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2 Timothy 4:1-8: Fulfill Your Ministry Print E-mail
2 Timothy
Sunday, 14 August 2011

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Why are we here? Why are we going to spend the next hour listening to preaching? Why did I spend so much time this week getting ready for this moment? Why not sing some more or have some dramas or anything rather than devote this time to preaching? Or why not at least change it up every now and then? I mean, why do we spend so much time on preaching week after week? Perhaps you have asked those questions at some point in your life. Perhaps you have wondered where we came up with the idea of preaching. Perhaps you are struggling with this even now.

Well, in one sense, the answer to the question ‘why preaching’ is found in our passage from last week.  Paul encourages Timothy to stay on the path by trusting in the Scriptures for his ministry.  Timothy is to look to the Word in his ministry so that he can be competent, equipped for every good work.  The people of God need the Word of God for salvation and sanctification.  Yet, what about the particular task of preaching?  We could get the Word in a number of different ways, so why do we focus on preaching?  The answer comes in our passage this morning.  Paul’s charge to Timothy in these verses is simple: preach the Word.  As Paul brings his instructions concerning Timothy’s ministry to a close, his focus is on the importance of preaching, or proclaiming, the Word.  Again, not just any preaching will do.  It must be the Word.  It must be the Scriptures that are breathed out by God.  People need the Word of God and so Paul charges Timothy to preach the Word.  In order to better understand this charge, we need to consider what else Paul says in relation to preaching the Word.  Let me mention four ideas.

First, the weightiness of the charge (v. 1):

For a minister, there are few verses that are more sobering that 2 Timothy 4:1.  Look at that with me.  Before Paul gives the actual charge (v. 2), he begins by noting the witnesses that will hold Timothy accountable to keep the charge.  Who are these witnesses?  The first witness is none other than God the Father.  The charge that Paul is giving Timothy is done in the presence of God, or before God.  The second witness is no less sobering: and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead.  The description of Jesus as judge is both encouraging and fearful.  Jesus will judge the false teachers.  He will right all wrongs.  Yet, He will also judge us all.  We must never forget that He is the judge.  Adding to these witnesses, Paul mentions Jesus’ appearing and his kingdom.  In light of the fact that Jesus has come in the flesh, died on the cross, was raised again, established His Kingdom, and is returning to set up His eternal rule, we should preach.  These are weighty matters.  Paul is not making a suggestion here.  He is not offering Timothy good advice or a good strategy that he might want to consider.  No, this is a charge.  And it is a charge that is made before God and before Christ.  We cannot treat the charge to preach the Word as trivial.  The gospel is at stake.  People’s eternity is at stake.  People need to know of the work of Christ, His death and resurrection, and His promise to return and judge.  They need to hear the gospel so that they can be ready for that Day.  They need the Word.  Thus, in light of these weighty matters, we must preach the Word.

Second, the parameters of the charge (v. 2):

How much should we preach the Word?  Paul answers in verse 2.  Look at that with me.  We are to preach in season and out of season.  We are to preach when it is convenient and we are to preach when it is inconvenient, when it is popular and unpopular, when people flock to hear and when they flock to protest.  We must continually preach the Word.  We cannot take time off or be given to other ‘ministries.’  If you do a quick survey of Church History you can see times where preaching was more ‘in season’ and times when it was ‘out of season.’  Likewise, even in our lifetimes, you can see such a distinction.  Yet, we cannot give up on preaching the Word.  And as we preach, we must reprove, rebuke, and exhort.  Timothy had to correct the false teaching that was going on around him and Paul tells him to do this by preaching the Word.  At times, the Word must correct us and rebuke us.  As it is preached, it must be applied to our hearts.  I am not called to preach half-heartedly.  No I must exhort you to believe and obey the Word.  And I must do this with complete patience and teaching.  It is not something that I do once and then move on to something else.  No, it takes time, it takes patience, it takes teaching.  Thus, we continually are to labor in preaching the Word.

Third, the reason for the charge (v. 3-5):

Although some of what we have already considered are good reasons to preach the Word, Paul gives a more immediate reason in verses 3-4.  Look at those with me.  There is somewhat of a four-fold decline in these verses.  First, people no longer endure sound teaching.  They don’t want to be taught what is right.  Therefore, second, they accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.  They find people who agree with what they believe and how they live and they only listen to those teachers.  Their itching ears are only scratched by teachers who encourage them in their beliefs and way of life.  Third, they simply turn away from listening to the truth.  They will not even listen to it.  Instead, fourth, they wander off into myths.  They devote themselves to myths and lies and forsake the truth. 

