We are Word-Centered | 2 Timothy 4:1-5
Topic: The Bible Scripture: 2 Timothy 4:1–5
Today’s focus is “WE ARE… Word-Centered.” We, as a church, desire to be centered and focused on the Word of God in every way possible. Why? Because it’s alive and active, Heb. 4:12. It’s a light for our path, Psalm 119:105. It endures forever, Isaiah 40:8. It tells us the entire story of God’s redemptive plan for mankind, from beginning to end. It shows us how to live like Christ in the midst of a crooked and depraved generation, Phil. 2:15. It is our source for wisdom and truth and sanctification, it’s how we know God, Prov. 2:6. And, Jesus Himself revealed that we live not on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. In many ways, it is our very life and sustenance. The question is: Do we treat it like this? Do we hunger for the Word of God? At Raintree, we desire to be Word-Centered, and foster this kind of hunger for the Word of God.
Now you may think, “Ryan, that’s every church. That’s not unique to Raintree.” I’ll agree with you that it’s not unique to Raintree; that would be a very sad thing if it was. But, I’ll also say there are fewer and fewer and fewer churches in the US that truly have this focus on the Word of God. This is one of the many reasons why today’s text is SO important. As a church, we can never assume anything when it comes to these most foundational parts of what it means to be a biblical church. D.A. Carson said it best: “One generation believes something. The next assumes it. And the third will forget and even deny it.” We must not assume that because we are a church, we are automatically focused around the Bible. We must actively pursue this and implement it in every way possible, and this is what Paul so strongly advocates in today’s Scripture.
2 Timothy 4:1-5 is where we’ll be. Before we jump right into that, it would be good to understand what’s happening in the book of 2 Timothy. This is a few years after Paul had written 1st Timothy, and Paul is apparently back in prison in Rome. This 2nd imprisonment is a little different though. The first time it was more like he was in house arrest; people could come in and out to see him. This time, however, that’s just not the case. In fact, in chapter 2 verse 9, Paul says he’s “bound in chains like a criminal.” So things are far more serious. In fact, Paul seems to know that he’s about to die! In chapter 4 verses 6-7, he says, “I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
So Paul is treating this letter like a last testament to Timothy. This is his most cherished disciple, someone he loves so dearly and someone who is so faithful to Christ, first, and also to following after Paul. So what we have here in 2nd Timothy is what Paul considers the most important last things to tell Timothy. In fact, these are the last recorded words of the Apostle Paul that we have. In today’s text, in particular, we see THE climax of the whole letter, the ONE most important thing he tells Timothy.
To get us into this text, let’s start in verse 10 of chapter 3, and we’ll read through verse 5 of chapter 4:
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
1 I 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: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
The most solemn, serious, central imperative command that Paul gives to Timothy: “Preach the Word.” Proclaim God’s message. Declare God’s truth. Preach the Word. Now, this is geared toward Timothy, who was at the time a pastor in the church at Ephesus. So this is speaking specifically to a pastor, BUT, there is so much truth to be garnered from what Paul is saying for all Christians. Yes, pastors, preach the Word. Proclaim the Truth. But, all Christians, also, are to proclaim the truth. We’re all to declare God’s Word to each other and to others and, yes, even preach to ourselves. Today, we’ll see 4 reasons to Preach the Word.
- Christ is Our Ultimate Judge (vs. 1)
Vs. 1- “I 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: preach the word.” So he starts off this solemn charge, the most important thing he’s going to tell Timothy, by clearly telling WHY Timothy should take this charge seriously. It’s interesting that he doesn’t say, “You know, because people are watching, both Christians and non-Christians, you better preach the Word.” He doesn’t say that. There’s no doubt that is a legitimate reason to preach the Word, to proclaim the truth. But the BIGGEST reason Timothy has to proclaim the truth, is because Christ Jesus is present. Christ Jesus, our Lord and King, is watching.
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead,” meaning those alive when Christ comes back, and those who have died. Guess who that includes? Everyone! Christ is our ultimate Judge; he is THE ultimate Judge. So Paul makes this charge not only in Christ’s presence, which is a big deal, but also “by his appearing and his kingdom.” The urgency to preach the Word is grounded in Christ as Judge, and in his imminent return. He’s coming back! The reality of Christ’s return (which is likely soon), the reality of Christ’s kingdom which he will fully establish when he does return, and the reality that Christ is the ultimate Judge: Those are, by far, the biggest reasons we have to Preach the Word.
