PREACH THE WORD! (2 Timothy 4:1-5; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5)
Sometimes I feel like an antique! In this day of "Marketing the Church," "The Emerging Church," "Postmodernism," Church growth theories, and churches preaching a watered down the Gospel to appeal to the world. The "Willow Creek" model, the "Fuller" model, the "Barna" model, the "Saddleback" model. How about the "Jesus" model, He said, "I will build My church.”
Unity is the big theme for the day. I agree with unity, but not at the expense of Truth! Why? Because Truth is more important than unity. Paul was a champion for unity: Philippians 2:2: "Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." He is teaching that believers must all think the same things, love the same things, and show the world we are unified in our beliefs. 1 Thessalonians 5:13: "Be at peace among yourselves." But in spite of this, he publicly rebukes Peter at Antioch. "I withstood him to his face…Why? because he was to be blamed." [Galatians 2:11]. Paul feared the loss of Truth more than the loss of unity! Most religionists today are so bent on being politically correct, that they have a morbid fear of controversy. By and large the church has lost its will to discern. Why" It's not popular to stand for Truth!
• or Truth's sake Martyn Luther said, "Here I stand, I can do no other."
•For Truth's sake Wesley fell out of favor with the Church of England.
•For Truth's sake, Spurgeon became sick and died because of the "Downgrade Controversy." Basically, watering down the Gospel to attract more people to church.
•For Truth's sake, Jonathon Edwards, Missionary, died young.
•For Truth's sake, Polycarp, pastor at Smyrna was burned at the stake
•For Truth's sake, Missionaries, Stan Dale and Phil Masters took over one-hundred arrows, many they broke off and threw to the ground before they finally succumbed to the many wounds inflicted by the very people they were trying to reach.
•For Truth's sake Jim Elliot and his four fellow missionaries suffered death at the hands of superstitious and angry natives in Ecuador.
•For Truth's sake, James, was thrown from the Temple and clubbed; John was exiled; Paul beheaded; Peter crucified [legend has it that he was crucified upside down], Stephen stoned to death. And martyrs through all of the Church age have suffered indescribable torment in their stand for Truth!
I am passionate about speaking the Truth. Much of the time, I don't take myself too seriously, but I am very serious about the Truth. When teaching Bible College years ago, I always told the students: "One charge I make to you, always tell people what God says!" We all have our preferences as to style, but no one has a choice about what is to be preached! The Word of God, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book, principle by principle, and we are in good company, Paul said, "Necessity is laid upon me, yes, woe if me if I do not preach the Gospel." (1 Corinthians 9:16), and in Galatians 1:8: "But if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed." A woman of our acquaintance, who was in her eighties, chased a Jehovah Witness, who had knocked on her door, shouting, "You're accursed, you're accursed." That's standing for Truth!
What is the Biblical definition of ministry success? Not numbers, or offerings, not by how influential our church is. Paul doesn’t suggest to Timothy that the world is supposed to accept us and love us, and we must do everything to make them feel comfortable in or midst. Paul's emphasis is on commitment not success. Contemporary ministry philosophy is infatuated with worldly standards of success. The churches most often judged "successful" are the mega-churches, with thousands of people attending, multi-million dollar facilities, with family-life centers and gymnasiums. Not even one percent of churches in America fall into that category. Only about ten percent of the churches in America have over two-hundred attendees. The national average is less than one-hundred. Either most churches are pathetic failures or God has another way of judging success. How does God define success? Faithfulness, Godliness, and spiritual commitment to Truth. These are the building blocks of any ministry philosophy.
