PREACH THE WORD
by Peter Bond
II Timothy 4:1-2, “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” II Tim.4:6-7 “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:”
It is wonderful to know friends, that we are given ‘the faith’ not just a faith, but ‘the’ faith. Jude exhorts us to “…earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints…”
The words of dying men are worthy of our closest and our deepest attention, for the man who is about to lose his life has nothing left to lose, and therefore can afford the rare luxury of speaking with complete accuracy, honesty and urgency to those whose lives, and spiritual welfare may yet depend upon him. Such is the case with the Apostle Paul, who here writes this final epistle from death-row in the city of Rome, and sends these last instructions to young Timothy, who one day will himself have to be offered, having “…fought a good fight,… [having] finished [his]course… [having] kept the faith.”
What is it that constrains and consumes the condemned apostle as he writes so passionately from his confinement in Rome in the year, AD 66, as if condensing a lifetime of apostolic wisdom into this one final appeal?
Paul seems, as it were, to stretch across the miles, to take a-hold on the trembling shoulders of this somewhat fearful disciple, Timothy. Paul attempts to impress upon Timothy, the one great and overriding principle which governs all Christian ministry, whether it be church building, or church planting, or church governing, or church correcting, or spiritual warfare, it as if Paul wants to seize upon this young man and impress upon him for the last time, the overriding principle of all that God will do, and he says, “Timothy, if you remember nothing else that this man of God has said to you, then remember this one thing, Preach the word! You are on this Earth for one thing and this one purpose only, to preach the Word of God!”
I was sitting in a fellowship situation recently, when the conversation changed and a testimony was given which, shall I say, has become a form of testimony which is widely accepted in the Body of Christ today, and as I listened I became aware that like Paul, like Timothy, I am charged with a solemn charge as one who must give account before the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the quick and the dead, at His appearing at His kingdom. In other words, I became aware that here is something which requires the Word of TRUTH. I must bring to every situation, the Word of God.
I must bring the Word of God in love; with balance; with firmness; with authority. I must bring the Word of counsel; I must bring the word of truth to every situation and I must bring that word of correction sometimes. The Bible says I am to bring reproof, sometimes rebuke, in patience, in longsuffering with doctrine—it is no good just to refute something, what I say must have its basis in the Word of God.
Understand that in that fellowship situation amongst friends and folks I respect and love, everything in this man wanted to pass that situation by. But I felt strongly that I am shepherd; a man trusted with the cure of souls, and without fear of consequence or criticism, I must bring the Word of God. Praise God, that evening when I brought that Word of correction to that fellowship situation, it was gladly received, and I knew that I was amongst friends; amongst the true saints of God.
The Bible says, that our “faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (I Cor.2:5). The only foundation, the only authority by which I stand behind a pulpit is the blessed Word of God. I do not and must not stand behind a pulpit to express an opinion, or some kind of ‘think-tank philosophy’. I must stand behind the pulpit to expound the Word of God. And thus we see this man Paul, writing to young Timothy, in the last stages of his apostolic life, saying, “Timothy, if you grasp nothing that I ever told you, then just grasp this one overriding truth, PREACH THE WORD!”
Oh, dear friends, there is a time coming in this land when that Word is going to be scorned, mocked, restricted, and trampled on. Already we see this in our land. I believe God is going to raise up men and women who will stand in the Word of God. It is not a question of being loud, or fierce, or militant, certainly not aggressive, but we have to stand and say that the Word of God has our conscience. We must be absolutely rooted and grounded upon the glorious power of the Word of God.
God told me once, “Son, never preach to that flesh! Never try to appease or alter the flesh. Always preach to the new creature.” There may be puzzled looks at times. There may be questions. There may be some temporary resistance, but when someone is born again of the Spirit of God, somewhere down the line, the truth will occur to them, and the lights will come on.
“And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mk.10:17). If I would have eternal life I must walk on this one thing, the Word of the Lord, which is eternal. Many are claiming eternal life; many think they are on their way to Heaven, but I want to tell you friends, it is step by step, pace by pace, moment by moment, decision by decision; it is something I have to walk and every step of that way, I have to know I am following Christ; trusting in Christ and on that pathway that will bring this frail man to Heaven, under every paving stone, is written, “…the word of the Lord endureth for ever.” Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Mt.24:35).