The reality of Christ means that I, as your pastor, MUST faithfully preach and proclaim what God has said in his Word. And how do we know that Paul is referring here to the Bible? Well, the previous verses give that away: Verses 16-17 in chapter 3, just before this, as we already read: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” All of Scripture is the word we are to proclaim.
We have a commitment here at Raintree to something called Expository Preaching. Some of you have heard of this; many of you probably haven’t. Expository or expositional preaching is preaching that submits the shape and emphasis of a sermon to the shape and emphasis of the biblical text. What that means is that in this main gathering, we will not just have Bible-based teaching and preaching, where I give you some neat and even biblical ideas that I have and back them up with Scripture. No. As much as humanly possible, our desire at Raintree is to go straight to the Bible and see what God himself has to say! Why does this matter so much to see what God has said, as opposed to something I may come up with? Because Christ is the Judge, not people. He determines truth, not me. Expository preaching helps to make sure that we hear from God, and not just me.
The reason many pastors and churches opt for something other than expository preaching, or truly biblical preaching, is to try and be more engaging, or more relevant, less offensive or controversial, or even less boring! Here’s the problem with that: people are not our ultimate Judges. Christ is. I should be more fearful of not revealing what God has said than being boring. I should be more afraid of offending God by not proclaiming what He has said than offending people. Christ is our ultimate Judge.
WE don’t determine what is relevant. God does. And if God’s Word, and the true preaching of God’s Word, ever becomes boring to us, there’s a far greater problem than someone’s monotone voice or quirky personality, or “He’s just not funny enough.” We should be so on the edge of our seats ready to see and learn what God has said, no matter who is speaking or how engaging they are. And hopefully the preacher is passionate about the Word too, of course. But if we’re truly getting into the Word, and we’re bored, the problem is right here. Christ is the Judge of all things, including what matters. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that we determine what is relevant and what is not. God has given us that, in His Word. So we preach it.
I hope, if you ever move on from Raintree, that you desire to find a church that is committed to this type of preaching, even if it’s lacking in other areas. Can I just say this: Children’s ministry is NOT the most important thing to look for in a church. Nor is student ministry, or elderly ministry, or singles ministry, or the type of music of all things. The most important thing to look for in a church is a deep, deep commitment not just to a statement of faith that reflects the Word of God, but an active practice of proclaiming it.
This great command to preach the Word is not just for pastors. It’s for all Christians. Think about it: What of lasting value do we really have to give people, other than God’s truth? What do we have that could possibly be better for people, even non-Christians? Nothing! We don’t need to be ashamed of the Word of God, or you-know, try and give people advice that’s biblical but masked as secular. No, just give people the Word, unashamedly. Say, “You know, I do relationships this way, because that’s how God has laid it out in his Word.” We have the greatest truth in the world, that Christ himself, the ultimate Judge, has given us. Proclaim it! Share it! Preach it! The 2nd reason to preach the Word:
- The Word is God’s Ultimate Life-Changing Tool (vs. 2)
Now, the Holy Spirit is the ultimate life-changing agent, right? He’s the one who molds us into the likeness of Christ. But the greatest TOOL He uses, is the Word of God. Vs. 2- “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” In this one verse there are FIVE imperatives, or commands.
“Preach the Word” is the first. Very straightforward: it means proclaim the truth of Scripture. The second command: “Be ready in season and out of season.” That means “to stand by” or “be prepared,” as if we’re always on duty. Be ready to proclaim the truth both when it’s convenient (when you had in mind to do it) and when it’s inconvenient, when you didn’t really have it in mind. We should be ready to share what God has said in His Word at all times, particularly when it comes to salvation in Christ.
