THE FULL MINISTRY OF THE WORD
2 Timothy 4:1-22
Key verse 2: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage- with great patience and careful instruction.”
Were you ever in a situation where someone poured out their heart to you, but you had no idea what to say to them? “I’m failing organic chemistry!” “My life is useless, I can’t do anything right”. What do you say? Maybe all you can say is, “uh, that’s ok things will get better.” Or you’ve heard someone stating falsehoods about the Bible, but you’re not quite sure how to correct it. “The OT says to kill your children by offering them as sacrifices.” You can’t exactly remember the reference verses, so you just stay quiet.
In such situations when you’re tongue tied, at a loss for words, it’s probably because you don’t have a word from God to give. How can you be prepared to correct, rebuke and encourage? To be able to help people with the truth of God’s word? That’s what this passage addresses.
Throughout our lives we’re going to encounter all kinds of people who desperately need the word of the Lord. And those of us who have it should not miss opportunities to help them with it. The Bible charges us with the responsibility of fully carrying out the ministry of the word. Today we’ll see some aspects of this charge to accomplish the ministry of the word.
I. The content of the charge (1-2, 5)
First of all, we have to be familiar with the actual content of the command. Let’s read verses 1,2- “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage- with great patience and careful instruction.”
Paul prefaces the charge with a serious oath, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus…” It sounds like he swearing in someone in a courtroom. This preface grabs the attention of the person reading it and underscores the importance of the material to follow.
The charge itself is actually contained in verses 2 and in verse 5, I’d like to look at both of those. Let’s read 2 again- “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage- with great patience and careful instruction.” Now read verse 5- “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” What’s it about? Preach the word. There is no doubt it’s about the ministry of teaching the Bible. In fact, if you read through second Timothy, the same theme and command is repeated over and over.
So, preach the word. But what aspects of the ministry of the word are revealed here? In what ways should the word be preached? Let’s examine this.
1. First, be prepared. The KJV says be instant. It means be ready in an instant, ready to serve. It reminds us of one of the apostle Paul’s favorite analogies, where he compares a Christian to a soldier. A soldier has to stand prepared at all times, having been fully trained, in shape physically. The soldier should have his weapon ready at hand, and have skill in using them. A soldier can’t make excuses or fumble around when called up for battle. Like a firefighter. They have equipment in order, suits laid out so they can jump into them.
2. Second, in season and out of season. It means at all times. That also implies in all situations, right? There is no ‘convenient’ time or situation to give God’s word or not to give God’s word. Any time is the right time. If you read the book of Acts, it’s clear that Paul and the other apostles used every opportunity to give the good news about Jesus. In Acts chapter 2, the apostles became filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter preached the word on the day of Pentecost. The response of the people was so great that about 3,000 people on that single day believed and joined the apostles. There, the infant church enjoyed a time of peace and fellowship. What did the believers do? It says, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” That was ‘in season.’ But later the Sanhedrin began to persecute the apostles and ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus. It got worse when the Sanhedrin stoned Stephen to death. When that happened, the whole church scattered to distant areas, only the apostles remained in Jerusalem. That was ‘out of season’. But what did the scattered Christians do? They kept on preaching the word! They spread the gospel to Samaria, Antioch, and to remote places. They didn’t stop just because the condition didn’t seem favorable. Any time was the right time. Any situation was the right situation. We’ll now expand on this thought some more in the next point:
3. Third, correct, rebuke and encourage. Does this sound familiar? It echoes last week’s key verse, 2 Tim 3:16+ 17- “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” To correct, rebuke and encourage means to apply the appropriate word of God to the situation at hand. Proverbs 15:23 says “A man finds joy in giving an apt reply- and how good is a timely word!” The Bible has all kinds of verses, passages, and stories that address various situations. The Bible is the unchanging truth of God that can be applied to changing situations. In some situations encouragement needs to be givenFor many kinds of situations there is a word of God that can be delivered.
4. Fourth, with great patience and careful instruction. This verse reminds us of 2 Timothy 2:24, “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel, instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” Teachers who are impatient are resentful. They get frustrated easily. They ask the student “why are you so slow” “why are you so dumb”? But here, part of the charge includes preaching the word with great patience and careful instruction. It takes a long time to train even one disciple. Therefore, patience, and slow, methodic instruction is required.
5. Fifth, discharge all the duties of your ministry. There are various situations that arise and tasks to do in the ministry. Many times prayer is needed. Or visiting the sick. Or taking care of church administrative matters. These tasks cannot be neglected, but the ministry of the word permeates among all of them. God’s word is used in each facet of ministry, it is the guide and the source of wisdom.
