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Lessons From Chapter Four of 1 & 2 Timothy — Stephen Scaggs

Elvis has left the building.  A well-known idiom, it means that it’s all over, the show has come to an end.  In his last two epistles to Timothy, Paul is basically saying, “Paul is leaving the building.”  Yet he ends each epistle with an appeal to the glorious hope which awaits us all…when we leave the building.  In the fourth chapter of each respective epistle, Paul tells Timothy that he needs to take his ministry seriously if he is going to be successful as a minister.  Paul is passing the torch in his second epistle to Timothy; he charges Timothy in God’s sacred court to preach the Word.  In this article I would like to share some lessons we can learn from the fourth chapter of both of these epistles.

While these books have general application for all Christians, their primary application deals with preachers.  As preachers, we must be careful not to fall away (1 Ti. 4:1-5).  Rather, we must discipline ourselves (vs. 6-10) and allow our ministry to reflect in both our walk and our work (vs. 11-16).  We must also preach and hear God’s Word faithfully (2 Ti. 4:1-5), finishing our ministry well (vs. 6-8) while preparing ourselves to face life’s winters (vs. 9-22).

How To Behave In God’s Household

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, the real purpose of the letter is revealed.  Paul had presented his purpose in writing in the previous chapter.  He had stated he was writing these things to instruct Timothy on how to conduct himself while administering the affairs of the church (3:14-4:10), while also encouraging Timothy by providing him counsel concerning his own spiritual progress (4:11-16).

Falling Away (1 Ti. 4:1-5).  Paul first discusses the present problem.  Apparently this is an explicit prophecy about apostasy.  Perhaps he is referring to Jesus’ prediction about the apostasy before the destruction of Jerusalem (Mk. 13:22), or to other prophecies Paul had made (2 Th. 2:1-12; Ac. 20:29).  Some in Ephesus were already apostatizing; we know they were already wilting by the end of the first century (Re. 2:4-5).  This present apostasy are people that are not enjoying God and the blessings He provides, but rather denying certain things.

Paul tells Timothy that this warfare is spiritual, something he had already told the Ephesians (Ep. 6:10-20).  Paul told them that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ep. 6:12).  Some of these teachers were following deceitful forces and demonic teaching (2 Co. 11:13-15).  Demonic influence can be blatant and obvious, but also subtle.  Evil spirits continue to work in churches to thwart God’s truth by their demonic doctrines.

Falling away always begins in the mind because the mind is the seat of all facilities for the body.  These spirits are misleading.  The teachings they espouse appear healthy, but they are a recipe for disaster.  They try to get into your head and twist your thinking.  However, God’s people believe and know the truth (4:3).

Falling away leads from the mind to our morals.  The demonic teaching seared people’s consciences (4:2).  Instead of leading them to repentance, their wrong thinking led them to wrong morals.  Biblically speaking, a person that apostatizes can go in two directions: either legalism (2 Ti. 4:1-5) or licentiousness (2 Pe. 2:1-3; Jude 1:18-20).  These Christian teachers forbade marriage and certain foods, probably an early form of Gnosticism.  Some concluded that since the body was evil, we must discipline the body through asceticism (i.e., a rigorous denial of self and pleasure); others concluded that since the body was evil anyways, it did not matter what you did in your body.  These are the results of wrong thinking, stemming from deceitful spirits.

Paul then discusses what Timothy’s perspective should be.  This apostatizing was already taking place and Paul warns Timothy to be on his guard.  In contrast to falling away, the remedy is holding to God’s truths with thankfulness, gratefully enjoying God and his creation.

Literally, these people are hypocritical teachers who speak false things.  When I say “hypocritical,” I suggest “a practical denial of their” inner self (Wieseler).  They concealed their more legalistic convictions, but had an open verbal profession of adhering to the Christian way.  To salve their guilty conscience, they took a hot iron and seared it shut.  The prescription medication for a seared conscience is allowing God’s truths and goodness to melt the inner man — allowing the Bible to confront our sins and enjoying the simple pleasures in life that God gives to every one of us.

Paul mentions gratitude twice in the text.  If we overflow with gratitude (Ep. 5:20; 1 Th. 5:18), our consciences cannot be seared shut.  If we are bitter or grumble toward God, we will doubt God’s goodness and will eventually fall away.  In a practical manner, we can be thankful for our spiritual blessings in our physical joys.  God wants us to enjoy this world with its literature, art, and music; its mountains, oceans, and valleys.  God wants us to share meals, to enjoy marriage, and to participate in the joy of creation.  However, in these things we should not just enjoy the gift, but the Giver of all good gifts.  Yes, we do not need to overindulge or become self-centered (Paul deals with discipline immediately after), but Paul’s point is that all of life is spiritual and sacred.