Look at Paul's instructions to Timothy. He doesn't urge him to devise a ministry that would garner accolades from the world, or even be acceptable to the world. He warns him about suffering and hardship. The modern-day Church growth experts would have us, "carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease? While others fought to win the prize, and sailed through bloody seas?” ("Am I a Soldier of the Cross?" Isaac Watts)
2 Timothy 4:1-5
Verse 1: The Charge: Paul is a prisoner in Rome at the time of this writing. He is anticipating his execution (verse 6). He will soon stand before God to give an account, so it is heavy on his mind. He is counseling Timothy to concern himself with what God thinks of his ministry, not what people think! Timothy is charged, "Before God and the Lord Jesus Christ." The one for whom we are to minister, is the one to whom we must answer. We ministers are not called by men, not hired to be pastors, or to preach, ours is a divine commission. When they ask men at their ordination (at least they asked this of me), "What will you do if this Counsel decides not to ordain you?' My answer, "I will preach the Word, because this Ordination Counsel did not call me to preach, God did!" Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11: "I was appointed a preacher." Appointed by whom? God!
Verse 2a: The Commission: "Preach the Word": That's the priority! Nothing supersedes that! Obedience to that command must be the center-point of every truly Biblical ministry.
Nehemiah 8:8, NLT gives us the perfect definition of preaching, "They read from the Book of the Law of God and clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage." Romans 10:14 says, "How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard" ? And how shall they hear without a preacher."
1 Corinthians 2:1-5: Look at Paul's preaching: He was not eloquent. Not with "excellence of speech." He was not strong. "I was with you in weakness, in fear and much trembling." He did not preach in his own wisdom. "Not with persuasive words of human wisdom." He did not preach in his own power. "But in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." Paul had just one message, "Jesus Christ and Him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2:2). Our churches are filled with hurting people and what do some preachers give them? Politics, problems, finances, pot-lucks and ice cream socials, or they're scolding them for some infraction of church rules. Hey pastor, life is a tough place to live. Lift up Jesus! Give people hope! Give them some encouragement! Give them God's Word!
It's not easy! Real Bible preaching can be offensive. Christ Himself is a "Stone of Stumbling and a Rock of Offense." (1 Peter 2:8). So Bible preaching is a stumbling block to some, and foolishness to others. God's messengers must never be foolish or offensive (this from a preacher who was both foolish and offensive in my early days in ministry). God's Word is offensive enough! Why? "The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
The task of the faithful minister revolves around the Word of God! Guard it! Hold it! Keep it! Study it! Proclaim it! And Live it! Preach the Word! Colossians 1:25: "That I might fully carry out the preaching of the Word of God." 1 Corinthians 2:2: "I am determined to know nothing among you, except Jesus Christ and Him crucified."
After Paul's conversion experience on Road to Damascus…He preached:
•In Jerusalem, the Religious Capital of the world. There on the steps of the Temple to his old crowd, he preached "Jesus Christ and Him crucified."
•In Rome, the Political Capital of the world, in the shadow of Caesars' palace, he preached "Jesus Christ and Him crucified."
•In Athens, the Philosophical Capital of the world, where he stood at Mar's Hill and preached "Jesus Christ and Him crucified."
•In Ephesus, the Pagan Capital of the world, there in the shadow of the Temple of Dianna, to the sons of Aristotle and Plato, he preached "Jesus Christ and Him crucified."
•In Corinth, the Corruption Capital of the world, the melting-pot, sin city. Even there amidst degradation and sin, he preached "Jesus Christ and Him crucified."
Preaching God's Word is the heart of every ministry! Philosophy, politics, psychology, homespun advise and human opinion can never accomplish what the preaching of God's Word can! Moral lectures and motivational talks are no substitute for Bible preaching!
By the way: I'm not certain that people care what we think as much as they want to know what God says! Give people the Word! The number one task of God's preacher is to be the voice of God to his congregation.
Verse 2b: The Commitment: "Be ready, in season, and out of season." Preaching is a never-ending task. Regardless of the political climate or the prevailing culture, or even the attitude of the people around us, we still must preach God's Word as it is, to people as they are.