In light of all this, how can we fully implement the ministry of the word? It means that we should continue preaching, keep teaching the Bible, and keep informally helping others one on one with the word of God no matter the time or situation. That’s why we should be prepared.
We should be prepared with knowledge of various Bible verses and stories. M. Joseph Kim memorized 50 Bible verses in English. He is prepared. Be prepared means we should look for opportunities to serve others with the word of God. Here is where real work applies. There is no way around it, we simply have to read the Bible. Memorization is great. We live in an age where memorization is not emphasized as a way of learning. But it’s probably the best way to be instant, to be prepared at a moment’s notice. It drills the word of God into our mind and spirit. If we don’t really pay attention, we could go to Bible study for years, or even teach the Bible for years and not really know much content. That’s quite common. But we should simply read what the bible says slowly and repeatedly, and memorize some.
What else? We should correct, rebuke and encourage as needed. Remember the proverb that commended an apt reply? Apt means appropriate, what the situation calls for. One missionary lamented that his bible student ran away. This missionary realized that he didn’t take time to listen to the student or really know him, he just flatly taught him the content of the bible. But teaching is not counseling, there is a difference… He realized that was not an apt use of the word. Let’s be aware of this and grow in our ability to counsel.
Correct, rebuke, and encourage. C.R.E. If someone is mistaken, then correction should be given. Many people we run across say that Jesus never claimed to be God. But this is mistaken, so we can give them correction with Luke 22:70 where the council put Jesus on trial and asked him, “’Are you then the Son of God’? He replied, ‘You are right in saying I am.’” If someone is proud and willfully sinful, rebuke should be given. Why? They need to know how damaging their behavior and attitude is. There are some guys who I work with that often curse and tell dirty jokes. My response has been to remain quiet. Sometimes I laughed with them. But this is wrong. I didn’t know what to do. Now I armed myself with Ephesians 5:4- “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” If someone is depressed and cannot see the value or purpose of their life, we can encourage them with Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
It takes wisdom from the Holy Spirit to know how to use the Bible. The Spirit will guide us in counseling others as we pray. But there are good references you can refer to also. Use a concordance to look up words. Biblegateway.com is an online concordance. There are some books such as The Bible Promise Book that alphabetically categorize various life situations and then give reference verses that address those situations. Thus, we should read and study to gain knowledge of the contents of the word of God, and then gain wisdom to know how to serve others with it in various situations.
II. Reasons for the charge (3-4, 6-8)
So we’ve seen some facets of the ministry of the word. But why is it so strongly emphasized throughout second Timothy? Why is it such a solemn charge to preach the word? Well, the main reason is given in verses 3 and 4, let’s read those, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
The word should continue to be preached in season and out of season because there is so much misinformation about the Bible and opposition to the Bible. People don’t want to hear sound doctrine. It means they don’t want to hear the truth of God’s word. Why not? To suit their own desires! The truth challenges people to see their sins, their inadequacies, and their need for God. This does not bolster self-esteem. No, its easier to listen to nice sounding myths that make people feel good, or that appeal to people’s curiosity. That’s why all kinds of teachers abound who distort the word of God. Such as prosperity preachers who promise that when you give to their ministry, God will bless you. Some claim to know exactly when Jesus will return. One man wrote a book The Bible code which says you can find secret prophetic messages in the text of the Old Testament. That book was a best seller because people’s itching ears want to hear new and secret revelations. If God’s people remain silent and do not give sound doctrine, more and more people will be led astray.
This was a great concern on Paul’s mind as he saw his life slipping away in the dungeon. He knew that he would soon be gone, so he reminded Timothy to make sure to challenge all the falsehoods and misinformation that was being spread.
Paul looked back and reviewed his life. What did he conclude? Let’s read verses 6,7- “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” What does it mean that he was being poured out like a drink offering? Numbers ch. 15 describes the drink offering. It was oil and wine poured out on the hot altar where an animal was sacrificed at the same time. It made an ‘aroma pleasing to the Lord.’ Paul felt he had given his all, he poured out all he was and could do throughout his life as a servant of God’s word. Now, his life was evaporating into the air like the oil wine evaporated on the hot altar of sacrifice.
Paul wrote this actually as an encouragement. He didn’t want to scare young Timothy. He looked back on his life and was satisfied that he did all he could do to spread the word of God. That’s why he could say “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” He didn’t have any regrets over missed opportunities.
