Preach The Word 2 Tim. 4. 1-5

Preach The Word 2 Tim. 4. 1-5

’Preach the Word’ was the subject of brother Burnett’s ministry at the Ontario Worker’s and Elder’s Conference 2014. This message has been transcribed, and edited for publication in Counsel as follows.

The epistles to Timothy were written by the Apostle Paul near the close of the life, and as he writes, he is burdened with the responsibility of imparting truth to Timothy for his benefit, and for that of generations to follow. Hence the urgency with which he addresses the things found in these epistles. One of the predominant themes in these final letters to Timothy is the importance of the Word of God. Timothy is exhorted to ‘read it’;1 ‘meditate on it’;2 hold it fast.’;3 to ‘study it, rightly divide it, and to be furnished by it’:4 Finally he is exhorted to ‘preach it.’5 In this article we will be dealing with this last exhortation – ‘Preach the Word.’ The topics to be addressed are as follows.

  • The Summons given
  • The Style to be adopted
  • The Substance to be presented

The Summons Given

There are numerous occasions in his epistles to Timothy where the apostle delivers a ‘charge’ to him. There are several different words used in the original text for the word ‘charge,’ and according to W. E. Vine, the word used in our text is only used three times, and in this case it means ‘to testify through voice; primarily it signifies to testify through and through, bear a solemn witness; hence to charge earnestly.’6 In other words, the exhortation was not given in the form of a suggestion, but it carried with it the whole weight of apostolic authority, to ‘preach the word.’

A word of exhortation to younger brethren would be in order at this point. We are thankful for young men who are already giving priority to the study of Scripture, and exercising the gift of teaching publicly. To others we would say, that if God has fitted you for public service, do not neglect to ‘stir up the gift that is within you.’7 There are so many distractions in our day, and unless there is a renewed commitment to the study of the word of God, and to develop gift, we as assemblies will soon be in crisis respecting the number of brethren capable of ministering the Word. Indeed we are already seeing evidence of this problem among us. We appeal to young men to take this earnest charge given by the apostle to heart. The apostle indicates that the response to this charge he is making to Timothy, and to us, should be heeded, in view of a future day of reckoning ‘Who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and Kingdom.’8

The Style To Be Adopted: To Preach

The charge given by the apostle is ‘To preach the word.’ The word for ‘preach’ that is used in this verse, carries with it the thought of ‘making a public declaration as a herald… and always with the thought of formality, gravity and authority which must be heeded and obeyed.’9

In the times of the Roman Empire, the manner in which the decrees of the Caesar was conveyed to the outposts of the empire was through messengers who were sent into each town with a copy of the Caesar’s decree, and the message was declared publicly to the people. These messengers were chosen by the Caesar because of their character, and ability to convey the message clearly, accurately and distinctly. The messenger was not allowed to ad-lib or interject his own comments. He was responsible under solemn oath to proclaim the words of the Caesar with authority, accuracy, dignity, and integrity.

Throughout the Scriptures, public preaching is the method most often employed by God to convey His mind to His people. The prophets preached. The Lord Jesus preached. The apostles preached. We are living in days where there is a general tendency to disdain formality, and to have a craving for the casual. Preaching in some cases is giving way to discussion groups, often without a capable spiritual leader present, and this is a grave danger. In one such instance the author is aware of, such a group concluded that the Lord must have had the capability to sin, which was a gross error. Discussions on the Word can be helpful, but God has chosen to use the public preaching of the Word as the main method of imparting truth. The Apostle Paul writing to the Corinthians said ‘Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the others judge.’10 Such an arrangement gives protection against the inroads of error.

The Preacher

A word should be said at this point about the preacher. It is quite clear from the NT epistles that ‘teaching’ is not a natural gift, but a spiritual gift imparted by the Holy Spirit.11 Preachers are not produced by taking courses in public speaking, or attending seminary. It is the sole prerogative of the Holy Spirit in His sovereign ways, to impart the spiritual gift of teaching. Having said that, we must also recognise the when God gives a spiritual gift to a person, it is always harnessed with his natural ability. For example, in the parable the Lord told about the talents, he did not give the same number of talents to each of his servants. To one he gave five talents, to another two talents, and to another one talent. We are told the basis the Lord used to distribute the talents – ‘each according to his several ability.’12 In other words before the talents were given, the owner had assessed the ability that each had, and the talents were proportioned accordingly. So it is today, the Lord in His sovereignty gives spiritual gifts to those who have the capacity and ability to best use it to advantage.

We see this demonstrated in the ranks of the apostles. It was no coincidence that the Lord used the intellectual academic Paul to write most of the epistles, including the very scholarly treatise of Romans. However, humble fishermen among the disciples were also greatly used, showing that God chooses the instruments to do his work with precision, and in recognition of ‘their several ability.

