Preaching is Seriously Important–part 1
The answer is the Bible, chapter 3–the process is preaching, chapter 4
2 Timothy 4:1
A newly ordained preacher and his young wife were talking about being more considerate of each other. The good wife promised she would stop being so critical of his sleep-inducing sermons. He, in return, promised to honor her privacy and stop looking through her dresser drawers. The preacher was true to his word and never looked through his wife’s dresser drawers. The good wife was never openly critical of her husband’s sermons and their marriage progressed smoothly.
After fifty years, their children gave a great party to celebrate the golden anniversary of the preacher and his wife. Many people came to congratulate the happy couple and brought lovely gifts. That evening, as they were putting the gifts away, the preacher saw that his wife had left one dresser drawer slightly open. He tried as hard as he could to withstand the temptation, but he finally opened the drawer and looked inside.
He was shocked–in the drawer he found three eggs and $10,000 in bills of varied denominations. He was greatly puzzled by this and went to question his wife. “Oh,” she said. “Well, you remember when we spoke of being more considerate with each other all those years ago?” The preacher, feeling profoundly guilty, answered, “Yes.”
“Well,” she continued, “I promised to stop criticizing your boring sermons, but every time you gave a sermon that was a real snoozer, I put an egg into that drawer.” The preacher was happy with himself and smiled. “Well, that’s not so bad–fifty years of sermons and only three eggs! But what about all that money?” His wife quietly responded, “Every time I got a dozen eggs, I sold them.” That poor preacher–you know, Jean heard that story early on and she only made $1700.
Talk to any believer about preaching and you are certain to get an opinion. Boring, too educational, too much teaching, not entertaining, not enough stories, not enough application, too dry, too passionate, too dispassionate, and more. No one can ignore how important preaching is to the Lord and for His Church. God makes that very clear in 2 Timothy 4:1 to 5. Turn there and open finally to chapter 4.
This final section of 2 Timothy contains the last inspired words penned by Paul, who knew his earthly life was nearing its end. See verse 6, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering,” he wrote, “and the time of my departure has come.” With that bittersweet prospect in mind–while he is in his prison cell in Rome, Paul gives his final charge to Timothy who is ministering in Ephesus, to preach the Word.
In what had been an exemplary church, some believers, including a few in leadership, began to defect. Paul even predicted years earlier in Acts 20 they’d go AWOL. Timothy had been placed by the apostle as his apostolic assistant in Ephesus, where sound doctrine and godliness had lost their primacy.
Some of the defection was caused by Empire-wide persecution outside the Church, reminding you and I not to be shocked when those loyal to Christ in easy times desert Christ and His Church when discipleship becomes costly and difficult. But not Timothy. As with every genuine preacher of God’s Word–Timothy did not choose his ministry, but was appointed to it by God. Just as God sovereignly called Timothy to salvation, He also sovereignly appointed Timothy to preach God’s Word.
Although this text is directed first of all to Timothy, the commands of verses 1 to 5 apply to every minister of the Gospel in every age, every place, and every circumstance. In a broader way, this passage also applies to every faithful believer here, because it is essential for every gifted minister to obey this charge toward their children, to their disciples, and to all their brothers and sisters. We all preach the Word of God to each other.
Plus, churches are responsible, under God and with God, to hold their pastor-teachers accountable to the truths exposed in these five verses. The role of the preacher in Christ’s Church is seriously important. The first measure of any church is its pulpit. It is not the only Christ-given evaluation, but it is the first and most important. God has ordained His people be taught by Spirit-gifted, Spirit-led, and Spirit-empowered men.
The spiritual life and faithfulness of every genuine church is always closely linked to its pulpit, which reflects the faithfulness of its pastors to God’s Word. The Bible is not nebulous about what the Lord expects of those He calls to preach. Among the many qualifications God gives to preachers in the New Testament, Paul describes eight of them in these verses. What are they?
The seriousness–verse 1, the command–verse 2, the dedication–verse 2, the Importance–verses 3 to 4, the attitude, cost, heart, and target–verse 5 of expositional preaching. These will take us a few weeks to work through. Today, verse 1, Paul uses nine imperatives/nine total commands here–five in verse 2 and four in verse 5.
Let’s read, “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: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
The main command is found in verse 2, “preach the word.” The Greek term for “word” is connected to verse 16, meaning the preaching is of the God-breathed words of God. In the original text, there’s no chapter break between 2 Timothy 3:16 to 17 and 4:1 to 5. The word at the end of verse 2, “instruction”, means teaching or doctrine. “All Scripture is profitable for teaching.”