This extends beyond saying table grace, but to all our life.  Whether we hike in the mountains, enjoy the warm company of family and friends, a concert, or a good book, it ought to exuberate with prayers of thankfulness.

Discipline That Matters (1 Ti. 4:6-10).  Paul’s message to the young evangelist Timothy is that if he wishes to succeed in his service, he must be disciplined in God’s Word and healthy teaching. Perhaps Timothy desired to be disciplined, but he had several old habits into which he just kept falling back. The key to discipline is motivation. Athletes drive themselves relentlessly for years because they are motivated to win that gold medal and all the implications it carries. We must push ourselves to do what we don’t want to do to achieve what we’ve always wanted to be. Our motivation is eternity and all the implications of eternity.

Eternity should motivate us. While Paul does not despise bodily exercise, he is making a comparison between bodily and spiritual; while the body is temporary, the spirit is eternal (4:8). Many live for this life, but fail to live for eternity. Many are obsessed with beauty and health, dietary restrictions, and physical performance, but none of that will change that death is inevitable.

The living God should motivate us. Paul said that he had set his hope on the living God.  He is not merely a projection of Paul’s mind.  God created the universe and all that is in it. Because he is living, Paul could commune and draw strength with him daily. If it is true that God is living and our hope is fixated on him, then the living God should motivate us.

Salvation should also motivate us. Paul tells us that God is the Savior of all humanity, and thus counters the teachers he mentioned before who bound their dietary laws and forbade marriage. In effect, Paul is saying, “God wants to save all types of people, in every place, from every walk of life. He has provided salvation for all, but not all are saved.” Apart from Christ, humanity is alienated from God, but with God humanity has sufficient salvation. This fact of our salvation ought to motivate us.

What is discipline? Discipline is an ongoing process, not a quick fix. Paul uses the verb in the present imperative, stressing continuous action. Discipline involves hard work. Paul said, “We labor and strive.” “Strive” is a wrestling term, giving all strength to win. Discipline means discarding hindrances. Paul encourages Timothy not to have anything to do with the random babbling of the false teachers. The Greek word for discipline implies stripping off hindrances – if we’re going to win, we must strip off the weights. Discipline means keeping your eyes on the goal. Paul tells Timothy that the goal is godliness, growing in conformity to God, taking God seriously, and recognizing the implications of a godly life.

How do we implement discipline?  By nourishing our faith with truths (4:6b), continually feeding on God’s spiritual nuggets.  Spiritual warfare involves the mind and affects the morals.  We must take in God’s Word by hearing it preached and reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on it.  We must be obedient to the truths that we are following (4:6c).  True wisdom is not intellectual knowledge, or an accumulative database of facts.  True wisdom reaches out and changes lives.

Timothy’s Walk and Work for Christ (1 Ti. 4:11-16).  Paul tells us in another place that God gave to the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, teachers “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Ep. 4:11-12). It seems as if there are droves who are either burning out on ministry because they are exhausted or bombing out of ministry because of moral failure. Timothy’s danger was that he would just fade out of the ministry because his timid personality tended to want to avoid conflict. The fact is that we cannot preach God’s truths without inevitably confronting error and offending some people. Timothy was in danger of neglecting his ministry (4:14), so Paul took him under his wing out of love for him.

Paul tells Timothy to pay close attention to himself (his walk) and to his teaching (his work.)  He gave similar advice to the Ephesian elders (Ac. 20:28).  The goal of every disciple is to develop godliness through daily discipline, walking with the Lord.  The walk and work of a preacher ought to be inseparable.

In ancient times, age meant a lot.  Often just having gray hair was a sign of a credential. The young Timothy was probably somewhere in his late 20’s or early 30’s. Paul tells the young man to not “let anyone look down your youthfulness.” Some might shrug Timothy’s teaching because, “Well, he’s too young to know what he’s talking about.” If your message is backed by a disciplined, godly life, then it doesn’t matter how young or how old you are.

