Study 9 A SOLEMN CHARGE TO MINISTERS
PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO TIMOTHY
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: 2 Timothy 3:1-12; 4:1-5. Key verses: verses 2 Timothy 4: 1-5
In our key verses we have Paul’s charge to Timothy to be a true and faithful minister of Christ. There is a very real sense in which every Christian is to be a minister, a servant of the Lord. This charge has therefore a message for every believer. Notice how the charge begins and ends. In the King James Version it reads: “I charge thee…to make full proof of thy ministry.” The New International Version renders it: “I give you this charge…discharge all the duties of your ministry.” Here Paul charges Timothy and every servant of Christ the responsibility to do – what? What is Paul’s solemn charge to ministers and to every Christian worker everywhere? There are three things in particular that are brought before us. They may be stated as follows:-
1. A MINISTER MUST HAVE A CLEAR UNDERSTANDING OF THE TIMES IN WHICH HE IS LIVING AND WORKING FOR THE LORD
The times in which we are living are described in verses 3 and 4. The Apostle was speaking prophetically, but his prophetic words have certainly come true. These are days of apostasy, when men are turning away from the truth (verse 4), and days of false teaching and unsound doctrine, “myths” (verses 3-4), are found on every hand. The roots of apostasy and heresy were already beginning to appear in the early Church, and the fruit of all this is around today, not only in the world among unbelievers but in the professing Church. There is a blatant denial of the truth of God’s Word; in place of the Divine revelation men have substituted “myths”, their own opinions which are in fact heresies. The “terrible times”, predicted by Paul in 2 Timothy 3:1, have come upon us; times in which many who profess to be ministers of Christ are in fact Satan’s ministers – look up 2 Corinthians 11:13-15. These “false apostles” do not preach the revealed truth of God, the saving Gospel of His Son; they preach “another gospel” – look up Galatians 1:6-8, and compare Jeremiah 5:31. Yes, verses 3 and 4 describe the times in which we are living, and every minister of Christ must be aware of them if he is to be effective in his responsibilities as a minister. Do please read these verses carefully and prayerfully, and recognise that we are living in the days of which Paul wrote. But we must not only be aware of the times in which we are living and working; we must do something positive, and this is the second thing that the Apostle mentions.
2. A MINISTER’S FIRST RESPONSIBILITY MUST BE TO PREACH THE WORD
Paul says this in verses 2 and 5. This is our first responsibility as ministers of Christ. We are, of course, to live consistent Christian lives and to adorn the doctrine that we preach (Titus 2:10, KJV); we are to be careful and disciplined in our pastoral duties and our visitation; but first and foremost we are to preach the Word. Paul gives this commission to Timothy following his words in chapter 2, verses 16-17. We are to preach the Word because we have been commissioned to do this very thing – look up Matthew 28:19; and because this is the surest way to deal with the false teaching that is so evident today. The great need of our times is that men and women should hear the Word of God and that they should be confronted with the true teaching of the Gospel of the grace of God. Therefore Paul says in verse 2: “Be prepared in season and out of season” – or, as we might render this: “Be urgent and be on hand, available, always ready…” We are to preach:
- (1) The word of CONVICTION. This is indicated in the word ‘correct’ in verse 2, and it speaks of an appeal to the conscience. Hendriksen writes, “Sin must be brought home to the sinner’s consciousness in order that he may repent.” See John 16:8.
- (2) The word of REBUKE. This word in verse 2 speaks of an appeal to the reason. When we preach we must reprimand those who are living in sin and out of fellowship with God and we must reason with them in the Name of the Lord – look up Isaiah 1:18.
- (3) The word of ENCOURAGEMENT. The word ‘encourage’ in verse 2 speaks of an appeal to the will. What a ministry is open to the true pastor to bring real encouragement to the flock! The minister who preaches the word of encouragement will never lack a congregation.
- (4) The word of SALVATION. This is indicated in verse 5, in the injunction, “Do the work of an evangelist”, and it speaks of an appeal to the soul. This supremely is the minister’s task. He is to bring good news (John 3:16 and 1 Timothy 1:15).
Notice that the Apostle goes on to tell us how we are to engage in the work of preaching the Word. We are to do it: (1) “with great patience” (verse 2) – this speaks of the Manner in which we are to preach the Word; (2) with “careful instruction” (verse 2) – this speaks of the Method by which we are to preach the Word; and (3) with “endurance” (verse 5) – this suggests the Motive that should fill us as we engage in this holy task – compare 2 Corinthians 5:14. All this leads us to notice one more important point:-
3. A MINISTER MUST BE MOTIVATED BY THE SHORTNESS OF THE TIME AND THE SOLEMNITY OF THE JUDGMENT
Paul emphasised in verse 1 the solemnity of his charge to Timothy and to us. He tells us that the minister lives and works as in the very presence of God and of Jesus Christ; he lives and works in the light of the Judgment Seat of Christ, when he will be judged (1 Corinthians 3:11-15), and the judgment of the Great White Throne when the unsaved will be judged (Revelation 20:11-15); and he lives and works in the light of the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:28). These great facts all give him a sense of the solemnity of his task and the shortness of time that is available for service, and they motivate him to faithfulness and to true devotion to the Lord Himself.