Today we kick-off a new series called “Why Church?” I think it’s just a good idea every once in a while to step back and remember why we do what we do. First and foremost, it’s all because of the gospel, what Jim just shared in his testimony. Every week in this series you will hear a similar story from someone in our church. But, even more specifically, why do we preach, and sing, and pray, and share our stories, and fellowship, and equip the saints? Our goal with this series is to answer some of those questions.
Today’s focus is, “Why Preach?” The short answer is because we believe that God has spoken! God wrote a book! And if that’s true, we must look to the Word of God to find the only Absolute Truth written down in the world.
Now you may think, “Ryan, that’s every church. That’s not unique to Raintree.” That’s true; it’s not unique to Raintree that we preach the Word of God; that would be a very sad thing if it was. But, I’ll also say there are fewer and fewer and fewer churches that trulyhave a strong focus on the Word of God. Theirstatement of faith may claim this, but in practice, they’re not really pointing people to God’s Word.
This is one of the many reasons why the text we’re going to look at is SO important. As a church, we can never assume anything when it comes to these most foundational parts of what it means to be a biblical church. D.A. Carson said it best: “One generation believes something. The next assumes it. And the third will forget and even denyit.” Wemust not assume that because we are a church, we are automatically focused around the Bible, or even that we are a biblical church. We must actively pursue this and implement it in every way possible, and this is what Paul so strongly advocates in 2 Timothy chapter 4, which is where we’ll be today.
2 Timothy 4:1-5 (page 109 in blue NTs). Now, before we jump right into it, it would be good to understand what’s happening in the letter of 2 Timothy. This is a few years after Paul had written 1st Timothy, and Paul is apparently back in a Roman prison. This 2nd imprisonment is a little different though. The first time it was more like he was in house arrest; people could come in and out to see him. This time, however, that’s just not the case. In fact, in chapter 2 verse 9, Paul says he’s “bound in chains like a criminal.” So things are far more serious. In fact, Paul seems to know that he’s about to die! In chapter 4 verses 6-7, he says, “I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
So Paul is treating this letter like a last testament to Timothy. This is his most cherished disciple, someone he loves so dearly and someone who has been so faithful in following Christ. So what we have here in 2nd Timothy is what Paul considers the most important last things to tell Timothy. In fact, these are the last recorded words of the Apostle Paul that we have. Imagine what you might tell your children on your death bed. That’s how serious and weighty this is, what Paul says here. This is THE climax of the whole letter, the ONE most important thing he wants to leave Timothy.
To help us get into these first 5 verses in 2 Timothy 4, let’s step back and start in 2ndTimothy 3:10, and we’ll read through 4:5.
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
The most solemn, serious, central command that Paul gives to Timothy: “Preach the Word.” Proclaim God’s message. Declare God’s truth. Now, this is geared toward Timothy, who was at the time a pastor in the church at Ephesus. So this is speaking specifically to a pastor, BUT, there is so much truth to be garnered from what Paul is saying for all of us, as Christians. Yes, pastors, preach the Word. Proclaim the Truth. But, all Christians, also, are to proclaim the truth. We’re all to declare God’s Word to each other and to others and, yes, even preach to ourselves. So, why preach the Word? Today, we’ll see 4 reasons:
- Christ is Our Ultimate Judge (vs. 1)
Vs. 1- “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word.” So he starts off this solemn charge, the most important thing he’s going to tell Timothy, by telling Timothy why he should take this charge seriously. The BIGGEST reason Timothy has to proclaim the truth, is because Christ Jesus is the ultimate judge.
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead,” meaning those alive when Christ comes back, and those who have died. Guess who that includes? Everyone! Christ is THE ultimate Judge for everyone. So Paul makes this charge not only in Christ’s presence, which is a big deal, but also “by his appearing and his kingdom.” The urgency to preach the Word is grounded in Christ as Judge, and in his imminent return. He’s coming back! The reality of Christ’s return, the reality of Christ’s kingdom which he will fully establish when he does return, and the reality of Christ as the ultimate Judge: Those are, by far, the biggest reasons we have to Preach the Word.