Paul mentions five areas where Timothy needed discipline for godliness: speech, lifestyle, love, faith, and purity. No one would respect Timothy’s message if his mouth was full of sarcasm, profanity, ridicule, gossip, blaming, destructive criticism, angry words of threat and revenge, griping, complaining, lying, filthy talk, or dirty jokes (Ep. 4:29). Honesty, integrity, how we spend our time and money, priorities, attitude toward possessions, personal appearance, home, how we treat people…all of these factors would be important if any would take Timothy seriously. Without agape love, he would fail in crafting people into growth. If love does not permeate our life, then we will fail in our ministry (cf. 1 Co. 13). If Timothy was going to succeed in his ministry, he would need to be consistent in his life, unlike the hypocritical teachers that Paul mentioned earlier. If he was to succeed in his ministry, he would have to expunge sickly thinking from his mind. Timothy’s walk was essential if he was going to be successful.

Timothy was to focus on the public ministry of the Word. He was to read it aloud (especially in an illiterate society), apply it to life (“exhortation”), and teach it (4:13). Paul tells Timothy not to neglect his public ministry (4:14), to take pains to progress it (4:15), and to persevere in it (4:16).

Every believer has a gift whether in benevolence, evangelism, or edification. The elders laid their hands on Timothy, prayed for him, and empowered him via encouragement. Timothy had to develop his teaching. Paul tells him, “Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them.” “Pay close attention.” “Persevere in these things.” Paul later tells him to rekindle the fire (2 Ti. 1:16). Sometimes preachers get discouraged.

Timothy was a timid person. While timidity is not a negative trait, Timothy allowed it to affect his ministry. Paul tells Timothy to grow in confidence and authority, backed by a godly life (4:11). He tells him to grow thick skin for when opposition comes (4:16).  Going back to the seriousness of ministry, Paul concludes by saying, “You will save both yourself and those who hear you.” Timothy was to have a view of eternity.  Even if he was catching flak, he was to persevere.

Timothy needed to persevere in God’s truth with thankfulness. Because of what was at stake, Timothy needed to discipline himself for godly living. Timothy’s walk with Christ a necessary basis for his work for Christ.

As servants today, we need to persevere in God’s spiritual truths with grateful hearts. As servants today, we need to be motivated by what is at stake and discipline ourselves to godly living. As servants today, we need to make sure our walk with Christ is in step with our work for Christ. If we our ministry is going to be successful, we cannot allow our fear to paralyze us from performing these solemn, sacred duties.

Timothy’s Charge

The last 22 verses of 2 Timothy are Paul’s final recorded words before the apostle’s execution.  Having just emphasized the trustworthy nature of that Word and its vital importance (3:16-17), he now charges Timothy to be faithful in heralding that Word (4:1-5). He then reminisces that he has fought and he is finishing well (4:6-8). He then asks a few things in the face of winter, a doxology, and a few other miscellaneous concluding remarks (4:9-22).

Preaching the Word (2 Ti. 4:1-5).  Why preach?  Preaching the Word is a serious charge.  Paul invokes Timothy to take an oath as in a court of law before God and Christ.  Timothy was to preach with a view of eternity, which reflects the seriousness of preaching and the solemnity that ought to be a trait of all preachers.  How many preachers today have taken this solemn oath in God’s court?

What to preach? We have a few clues in the immediate context. Paul references the Scriptures earlier (3:16-17), followed immediately by the command to preach. The Word (4:2) is the God-breathed Scripture (3:16). Paul gives the reason for preaching the Word (4:3). He refers to the Word as sound teaching. He has a solemn duty to herald the King’s messages for the people, as do we.

When to preach? Paul answers this question: in season and out of season. Preaching must not be play; it must be a life-consuming passion. A rhetorical question might be, “When not to preach?” As Timothy, we need to be ready in view of eternity, which implies readiness always.

How to preach? Paul charged Timothy to reprove, rebuke, and exhort. How? “With great patience and instruction.” We need to show people where their life is not in line with God’s truths and we need to show them how to make those steps back in line with God’s truths with patience and instruction in mind. People require time to change – they don’t always get it on the first time around. He gives them careful instruction to help them in view of eternity. We also need to be patient with the people we teach.

Hear the Word.  Paul charges Timothy to preach healthy teaching, which would result in healthy living.  Healthy teaching does not always mean that society and culture will like it.  Why preach healthy teaching?  Paul answers, “Because otherwise people’s ears shall turn aside to myths.”  Like Timothy, we cannot allow public opinion to override our personal convictions.  Like Timothy, we must confront sin, give encouragement, and strengthen the struggling.