Right now preaching is "out of season." Our American culture is not open to the preaching of the Word. It's not popular! Here's an example of the cultural climate of our nation: A Talk Show featured two women, both had been in prison. The first woman told of how she had worked hard to build self-esteem, self-acceptance and self-love (Note the key word…"self"). Basically, she said, "I just learned how to love myself." (There's that word "self" again). The crowd went wild, applauding and cheering her. The second woman said, "I found Christ, He changed my life." Not a whimper from the audience. No applause, no cheers, only disapproving stares from the audience, and distain from the hostess.
We are seeing the departure of God from our culture, as He gives people over to the consequences of sinful choices. Romans 1:28-32: "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things that are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness,, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, not knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them."
Our society is feeling the abandonment of God now more than ever before. And the decline of Bible preaching is adding to people's sense of hopelessness. Where can they turn? After self-love, self-acceptance, self-esteem and psychology have failed them, and they will, where do they go from here? What do we say to a grieving family standing beside an open grave?" If you just love yourself enough, the grief will go away?" No! "Pack the clods down on the grave and write the word 'nevermore'," if you do not have the comfort of the Holy Spirit of God, our Parakeletos, the "Comforter," the one who is called in along side to help!
This is no time for weak preaching, and weak men with weak messages. This is the time for fearless men to God, unpopular as it may be, to stand up and "be ready." There is an idea of "eagerness" in the word "ready," it is also used to describe a military guard, always at his post, always ready for duty. Paul was speaking of an explosive eagerness to preach. Like Jeremiah, he had a fire in his bones. "His Word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones." [Jeremiah 20:9].
D.L. Moody said: "History proves that anointed preaching can result in spiritual revival if we build a fire in the pulpit." Yet many of those most resistant to true revival have been pastors who fear losing power, perks and position if they rock the boat.
“There is a sickening wave of pathetic preaching sweeping through the contemporary church! Fearless preaching is all the more necessary in dangerous times. When people will not tolerate the truth, that's when courageous, outspoken preachers are most desperately needed to speak it. Sound preaching confronts and rebukes sin, and people in love with sinful lifestyles will not tolerate such teaching. They want to have their ears tickled. Churches are so engrossed in trying to please non-Christians that they have forgotten their first duty is to please God." –John MacArthur
Alexis de Tocqueville, a French politician said over one-hundred years age: "I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and ample rivers, and it was not there. I sought for her greatness in her rich mines and vast world commerce, but it was not there! Not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power."
Emerging Church leaders say: "Modern-day believers will not sit in church while someone up front preaches." So, rather than trying to change them, the modern church is changing the Word of God and the church to appease them. "Church goers don't want to be preached at anymore." "The day of building the church on preaching is over." "You can't preach the Bible to people in this day and age, they just will not accept it."
A friend of mine said, after I had preached on David's sin from Psalm 51, "You'll never build a church with that kind of preaching."
These comments are the product of a media-driven generation. They want a church service that will satisfy them on their terms. Secretly some would want a remote control so they can change the channel to something more palatable.
"To perk up attendance for Sunday Evening services, one of America's largest churches, staged a wrestling match, featuring church employees. To train for the event ten employees got lessons from Tugboat Taylor, a former professional wrestler, in pulling hair, kicking shins and tossing bodies around without doing any harm." (From an article in the Wall Street Journal, date unknown).
One church installed a one-half-million dollar special-effects system that can produce fire, smoke, sparks and laser lights in the auditorium. This church sent its staff to Bally's Casino in Las Vegas to study the live effects.
The story was told to me years ago about the long-time Methodist Missionary, E. Stanley Jones. Dr. Jones was at a meeting with a number of pastors. He was introduced to one pastor (who happened to be friend of mine). "This pastor had over fifteen-hundred in attendance last Sunday." To which Dr. Jones replied, "Oh, who won the pony."
It is just incredible what some churches are doing now just to attract a crowd. The question for many on Sunday is, "Who's putting on the biggest show?" I guess God's Word is not enough of an attraction for many believers now.