The reality of Christ means that I, as your pastor, MUST faithfully preach and proclaim what God has said in his Word. And how do we know that Paul is referring here to the Bible? Well, the previous verses give that away: Verses 16-17 in chapter 3, just before this, as we already read: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” All of Scripture is God’s Word that we are to proclaim.
We have a commitment here at Raintree to something called Expository Preaching. Some of you have heard of this; many of you probably haven’t. Expository or expositional preaching is preaching that expounds the text. In other words, our primary goal, if not our only goal, is to get at what God Himself is communicating in His Word. What that means is that in this main gathering, we will not just have Bible-based teaching and preaching, where I give you some neat and even biblical ideas that I have and back them up with Scripture. No. As much as humanly possible, we go straight to the Bible and see what God himself has said! Why does this matter so much to see what God has said, as opposed to something I may come up with? Because Christ is the Judge, not people. He determines truth, not me. Preaching the Bible helps to make sure that we hear from God, and not just me. [blog post]
So, why do pastors and churches opt for something other than strong Bible preaching? Usually, it’s to try and be more engaging, or more relevant, less offensive or controversial, or even less boring! Here’s the problem with that: people are not our ultimate Judges. Christ is. I should be more fearful of not revealing what God has said than I am fearful of being boring. I should be more afraid of offending God by not proclaiming what He has said than offending people by not giving them what they want to hear. Why? Because Christ is our ultimate Judge.
WE don’t determine what is relevant. God does. And if God’s Word, and the true preaching of God’s Word, ever becomes boring to us, there’s a far greater problem than someone’s monotone voice or quirky personality, or “He’s just not funny enough.” I hope what engages you is simply that we’re opening God’s Word to hear from Him. Christ is the Judge of all things, including what matters, and what is relevant. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that we determine what is relevant and what is not. God has given us that, in His Word. So we preach it.
This great command to preach the Word is not just for pastors. It’s for all Christians. Think about it: What of more lasting value do we really have to give people, other than God’s own words? What do we have that could possibly be better for people, even non-Christians? Nothing! We don’t need to be ashamed of the Word of God, or you-know, try and give people advice that’s biblical but masked as secular. No, just give people the Word, unashamedly. Say, “You know, I do relationships this way, because that’s how God has laid it out in his Word.” We have the greatest truth in the world, that Christ himself, the ultimate Judge, has given us. Proclaim it! Share it! Preach it! The 2nd reason to preach the Word:
- The Word is God’s Ultimate Life-Changing Tool (vs. 2)
Now, the Holy Spirit is the ultimate life-changing agent, right?He’s the one who molds us into the likeness of Christ. But the greatest TOOL He uses, is the Word of God. Vs. 2- “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” In this one verse there are FIVE imperatives— five commands.
“Preach the Word” is the first. Very straightforward: it means proclaim the truth of Scripture. The second command: “Be ready in season and out of season.” That means we’re always on duty, ready to proclaim the truth both when it’s convenient (when you had in mind to do it) and when it’s inconvenient, when you didn’t really have it in mind. We should be ready to share what God has said in His Word at all times, particularly when it comes to salvation in Christ.
The third and fourth commands are very related to each other: “Reprove” means to correct, or like convince somewhat of their fault. And “rebuke,” means to admonish or correct maybe in a more formal way. And then, the last command here, “exhort” means “to encourage.” Now those last three, I think are particularly noteworthy, because we see both the positive side of preaching the Word, and the negative side! And notice, we need BOTH! In fact, this is specifically, HOW the Word is God’s ultimate life-changing tool. It requires both correction and encouragement! As your pastor, there is a place in my preaching and shepherding for correction. That’s part of the Christian life, for all of us. There also, of course, is a place for encouragement.