Persevere in the Word.  Paul tells Timothy to persevere despite people not listening to him. First, Paul tells Timothy to keep a clear head.  Some preachers get so caught up in the little details that they miss out on what is going on around them. We must keep alert. Many young preachers tend to allow themselves to be easily influenced by things going on around them, perhaps also taking a side.  This is a danger we need to avoid.

Paul also tells Timothy to put up with flak.  A preacher is going to catch flak.  If he is going to remain a preacher for very long, he is going to have to grow thick skin…but still be patient!  We must find a healthy middle ground in that we must become resilient while not becoming calloused.

Paul then tells Timothy to get his job done.  Despite modern definitions of the word “evangelist,” the term euaggelistes simply means a preacher of a good report.  An evangelist’s true success is measured primarily on whether he is faithful in proclaiming the Word.

Paul also tells Timothy to discharge all his duties in his service to King Jesus.  This requires faithfulness in proclaiming the Word, suffering the hardship as a soldier.  What Paul is about to write concerning how he has fulfilled his service to his King and is about to die embraces this idea.

Finishing Well (2 Ti. 4:6-8).  Paul viewed his past, present, and future all with confidence and conviction.  How many of us as preachers live in such a way that we can say these same words when it is the time for our departure?  How many of us are passing the torch to the younger generation?

Paul views the present (4:6).  He reminds Timothy of his circumstances by basically saying, “I am about to die.”  The flow of thought is this:  “Even in opposition, Timothy, you must preach the Word because I am about to die.  I am passing the torch.”  Dying is easier when we know that we’re leaving behind people that can carry on with Christ.  Paul did not view his execution as tragic, but saw it as the culminating drink offering being poured onto an existing sacrificial life (cf. Ro. 12:1-2; Nu. 28:7).  He refers to his death as a departure, literally the unyoking of an animal from his plow, the loosening of a rope from a soldier’s tent, or releasing the mooring ropes of a ship.  Death means the end of our physical strains, that the victory is won, and our earthly vessel awaits the culmination which is to come.

Paul views the past (4:7).  While reminiscing about the past, he recalls, “I have fought a good fight,” using an athletic metaphor about either a wrestling match or race.  We are in an onslaught “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ep. 6:12, ESV).  If our living centers around comfort and pleasure, can we say we have fought a good fight?  Paul recalls, “I have finished the course,” using another athletic metaphor.  Per legend, the Greek marathon originated after a decisive battle between Greece and Persia, when a Greek soldier ran from Marathon to Athens with the gospel (good news) that they had won the battle in Marathon against Persia and then dropped dead from overexertion.  Paul said with confidence that he had finished his course.  He recalls, “I have guarded the faith.”  Timothy was to guard that deposit (1 Ti. 6:20; 2 Ti. 1:12, 14).  Paul is basically saying, “I have done precisely what I told you to do.  I have guarded it with my life, and now you do the same.”  Paul viewed his past with confidence and his present with conviction.

Paul views the future (4:8).  He reassures Timothy and himself about the future.  Paul desired to meet the Lord, the righteous Judge.  Despite his dismal circumstances, he had security about the future.  He did not fear the final judgment.  Rather, Paul lived in view of that day when he would receive that garland wreath of righteousness, that prize given to the victor of the Olympian games.  Not all receive a crown, but only those who participated in the games (1 Co. 9:24-25).  Even though his earthly judge wrongly condemned him, he knew that the righteous Judge would vindicate him.  Even though he knew that evil wins the battle temporarily, he knew that the Lord would come in a day of reckoning.  Even though he knew life was unjust, he believed in the One who brings equalization to all.

Facing Winter (2 Ti. 4:9-22).  As Paul concludes his final letter to his beloved son in the faith, he urges Timothy to make every effort to come to him before winter.  Paul was human.  He is wrestling with his feelings and disappointments.  However, he was also confident in the Lord.  He triumphantly states, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever.  Amen” (4:18).  Such an amazing attitude is something we as preachers need to take to heart.

Committing to Christ (4:17-18, 22).  Even in a cold, dark dungeon in Rome, Paul reveals five things about the Lord.  He is sovereign.  Even though God could have rescued Paul from the evil deeds of wicked men, He delivered Paul through them.  He is ever-present.  Paul said, “The Lord stood with me…The Lord be with (Timothy’s) spirit.”  Even with no one around him, Paul had company.  He is saving.  Paul said confidently, “He will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom.”  Even in the face of death, Paul would be saved.  He is glorious.  Paul said in a doxology, “To him be the glory forever and ever.”  Even in shackles, God retains His glory.  He is gracious.  Paul’s final words are, “(God’s) grace be with you.”  Paul was committed to the living Lord.

