A Final Charge
The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Old Testament: Jeremiah 31:27-34
Psalter: Psalm 119:97-104
Epistle: 2 Timothy 3:14—4:5
Gospel: Luke 18:1-8
Old Testament: Genesis 32:22-31
Psalter: Psalm 121
Epistle: 2 Timothy 3:14—4:5
Gospel: Luke 18:1-8
O God, Spirit of righteousness, you temper judgment with mercy. Help us to live the covenant written upon our hearts so that when Christ returns we may be found worthy to be received by grace into your presence. Amen.
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound teaching, but, having their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, be sober in everything, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
In the passage before us Paul encourages Timothy to make the truth of the gospel known in the face of “hardship”, and particularly in the face of the temptation to develop a popular ministry of the Word.
v1. Paul now gives his final charge to Timothy. Because we live in the presence of God and of Christ, who is the judge of all those living and dead, and because the day draws near when Christ will gather to himself all those who are his, and because the new age of God’s kingdom, the age of his eternal reign, has dawned, “I give you this charge” - “I adjure you by his coming appearance and his reign.” Christ, the judge of the living and of the dead, is a dominant idea in the New Testament, particularly in Paul’s epistles, cf. Act.17:31, Rom.2:17, 1Cor.4:5.
v2. Paul gives his charge in the form of five commands. The first, “preach”, sets the overall theme of the charge. Timothy is to preach the truths of God’s Word. He must be ready, willing and able, to do this at every possible opportunity, whether the time seems right or not. Timothy’s preaching must seek to “correct” (reprove, discipline Christian behavior), “rebuke” (censure, expose evil) and “encourage” (exhort, appeal to the conscience). His preaching must be undertaken with all persistence and forbearance and must fully cover Biblical truth.
v3. Paul warns Timothy of the day that is coming, and is in a sense already here, when some believers will go after false teachers. These teachers proclaim truths which are to the liking of the congregation, rather than truths that align with the gospel. The hearers are caught up in this falsehood because they like to hear sermons which tickle their interest, rather than shape their will. They have drifted from the faith and don’t want their faithless lives disturbed.
v4. On the one hand, the believers who like their thinking tickled with sweet nothings rather than their wills shaped to the image of Christ, are no longer willing to listen to the exposition of Biblical truth. On the other hand, they are always happy to hear how they can advance their Christian walk by means of their own wisdom or effort, rather than by grace through faith.
v5. Returning to detail a number of final exhortations, Paul makes the point that Timothy is not like the false teachers and their disciples. Timothy must not be caught up in the spirit of the age, rather he must continue to be wide awake, vigilant, alert - “keep your head.” Timothy must also endure the trouble that will come his way because of his faithful attention to the Word. Added to this, he must “do the work of an evangelist.” Clearly Timothy is not a gifted evangelist, but at least he can work at it, even if it is not his gift. Finally, Timothy must discharge his Word-ministry faithfully.
Ministers of the gospel
There are certain passages in scripture that clergymen love to preach on when addressing other clergy. In conservative evangelical circles, our passage for study is one of the hot favorites.
I remember my principal at theological college saying that the reason why he didn’t invite parish clergy to preach at chapel was that they nearly always chose to speak on this passage. I’m sad to say that I haven’t been invited back to preach as I would love to preach on this passage just to drive the staff mad!
Anyway, what we have here is a charge to a young minister, a precise 9 point sermon based on 9 imperatives. It does break the three point rule, but as long as the preacher doesn’t spend fifteen minutes on each point then this list of do’s not only has the power to shape a ministry, but the congregation's expectation of that ministry.
It is fascinating to note, not only what is in the charge, but what is not in it. The charge focuses on the delivery of an effective Word ministry. Timothy is struggling against false teachers and so it is only natural that Paul should underline the preaching/teaching element in ministry. But even so, it is worth noting that the charge is devoid of matters of people management, marketing, social welfare, official public duties ....., all the stuff that is so central to full-time Christian ministry today.
What then are the elements of this charge to a young minister?
i] Preach the Word. All other exhortations in Paul's charge are sub points of this exhortation. Communicating the Word of God is the central ministry of the church. Note how Paul gives weight to this charge in v1 and how Timothy is to do it in all situations, whether positive or not.
ii] Stick at the business of communicating the Word of God. A minister faces many diversions, particularly when it comes to preparing the Sunday sermon. Maintaining a Word-ministry-focus is essential.
iii] Censure. Through the preaching and teaching of the Word, reprove those who have fallen into sin.
iv] Warn. Again, through the church's Word ministry, rebuke those who are falling away from faith.
v] Exhort, appeal to, encourage, the faint hearted.
vi] Maintain a well-balanced ministry. Given all the pressures facing ministry today, the preacher must strive to give the business of communicating God's Word its proper place.
vii] Bear opposition patiently, but firmly
viii] Do the work of an evangelist. We may not be gifted evangelists, but at least we can play our part in getting the gospel out into our local community and beyond.
ix] Fully carry out these duties.
So, there we have it, the business end of a church’s ministry - making known the truth of the gospel.
PRAYER: Holy One, we lift our eyes to you in hope and awe. Grant that we may reject all apathy of spirit, all impatience and anxiety, so that, with the persistence of the widow, we may lift our voice again and again to seek your justice. Amen.
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