This is part of following Christ. In fact, really, for all Christians, we need to be able to both correct and encourage each other. Now, obviously, I don’t know that anyone would ever disagree with the encouragement part. But this correction part, is not an easy thought for most of us. First, many of us (I’d say probably all of us) don’t love the idea of being corrected. Of course we don’t. We’re prideful beings. But, we must recognize this as a MAJOR part of our sanctification. When we’re not being corrected or challenged by anyone, we are missing out on our full potential in becoming like Jesus. Remember back to verses 16 and 17 of chapter 3: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” We are missing out on spiritual growth when loving correction isn’t happening.
But here’s the other part of this. Yes, most of don’t like being corrected. But it’s also true that most of us don’t like correcting or challenging others. Many of us struggle deeply with confrontation, and the thought of challenging another person, even in love and as gently but honestly as possible, it’s terrifying. Honestly, that’s the way I am. I naturally avoid confrontation. It takes a lot for me to finally say something, but I have learned that saying something is so much better than pretending like there’s not a problem.
Please hear me: As your pastor, you are getting jipped if I don’t take seriously the calling I have to correct and challenge with the Word of God. Obviously, this can be done in a wrong way: we see very clearly from the end of verse 2 that this is to be done “with complete patience.” But, we are all missing out if we’re not letting the Word reveal our faults. This goes for all of us. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons that spiritual immaturity is rampant in US churches is because no one is willing to say anything to anyone that could possibly be construed as negative. We even picture Jesus like this, as the ultimate nice guy. We think that the most Godly people are the ones who never say anything negative to anyone, especially to correct them.
The problem with this is that we’ve changed who Jesusreally was. He didn’t have in mind to tip-toe around and make sure everyone liked him and thought he was nice. His ultimate goal was the salvation of men and women from God’s wrath. The problem with this absolute aversion we have to confrontation is that we fear offending our brother more than we fear our brother being stunted in his spiritual growth. This goes also for how we think about non-Christians: we fear offending people or being rejected by people more than we fear their souls being lost! More than we fear them never hearing the Gospel.
We must be absolutely committed to preaching and teaching in the Body, we must be absolutely committed to helping each other grow in Christ— and that means yes, encouraging with the Word in a positive way, but also correcting and challenging each other. Again, it seems likely that loving but firm correction is the greatest thing lacking in the church today. We avoid it because we don’t want to offend. We’re offended by correction because we’re prideful, and we’re also fearful of offending not because we’re meek, but because we’re prideful!
We care more about what others think of us than we care about their Godliness, or even their salvation. We all need truth to be changed, and we need people to who will tell us the truth. We must get into the Word as a church and as individuals, because it’s God’s ultimate tool for life transformation. The 3rd reason we Preach the Word:
- People are increasingly Deceived and Deceivers (vs. 3-4)
Verses 3-4: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” When Paul said this, he was looking ahead, even though it certainly was happening even in his own day. But for the entirety of Christian history, the last 2,000 years, this has been happening. And there is no doubt that today, this is happening as well.
Truth is not a popular thing in most circles. The most popular speakers and even the most popular pastors—most of them are known not for their authority, or their faithfulness to the Bible, but instead for relatability and personality. Most pastors today would probably not most accurately be called “preachers,” but instead “encouragers,” or “talkers,” or even “conversationers” (which I don’t think is a word, but you get the idea). Why do people so often flock to these types? Because they want to satisfy their itching ears. That literally means, “have their ears tickled.”
When this is our desire, simply to receive something that WE have determined that we need, not only will we stop being able to tell the difference between biblical truth and falsehood, but we also will start becoming hostile to truth! And this path is such an easy one to fall into without even realizing it: I mean, “Wandering into myths” seems like something you would do without even knowing it. You don’t intentionally wander; that doesn’t makes sense. You do it having no idea that you’ve done it.