Committing to the Cause (4:11, 14-17).  Even in a jail cell, Paul is still strong.  Even in the face of death, Paul still refers to his ever-present ministry and service (4:11).  This is truly what it means to preach out of season.  Whatever circumstances we face, we seize our opportunities for ministry.  Nero was torturing Christians; testing in Nero’s court meant peril and danger.  Paul said, “No one stood with me.”  The Roman Christians were committed, but they were afraid.  Paul is gracious to them, shown by his words, “May it not be counted against them.”  Alexander opposed the cause.  Paul recounted how he had done him much harm.  While we don’t know who this was, it is likely he was a believer and perhaps the one who informed the Roman authorities to arrest him.  Paul said, “The Lord will repay him for his deeds.”  Paul was stating fact; while he did not desire personal revenge, he trusted in God to make everything right.  Demas was committed, but deserted the cause.  He used to be a fellow worker (Phile. 24), but he fled now that identifying with Paul meant death.  We do not know if he repented like Peter had after denying Christ, but in that moment he was not committed.

Committing with Others (4:9-10, 12, 19-21).  Paul was not a lone ranger.  He trusted in his fellow workers:  Timothy, Crescens, Titus, Tychicus, John Mark, Carpus, Prisca and Aquila, Erastus, Trophimus, Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, and Claudia, along with all the brethren in Rome.  He was not  a loner.  He was committed with others, and they labored together.

Committing to Growth (4:13).  Knowing of his imminent execution, Paul wants Timothy to bring him his books.  Paul didn’t tell him, “Bring me my TV and movies.”  He wanted to use his mind to read and think.  He wanted to develop his mind.  He wanted to develop his soul, to know Christ more and more.  He wanted to take care of his character.  Even at the end of his life, Paul still had room to grow.

Paul was confident that Timothy would keep his charge (4:1-5).  He was convicted in and committed to his risen Lord (4:6-22).  This should be our goal as well.

scaggsstephen@gmail.com

 Stephen preaches at the Collinsville Church of Christ in Collinsville, VA.  He is a 2012 alumnus of the Memphis School of Preaching in Memphis, TN.  He is married to Rebekah and they have two children, Emmett and one on the way!

 

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Making Preachers Stronger — Mac Ballard

Of all the vocations I have had in my lifetime, none have been as worthwhile nor as fulfilling as preaching the Word of God.  I have been in “full time” work (which simply means you have no other means of earning a living) as well as “bi-vocational” work (which means you make your living some other way.  In either case, I considered myself a full-time preacher.

As fulfilling as it has been, it has not come without difficulties.  Paul once wrote about his own hardships:  “…in journeyings often, in perils of water, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren” (2 Co. 11:26).  While I will not put myself on the same level with Paul, I do believe young preachers and prospective preachers need to prepare themselves for the ill treatment they may receive.  I was reared in a large church that was at peace.  Our preachers did not receive harsh words, nor were they fired because somebody got angry with them.  I just naturally believed everything would be wonderful when I began to preach.  I would preach, everybody would shake my hand and tell me I did a wonderful job and they would all do just as the Scriptures I preached told them to do.  Well, things just did not go that way.

I do not intend to make this a pity party for me.  God has always been there for me and I have become stronger and I believe a better presenter over the years because of it all.  I do want to perhaps say a few words that will help some of you who are just starting out or are considering preaching.  It is a difficult field and you will need to love it to continue in it.  Some of this will be negative but I hope to present it in a way that will allow you to see how to avoid some common mistakes and will allow you to have many productive years in His service.

As the preacher, you will live in a fish bowl, or a glass house if you prefer.  Everything you do will be open for all to see and for all to criticize.  You will have your critics.  Your car may be no dirtier than any other member’s, but yours will be pointed out because you are the preacher.  You may preach a wonderful sermon that has everyone spellbound, and someone will point out that there was a wrinkle in your shirt.  You will preach too long, you will be too loud, you will use too many illustrations, you will put in so many scriptures that you lose people, or your hair will not be combed correctly.

My point is that you will need to know how to respond to all of this nonsense, which most of the time it will be.  The most advice you will get about how you should preach and what your job as a preacher is or should be will come from those who have never written or presented a sermon in their lives and have no intention of ever doing so…yet they are the experts.  You could decide you will not be pushed around and give it all back to them as they give it to you, but I suggest you buy shares of stock in U-Haul if you’re going to handle it this way because you will be moving a lot!

