The Dedication Necessary for Preaching–part 2
The command and dedication required for preaching
2 Timothy 4:1
Do you face your fears? You can’t really get a definitive list of the top ten fears of people. Even though there are differences between the lists, there are also great similarities. Fears listed are the fear of flying, fear of public speaking, fear of heights, fear of the dark, fear of intimacy, fear of death, fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of spiders, fear of commitment.
Other lists add the fear of getting old, fear of being poisoned, fear of being a coward, fear of germs, fear of going crazy, fear of rats, cockroaches, airplanes, monsters, ghosts and demons, fear of death, fear of loneliness, fear of small spaces, fear of needles, fear of snakes, fear of clowns, fear of blood, fear of insects, fear of financial problems, fear of deep water, fear of sickness, fear of death and a great local fear, the fear of cats in Hemet.
What is remarkable about every single list I read, each list universally includes the fear of public speaking as one of the greatest fears. Public speaking creates more fear for people than death. And yet, public speaking is what preaching is, and what preachers do. For preachers, the public nature of the sermon is both a necessity and a cost.
It is necessary, because the very nature of the task is heralding God’s Word to Christ’s church. And it’s a cost, because public speaking is demanding. Preaching just one 50-minute sermon expends as much energy as working an 8-hour day. On a human level, preaching is challenging. But on a divine level, preaching is massively serious.
Turn to 2 Timothy chapter 4 in your Bibles and follow along in your outline. As Paul charges his protégé, Timothy, in verses 1 to 5, giving Timothy the most intense, hair-raising, responsible, and serious charge to preach the Word. About verse 1, John Piper says, “There is nothing quite like it anywhere else in Scripture. . . I am not aware of any other biblical command that has such an extended, exalted, intensifying introduction.”
If you’re that person who suspects previous generations of overestimating the importance of preaching, take note of the six intensifiers Paul includes in his charge to Timothy. “1) I solemnly charge you 2) in the presence of God 3) and of Christ Jesus, 4) who is to judge the living and the dead, 5) and by His appearing 6) and His kingdom [WHAT? verse 2], preach the Word.”
Preaching is serious stuff. Consider what preaching involves–preaching is exalting a loving, sovereign Father who is often forgotten and complained against, pointing to the sacrifice of a gracious Savior who is everyone’s only hope, and calling for complete dependence upon an all-powerful Spirit who alone can make life possible. With preaching, you are proclaiming a narrow, specific, exclusive Gospel message which describes God’s solo effort, while destroying any and all forms of your effort.
Preaching involves confronting long-held sins, exposing cherished idols of the heart, opposing a murderous devil, crushing all love for this world, calling for the denial of self. Preaching exalts God’s thinking and destroys your thinking. Preaching proclaims God’s truth while destroying your ideas. Preaching shows God’s wisdom and exposes your folly.
And just as preaching exposes the hearts of the listeners, preaching also exposes the heart of the preacher. Those who are called to interpret the Word and proclaim its truths have the weightiest responsibility the Lord places on any man. When a man stands before God’s people as God’s spokesman, the stakes are not only high while preaching in the pulpit, but also high for his life outside the pulpit.
This is why Paul said to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:16, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” This is an eternal salvation issue. This is why James 3:1 to 2 warns, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.”
No human being apart from Jesus ever spoke perfectly, not even the prophets or apostles. Only when they were recording God’s revealed Word did they speak perfectly. James readily includes himself in the imperfect camp when he says. “for we all stumble.” This requires preachers to take special care to prevent their imperfections from clouding their testimony and tarnishing the Lord’s name. Preaching is seriously important.
Preachers and teachers pay a high price. There is a cost to their labor. There is dependent prayer, and 16 to 32 hours of study per sermon. Along with shepherding, fellowship, training, counseling, functioning as an elder in plurality, event planning, vision casting, administration, and being available–there is the constant weight of criticism, expectations, misunderstandings, disappointments, departures and deaths. Every departure is a shot.
Then add several cups of patience needed in order to wait for saints to mature, to serve, to give, to feed themselves, to function in community and overcome sin. You could also highlight the discipline of sacrificing every weekend, in order to properly prepare, review, and rest enough to be ready for Sunday’s proclamation.
Think about those pastors with young children–when their kids are most available on weekends, their preacher dad is the most distracted. Consider their wives who have to learn how to love others who smile at her, while at the same time are continually critical of her preacher husband.
