some translate the command "be urgent" or "be watchful." It pictures a military guard who is always at his post. It speaks of eagerness and describes someone who goes beyond his expected duty. The preacher has no set office hours, but is always at his post ready to seize opportunities to preach the Word.
Since there is no closed season on proclaiming Christ, we must make the most of every opportunity to tell others about Christ (cf. Eph. 5:16). Charles Spurgeon, a great preacher in London in the 1800s, said, "If I were asked—What in a Christian minister is the most essential quality for securing success in winning souls for Christ? I should reply, ’earnestness’: and if I were asked a second or a third time, I should not vary the answer. . . . Success is proportionate to the preacher’s earnestness" (Lectures to My Students, rev. ed. [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978], p. 305). To preach you must have an earnestness and zeal that never dies.
But earnestness isn’t a quality that comes naturally for the preacher or his listeners. After years of being exposed to sound preaching the novelty of hearing God’s Word can wear off, and the fire in the believer’s heart can die out. It’s exhilarating when both the teacher and the listener keep discovering what God’s Word says. But we must not take preaching for granted and allow our hearts to become hard or apathetic.
The pastor is to be ready to preach "in season and out of season" (2 Tim. 4:2). He is to preach when it’s convenient and when it’s not. His eagerness to preach must not depend on the receptivity of the audience to his message. Nothing is to constrain or silence his preaching of the Word.
B. He Exposes Sin (v. 2c)
The preacher is not only to be ready to preach, but also to reprove and rebuke sin. As 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable . . . for reproof, for correction." In 2 Timothy 4:2 "reprove" speaks of being made aware of sin, while "rebuke" refers to the guilt that results from that awareness. Reproof uses God’s Word to unveil sin. Rebuke is the Holy Spirit’s convicting work through His Word.
Christ forcefully preached against sin (e. g., Matt. 15:1-9). John the Baptist was thrown in prison for doing so (Luke 3:19-20). We are to follow in their steps by exposing sin through the proclamation of God’s Word. Ephesians 5:11 says not to "participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them." Titus 1:13 says to "reprove [rebels] severely that they may be sound in the faith."
C. He Encourages Right Behavior (v. 2d)
The Greek term translated "exhort" (parakalço) means "to encourage" and speaks of restoration. After confronting someone you know about sin, come alongside that individual and encourage positive steps toward change. That is what Paul did: "We were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory" (1 Thess. 2:11-12). And that’s what we’re to do.
D. He Is Patient (v. 2e)
"With great patience."
Paul said to reprove, rebuke, and exhort "with great patience" (2 Tim. 4:2). Here "patience" (Gk., makrothumia) is used in connection with people, not events or circumstances. It’s necessary to be patient with people because spiritual change usually takes time. If the recovery process takes longer than we like, it’s tempting to be hard on the person, give up on him or her entirely, or pray that God might speedily send an unpleasant circumstance for chastisement. But the believer characterized by makrothumia isn’t easily annoyed or irritated. He or she won’t give way to bitterness or despair.
Patience is a spiritual grace—a gift from God that reflects His very nature. Paul asked, "Do you think lightly of the riches of [God’s] kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Rom. 2:4). Since God is patient with us, we must learn to be patient with each other (cf. Eph. 4:32).
E. He Teaches Sound Doctrine (v. 2f)
Paul said to expose sin and encourage others "with great patience and instruction" (Gk., didachç). We will help the unbeliever not only by pointing out his sin, but also by pointing him toward faith in God’s Word. We will help another Christian not only by reproving his sin, but also by instructing him in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). Rebuke without instruction leaves people in the dark about what spiritual direction to take. Rebuke tells people where they shouldn’t be, while instruction in doctrinal truth tells them where they should be.
Not all believers are called to preach vocationally, but we all are called to give out the gospel (Matt. 28:18-20). Therefore we too are responsible to preach the Word eagerly whether in season or out. We also are to reprove and rebuke sin and then patiently instruct people toward righteousness. The preacher serves as a model of what you are to be. What he does in his unique way you are to do in your unique way. We all are responsible to the Judge, who will evaluate our faithfulness, so together let’s fulfill our glorious privilege of preaching the Word!