A preacher must explain the doctrines of the Bible so when he is done, you can look at the biblical text in its context and say, “I understand what it is saying and how it applies to my life.” The faithful preacher’s message will come out of the text of Scripture and be governed by the text of Scripture. Only preach the author’s intended message.
The Bible isn’t to be used as a launching pad to say what you want, to speak about spiritual truths that are on your heart, to highlight God’s perspective on current events, or to try to impact listeners with ideas imposed on a passage. Preaching is not an emotional pep talk to help you feel good about living for Jesus. Preaching is not an opportunity to tell uplifting stories or share your latest comedic comments. Preaching is not a collection of self-help principles which, if you removed the biblical verses, the sermon could easily appear as a Readers Digest article.
Preaching is not meant to be entertaining. Preaching is not an opportunity to show how much Bible you know or what is important to you. Preaching is not an opportunity for you to merely describe what impacted you from the text. Preachers are to exegete the Bible–which means to draw out the original meaning of the text–not eisegete, which means to read into the text what you want it to say.
Like waiters, preachers are to get God’s food from God’s kitchen exactly the way He originally laid it out on the plate, to your table for you to eat without messing it up. The Greek word preach means to herald. The herald is the king’s messenger who relays the king’s message to the people. He isn’t free to make up stuff. He must not be a motivational speaker or a spin doctor or a comedian or a storyteller. His job was to faithfully proclaim the king’s message so people understand it.
Paul just reminded Timothy in verse 17, Scripture is what gives the wisdom necessary to lead the unbeliever to salvation. Scripture is also what sanctifies the believer. Taught correctly, the Bible will cause some to come to Christ and will cause His children to become like Christ. This is why preaching the Word is so seriously important. Paul spent chapter 3 telling Timothy it will be dependence on the God-breathed Word which will keep you on course in the midst of an ocean of error. Now He tells Timothy how God’s Word must be communicated. Preach the Word–why?
1. The SERIOUSNESS of expositional preaching Verse 1
Read verse 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: 2 preach the word.” Why is preaching so serious? Because preaching is the message of our King, the Lord, our Creator, and our Savior; the one who rescued you when you couldn’t rescue yourself–the one you owe everything to–the one who died for His sheep. Preaching the author’s intended message of the Bible is a life or death issue.
Hugh Latimer once preached before King Henry VIII, around 1550. Henry was greatly displeased by the boldness in the sermon and ordered Latimer to preach the same sermon again on the following Sunday, and to apologize for the offence he’d given. The very next Sunday, after reading his text, Latimer began his sermon by saying this out loud to himself, with the king present in the room.
Hugh said, “Hugh Latimer, do you know before whom you are this day to speak? To the high and mighty monarch, the king’s most excellent majesty, who can take away your life, if you offend him. Therefore, take heed that you speak not a word that may displease… But then consider well, Hugh, and remember from where you came and Whose message you bear? Even by the great and mighty God, Who is all-present and Who beholds all your ways and Who is able to cast your soul into hell! Therefore, take care that you deliver your message faithfully.”
Latimer then preached the same sermon he had preached the preceding Sunday–with even more energy and passion. Hugh Latimer preached in the light of the charge found in 2 Timothy 4 verse 1. His commitment to honor God’s Word over men eventually cost him his life. He was burned at the stake by bloody Mary, Henry VIII’s daughter. While the flames began to rise, Hugh said to Nicholas Ridley, who was being martyred with him, “Be of good comfort, Mr. Ridley, and play the man! We shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace, in England, as I trust never shall be put out.” Hugh demonstrates the same two points which make up the serious call of verse 1.
First Be motivated with a SERIOUS CHARGE to expositional preaching
Verse 1a, preachers are JUDGED for the character of their preaching. “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: 2 preach the word” (4:1a)). If Paul had said, “I solemnly charge you, preach the Word,” it would’ve been a strong exhortation.
If Paul had said, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, preach the Word,” it would have been a really strong exhortation. If Paul had said, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead,” we’re off the charts on strong exhortation.
But when Paul says, “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: 2 preach the word”–it is hard to imagine how Paul could have said this charge any more emphatically. It’s as if he reached out and grabbed Timothy by his shirt, pulled him to within six inches of his face, and screamed at him, “Preach the Word!”
Paul has charged Timothy before, in 1 Timothy 5:21, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality.” And in 2 Timothy 2:14,”Charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers.” But now here in chapter 4:1, Timothy is charged to preach God’s inspired Word in God’s presence.