Paul then reminds Timothy to preach that Word as it is the only pathway to Heaven which will bring liberty and glorious freedom. Many abound in a false word, but thank God today for the glorious Truth. That liberty is not liberty to just be foolish, but it is a liberty underpinned, founded and based upon the mighty Word of God.
Paul’s witness is an urgent appeal to Timothy. Notice Paul uses the word “Preach” here. Friends, I do not speak to my wife over the breakfast table as I would preach from the pulpit. In fact, the way I am in the pulpit, is not the way I am ‘normally’. There is something called ‘preaching’. It is ordained by God yet it is intensely resisted by many of those who claim to be Christians. There is an anti-preaching league everywhere. Sad to say, this glorious Word of God has simply become a play-thing of the human mind. Instead of being the glorious, liberating force and power; a quickening power, much discussion, much debate and much enquiry surrounds the Word of God, just like the Scripture that says, “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Tim.3:7). There is more learning in our land than anything else, but so few know the One who is the truth, Himself.
Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life and they are they which testify of me. [but] ye will not come to me, that ye might have life…” (John 5:3-40). There is only life IN CHRIST. I can read this Bible upside down, back to front, cover to cover, but unless I come to the One who is LIFE, I have no life! I must come to the One this Bible speaks of; the One who is Truth Himself.
Consequently the preacher soon becomes no longer the mouthpiece of God, but someone who can appeal or not appeal; the preacher becomes liked or disliked; the preacher becomes someone accepted or rejected, according to personal taste and preference. That is where we are in these times.
A preacher once said, that in past times, you could stand at the back of the church, and hear people say mainly one of two things as they exited, either, “God has spoken to us today”, or, “There are things in my life I need to look into.” But today people will only say whether they liked the sermon or not, or they will (mostly) say nothing. Very often the sermon passes without comment because the sense that God may be speaking, or that God may have something to say, is lost. The Church in general has lost the sense of WHO is doing the talking. It becomes a thing of man, preference, taste, but my Bible says that when a preacher stands up, God has to say something! or it is no preacher.
Paul encountered this kind of unbelief in the church in Corinth, and he wrote regarding the necessary dealing with sin (that is when the problems begin, dear friends, when you have to deal with sin—when you come to bring what sounds like a negative, that is when the problems begin). Paul writes, “Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you” (II Cor.13:3). He is trying to convince them that this is not Paul speaking, but Christ speaking. This is not just some preacher grinding some axe, this is Christ.
Earlier in that Epistle, he writes, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God” (II Cor.5:20). He is saying that we stand before you brethren, not as men of flesh and blood speaking words, but in the very place of God Himself because God has something to say.
Jesus Christ told his disciples that when they stand before their persecutors, “…it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you…” (Mat 10:20). If we are born-again, there is a Spirit within us that will speak in the name of the Lord. Jesus also said, “Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom” (Lk.21:14-15). That is not just preachers, that is Christians everywhere. God wants to give us ‘a mouth and wisdom.’
Paul is not just talking about the wonderful regular, Biblical teaching of the Word of God, (and we do thank God for the full council of God), but Paul is reminding Timothy that he is to trust God for the repeated miracle that God would speak through him; that Christ would speak in Timothy. We must trust God to speak with us and through us; God can and will speak through us.
The gifts which the Bible speaks of (‘words of knowledge’; ‘words of wisdom’) are not just for the Church meetings but also for times of fellowship; in times of witness for a person’s life. All that we as Christians do should be on the basis that Christ wants to say something. He wants to take not just a preacher (as in the sense of the office) but He wants to take every child of God and make them a mouthpiece; give them a word of wisdom and knowledge which can be imparted to someone and set them free. Not just a faithful repetition, an exploration of the full council of God, but that miracle of preaching which pricks and probes, which melts, which delivers, which discovers, which delights the hearts of men and brings them to liberty and freedom in the Lord Jesus Christ.