Verse 2: “Convince, rebuke and exhort.” “Convince” (KJV: “Reprove”). Greek, "Elancho, to expose, bring to light, to stir the conscience, to examine." “Rebuke,: "Epitimao, disapproval, censure,” this word can refer to church discipline." “Exhort,” "Parakaleo, to speak comforting words, from Parakletos, one called in alongside to help." Two negatives, one positive. Expose sin, then bring comfort. Much of the time a negative message is necessary before anything positive can be accomplished. I want the doctor to be negative if I have cancer, so he can be positive in his treatment. How would you respond to your doctor if he said, "well, it's serious, but I don't want to be negative and tell you what's wrong?"
1 Thessalonians 2:11: "We exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you as a father does his children." Discipline, then love! The preacher that fails to reprove, rebuke and comfort is not fulfilling his commission as pastor. One pastor said, "People are too burdened with guilt, so I don't mention sin anymore." Another, "I have made a decision to just focus on people's felt needs, not attacking their sin." The greatest need is to confess and overcome sin, not to ignore it.
Verse 3: "For the time will come (is it here now?) when they will not endure sound doctrine…" There will always be those who will not endure solid Bible preaching. Those who turn away their ears from the Truth. 1 Timothy 4:1: "In the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons." 1 Timothy 6:10: "For the love of money…some have strayed from the faith in their greediness…" 2 Timothy 3:8: "Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these resist the Truth…"
There are many so-called believers worldwide that cannot handle the Truth. Their itching ears (people who just want to have their ears tickled) will seek out preachers who will say what they want to hear, rather than what God says. Isaiah 30:10 NLT: "They (the people) tell the Prophets, 'shut up! we don't want to hear anymore…Don't tell us the truth. Tell us nice things. Tell us lies. Forget all this gloom. We have heard more than enough about your Holy One of Israel. We are tired of listening to what He has to say.’" Do not think that these false preachers will be found guiltless. Galatians 1:8: Paul writes: "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed."
Are we preachers of the Gospel serious enough about our preaching? Do we take the task too lightly? Can preaching actually change anything? I was a twenty-five-year-old atheist drunk, who thought Christianity was for weaklings and dummies. It all started for me when my wife, Marlena was invited to the Olivet Baptist Church in Lynwood, California one Sunday. She was already a believer but she recommitted life to Christ, then she started witnessing to me. Well I finally agreed to visit church with her. I heard Pastor James Combs speak, he actually sounded intelligent! And for the first time I began to think about my salvation. About three months later after many people prayed for me and witnessed to me, Christ came into my life. But it all started with an anointed preacher, preaching God's Word.
Just look at the great preachers: Elijah, Ezekiel, Isaiah…Look at John the Baptist, desert bred, fire baptized, with a face like judgment morning, the fire of God in his eyes, the passion of God in his voice and the power of God in his message. Or, Jeremiah who spent his whole life preaching to people who did not want to hear.
There is no substitute for Bible preaching! And it is not the preacher's feeble ability to proclaim it. After he has studied it well, thought it through, prayed it in, he then submits it to the power of the Holy Spirit, asking for God to use His Word in reaching people's hearts. "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord." (Zechariah 4:6). God's Holy Spirit is able to do what we could never do, He can heal from the inside out…pain, anger, bitterness, anguish, and depression. He is able to mend broken hearts, broken homes and even broken churches!
The late Leonard Ravenhill said: "Preacher Brethren, this is the time to blush that we have no shame, the time to weep for our lack of tears, the time to bend low that we have lost the humble touch of servants, the time to groan that we have no burden, the time to be angry with ourselves that we have no anger over the devil's monopoly in this 'end time' hour, the time to chastise ourselves that the world can get along so easily with us, and not attempt to chastise us."
If this message was helpful to you, please let me know. You may write me at, firstname.lastname@example.org