The third and fourth commands are very related to each other: “Reprove” means to correct. And “rebuke,” means to admonish or correct maybe in a more formal way. And then, the last command here, “exhort” means “to encourage.” Now these last three, I think are particularly noteworthy, because we see both the negative side of preaching the Word, and the positive side! And notice, we need BOTH! In fact, this is specifically, HOW the Word is God’s ultimate life-changing tool. It requires both correction and encouragement! As your pastor, there is a place in my preaching and shepherding for correction. That goes for all the elders! There also, of course, is a place for encouragement.
In fact, really, for all Christians, we need to be able to both correct and encourage each other. Now, obviously, I don’t know that anyone would ever disagree with the encouragement part. But this correction part, is not an easy thought for most of us. First, many of us (I’d say probably all of us) don’t love the idea of being corrected. Of course we don’t. We’re prideful beings. But, we must recognize this as a MAJOR part of our sanctification. When we’re not being corrected or challenged by anyone, we are missing out on our full potential in becoming like Jesus. Remember back to verses 16 and 17 of chapter 3: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” We are missing out on spiritual growth when loving correction isn’t happening.
But here’s the other part of this. Yes, most of don’t like being corrected. But it’s also true that most of us don’t like correcting or challenging others. Many of us struggle deeply with confrontation, and the thought of challenging another person, even in love and as gently but honestly as possible, it’s terrifying. Honestly, that’s the way I am. I naturally avoid confrontation. It takes a lot for me to finally say something, but I have learned that saying something is so much better than pretending like there’s not a problem.
Please hear me: As your pastor, you are getting jipped if I don’t take seriously the calling I have to correct and challenge with the Word of God. Obviously, this can be done in a wrong way: we see very clearly from the end of verse 2 that this is to be done “with complete patience.” But, you are being jipped if I’m not letting the Word reveal our faults. And the same goes for all of us. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons that spiritual immaturity is rampant in US churches is because no one is willing to say anything to anyone that could possibly be construed as negative. We even picture Jesus like this, as the ultimate nice guy. We think that the most Godly people are the ones who never say anything negative to anyone, especially to correct them.
The problem with this is that we’ve changed who Jesus really was. He didn’t have in mind to tip-toe around and make sure everyone liked him and thought he was nice. His ultimate goal was the salvation of men and women from God’s wrath. The problem with this absolute aversion we have to confrontation is that we fear offending our brother more than we fear our brother being stunted in his spiritual growth. This goes also for how we think about non-Christians: we fear offending people or being rejected by people more than we fear their souls being lost! More than we fear them never hearing the Gospel.
We must be absolutely committed, in preaching and teaching and fellowship in the Body, we must be absolutely committed to helping each other grow in Christ, and that means yes, encouraging with the Word in a positive way, but also correcting and challenging each other. Again, it seems likely that loving but firm correction is the greatest thing lacking in the church today. We avoid it because we don’t want to offend. We’re offended by correction because we’re prideful, and we’re also fearful of offending not because we’re meek, but because we’re prideful! We care more about what others think of us than we care about their Godliness, or even their salvation. We need truth to be continually changed. We need people to show us truth that we don’t know or see to be continually changed.
One of the greatest ways for you to really find this kind of sanctification—real, honest, and sometimes challenging growth—is in a small group. We have eight small groups, four of which are starting up next Sunday morning. These are all centered around God’s Word, for the purpose of growing in knowledge, and building relationships that this kind of encouragement and even correction can potentially happen. I believe so strongly in the importance of small group Bible Studies. I believe it so strongly that one of the factors I use to determine the health of our church is looking at how many of our people are in a small group of some type. I heavily encourage you to jump into a small group. Connect with people on a personal level, and get around the Word for the purpose of growth.
Next Sunday: Raintree 101, perfect for those of you who are new or who just haven’t been through that class. Also have a co-ed group in the fellowship hall, a men’s group upstairs in the yellow room, and a women’s group upstairs in the Amazon Room. There are children’s and youth studies at the same time. We have a young adult and an adult group on Thursday nights, another women’s group that meets on Tuesdays around lunchtime, a book club that I facilitate on Sunday nights, and a Prayer and Outreach group that meets on Wed. nights. All of those groups are listed on a flyer you can grab at the Grow Station in the Entryway, just to the right. We must get into the Word, because it’s God’s ultimate tool for life transformation. The 3rd reason to Preach the Word:
- People are increasingly Deceived and Deceivers (vs. 3-4)
Verses 3-4: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” When Paul said this, he was looking ahead, even though it was certainly true that this was happening even in his own day. But for the entirety of Christian history, the last 2,000 years, this has been happening. And there is no doubt that today, this is happening as well.