There are rare churches that take the Lord and His Word seriously, but do not take themselves seriously. There are churches where people actually love their church and enjoy one another as they serve the Lord together. Churches where preachers and congregation enjoy a joyful, trusting relationship. Churches where you see people come to Christ and become more like Christ. Churches were men and women are trained. Churches that seek to proclaim the Gospel locally and internationally.
FBC is not the only church which owns this level of joy, but we are one of them and I am extremely thankful. But make no mistake, there is a cost to pay in order to be a preacher or teacher. There is a devotedness necessary to preach God’s Word accurately. Whether it’s this pulpit, your community group, student ministry, children’s teachers, youth leaders, equipping classes, individual ministries, no matter what. All require a commitment, which Paul spells out to Timothy in verses 1 to 5—read it aloud with me.
“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.”
Chapter 3 described what to do about false teachers and doctrinal error in the Church. Paul taught Timothy the importance of learning the Word in verse 13, developing convictions about the Word, verse 14, living the Word modeled by godly men and women, verse 15, and depending on the Word in every way, verses 16 and 17.
While in a Roman prison now, Paul writes his final words before Heaven to Timothy, who is pressured by persecution on the outside of the church and pressured by error inside the church. Paul has affirmed God’s Word is the answer to your struggles. Now in chapter 4, Paul commands how God’s Word must be heard by preaching. Last week we studied verse one, which stresses . . .
- The SERIOUSNESS of expositional preaching
Read verse 1, as Paul arguably gives the most intense charge found in the New Testament. “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 is seriously important–preach God’s Word as if you’re standing before the omnipresent God.
Preach, knowing you will one day give answer to the judge of mankind, Christ. Preach as if you are standing face-to-face in front of the returned Lord. And preach before the King who will rule this planet. Preaching is seriously important. Not only is Paul impressing Timothy with the importance of preaching the Word, Paul next exhorts Timothy to show the dedication necessary to preach the Word powerfully in a local church.
In verse 2, Paul will answer what is the process to proclaim the Word of God, and what is the price you pay to preach God’s Word accurately. Read verse 2, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”
Verse 2 contains five commands connected to the preaching of God’s Word. Each command is a general imperative command requiring Timothy’s active response. The commands are to 1) preach, 2) be ready, 3) reprove, 4) rebuke, and 5) exhort, causing this verse to break down two ways, giving us point 2, and point 3 today.
- The COMMAND and CONTENT of expositional preaching
Verse 2, “preach the word.” Preach is the command, and the Word is the content.
First The COMMAND
Paul commands Timothy to “preach the Word.” The term “preach” is offensive to many people today, because it instills warped images of a preacher with a holier–than–thou attitude hammering on them. However, the Greek word kērussō means to herald–to proclaim publicly. In old America, it was used to describe the proclamation of the town crier, “Hear ye, hear ye!” then informing the town’s people of the king’s decree.
Similarly, biblical preachers proclaim the dictates of the returning, ruling King. In New Testament times, the herald was an imperial messenger, would go through the streets of a city to announce special events, such as the coming of the emperor to their region. The herald’s responsibilities are to give public announcements of new laws, announce government policies and herald crucial news of the empire.
Paul, Timothy and preachers today are the King’s heralds. But remember, Paul is writing Timothy, and Timothy was timid. Timothy didn’t have the strong, naturally-aggressive personality Paul had. Timothy may not have had the formal training Paul had and definitely, Timothy was not as sophisticated and experienced as Paul. Timothy was probably not as eloquent as some of the errant teachers.
Timothy was thirty years younger than Paul and handicapped by age when dealing with older saints. In spite of all those limitations, Paul commands Timothy to be the king’s messenger to relay the message of the King to the King’s people. There are gifted orators who can sway an audience with the power of their persuasive rhetoric. There are men who are erudite, knowledgeable, well-trained, and worldly-wise, who can cause other men to change their minds about certain matters.
There are men who can relate moving stories that tug at a hearer’s heart and move people emotionally. Sometimes God gives those same type of abilities to biblical preachers. But most often, God chooses not to bless faithful preachers with those unique skills. Regardless, those gifted to preach are charged to proclaim God’s Word–why?
Because the spiritual power of preaching does not rest in the skill of the speaker but in the power of the truth. Timothy isn’t being asked to be a super communicator here. Paul commands Timothy to share the Kings words the way the King said it–pointing to . . .