Rather, you must develop a thick skin if you do not already possess it.  It seems some Christians enjoy saying or doing things just to hurt the preacher.  You will prove yourself to be an unloving person who has no business in the pulpit if you talk to them the same way they talk to you.  “Well, Mac,” you may be asking, “just what are we to do exactly?”

First, consider the source.  When somebody is unfair to you, they may well be trying to compensate for some shortcoming in their life.  When I was an air conditioning technician, one fellow at our company seemed to feel that the only way he could move up was by tearing everybody else down.  You will find church members who are the same.  Some things you just have to learn to let roll off of you like water.  Many times it is in your best interest just to let it ride.  Eventually the truth will come to light.

Secondly, conduct yourself with dignity and professionalism.  By not getting down to someone else’s level, you will show people the best response to unfair criticism or ridiculous charges.  Mudslinging always gets you just as dirty as it does the other person.  Just do your job.  If you are doing what you should, the garbage they throw will not stick on you.  I am not saying you cannot and should not ever verbally defend yourself.  There may come times when that is necessary.  Just step back, evaluate the circumstances and do not charge in while you are angry.  Remember these words:  “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Pr. 15:1).

Thirdly, and this is very important, realize that some will not conduct themselves in a Christ-like way just because they may call themselves a Christian.  Some may “talk the talk” but walk a totally different walk.  It has always escaped my capacity to understand what it is about being a church “boss” or “bully” that is so appealing.  What is just as much beyond my ability to comprehend is why the rest of the congregation will bow down to them.  You may very well find yourself in a situation where you are facing such a person and also find you have no support.  All the “friends” you have made may tell you they do not feel the way this person does but you will find their support is only in private.  After all, you can always move; they have to live there.  Never mind that you already moved your family miles away from their home and will have to uproot them again.  You will come to find out that some so-called Christians are selfish and will do what they think is best for them, which usually is not what the Bible says.

“Wow, Mac.  You have almost talked me out of preaching.”  That is not my purpose.  If, however, you are looking for an easy job with lots of money and benefits, I hope I do discourage you because you need to do something else.  Preaching is not nothing more than sitting behind a desk working on a computer, nor is it running around with other preachers all of the time and only working on Sundays and Wednesday nights.  I was told that a preacher who preceded me would not many other things not even related to his job during the week and on Saturday nights he would pull two sermons off of the Internet.  He will never grow like that.  Most importantly, he will never please God like that.

I have only scratched the surface of the potential problems which preachers may face.  You may be asking why anybody would want to preach with all of this going on.  Believe it or not, these are the very reasons we need men to preach.  Do you remember these words from Paul?  “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom: Preach the word; be instant in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry” (2 Ti. 4:1-5).

Paul was well aware of what Timothy would face (and by extension we as well), but he also knew the souls of man were at stake.  We must preach and stick with it because the world is dying without Christ.  Many churches are dying because they have turned from Christ and are following their own paths.  Somebody must tell them.

Young preacher — whether you be young in age, faith or time in the business — be prepared for many trials.  Satan will not pass you by because you are a preacher.  Temptations and trials will affect you just like they do everybody else.  Yet, you will find there is no greater work in the world you could be doing.

I don’t want to leave anybody with negative perspectives about preaching.  I believe it is the greatest thing a man can do.  You please God by doing so.  Consider more words from Paul:  “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Co. 1:21).  Souls cannot be saved without the message of the cross and will not hear the Word without a preacher.  “How then shall they call on him in whom they have no believed?  And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?  And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Ro. 10:14)

You also will meet many of the finest people in the world.  There are those who will stand with you as long as you preach the truth no matter what.  They will be there to catch you when you stumble and be a shoulder for you when things seem to be too hard to continue.  You will perform weddings for their children, visit them in the hospital and perform funeral sermons for their loved ones.  You will build friendships that will last for a lifetime.  I wouldn’t miss that for all of the money in the world.

Finally, you will grow spiritually.  If I were not preaching, I doubt I would be where I am as a Christian.  You grow because you teach others and go through trials with them and for them.  This puts you closer to Christ and better able to show the world that Satan will not win.

Don’t be discouraged by anything I wrote.  Expect the best and be prepared for the worst.  Always remember God is in control and we have already won.  We just need to hang on and help others to do the same that we may win the prize.  “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Co. 15:57).

macballard@yahoo.com

Mac Ballard presently preaches for the Centertown Church of Christ in McMinnville, TN.  He is married to Diane Ballard and they have four children, eight grandchildren and one on the way.

