John Bunyan went to prison for preaching the Word of God only one year after marrying his second wife. His first wife had died after ten years of marriage, but in those ten years she and John Bunyan had four children. John Bunyan, only being married for one year to his new wife, was separated in a prison cell for preaching the gospel. Bunyan remained there for 12 years before being released. During those 12 years, Bunyan could have walked away free if he promised not to preach, but Bunyan could not do that – he must preach the Word. In response to the authorities, Bunyan said,
“If nothing will do unless I make of my conscience a continual butchery and slaughter-shop, unless, putting out my own eyes, I commit me to the blind to lead me, as I doubt not is desired by some, I have determined, the Almighty God being my help and shield, yet to suffer, if frail life might continue so long, even till the moss shall grow on mine eye-brows, rather than thus to violate my faith and principles.”
Paul wrote to Timothy his son in the faith in 2 Timothy 4:1-5. Paul was at the finish line of his life and ministry. As he had stated in the verses following this passage, he had “fought a good fight, finished his course, and kept the faith.” Now, he wanted Timothy to finish his course with the same type of righteous dedication to God. As he wrote to Timothy, he gave a very strict and heavy command – “Preach the Word.”
Paul Revealed the Way to Preach the Word
In verses 1-2, Paul instructs Timothy to preach the Word, and he provides the way that Timothy should preach. In verse one, Paul issues a charge. This was a heavy command that required much attention by Timothy. Paul goes further and instructs Timothy in the presence of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. It seems that Paul was making Timothy realize that one day he would stand before the Lord at the Judgment Seat of Christ and give account for his calling and his ministry. Therefore, Paul is telling Timothy to preach the Word with a realization of a coming judgment.In verse two, Paul moves to the more hands on approach of ministry, and he instructs Timothy regarding some things that are required in preaching the Word. First, Paul tells Timothy to be ready at all times. Paul knew that Timothy would have times where it would be easy to preach the Word, but there would likewise be times where preaching was much more difficult. There would be times when opposition was facing him, but he must stand and preach the Word faithfully.
Next, Paul also instructs Timothy to reprove and rebuke the people. This is not something that pastors look forward to doing, but it is necessary. Evidently, Paul did not buy into the same type of mindset of modern preachers such as Joel Osteen. Preaching is not where you simply stand and encourage people. Often times, people should be corrected for their sins through faithful preaching or even church discipline if necessary.Dr. Albert Mohler writes on the subject of Church discipline in an article titled, “Church Discipline – The Missing Mark.” In his article, he states,
“Without a recovery of functional church discipline – firmly established upon the principles revealed in the Bible – the church will continue its slide into moral dissolution and relativism. Evangelicals have long recognized discipline as the “third mark” of the authentic church (Polity, Mark Dever, ed. pg. 43).”
Paul also understood that this process of revealing sin and then rebuking people for sin would be heavy at times. Therefore, he instructs his son in the faith to exhort the people as well. This word exhort means to encourage the people. John MacArthur states that the word exhort in this verse carries a meaning of restoration. Since the context preceding this verse speaks about rebuking those in sin, the next action by the pastor should involve restoration. It is one thing to rebuke someone for sin, but it is needful that they be restored in the body of Christian believers upon their repentance.
In this process of preaching the Word, the preacher can often become discouraged or even impatient with those believers who are slow in adapting the principles set forth in the Word of God. Therefore, Paul instructs Timothy to do his preaching with patience. It is most effective to be patient with people as you lead them forward in the pathway of righteousness.Finally, verse two ends with Paul instructing Timothy to preach with instruction. This is a reference to sound doctrine! Timothy was given a command to teach, preach, and lead the people with proper instruction before the Lord. Preaching the Word is a high calling and a great duty before the Lord, but it must be carried out in the proper way.
Paul Relayed a Warning to the Preacher of the Word
In verse three, Paul warns Timothy that the time will come when those to whom he pastors will not endure sound doctrine. This may have seemed a bit confusing to Timothy. Paul had just instructed Timothy to preach sound doctrine (instruction), but now he was telling him that the people would not endure that type of teaching and preaching.
Paul goes further to warn Timothy that many of these people would be drawn toward false teachers with messages that satisfied the fleshly desires of their own hearts. Today, we are witnessing a multiplicity of false teachers in our land. We have the internet, the radio (FM, AM, and XM), and television (Cable and Satellite). We have false teachers on the air all hours of the day and through the night. Certainly preachers in our day need to be aware of this same warning that Paul was issuing to Timothy.
Paul goes on to warn Timothy that these people would not endure sound doctrine, they would be drawn to false teachers, and as a byproduct they would accept a false message. One of the most discouraging aspects of the gospel ministry is watching those to whom you have labored and ministered to fall away into false teaching! Paul wanted Timothy to beware of this coming problem in his own ministry. Although Paul wanted Timothy to preach the Word, he warned him of his coming problems that would follow.
Paul Reinforced the Work of Preaching the Word
In verse five, Paul completed his instruction to Timothy regarding the preaching of the Word by reinforcing the work involved in preaching the Word. Paul said, “Watch” or “be sober” in all things. What Paul was speaking about was stability. Paul knew that problems would come, doctrinal issues would present themselves, and discouragement could attack, therefore, he instructed Timothy to be a stable man in the pulpit as he preached the Word. Personal distractions, problems with people in the church, and doctrinal issues can make a pastors head swim with confusion. It is important that those issues are laid aside and that the man of God is stable when he stands to preach and teach the people.
Furthermore, Paul goes on to speak about afflictions. Paul understood that afflictions would follow the man of God who faithfully preached the Word. Therefore, he instructs Timothy to endure afflictions. Today, many preachers seem to run from problems in the ministry. Rather than enduring afflictions, many preachers seek other churches in efforts to avoid all problems in the ministry. Paul wanted Timothy to realize that afflictions were coming, but he must endure them! These words must have brought Timothy discouragement and encouragement at the same time. Timothy was probably discouraged to hear of coming afflictions, but encouraged to hear Paul speak of endurance. Paul could speak on this subject because he had endured through all of his personal afflictions due to preaching the Word!
This passage was sent forth to Timothy as a matter of command and encouragement for the service of preaching God’s Word. This passage serves as a matter of encouragement, instruction, and warning for the present day preacher as well. In a day of false teachers and shallow learners, true gospel preachers must be ready for the struggles of ministry. Those to whom God has separated for the duty of preaching the Word must beware of these trials, however, they must be encouraged to continue in the calling of preaching – all for the glory of God!John Piper writes about John Bunyan and says,
“Bunyan reverenced the Word of God and trembled at the prospect of dishonoring it. “Let me die . . . with the Philistines (Judg. 16:30) rather than deal corruptly with the blessed word of God.” This, in the end, is why Bunyan is still with us today rather than disappearing into the mist of history (http://desiringgod.org/library/biographies/99bunyan.html).”
Therefore, men of God who labor in the Word and doctrine, preach the Word! Don’t give up, don’t back up, and don’t shut up — preach the Word! One day we will stand and give account of our ministries before God, and may we hear those words, “well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Pastor Josh Buice