This is a terrible path and it leads only to destruction.  And lest we simply dismiss these verses as applying only to people ‘out there’ we must examine ourselves.  Do we grow weary of hearing sound teaching?  Do we have itching ears that only want to hear things that make us feel comfortable in our own sinful passions?  Do we turn away from the truth and wander into errors?  We must be aware of our tendency to move away from biblical teaching.  One of my commentators states: “Biblical teaching is not what our sinful nature desires.  In fact, our ‘natural’ selves revolt against biblical truth, longing for teachers who tell us what we want to hear.  We generally do not want to hear that we are sinners and fall short of the standards set by a holy God.  We do not like to hear that God is a God of justice who punished wrongdoers who break his commands.  We do not like to hear that, apart from the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ that turns away the wrath of God, we face the pains of hell forever.  We do not like to hear that we can in no way earn our own salvation, but that we receive it by faith alone, trusting in Christ and his work.  We do not like to hear that following Christ has certain ethical demands that call us to be holy as God is holy.” 1  We don’t like to hear that stuff, but we need it.  We are desperate for it.  We need to hear and preach the Word of God.

Rather than give in to these people, Paul gives Timothy four final commands in verse 5.  Look at that with me.  This is a good summary of what Timothy is to do.  He is to be sober-minded, or self-controlled.  He is to hold fast to the truth and not be led astray.  He is to endure suffering.  We have seen this throughout the letter and Paul returns to it again.  Timothy must expect and embrace suffering.  He must do the work of an evangelist.  Paul probably means that Timothy should always be preaching the gospel to the lost.  He must never stop taking the gospel to those who have not heard or believed.  Finally, he must fulfill your ministry.  Paul wants Timothy to be faithful.  He wants him to stay on the path.  He wants him to finish the work that has been started.  Paul has written this letter to encourage and instruct him in doing this.  He closes this charge by pointing to his own example, which leads us to our last idea concerning Paul’s charge.

Fourth, the award for keeping the charge (v. 6-8):

Paul has given Timothy some serious commands in this letter (and in this particular passage).  But he has only called him to do what he has done.  Look at verses 6-7.  Paul knows that his death is soon.  The writing is on the wall if you will.  Thus, he can say: I am already being poured out as a drink offering.  For Paul, every day was a sacrifice to the Lord.  Every day was laying down of His life for the glory of His Savior.  He was constantly spending himself for the good of others and the glory of God.  And as he comes to the end of his life, his testimony should stand as a goal for all of us: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  My hope and prayer is that I can say such words when it comes time for me to die.  My hope and prayer is the same for you.  Like Paul, like Timothy, like all the saints who have gone before us, may we fight the good fight, finish our course, and keep the faith.

Paul then notes the award that awaits him after this life.  Look at verse 8.  We are normally uncomfortable with the idea of ‘award’ or ‘reward’ for the Christian life.  And make no mistake, Paul is not saying that he will be getting what he has earned or worked for.  Paul knows that without God’s grace, he would have no hope for any reward in the future.  Yet, even though it is not something that we will earn, the promise of future, complete righteousness (the crown of righteousness) should motivate us and compel us to be faithful to all that God has called us to be.  Paul notes that it is a promise that is not just for him or Timothy, but for all who have loved his appearing.  All of those who long for the Lord’s return, who have turned from their sins, trusted in Christ’s work for them at the cross, and cannot wait to be with Him forever, will receive this reward.  Thus, the future promise of righteousness stands as a great motivation for our current service to God.  May we keep the charge to preach the Word and fulfill our ministries in light of this glorious promise.

We are here because the people of God need to hear the Word of God preached.  These are powerful moments each and every Sunday.  We cannot take it lightly.  As your minister, I am committed to praying over the Word, studying the Word, and preaching the Word, week in and week out until the Lord’s appearing or until He takes me home.  My goal is not to make you laugh or make you feel good about yourself or entertain you.  No, my goal is to faithfully proclaim the Word of God to you, passage by passage, book by book.  Thus, what is your role in all of this?  First, pray for me.  Please, please, pray for me.  Pray for my study, pray for my understanding, and pray that I will preach the Word with power here.  Second, study with me.  I make the texts for Sunday available so that I when I get behind the pulpit each week we can be ready as a congregation to hear God speak.  Prepare yourself for that by meditating on the Word throughout the week.  Third, listen to me.  Not because I am a great communicator (I am not).  Not because you pay me to do it.  No, listen to me, listen to the Word, as if your life depended on it, because it does.  You need the Word.  I need the Word.  We need the Word.  May the Lord grant me grace to preach it and us grace to hear it and obey.  Amen.

1 William B. Barcley, 1 & 2 Timothy (Webster, NY: Evangelical Press, 2005), p.286.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Monday, 22 August 2011 )

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