Second The CONTENT: Paul commands Timothy, PREACH the WORD
Paul doesn’t say “preach the Gospel” or “preach the kingdom,” he says “preach the Word.” “The Word” links back to Paul’s use of “all Scripture” in 3:16 to 17. In the original text, there’s no chapter break between 2 Timothy 3:16 to 17 and 4:1 to 5. In the Bible, the Greek terms Scripture and Word both refer to God’s written revelation.
So the Scripture, which is inspired in 2 Timothy 3:16, is the Word which is preached in 4:2. The faithful preacher’s message will come out of the God-breathed Scripture text and be governed by the text of Scripture. Only preach the author’s intended message. The apostle is saying the Word is what the body of Christ needs. Preach the Word, not your feelings, your opinions, human reasoning, or even your morals. The only issue that matters is what God has said. God’s Word is the only standard for the Church.
Remember when the power went off in your house and later when it came back on, you had to reset all your clocks, because they were all off except your phone. Before the cell phone, you actually had to call for the time. You’d dial a number and it would tell you the time. That computer voice on the phone was set to the government’s atomic clock in Colorado, which sets the official time for the nation.
That time is the standard. All other clocks, including your phone, are set to the standard clock. All churches and all Christians are to be set to the standard clock of God’s Word–the words of the King. For the preacher, the Bible is not to be a launching pad to say what you want, speak about what’s on your heart, or decipher current events, or teach new ideas. Preaching is not an emotional pep talk or an opportunity to tell uplifting stories or practice your latest comedic comments. Preaching isn’t a collection of self-help principles.
The content of preaching is to preach the Word. Not preach about the Bible, but to preach the Bible. That is what is meant by expositional preaching. It is exposing the message of the Scripture as God breathed it. Expositional preaching is teaching the Bible word-by-word, phrase-by-phrase, verse-by-verse, paragraph-by-paragraph in its context as intended, seeking the original meaning by the original author. It is letting the Bible speak for itself.
Have you been to a community event, where there is an open mic, and people share? Inevitably, there is one person you pray doesn’t get the mic, because you know he or she will talk far too long. They hijack the event and often take things another direction. The goal of preaching is to never allow anyone, anything, even the preacher himself to hijack the King’s message. That is why expository preaching is so crucial.
Consider the advantages of expository preaching, working our way through the Bible. Consecutive expository preaching through a text, word-by-word, verse-by-verse. It safeguards God’s agenda from being hijacked by our agenda. It makes it harder for preachers to abuse the Bible by reading it out of context. It hinders the preacher from being selective and not talking about truths difficult for him. It keeps the content of the sermon fresh and surprising.
It makes for variety in the style of the sermon and helps the preaching proclaim the whole Christ from the whole of Scripture. It makes it clear God alone works through His Word by His Spirit to change people’s lives. It minimizes the danger of manipulating people, because the text drives the meaning, not the preacher. It demands humility from the preacher, as coming under the Word will convict his own heart. It drives the proclamation of the Gospel, which is found throughout the Scripture.
This does not mean preaching can’t explain a topic or a theology and still honor the text. It doesn’t mean our students can’t hear God’s Word about purity, relationships and more. But the majority of preaching in a church should be expositional—word-by-word. 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. Preach the Word–the context of preaching is the Word. “All Scripture is inspired by God”–therefore we should be committed to preach all the Word–the entire written Word of God.
Preach God’s complete revealed truth as contained in the Bible, as Paul declared in Acts 20:27, “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.” Paul wants Timothy to teach all Bible.
Now with the remainder of verse 2, Paul sketches out seven brief descriptions of what good preaching looks like, and the mandatory dedication to pull it off.
- The DEDICATION necessary for expositional preaching
Verse 2, “preach the word; 1) be ready 2) in season and out of season; 3) reprove, 4) rebuke, 5) exhort, 6) with great patience and 7) instruction.” Paul describes the commitments Timothy must exercise in order to properly preach God’s Word the way God wants His Word proclaimed. Here is God’s Word, telling Timothy how to preach God’s Word.
First Preaching requires PREPARING
“Be ready.” Be ready to preach the word. 1) “Be ready in season and out of season.” Be ready is an unusual command. “Be ready” is to stand by–to be close at hand, to be standing near, pressing, earnest. “Be ready” carries the idea of suddenness, forcefulness, urgency and preparedness. “Be ready” is the same Greek word Paul uses at the end of verse 6 in this chapter—“the time of my departure [same verb] has come.” It is here, it is now, it has come.