The Greek word translated “solemnly charge” has a legal nuance. The idea is taking an oath in a court of law. Paul is calling Timothy to stand in front of God’s judicial bench. Then charging him under oath with the serious task of proclaiming God’s Word accurately to those who will also someday stand in front of that same bench for judgment by our King, our Lord, and our Judge–Christ Jesus Himself. Which leads Paul to encourage Timothy to . . .
Second Be motivated by the JUDGE you will answer to for your preaching
Verse 1b, Preachers are JUDGED for the character of their preaching. Except for those with no conscience, when you stand in front of a judge, there is a healthy pressure to speak the truth, to be accurate and to be clear. I know for many of you, when you go to court even to determine jury duty, you don’t mess around in a courtroom. You answer questions honestly and accurately, and the truth be told, there is a healthy fear to make certain what you say is correct.
Paul uses that same healthy fear to remind Timothy he’ll stand before the great Judge, not only for what he did with his life, but specifically what he did with his preaching. “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.” Preaching the Word is of utmost importance in view of God’s continual presence, the coming judgment, the soon return of Christ and Christ ruling the earth in His Kingdom.
First, Paul gives Timothy the legal term, the solemn charge. Now he gives Tim the description of the Judge Timothy will face under oath in God’s eternal courtroom. Notice in verse 1 the terms of Christ Jesus—“who is . . . by His appearing . . . and His Kingdom.” All of the pronouns in Greek are singular. There is only one person who will judge your preaching. There is only one person you will answer to for your preaching.
On your preaching–if that person is a Kardashian, no big deal, because they’re a social media joke. If that person you have to answer to is your high school English teacher–maybe there is a little pressure, but that definitely would not be overwhelming. If that person is your boss, it may affect your job or salary, but not your eternity.
But if the person you have to answer to for your preaching and your life is your Creator, your Savior and the one true God who knows everything you have ever said, done, or thought, and He knows all the motives and intentions behind everything–then that is the greatest, strongest, most fearful motivation to move you to make certain you preach correctly and live a life pleasing to Christ. And to preach in a way that pleases Christ, Paul reminds Timothy . . .
2. God is personal WITNESS to the serious charge to preach Verse 1c
“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.” God knows everything–He’s omniscient. God is all powerful–He’s omnipotent. But the one true God is also omnipresent, fully present everywhere. Paul says in the presence of God, stop putting God in a box. All of us are guilty of prejudging God–then in your life, making Him live up to your false expectations.
This is what you battled with in high school. When a nerd did something cool, it didn’t matter, because you already considered him a nerd–to be disdained. When a star athlete did something nerdy, we laughed–but it was okay, because he was already cool. He remained in His preconceived, prechosen cool box.
We do the same thing to our God. We go through one day, then another, then more days where we don’t remember Christ. We soon forget His constant presence with us. Then we start to act like He doesn’t love us nor walk with us every single moment of every single day, in every place we go. We put God in a box. But friends, God is fully present everywhere–He is omnipresent. Omni means all and present means He is here.
There is no point nearer to God than any other point. You know Psalm 139:7 to 10, “Where can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, Thou are there, if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Thy hand will lead me, and Thy right hand will lay hold of me.”
From the highest point to the lowest–if you were to travel faster than the speed of light (“the wings of the dawn”) you cannot get away from God. His powerful, loving right hand is there to catch you and comfort you. In fact, God is so close to you, He is ubiquitous. God is fully present with you. He is fully here and wants to be. He is never absent and your Lord is never far.
So when Paul says in verse 1, “I solemnly charge you . . . in the presence of God”–he’s reminding Timothy before the fully present, always present God, before Him who is fully watching and aware, I charge you to faithfully preach the Word. Preachers are judged for the character of their preaching. “Timothy, function under the omniscient scrutiny of God’s divine presence when you preach the Word. Timothy, you preach for an audience of one–Christ Himself, in fact.”
3. You will answer to the eternal JUDGE for your preaching Verse 1d
“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.” Christ Jesus is the judge of the living and the dead. The verb “is” (before “to judge”) literally means is about to. This implies the imminence of judgment–any moment the day is coming when Christ will return. But this time, Christ will not be veiled. Christ will not restrict the use of His attributes. Christ will not even appear as a mere man.
Christ came the first time as the suffering Savior to redeem us from our sins. But this time, when He comes again, He’ll come as the Sovereign King to put down all rebellion and judge the living and the dead. The New Testament describes three distinct judgments of human beings by Christ the judge—1) the bema seat judgment is only for believers, 2) the sheep and goat judgment where believers will be separated from unbelievers prior to the 1,000-year rule of Christ in Matthew 25, and 3) the final Great White Throne judgment for unbelievers only in Revelation 20.
