I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and because of His appearing and His kingdom: Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new (1).
2 Timothy 4:1-4
The rejection of Scripture should not be unpredictable because the Lord, through the writings of Paul, already indicated that it would happen. Paul is writing specifically to Timothy as a church leader, which tells us that even those within the church professing to be believers will seek out teachers of their own accord. Such false teaching then can, and will, take place underneath the heading of Bible preaching.
The Bible is central to the Christian faith, because through it our Lord has revealed truth that is essential to knowing ourselves and knowing Him. When the Bible ceases to be important, Christ ceases to be important. Therefore, reading Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4 should elevate the Word to a more prominent place in our faith, not because we worship the words printed on a page, but because we worship the one those printed words speak of. As such, we should play close attention to Paul when he says, “Preach the Word” (verse 2; ESV).
With a charge, Paul urges Timothy to remain firm in his preaching of the word of the Lord in spite of the circumstances that may confront Timothy. To many in the world, the word preach conveys an intentional act of one person sharing the the Bible in a formal setting. Often, preach is associated with the words boring, monotonous, mundane, and uninteresting. However, Paul’s use of the word conveys something more. Preach is the imparting of information through the act of proclamation. Even more specifically, by God’s own decrees, it is the unleashing of truth for the purpose of transformational living through the Holy Spirit for the glory of God. Thus, the very act of preaching is a more than a task, but it is an even by which people are changed.
The Character of the Command
Paul’s wording is very precise. He does not give Timothy free reign to preach whatever he chooses, but instead he says “Preach the word.” Paul uses a definite article (the) here to indicate that he has something specific in mind. Timothy is not free to preach His own thoughts, Paul’s words, or even the world’s ideas, but instead he must stick to the word, which we know to be the Holy Scriptures. Thus the character of proclamation must be the opening up and unveiling of the Word of God.
However, there is more to be considered here. According to Revelation 19:13, the Lord Jesus Christ is also considered the Word (something we also learn from John’s other writings, like his gospel; cf. John 1:1). When preaching the Word, it is characterized by a proclamation that directs people towards the Lord Jesus Christ. They are lead to a deeper fear, a deeper understanding, and a deeper relationship with Him as a result of such proclamation.
The Context of the Command
Finally, we must note the context of what we read in these verses. First, Paul urges reproof, rebuke, and exhortation by the Word (with patience and teaching). This wording follows his teaching in 3:16 that describes the uses of Scripture. From these we can ascertain the sufficiency of Scripture in all situations, but also notice what these words describe. Reproof, rebuke, and exhortation are all descriptions of processes that are meant to influence a person and direct them towards a transformation, specifically a change that transforms them more and more into the image of Christ. The preaching of the word brings about transformation.
Think about something else though: from where does Paul write this letter? At this time he is in prison. His preaching of truth is offensive to the world’s falsehoods. It is directly confrontational to the world’s thinking. Rather than consider the teaching, the easiest course of action is to get rid of the threat. Thus, Paul not only finds himself incarcerated, but even more Paul is acutely aware that death is imminent (see the rest of chapter 4). There is no worse circumstance than to know death is imminent, and even more that it will likely be at the hands of others. Being imprisoned and facing death for his faith, Paul still urges Timothy to be firm in his faith and continue preaching the Word.
I once heard someone say a poor relationship with the Word of God indicates a poor relationship with the Son of God (2). Knowing that Christ himself is considered the Word of God, the statement stands as a true indicator of the Christian life. The Christian faith is built upon God’s revelation through His word and apart from it, we have only vain philosophies of men. Therefore, the Word must occupy a prominent aspect of our lives. Lessons are to be learned from Paul’s teachings to Timothy in that regard. Christians should persist in it, regardless of the circumstances that may surround them. At the most difficult of times, the Word is the sufficiency for continued growth, continued comfort, and continued sustainment of the Christian. Therefore, preach the word and persist in it whether convenient or not.
(1) This text is quoted utilizing the Holman Christian Standard Bible. All references throughout this devotional are directly from the HCSB or the ESV text.
(2) Unfortunately, I did not record that statement or who said it, so this is my paraphrase, but it is not my own phrase.