In fact, he looked forward to receiving the crown of righteousness. This crown of righteousness is given not only to the faithful minister of the word, but to all those who hear the word and believe, who long for the appearing of the righteous judge. There is no better ministry than the ministry of the word. Jesus said, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). The Bible contains the words that give life; the Bible is life. That’s why Paul so seriously emphasized the charge to preach the word.
What do we see from this? We see that serving others with sound doctrine is what really helps. Many times we don’t want to teach the whole truth or sound doctrine because we know others might react poorly to it. It’s easier to give part of the truth, or myths because that’s what people want to hear. However, in order to cure sin, we have to apply the sometimes bitter medicine of sound doctrine. The best way to teach the Bible is tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
III. Help from others to implement the charge (9-22)
In verses 9-22, Paul gives a few final requests and mentions a variety of co-workers who helped him in the ministry of the word. Paul seemed so independent and stoic. It seemed that he might be able to do everything on his own, but this was not the case. It’s not the case for anybody.
Who were the people that he held in high regard and why? Who were the useful co-workers that supported the spreading of the gospel? Of course there was Timothy. Paul esteemed him so much and once wrote that he had no one else like him. He asked Timothy to come visit him in prison, and bring along his cloak to keep him warm and his scrolls so he could continue to read and write. He knew he could depend on Timothy. That’s why he entrusted him to carry on the ministry of the word after he would be gone. Verse 11 mentions that only Luke was with him. Good old doctor Luke stayed by Paul’s side during his darkest time. How did Luke contribute to the ministry of the word? He traveled with Paul on missionary journeys. God used Luke to write Luke’s gospel and the book of Acts. And Mark is also mentioned, look again at verse 11, it says “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” On an earlier occasion, Paul refused to let Mark come on a mission trip because he considered him unreliable. But after time went by, it became clear that Mark was helpful. So Paul reconsidered and later worked with Mark. How did God use Mark in the ministry of the word? He wrote Marks’ gospel. In fact, a whole bunch of good Christian workers are mentioned going here and there on various tasks to strengthen the churches. Priscilla and Aquila are mentioned. In Acts 18, Priscilla and Aquila helped a man named Apollos to more adequately understand the way of God. Apollos became a more powerful preacher who could then prove from the scripture that Jesus is the Christ. All of these people constantly served others with the word of God.
And of course there were not so helpful people. Demas loved the world and ran away to Thessalonica. He didn’t serve the ministry to the end. There were many people who deserted Paul at the crucial moment, even at his first defense. No one came to be a character witness or stand by his side when he went on trial in Rome. And then there was Alexander the metalworker. He strongly opposed the gospel message. Paul told Timothy ‘watch out for that guy!’
People are so changeable. What helped Paul the most? He didn’t put all his hope in the people who served with him. He knew better than that. He looked to Jesus. Let’s read verses 17 and 18- “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” He found strength by working with the reliable coworkers. Most of all, the presence of Jesus was with him. He realized that Jesus would always rescue him until his time came. Therefore, when he was persecuted and put in prison for no good reason, he did not give up. He did all he could to continue to fully proclaim the message so that all the Gentiles might hear it. He knew that his time was soon approaching, but rather than becoming paralyzed with despair, he requested Mark to come help him minister, and he wanted his scrolls to continue to read and write. It shows that his mind was consumed with his mission to deliver the ministry of the word until his last breath. Jesus had given him the strength to do this.
In order to fully carry out the ministry of the word, we need to cooperate with others who are faithful to serve the word. None of us is in it all by himself, right? By ourselves, we are limited in how much we can serve. We started as a small apartment church in the 1980’s- College Park Towers room 210 with a handful of people. But now by the grace of God we have grown with many more people serving. It’s wise to get help from those around us so we don’t get frustrated trying to serve all by ourselves. Don’t be too proud to ask for help.
Most of all, even when no else may be around to help, the Lord will stand at our sides. Jesus said he will never leave or forsake us, even to the end of the age. With his strength, we can fully proclaim the message. In the end we look to him. We depend on Him and hope in Him, not in people.
The fall semester is rapidly approaching. Can you believe it. We always think of the fall semester as ‘in season’. That’s when the new freshmen come. [maybe winter break will be ‘out of season’] Are you prepared? Are you armed and ready with the word of God? Do you know how to use it?
We must live in view of Jesus’ appearing and his kingdom. We are going to be held accountable for how we used the ministry of the word. So preach the word, in all circumstances. Fully proclaim the message of the Bible. We can’t waste our lives, but rather grab the opportunities to give God’s word. At the end of your life, will you be able to say ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith’?