Our sermon reading for today comes from the second letter that the apostle Paul wrote to the young pastor Timothy.
Timothy was a young man from the city of Lystra. His mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois raised him to know the God the Bible. When the apostle Paul passed through Lystra on one of his missionary journeys, Timothy heard Paul’s message about Jesus, and came believe that Jesus really was the Savior from sin that the Old Testament had promised.
When Paul came through Lystra a second time, he asked Timothy to join his missionary team. Timothy did.
Timothy was much more than one of Paul’s sidekicks. He became a dear friend and valued colleague. If you look at the beginning of some of Paul’s letters you’ll find Timothy’s name. For example, Philippians 1, verse 1 reads…
“1Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,Paul wrote 13 of the books in the New Testament. Of these thirteen letters that he wrote to congregations or individuals, Timothy helped write 6 of them. Of the remaining 7 letters, two were personal letters that Paul wrote specifically to Timothy.
To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi,” (Philippians 1:1a NIV).
Not only was Timothy a great help to Paul in writing to congregations, he also served as Paul’s messenger and emissary. When the Corinthian church needed guidance and Paul couldn’t go to them, he sent Timothy in his place. When Paul was awaiting trial in Rome and couldn’t visit the Christians in Philippi, he sent Timothy.
In his letter to the Philippian congregation, Paul briefly sketches part of Timothy’s character for us. Philippians 2, verse 19 reads…
“19I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. 21For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel” (Philippians 2:19-22 NIV).When the letter we call “Second Timothy” was written, Timothy was serving the Christians of Ephesus. Paul however, was in a very different situation. When Paul penned this second letter to Timothy, he was in a Roman prison for the second time.
The first time Paul was imprisoned at Rome it was a rather easy stay. He got to live in his own rented home, and was merely under guard while he awaited trial before Caesar.
The second time, Paul was imprisoned took place during the reign of the notoriously crazy emperor Nero. There was no comfortable rented home this time. This time Paul was in actual chains like a common criminal. We’re told that it was difficult for Paul’s friends to even find his cell. Sadly, at this trying time for Paul, he was abandoned by nearly everyone. Only Luke remained at Paul’s side.
Paul would not escape this imprisonment. It would end with the apostle being beheaded. Paul’s second letter to Timothy is the last letter that we have from his hand.
Paul sensed that his earthly life and ministry was coming to close. And so, in a way, Second Timothy is Paul’s last will and testament.
Paul had no earthly wealth to pass on to Timothy, no property in Tarsus that Timothy might inherit. Instead, Paul gives Timothy a charge. A command. One last assignment to fulfill. Paul charges Timothy to take his single most valuable possession, and give it to the world. Paul says, Timothy, Preach the Word. We read from…
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5 (NIV)
14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Note the first thing that Paul does in this section is encourage Timothy in his own faith. There’s a reason for that. The Scriptures first create a Christian, then, and only after that takes place can the Scriptures create a Christian life. In verse 15 Paul says,
“…from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15b NIV).Only after that does Paul talk about all the other things Scripture is valuable for: teaching, rebuking, correcting, training in righteousness.
First comes faith in the Savior, then comes the life of faith.
I know this is a simple concept, but it’s important because so often Christians get their “Christian life” ahead of their faith in Christ. We think that somehow our fight against our own sins must reach a certain level before God will really be happy with us. Before we can be sure He really loves us. Before heaven’s gates are really opened to us. But this kind of thinking is just plain wrong.
Galatians 2:15-16 says…
“We… …know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:15-16 NIV).Turn to 2 Corinthians 5, verse 17. There Paul talks about what faith in Christ means. He says…
“17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NIV).Paul boils it down in Romans 8, verse 1. There he just says…
“1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1 NIV).Scripture first frees the sinner by giving the gift of full forgiveness through Christ, THEN Scripture nourishes and grows the saint.
This is why as a church we come back the gift of forgiveness that Christ earned for us on the cross, over and over. We can’t get enough of that message because that message is where our inner life comes from. Everything else that is “Christian” must branch out from there.
When a person comes to faith in Jesus it’s like a seed has been planted and springs up. But it’s not done yet. It still has purpose. Now it will grow up and thicken and produce flowers, or corn or grain or whatever fruit it has to produce.
Or think about it with a different metaphor. A person who comes to faith is like an old condemned house that has been bought before demolition day. Someone came along and forked out the cash and bought the whole property. But that someone isn’t going to tear the house down. This house has been bought for a purpose. It needs to be remodeled.
Look at verse 16 again.