The Substance of the Preaching: The Word

The Word of God must be absolutely central to every message given by any preacher, and as part of his solemn charge to Timothy the apostle says ‘preach the word.’ In this connection, when the apostle speaks about the ‘word,’ he is speaking about the entire body of truth presented in scripture, embracing both the OT and NT Speaking to the Ephesian elders for the very last time the apostle reminds them ‘For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God‘13 This reminds us that we must not neglect any portion of scripture in our preaching, and to ensure that assemblies have a varied diet of ministry. Let’s now consider how we may preach the word, as there is a variety of means by which we may do so as follows. We may ‘Preach the Word’:

  • Evangelically
  • Expositionally
  • Prophetically
  • Topically

Evangelically:

This particular mode of preaching lies in the province of the Evangelist – the preacher who has the gift of preaching the Gospel effectively, and whom the Lord will use to bring many to Christ. This is one of the gifts mentioned in Ephesians.14 One feels that the gift of evangelism is being neglected at the present time. In many assemblies the Gospel is no longer preached publicly. We are told that the evangelical outreach is to be more on a personal level. We do recognise the value of personal evangelism, but as we look through Acts, we discover that the main tool for evangelism was public preaching. Indeed the apostle enshrines the presentation of the Gospel by preaching when he wrote. ‘How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?’15 I appeal to my dear brethren. Let’s get back to preaching the old fashioned, soul-saving Gospel publicly, and let’s give the evangelists among us opportunity to exercise their gift.

Expositionally:

When we speak about ‘expositional’ ministry, we refer to ministry where the text of the Word is explained – usually in a verse-by-verse manner – with due regard to context. This is a very important means of imparting the truth of scripture, and we are thankful for those who are gifted to minister in this way. We are given an example of this kind of ministry being given in the days of Ezra. We read ‘And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people….and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading’16 The need for this kind of ministry cannot be overemphasized.

A word of caution must be given at this point. We must not assume that the understanding of scripture is the exclusive province of the scholar with ability in grammar, and with familiarity with the original texts. If this stance were to be taken, we would find ourselves in the position that the Roman Catholic Church took – that the meaning of scripture must be left to the scholars. Experience alone would not support such a theory. The late E. W. Rogers – an outstanding expositor in UK of a past generation –explained on one occasion that he had taken university course in Hebrew, and was favoured to have a rabbi teach the class, using the book of Psalms as his text book. The rabbi explained on one occasion that the meaning of the particular Psalm he was dealing with, could only be understood by a Hebrew scholar. Mr. Rogers went on to say that sometime later he was speaking at a rural assembly, and after the Breaking of Bread, this non-scholarly farmer read the Psalm the rabbi had been dealing with, and gave an accurate exposition of the text. Mr. Rogers explained that one thing the rabbi did not take into account was the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer. We do well to keep reminding ourselves of this important fact. We would not diminish the value of scholarly application to the word, but we must remind ourselves that those who allow the Holy Spirit to work in their lives are in no way disadvantaged when it come to the understanding of scripture.

Prophetically:

When we use the word ‘prophetically’ we do not have in mind the teaching of eschatology, but rather, how the Lord uses his servants to bring a word of exhortation, correction and comfort to the saints, in the same manner that the prophets did in the past. The ministry of the priests was more of an expositional, consecutive nature with regard to the law, whereas the ministry of the prophets was entirely different, but a necessary compliment to the ministry of the priests. The prophets were sent by God to deal with current issues with some immediacy. We must therefore ensure that in our scheduling of consecutive, expositional ministry, we must also heed what the Lord said to the seven Churches ‘He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.’ There are times when the Lord wants to address a matter with immediacy, and we must not foreclose on that opportunity, by scheduling all of the ministry to the assembly to the exclusion of a word from the Lord to current need.

Topically:

When we speak about ‘topical’ ministry, we refer to ministry which pursues some thought, theme or subject throughout a book or throughout the entire canon of scripture. My spiritual mentor in early days explained it this way. To be able to play a piano, one must first learn the scales, and somewhat of the theory of music, but that it is fully expected that the time will come when the student will leave the scales behind, and be able to range all over the keyboard to produce a beautiful melody. This has proved to be a most valuable approach to scripture as we trace the ways of God from cover to cover of our Bible in connection with some truth. To be able to give such ministry requires that one must have a overall grasp of scripture from Genesis to Revelation, so as to be able to follow the threads being pursued in proper context. This demands that, particularly in early Christian life, one must read and re-read the entire Bible over and over again, on a scheduled basis, and to continue doing so for a lifetime, so that the ministry is given, and understood within the global context of scripture.

In concluding, the exhortation given by the Apostle to Timothy to ‘preach the word,’ was never as needy as now, when the signs around us indicate that the Day of Grace is about to close. May we be faithful to the Lord, His people and the lost around us by boldly ‘Preaching the Word.’

 

Endnotes

1 1 Tim. 4:13
2 1 Tim. 4:15
3 2 Tim. 1:13
4 2 Tim. 2:15
5 2 Tim. 4:2
6 Vine’s Dictionary of N. T. Words.Pg. 96
7 2 Tim. 1:6
8 2 Tim. 4:1
9 Online Bible Greek Lexicon (Strong)
10 1 Cor. 14:29
11 Eph. 4:11
12 Matt. 25:15
13 Acts 20:27
14 Eph. 4:11
15 Rom. 10:14
16 Neh. 8:5-8

 

 

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William Burnett

William Burnett was born and raised in Scotland, and spent his entire professional life in the Oil refining industry. He was seconded to Canada by his employer in 1972, and accepted early retirement in 1994. He has been a "tentmaker," - working in business, whilst ministering among the assemblies - since his late teen years. Early retirement has enabled him to undertake a much wider sphere of itinerant ministry throughout North America, and abroad. He also sits on the board of Counsel Magazine, and contributes regularly to various publication, including Uplook, Precious Seed and the Choice Gleanings Calendar. He and his wife Beth reside in Oakville, Ontario, where they are in happy fellowship in Hopedale Assembly. They have three married sons, and eight grandchildren.