 

The Do’s And Don’ts Of Preaching – Justin Hatton

Imagine that as you near the end of your life you wish to pass on final instructions to your close associate of many years, a young man who will carry on the work you began. That is the context of Paul’s second letter to Timothy. He is to soon be executed and he wishes to tell Timothy one last time the essentials for being a good Christian minister.

Especially relevant to the discussion is the passage found in 2 Tim. 2:23-26. Paul was an inspired apostle of God to the Gentiles.   Timothy, probably about 30 years old at this time, had grown up studying the scriptures (2 Tim. 3:14-15) and had been the personal assistant to Paul for probably 15 years. Imagine the knowledge he had concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ! That is why Paul instructs Timothy concerning this knowledge. As a good gospel minister with deep knowledge of God’s word, there is one thing that should not be done with that knowledge and one thing that should be done with that knowledge.

Paul first tells Timothy what not to do with his knowledge, namely, do not waste it on “foolish and ignorant questions” (2 Tim. 2:23). It must be readily admitted that there are many questions about the Christian faith which are legitimate. Yet it is also true and important to recognize that there are questions which we cannot answer or which we cannot satisfy everyone’s opinion. Unfortunately, by using mental effort and time in attempting to address these questions, we neglect answering the essential questions others may have concerning more relevant, answerable, and eternally consequential topics.

It is sad to see members of the Lord’s church debate over issues which matter only in their own minds and not in the greater scheme of eternity. They do not take the loving path of Paul who said he was at liberty to do as he pleased concerning the eating of meat but that if such offended a weaker brother, he would not eat meat (1 Cor. 8:13). Instead, on account of the debate over such issues, strife is created, the very thing which is warned against in 2 Tim. 2:23!

Paul next tells Timothy what to do with his knowledge, which was to teach it in a loving manner (2 Tim. 2:24-25). Notice the words that are used throughout the passage: “not strive”, “gentle”, “forbearing”, “in meekness.” It is not enough to teach others; the teaching must be done in love, just as all Christian works should be done (1 Cor. 13). When we teach in love, we will look at the one we are teaching as a lost soul and not someone to win to our side of the argument. We will not be striving to teach them that they are going to hell because of an incomplete understanding of scripture. Instead we will gently and meekly encourage them to reap the rewards of coming to a more accurate knowledge of that scripture.

Sadly, this is not how knowledge is gained in our world in spiritual or earthly matters. It seems that the ones who scream loudest in convincing others their way is right are the ones who get the attention. Such an environment makes it more difficult to teach the truth in a biblical manner.

There is one final thing Paul instructs Timothy concerning the scriptural knowledge obtained by the young man. He taught him that it is not the Christian’s place to forcibly make anyone believe anything. This is such a difficult fact to grasp. We may think it easy for someone to read the scriptures and clearly see that they teach this or that principle. But there are other factors that may influence the way another sees those same scriptures and thus the principles they believe it imparts to them. That’s why Paul writes that it is God who may give the repentance and that it is the opposing individual who delivers themselves from the snare of the devil (2 Tim. 2:25-26). The Christian minister may throw the “eternal life buoy” to a drowning sinner, but it is the decision of the sinner to cling to that buoy or not.

While we should always rejoice when we convert someone to a knowledge of the truth by taking a stand for the truth, we should still rejoice even when we don’t convert them. Did not the apostles defend the truth before the council in Acts 5:17-41? Yes. Did they convert any member of the council? No. Did they rejoice for their defense of the truth? Yes (Acts 5:41). So too should we rejoice even when we do not convert the other.

Let us all be encouraged to use the knowledge God has given us in those ways that glorify Him and do good for our fellow man. Anytime we use our knowledge simply to cause strife or turmoil, we do not please God…even if our knowledge is correct. By doing so, we ourselves may be “taken captive by him (the devil) to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:26).

jhatton06@gmail.com

The Challenge To Teach The Truth – Dave Wood

The Proverbs writer once challenged young men to, “Buy the truth and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding” (Prov. 23:23).

One might wonder why Solomon needed to challenge any young Israelite to appreciate the truth.  Is it possible that Israel suffered from the very issues that plague Christians today?  Namely, there will be times when the truth is not popular and you will be pressured to “sell” it.  Paul would instruct his “child in the faith” to “preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2).