This readiness here is not the guy who hopes the President doesn’t get shot. Readiness is the man who stands next to the President so he doesn’t get shot. “Be ready” is used of a soldier prepared to go into battle or the guard who is continually alert for any surprise attack–urgent preparedness. Picture a paramedic unit on call, ready to save someone’s life. The preacher is God’s paramedic unit, since souls are perishing without Christ and Christians are fading without strength. ”Be ready” to preach God’s Word–to save the aints and build the saints.
True preachers must “be ready” 24/7, not with a new sermon ready to preach–that is not the point. But Paul is commanding Timothy here, be life-prepared to do the work, because preaching is not a hobby. Preaching is not something you do–preaching is a life passion you pursue. The preacher is never off-duty.
All the preacher’s life and his walk with God go into the preaching of the Word, because biblical peaching is God’s truth through a man who walks with God. There are men who like to preach, but their life isn’t preaching. Paul says to Timothy, this is your life–readiness means preaching is your passion. And . . .
Second Preaching requires PERSISTING
“Be ready in season and out of season.” I used to think “in season and out of season” meant a pastor should always be prepared with a sermon manuscript in his Bible. While that’s not a bad idea, it isn’t what Paul meant. The two Greek adverbs which translate this phrase mean conveniently and untimely. To “be ready in season and out of season” means to preach whether it is convenient or inconvenient.
The faithful preacher must proclaim the Word when it is accepting and when it is not–when it seems suitable to do so, and when it seems not. Whether they like it or not. In other words, preachers must preach the Word when it’s popular and when it’s not. This means in an age of compromise, preachers must take their stand on the Word. In a world that couldn’t care less, preachers must care more.
The tests for today’s preachers are many. A true pulpit will preach on the distinct roles of men and women, the necessity of spanking, the practice of church discipline, that all other religions are demonic and heresy, that elders rule, husbands lead, the Bible is the authority, that the pulpit isn’t political, that the practice of homosexuality is sin, that God made each sex unique, that marriage is God’s design, that divorce is sin with only two exceptions, that children obey their parents, that God created the world in six literal 24-hour days, that Jesus must be Lord to be saved and so much more.
The dictates of popular culture, tradition, reputation, acceptance, or esteem in the community (or in the Church) must never alter the true preacher’s persistence to proclaim God’s Word as written by the original authors.
Third Preaching requires CORRECTING
“Reprove”–correcting slaps the face of our current culture. Nobody corrects anyone. But friends, a good sermon and a faithful preacher will preach God’s Word, so that it corrects you. “Reproves”–some of you love God, but you get off-track, and you need God’s Word through preaching to grab your heart and correct you.
Not everyone likes correction–some get mad, others sad, some write evil emails, terrible texts, loathsome letters. Some leave, and most blame the preacher for what he said, didn’t say or the way he said it, instead of repenting after being corrected. But you and I need correction from God’s Word and the command translated “reprove” means to convince one of wrong. Whenever the Word of God is properly communicated, it will confront, convict, and convince its hearers of God’s truth.
Reproof carries the idea of correcting misbehavior or false doctrine. Reproving probably has to do with changing the mind, leading one to repentance. Simply, biblical reproof is helping a believer understand what he believes or what she is doing is wrong. Then . . .
Fourth Preaching requires CONFRONTING
“Rebuke”–the command “rebuke” is slightly more intense than “reprove.” It means to warn those who have already been reproved. Preachers have a responsibility to inform individuals about the urgency of responding to the preached Word. It is a dangerous thing to mess with God. Paul’s point to timid Tim is that, as a preacher, he must care enough to correct and confront, to reprove and rebuke.
A preacher must be willing to risk a relationship with an individual and risk with an entire church family in order to promote Christ-likeness in fellow believers. And rebuke is difficult. Rebuke is the right hand of fellowship–but not an open hand, a closed fist that punches you in the spiritual gut. Rebuke is the right hand of fellowship which hits the jaw of unrighteousness with the knock-out punch. It’s confronting rebuke.
If you feel a sermon hit you with the Word, then praise God and respond with repentance–don’t attack the preacher. Don’t leave the church. But preachers, if you enjoy reproving or rebuking, you’re not likely fit for the ministry. Yet preachers, if you don’t reprove or rebuke, then you’re a shirker. Preaching also . . .
