Posted by Bob Bardeen, August 31, 2016
During August, our devotions have been based on Paul’s second letter to Timothy, probably his last letter from his Roman prison.
During the previous three devotions, we reviewed Paul’s requests to Timothy at the end of the letter (4:11-13), Paul’s desire for Timothy’s life at the beginning of the letter (1:1-7), and Paul’s amazing statement about Scripture (3:16-17). Today, we look at Paul’s advice (4:1-3) to Timothy about preaching. At first reading, it looks like the advice is just for preachers. Maybe with a second reading, we can discover that the message is for all of us.
1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
After getting the fear of God into Timothy (1a), Paul gives Timothy a charge. Paul wants Timothy to preach the word, both in season and out of season.
This really sounds like a preacher talking to a preacher about preaching. In his commentary on 2 Timothy, John Stott reminds us that the expression, “I charge you,” has legal connections. It’s certainly strong language. Paul is not just urging or encouraging Timothy about the proclamation of the Gospel! Paul is issuing a call/command to Timothy to be responsible for God’s holy Word, an awesome responsibility indeed. It cannot be taken lightly. Timothy cannot be light-hearted about the calling. Instead, Paul wants Timothy to speak what God has spoken, and to be prepared to do so at all times.
In fact, Paul tells Timothy to have a sense of urgency about this responsibility, both when he wants to do it and even when he doesn’t want to do it. That’s how I understand the phrase, “in season and out of season.” New English Bible has it: “Press it home on all occasions, convenient or inconvenient.” This does not provide a reason for insensitive brashness. No. Preaching needs to always be accompanied by grace! NRSV has it: “Be persistent, whether the time is favorable or unfavorable.” This not a Biblical warrant for rudeness; it is a Biblical appeal against laziness.
However, even though Paul carefully uses the word “preach,” I think the original word could also mean “proclaim.” And “proclaim” could also mean “present.”
Therefore, I think all of us are called to present the Gospel, by both word and deed. All of us need to be ready to give a good word about God’s love. All of us need to be ready to share good news to others in need. All of us are called to be prepared, in season and out of season – when we feel like it and when we don’t feel like it! All of us can be used by God to share God’s Word.
The appeal to proclaim is as urgent today as it was 2,000 years ago. People today are not sticking with sound doctrine. Instead, they are suiting their own desires. They gather around false teachers who say what their itching ears want to hear. The words by Paul are so fresh.
It is our calling and our responsibility to be servants of Christ. Will you decide to be better prepared to share God’s great love – in season and out of season?
Eternal Father: we give you praise for Paul’s second letter to Timothy that has so much practical help for our lives. Guide us and bless us with your grace. In the name of Christ, we pray. Amen.