Truth is not a popular thing in most circles. The most popular speakers and even the most popular pastors, most of them are known not for their authority, or their faithfulness to the Bible, but instead for gimmicks and humor. Most pastors today would probably not most accurately be called “preachers,” but instead “encouragers,” or “talkers,” or even “conversationers” (which I don’t think is a word, but you get the idea). Why do people flock so often to these types? Because they want to satisfy their itching ears. That literally means, “have their ears tickled.”
When this is our desire, simply to receive something that WE have determined that we need, not only will we stop being able to tell the difference between biblical truth and falsehood, but we also will start to become hostile to truth! And this path is such an easy one to fall into without even realizing it: I’m mean, “Wandering into myths” seems like something you would do without even knowing it. You do it having no idea that you’ve left truth behind.
Think about this: Do we not deceive ourselves? We fabricate things in our minds, and call it truth. We convince ourselves of things. We define God’s character by what we like or what we want him to be like, as opposed to looking to the Word and seeing God’s very own self-revelation. We so easily fall into what culture defines as truth because we’re so bombarded by it at every turn. In verse 13 of chapter 3, we read earlier, Paul is speaking so graphically of the last days and what it will be like, and he says, among many other things, “evil people and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” We’re in the last days. And I’m not saying that to sound prophetic. Theologically, it’s actually true that we’ve been in the last days since Jesus returned to heaven after rising from the dead!
But the urgency of the last days is here. The urgency with which Paul spoke should always affect us enough to desire truth and Godliness, and actively seeking to avoid being deceived. How do we do this? Yet again, we desperately need the Word of God. We desperately need to hear the Word proclaimed in this type setting regularly. We desperately need to proclaim it to each other in smaller settings, and proclaim to ourselves as we open the Word on our own. The 4th reason to P the W:
- God Desires Faithfulness, not Prolificness (vs. 5)
Prolificness is the noun form of prolific. What does that mean? It means being overly productive and producing large quantities of something. In other words, God doesn’t desire for us to do some big huge thing for Him that will just turn the world upside down! He desires simply for us to be faithful. Verse 5: “As for you (these others are being deceived and wandering into myths) But as for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
I love this. “Sober-minded” means “keeping your head.” Being alert to spiritual things, being present, you know, actively setting your mind on things that are of spiritual nature. Don’t assume that you’re staying awake and alert spiritually; actively stay awake and sober. “Endure suffering.” He said back in verse 12 of chapter 3 that “All who desire to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” It will happen; endure it. Set you eyes on the prize, which is Christ Jesus.
Do the work of an “evangelist.” This word is not just what we think of when we think evangelist, as in someone who shares the Gospel for conversions, but it also involves discipleship, and really growing other believers. And then, “fulfill your ministry.” Fulfill what you’ve been called to do. Wow. Some of his last words for Timothy, and notice he didn’t say, “reach a million people!” “Become a famous Christian blogger or speaker!” Our goal, as Christians, should be faithfulness. When we’re focused on faithfulness, God will take care of what he wants as far as fruitfulness.
We preach the Word, we proclaim the truth, because that’s what it means to be faithful to God. We proclaim truth when it’s convenient, when it’s not, when we think people might accept it and when we think people won’t! We don’t base our obedience upon receptivity. Our job is to be faithful. God’s job is to move in people’s hearts through the Word being proclaimed and shared.
There’s no greater way I can close this time today than with pleading with you to get into the Word on your own. We can’t proclaim and share God’s Word if we’re not in God’s Word. We can’t help others become more like Christ if we’re not becoming more like Christ by seeing who he is in the Word. We cannot help others avoid being deceived if we ourselves are being deceived. And we can’t be faithful without knowing what God wants of us. All of this is found in the Word. Do not miss the LIFE and FREEDOM to be found in hearing directly from God in 2017. Open your Bible. Let Him speak. And then preach that truth to others. Let’s pray.
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