“16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV).Rebuking is tearing down the old faded walls. Correcting is replacing them with new ones. Training in righteousness is upgrading that house so that it is more functional and useful than it ever was. Now it’s ready for it’s purpose.
Through the message that our sins have been taken away by Christ, God frees the sinner, and begins to grow the saint. God buys the house, and begins makes it useful for his purpose.
Remember this metaphor. You’ve been bought by the King. Your house may still be as ugly as sin, but you’ve been bought by the King. He buys ugly houses. He buys them to save them from demolition.
First the Christian, then the Christian life.
Let’s hear what else Paul has to say to Timothy.
2 Timothy 4:1-5 (NIV)
4:1In 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: 2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3For 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. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
Let’s reset a bit here. Paul is writing to his young friend, pastor Timothy. They’ve been through a lot together. Wrote six letters. Travelled all over the place on missionary journeys. They’ve seen mobs of angry opposition and persecution. But they’ve also seen hearts turn to Christ in faith. They’ve seen hope spring up where before there was none. Paul is comfortable with Timothy, and Timothy with Paul. And so Paul’s encouragement to Timothy to do his work as a pastor has a bit of an edge to it.
He says, Listen Timothy, you and I both need to remember why this thing is so important. This message we’re announcing to the world is SO crucially important because, regardless of what anyone says or believes, one day God’s Son WILL appear. One day Christ Jesus WILL judge the living and the dead. Everyone WILL stand before Him. One day the Kingdom of the Son will arrive in all its fullness. This is why you gotta PREACH THE WORD. Without the message of sin and grace, countless people will be lost forever.
Paul says that a big part of Timothy’s job as pastor is correction and rebuke. Look again at verse 2.
“2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2 NIV).In the Greek the word translated “correct” carries the idea of “convicting” someone. Pointing out their sin. Showing them their guilt.
The Greek word for “rebuke” carries the idea of speaking out to stop some action from continuing. Pointing out sin and warning of the consequences of continuing in it.
There’s an idea floating around in Christian circles that out of love we should let all ideas stand unless they directly attack the Gospel of forgiveness. But, Paul tells Timothy that any teaching that doesn’t match with God’s Word needs to be corrected. Any lifestyle that conflicts with God’s pattern for us needs to be rebuked.
This idea of overlooking things “out of love” was a big problem in the Corinthian congregation. In Corinth there was a man who was sleeping with his step-mother. Yeah, with his father’s wife, and the Corinthian congregation thought it was admirable that they weren’t confronting the man about it. Turn to 1 Corinthians 5, verse 1.
“1It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. 2And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?” (1 Corinthians 5:1-2 NIV).It wasn’t that this sin was somehow “worse” than others. The problem was what that this sin wasn’t something done and repented of. It was an on-going sin that said, I’m not really sorry about this. I’d rather walk in this way, than walk with Christ.
Preaching the word isn’t ONLY talking the talk, it’s also walking the walk. Just like Timothy, we need to be ready at all times to convict people of their sin, and speak up to each other in measured, patient, careful love. And when repentance is shown, we need to pull that person into our embrace and assure them that through Christ God has forgotten their sin. It’s forgiven.
Paul tells Timothy, you gotta do preach the Word NOW. You gotta correct and rebuke NOW, while you still can. Look again at verse 3.
“3For 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. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NIV).The tools we have to effect those around us, in our own fellowship and beyond, are our own words and actions. When people no longer care to hear what we’re saying, our door of opportunity has closed. We gotta use the time we still have with people open their eyes to their sin and direct them to Christ for cleansing.
Paul finishes by saying to Timothy,
“5But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5 NIV).Dear Christians, these words were written to Timothy, but they also apply to us and all people who value Jesus as Savior. We’ve been plucked out of the sea and placed in a raft. By faith in Christ we stand forgiven and poised on inheriting eternal life. But we’re not done yet. We’ve got a job to do just like Timothy. There are still others in the waters that we need to claim for the King.
That’s our service. That’s our purpose.
By the way, the Word “preach” in “preach the Word”? In the Greek it just means announce. It doesn’t mean you need a pulpit, just a voice.
Preach the Word.
Free the sinner, grow the saint. Jesus will judge all in the end, and establish His eternal Kingdom before our very eyes. Let’s use the time while the opportunity remains.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for taking our sins on your own back. Thank you for suffering our hell, and cleansing us from all guilt. Help us to clearly see the value of this gift you’ve given. Move us to dedicate our lives to announcing your Word, both Law and Gospel, to the people we know and love. Give us patience. Give us wisdom. Give us endurance. Guide us by your Holy Spirit, and by your power, give us success. Amen.
And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.