Marshall Keeble explained that preaching the word, as used in this verse was “…preaching when they want to hear it and preaching when they don’t.”

Solomon’s challenge is still pertinent to preachers today: “Buy the truth and sell it not…”

There is considerable pressure for a preacher to just use pleasing words and not disrupt the status quo.  A preacher, however, is a proclaimer of God’s Word.  With that thought in mind a preacher ought always to let God have His say in every lesson and sermon given.  Let us consider this challenge issued by God’s inspiration.

“Buying the truth.”  What should this mean for the preacher, especially the preacher who is involved in a new work?  Naturally with a new work there can be great pressure on the preacher and his family.  This man has many new faces and names to learn and alongside those faces there are personalities for this preacher to understand.  There exists a desire in every man to be accepted and appreciated.  To meet these pressures, a man might think to soften his Sunday morning sermon or to skip certain verses in a Bible class.

But we are to buy the truth, which gives the idea of making an investment.  When it comes to truth (i.e., God’s word, the Bible, the gospel) no expense is too high.  “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in so doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Tim. 4:16).

Men, in order to “take heed…unto the doctrine” you must know the doctrine.  You must know the truth!  Because you cannot proclaim what you do not know, the challenge is to invest time in studying God’s Word.  “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Timothy was challenged to study, to give diligence to the truth of God’s Word.  There is a sense of urgency in Paul’s admonition.  Do not put off knowing God’s will, do not put off doing God’s will, and do not put off teaching God’s will!

“Buying the truth” also means that you might, at times, be at odds with people.  In Romans 1:18 Paul described some people as holding down the truth by their unrighteous behavior.  When mankind shrugs off the truth of God’s word they certainly do not appreciate a reminder of God’s counsel.  It becomes offensive to such a darkened heart.  Those at Galatia had listened to false teaching and Paul reminded them again of the truth.  “For do I now persuade men, or God?  Or do I seek to please men?  For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).

If there is a choice to make between pleasing God or men, make sure to please God.  It is difficult to know which way the winds of men are blowing.  What is popular one day has perished tomorrow, but truth is always right.  The preacher’s challenge is to buy the truth.

Solomon’s warning is two-fold.  It is not enough to make an investment in the truth, but never, ever sell it.  In other words, the challenge given is to not be a sell-out.  Balak, the king of the Moabites, had a problem.  The Israelites were coming.  Balak had heard about a man who lived a long way from the Moabites, in Mesopotamia.  Balaam was a man whose talents were for hire.  do you remember this man?  Balaam had a reputation for blessing people or cursing people.  His reputation was such that representatives in Moab would make the journey to Mesopotamia to secure the services of Balaam.  Balaam had a great opportunity to stand firmly with the Lord and he wasted it.  Both 2 Peter 2:15 and Jude 11 mention Balaam and how he sold the truth for financial gain.  This man had a price.  Do you?  Do not sell the truth, no matter what!

A preacher sells the truth when he fails to teach all of God’s commands.  Paul confidently declared to the Ephesian elders, “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

When Paul declared the whole counsel of God, was there anything that he left out?  What would happen if Paul felt fear of being rejected and shunned?  Preachers have put a price tag on godly counsel by refusing to preach on Matthew 19:9 where Jesus stated there is only one reason which a person can seek a divorce and be remarried without living in adultery.  Preachers put a price tag on the truth when they add to God’s word by teaching that the inclusion of mechanical musical instruments in worship is acceptable to God.  This is not God’s counsel because there is no authority for it anywhere in the New Testament.  Preachers put a price tag on the truth when they bind their own scruples on others.  There are those who feel it is wrong to eat “in the church,” so they wrest and twist the scriptures to their satisfaction.  Either way, whether a preacher is taking away from the counsel of God or adding to the counsel of God, he has auctioned off the truth.

There are members of the church who will attempt to persuade preachers to teach and preach their own way.  There is only one thing that will save souls and that is the pure, unadulterated gospel of God.  Consider Paul’s thesis statement for the book of Romans:  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16).

To hear some preachers teach, it is obvious that they think their abilities are the power to salvation, because in their lessons they make more references to their personal stories than to scripture.

There is one path that is always right, there is one message that is always true, and it is found in the Bible, not in the minds of men.  “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Pet. 1:23).

The challenge stands to everyone in the Lord’s body, whether preacher, teacher, elder, or deacon: buy the truth, and sell it not.  Now what will you do?

Broad Street Church of Christ, Statesville, NC