As believers in Christ, you will not face condemnation, but each of you will be judged. When Paul says, “Christ will judge the living and the dead,” he means He will judge believers who are still alive at His coming, but He will also judge believers who’ve already died. Therefore, no one will escape His judgment.
Second Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” You need to take life seriously. One day you’ll stand before the living God to give an account of your life. The Word of God teaches you how to live so you can hear, “Well done, good and faithful slave. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25).
Christ took your judgment for sin. But you will still face Him in judgment for your life. Whether He sees right through you, or Christ asks you pointed questions–you will answer for how you lived. Jesus might ask you . . .
“_____, did you use the gifts I gave you to serve in the church?”
“_____, did you use the money I loaned you to use? I placed you in the US with extra wealth.”
“_____, did you use your time for me?”
“_____, did you depend on my Spirit to work through you?”
“_____, did you share my Gospel message to the lost in this world?”
“What did you do with the life I purchased for you with My own suffering and death?”
Paul says to Timothy in verse 1, “You will answer to Christ for your life–especially your life as a preacher, even your preaching.” Whether living or dead, you’ll face Christ. And in contrast to the secular courts, this eternal court will function with perfect, unchallenged authority. There will be no arguments, no new evidence to be revealed, no cross-examination, no witnesses to call, no excuses, no jury of peers, and no appeal.
In the most absolute way, the Judge’s decision will be final. A preacher’s ultimate accountability is not to a denomination or any other human institution–no matter how doctrinally sound and godly it may be . . . but to the Lord, who has called, empowered him, and who will one day judge him. Preachers are judged for the character of their preaching.
4. Christ will soon return
He will evaluate your preaching fact-to-face, verse 1e. “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.” See it?—“and by His appearing.” Jesus is coming back. Christ is returning as the King above all kings, the Lord of all lords.
Revelation 19:11 to 13, “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.”
The Greek word “appearing” was used of the Emperor’s visit to a province. Just before he visited, the town was put in perfect order. The garbage was cleaned up, the streets were swept and the buildings were scrubbed—just for his appearing. You’ve had that special visitor to your home or event–where you put on the dog, primp or dress up. It takes work, it takes time, it requires skill and it requires discipline. Preaching also requires study, discipline, skill and lots of time.
Paul is charging Timothy to prepare for His coming by biblically preaching God’s Word. The King is coming. Preach before Christ as your Judge who is coming. Live and prepare in such a way that your life is ready and the people you preach to are ready for His return. And finally . . .
5. Christ will reign–your preaching should reflect His rule
Verse 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.” When Christ returns, He will take over the planet and with His glorified saints, Christ will rule this earth with perfect righteousness, justice and love. Christ will reign for a thousand years! Revelation 20:4, “Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”
And let there be no doubt, Christ will be completely in charge–no more Jewish religious leaders, no more Pilate, no more Caesar. There will only be one ruler. When He returns, Revelation 19:15 says, “From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron.”
From his prison cell in Rome, Paul writes to Timothy in error-filled Ephesus, charging his disciple to preach the Word, remembering that one day Christ will make everything right and rule all. Christ is the authority and His Word is the King’s words–the absolute authority over all. “Preach His Word, Tim–as certain, as sure, as true, as the only rule for all of life. Preach God’s Word as the authoritative Word of the Kind who rules all.”
Preachers are judged for the character of their preaching. “But Chris, I don’t understand the difference between good and poor preaching.” For the answer to that, you have to come back next week. But for this week, ask the Lord to give you the strength to . . .
1 Live every moment in the active presence of Christ
Psalm 139, “If I ascend to heaven, Thou are there, if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there.” Remind yourself with a coin in your pocket, a note, a mark on your hand, an alarm on your phone–that God is with you every moment of every day. Make it your goal every day this week to remember He is with you each moment. You’ll remember His deep love for you and your obedience to Him will grow stronger.
2 Rearrange your commitments to live in light of coming judgment
Romans 14:10b, “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.” First Corinthians 3:13, “Each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.” What changes would you make in your life if you believed in six months Christ were going to evaluate your faithful ministry of your giftedness in the church–giving to the Lord and evangelism of the lost? Live in light of coming judgment.
3 Repent of sin in light of Christ’s return
First John 3:2 and 3, “We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” Is there any sin you would repent of if you knew Christ was returning tomorrow and you would be with Him face to face?
4 Count the cost and accept the responsibility of teaching the Word
James 3:1, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” Teaching/preaching is a heavy and serious calling.
5 Submit to Christ as Lord as your only hope of forgiveness
Ephesians 1:7, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” Only in Christ–turn to Him.