Think about this: Do we not deceive ourselves? We fabricate things in our minds, and call it truth. We convince ourselves of things. We define God’s character by what we like or what we want him to be like, as opposed to looking to the Word and seeing God’s very own self-revelation. We so easily fall into what culture defines as truth because we’re bombarded by it at every turn. In verse 13 of chapter 3, we read earlier, Paul is speaking so graphically of the last days and what it will be like, and he says, among many other things, “evil people and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” We’re in the last days. And I’m not saying that to sound prophetic. Theologically, it’s actually true that we’ve been in the last days since Jesus returned to heaven after rising from the dead!
So the urgency of the last days is here. The urgency with which Paul spoke should always affect us enough to desire truth and Godliness, and actively seeking to avoid being deceived. How do we do this? Yet again, we desperately need the Word of God. We desperately need to hear the Word proclaimed in this type setting regularly. We desperately need to proclaim it to each other in smaller settings, and proclaim to ourselves as we open the Word on our own. The need the Word of God. The 4th reason to Preach the Word:
- God Desires Faithfulness, not Prolificness (vs. 5)
Prolificness is the noun form of prolific. What does that mean? It means being overly productive and producing large quantities of something. In other words, God doesn’t desire for us to do some big huge thing for Him that will just turn the world upside down! He desires simply for us to be faithful. Verse 5: “As for you (these others are being deceived and wandering into myths) But as for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
I love this. “Sober-minded” means “keeping your head.” Being alert to spiritual things, being present, actively setting your mind on things that are of spiritual nature. Don’t assumethat you’re staying awake and alert spiritually; activelystay awake and sober. “Endure suffering.” He said back in verse 12 of chapter 3 that “All who desire to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” It will happen; endure it. Set your eyes on the prize, which is Christ Jesus.
Do the work of an “evangelist.” This word is not just what we think of when we think evangelist, as in someone who shares the Gospel for conversions, but it also involves discipleship, and really growing other believers. And then, “fulfill your ministry.” Fulfill what you’ve been called to do. Wow. Some of his last words for Timothy, and notice he didn’t say, “reach a million people!” “Become a famous Christian blogger or speaker!” Our goal, as Christians, should be faithfulness. When we’re focused on faithfulness, God will take care of what he wants as far as fruitfulness.
We proclaim God’s Word because that’s what it means to be faithful to God. We proclaim truth when it’s convenient, when it’s not, when we think people might accept it and when we think people won’t! We don’t base our obedience upon receptivity. God’s job is to move in people’s hearts through the Word being proclaimed and shared. Our job is to be faithful, doing what he has called us to do.
There’s no greater way I can close this time, before we get to the questions, than by pleading with you to get into the Word on your own. We can’t proclaim and share God’s Word if we’re not in God’s Word. We can’t help others become more like Christ if we’re not becoming more like Christ by seeing who he is in the Word. We cannot help others avoid being deceived if we ourselves are deceived. And we can’t be faithful without knowing what God wants from us. All of this is found in the Word. Do not miss the LIFE and FREEDOM to be found in hearing directly from God Himself. Open your Bible. Let Him speak. And then preach that truth to yourself and to others.
There’s a reason we don’t eat one meal a week. There’s a reason for that, right? It’s the same reason we need God’s Word regularly and consistently: it’s nourishment. It’s life. God’s Word is alive and active, Heb. 4:12. It’s a light for our path, Psalm 119:105. It endures forever, Isaiah 40:8. It tells us the entire story of God’s redemptive plan for mankind, from beginning to end, and even where wefit within that redemptive plan. It shows us how to live like Christ in the midst of a crooked and depraved generation, Phil. 2:15. It is our source for wisdom and truth and sanctification, it’s how we know God, Prov. 2:6. And, Jesus Himself revealed that we live not on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. In many ways, this is where we find our very life and sustenance, namely, Christ.
The question is: Do we treat it like this? Do we hunger for the Word of God? At Raintree, are we fostering a community where we hunger for God’s Word, and where we can feast together! This isn’t just my responsibility or that of the elders. It’s the responsibility of each and every one of us in the Body, not only to read the Word for ourselves, but to spur one another on in the Word and in the pursuit of holiness. It’s all of our jobs. Let’s pray to that end.