By Matt Chandler
God’s way of reminding His people of what He means to accomplish has always been through the calling of men and women to serve as vessels or conduits through which His voice and power would flow. Whether we look at Moses, the prophets, John the Baptist, Peter at Pentecost, or the church planting genius of the Apostle Paul, God’s way of letting people know of His grace made available in Christ is the preaching of His Word.
In 2 Timothy 4:1-5 Paul, close to his death, writes to his prize student that this methodology isn’t changing. Paul makes it explicitly clear that Timothy is to preach and proclaim God’s word and that to do so is a very serious thing. He charges him “before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead” and by “His Kingdom.” Is there anything more serious than these things? If all of existence is about and for God’s Kingdom and if we will all be judged by Him, how important is the proclamation of God’s Word? Important enough that Paul charges Timothy (and by extension, us) with a weighty charge.
On top of the weight of the charge, Paul tells us to proclaim the gospel whether our listeners like it or not. He tells Timothy that people aren’t going to like it and will instead look for teachers who will tell them what they want to hear. According to the text there are five stated goals when it comes to preaching and the mission of God:
- Reprove—To reprove is to point out error. When we preach we let the Scriptures show us where we have believed lies and where we are living in rebellion. The Scriptures show us where we are outside of God’s design for how life and relationships were meant to work.
- Rebuke—To rebuke is to correct. How cruel would it be if the Scriptures taught us what was wrong but not what was right? We aren’t left wondering what to do but rather are led to what is right, led into how God designed life and relationships to work. When we preach, we aren’t commanded to point out only the wrong but to push towards the right as well.
- Exhort—To exhort is to encourage. When we preach we encourage disciples to move away from error and toward how God designed for us to live. We don’t beat people up but rather build people up.
- With Patience—Sanctification is a slower process than most of us want to admit. When we preach the Word we are to do so in such a way that shows patience with those who listen and an understanding that maturation is a process.
- Teaching—Simply put, this is the application of the Word. “How” should be a question answered at some level when we preach the word. We can’t just answer the “why”, “where” and “when” and leave people guessing when it comes to the application of those truths.