What’s a Preacher Do Anyway? (2 Timothy 4:1-8)
Art Linkletter once asked a girl what her daddy did for a living. The girl replied, “My daddy doesn’t do anything. He’s a preacher.” There are people who honestly believe that’s the case–sadly, I fear that many preachers have done nothing and have given rise to this myth. You know that there is much involved in the work of preaching.
Preaching can be one of the hardest jobs there is. It is not easy to go to one in sin and say, “You’re in sin and you need to repent.” It is not easy to find a solid prospect for conversion.
Yet, there is no more rewarding work than preaching. There is no more rewarding task than standing before men on God’s behalf. The preacher does stand before men on God’s behalf. That’s the very meaning of the word “preach.” The Greek term was used to speak of an ambassador’s being sent by the king to speak on the king’s behalf. Paul wrote of this honor. “If I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16)–Paul could imagine doing nothing with his life besides preaching the gospel. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Cor 4:7). There is no more rewarding work than to see one whom you have taught be baptized into Christ. There is no more rewarding work than helping people when they need you the most.
This evening, we want to examine Paul’s instructions to Timothy and see what preachers are to do. These are the last recorded words of Paul. In fact, these words may have been penned just days before Paul’s execution. The words of a dying man often have special significance. In Shakespeare’s Richard II, the dying Duke of Lancaster tells the Duke of York: “O, but they say the tongues of dying men enforce attention like a deep harmony: Where words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain, for they breathe their words in pain.” Indeed, you can learn much about a man by what he says in his last hours. Will he speak words of comfort and love to his family? Will he plead with God for mercy after a life of sin?
This evening, we want to examine the last recorded words of Paul to Timothy to see what we can learn about preaching:
The Weight of Preaching, v 1
Paul commissions Timothy “before God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The picture is one of Paul’s standing before the throne of God with Christ at His right hand and saying to Timothy, “Preach the Word.” Preaching is important because it’s done with the authority of God.
- The Old Testament prophets knew this authority; they often augmented their message with “Thus says the LORD.”
- Preaching carries great responsibility because it’s done on God’s behalf–When a preacher stands before a congregation, he speaks on God’s behalf.
- Preaching is important because it is the method God has chosen to reveal His will to man: “It pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor 1:21).
Preaching is important because Jesus will judge the living and the dead. All people will one day stand before Jesus to be judged–He will judge the living and the dead (that’s rather inclusive). Therefore, the preacher has a responsibility to make sure those who stand before Jesus stand there knowing the will of God. There will be no second chances.
One day Timothy’s work will be tested. Timothy’s work will be tested by none other than by Jesus Christ Himself. Since Jesus will judge Timothy’s work, he is not to concern himself with the criticism or the verdict of men. Timothy needed to be more concerned with what Jesus thought of his preaching than what men thought. Preachers today need to be more concerned with what Jesus thinks of their preaching than what men think.
Preaching is important because of Jesus’ appearing. This is when Jesus will judge the living and the dead. The term “appearing” was used of the Roman Emperor’s visit to a town. Obviously, when the Emperor was to visit any place, everything was put in perfect order. Just as everything was put in order for the Emperor, everything needs to be put in perfect order for Jesus’ return.
Preaching is important because Jesus has a kingdom. Paul here talks about heaven–that’s the context. Any who would want to obtain heaven need to know the Word of God.
Preaching has great weight. Those who preach need to preach in light of this weight.
The Work of Preaching, v 2
Paul tells Timothy: “Preach the word!” Here, Paul tells Timothy what he is to preach–the word. What is mean by “Word”? The word is all Scripture; all Scripture is inspired by God (2 Tim 3:16). Therefore, the preacher is not to preach politics, psychology, opinions, or the like. The preacher cannot choose his message; the message has already been chosen.
Great preachers through the ages have done this. God put His words in Jeremiah’s mouth (Jer 1:9). Micaiah said, “As the LORD lives, whatever the LORD says to me, that I will speak” (1 Ki 22:14). To the Ephesian elders Paul says, “I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27). Paul then proceeds to tell Timothy how to preach the word.
He’s to do it “in season and out of season.” This means “when it’s popular and when it’s not”–The preaching of the gospel is not always going to be popular. However, the preacher isn’t out to win a popularity contest; he’s out to say what God has to say.
He’s to convince. The preacher is to convince people of their sin. The preacher is to help people become better people. Alcibiades used to say to Socrates, “Socrates, I hate you, because every time I meet you, you make me see what I am”–The preacher must help people see themselves as sinners.
He’s to rebuke. The preacher is to confront those who do wrong. This cannot become an ego trip for the preacher. 2 Timothy 2:24-25. The direct context has to do with how Timothy should handle false teachers, but the principle applies here.
He’s to exhort, encourage. No rebuke should ever be such that it drives a man to despair; the preacher must also encourage those who hear him. He should plead with people and help them do right.
He’s not to fail in patience or in teaching. In everything he does the preacher needs to be patient. People need time to grow. Although Timothy is to rebuke wrongdoers, he’s to be patient with them. Timothy’s not to fail in teaching. He needs to keep on teaching.
The Why of Preaching, vv 3-4
The time will come when men will not endure sound doctrine, but due to their itching ears will heap up teachers for themselves. This is why Timothy must preach–Because there is so much false doctrine in the world. Because of false doctrine today, we need men who will preach the truth. The time has come when men have itching ears. One can go to a number of churches and hear lessons meant to please the audience. One can listen to preachers on TV and radio saying a number of different things. People will find their own teachers–People are attracted to preachers who say what they want to hear.
People will turn away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. That time has come; there are any number of fables one can hear.
Preachers must stand for the truth, because not everyone will listen to sound doctrine; someone must stand for the truth.
The Who of Preaching, v 5
Here, Paul tells Timothy who should preach.
One who is watchful in all things. The word really means self-controlled. Paul says that a preacher needs to be in control of himself. Being self-controlled is important in Christianity. Part of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control (Gal 5:23). We are to add self-control to our lives (2 Pet 1:6).
One who will endure suffering. The context is one of physical suffering. Sometimes that’s necessary. I have two dear friends who were in grave danger in Albania. But, sometimes preachers suffer in other ways. If a preacher gets fired for preaching the truth, he stills needs to preach the truth. If a preacher is unpopular for preaching the truth, he still needs to preach the truth.
One who will do the work of an evangelist. Sadly, most preachers don’t view themselves as evangelists. We need preachers who aren’t afraid to share the Gospel with the lost.
One who will fulfill his ministry. This same word “fulfill” is used when Paul and Barnabas had completed the relief work which they went to Jerusalem to do (Acts 12:25). The meaning is that Timothy should persevere until his work is accomplished.
Conclusion, vv 6-8
These words were urgent because Paul was about to depart this life. One generation is leaving; it’s left up to another generation.
There was a crown laid up for Paul. God rewards preachers! But, God will reward any who turn to Him.
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Alum Creek church of Christ in Alum Creek, West Virginia.