Fifth Preaching requires ENCOURAGING
“Exhort”–with God’s Word alone, after having reproved and rebuked disobedient believers under his care, the faithful preacher is then to come alongside those same believers, and to love and encourage them toward becoming like Christ. This final command of verse 2, translated “exhort”,
can also be rendered encourage, and also means (listen to these sweet words) to implore, urge, earnestly support and invite.
This imperative here means to come alongside and build up believers with the Word. Those who’ve been reproved and rebuked need exhortation, encouragement and comfort. The late preacher Vance Havner had it right when he said his job as a preacher was to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. There needs to be encouragement in preaching–the call to depend on Christ.
Sixth Preaching requires ENDURING
Paul tells Timothy to preach with “great patience.” The adjective “great” has a superlative meaning–all greatness, the absolute greatest. All preachers desperately need “great patience” because not everyone will heed God’s Word. Some will sit casually without a Bible and take in a snackeral of truth. Others will listen with little response. Others will take notes to review and apply. And a few will see preaching for what it really is–the message of their King to live and obey.
Preachers must have great patience or they will die from discouragement. The word “patience” can also be translated longsuffering–holding one’s anger a long time without cracking. As messengers of God’s Word, preachers must be willing to suffer long. “Patience” literally means to abide under and is often translated endurance or perseverance.
But here Paul is speaking specifically of patience with people, with members of a flock who are persistently stubborn or who resist the admonitions of the Word. The preacher must not become exasperated or angry, remembering that he himself is a test of patience for the Great Shepherd. If the perfect Son of God is so patient with sinners, how much more are His people obligated to endure patience with others?
Seventh Preaching requires TEACHING
Paul ends verse 2 with “and instruction.” Although mentioned at the end of the verse, didachē (instruction) is foundational and completely intertwined in the process of preaching. Preaching is the careful teaching of God’s Word as written. There is no preaching unless it is at its roots teaching. Those who say different do not understand the mandate to preach the Word.
An unbeliever will not be convicted of his sin and come to salvation apart from instruction from God’s Word about his lost condition and his need for saving faith in Christ. A believer will not be convicted of his sin and brought to repentance apart from the work of God’s Word in his heart energized by the Holy Spirit.
The power of preaching is not because of a preacher’s personal authority. Preaching doesn’t rest on the preacher’s ability to be persuasive. Preaching is not based on how well the preacher knows Scripture, nor is preaching reliant upon how greatly the preacher is gifted, and preaching is definitely not subject to how good looking the preacher is. The power of preaching is solely based upon the power of Scripture itself, applied by the Holy Spirit. It is preaching which explains God’s Word, instructs, which empowers a ministry, makes Christian service fruitful and blesses a church family.
Allow me to HIGHLIGHT some truths . . .
1 Preaching is the most important commitment, but not the ONLY commitment
The ministry of a healthy church involves serving, praying, equipping, training, shepherding and more. Preaching is essential to a healthy church. You cannot have a healthy church without biblical, expositional preaching. God reminds us, as important as preaching is, there are other gifted people who are not up front, who are also crucial to the health of a local church.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:22, “It is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.” The liver is hidden, but necessary to the health of a physical body—so, many of you may not be up front, but you are crucial to the health of this spiritual body. Are you serving so we can survive and remain healthy as a church?
2 Healthy training processes are designed for others to find their sovereign CALLING
When you train someone, you are not making them into something–you are helping them discover what God has already made them into. The training center does not make you into an elder, preacher or missionary–it is only designed to help you discover what God predesigned you to become. Consider being trained in the future, so you can fulfill the good works which God designed beforehand for you to do.
3 Preaching is NECESSARY for the Church and for the Christian
You need preaching, and you must view preaching as the words of your King given to you. Some of you need to ramp up your listening. Work at it–bring a Bible, take notes, review what you heard, and when the Spirit convicts you–repent, engage your will to repent. You need to engage more in listening to the Word of God when it is preached.
4 Preaching calls for SALVATION and sanctification
You are going to be judged for your life–you will face the returning Lord and ruling King. If you are not in Christ as a born-again Christian, you will be eternally punished in Hell. And Christian, the only way to be blessed now and rewarded in Heaven is to obey the Word of God and serve in the power of the Holy Spirit. Today is the day to turn to Christ and today is the day for the believer to begin to serve. Let’s pray.