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Preach the Word

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
September 11, 2021 4:00 am

Preach the Word

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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September 11, 2021 4:00 am

Are you being entertained in church, or edified? While most of us enjoy an amusing anecdote, preaching is no laughing matter! Find out why neglecting God’s Word is dangerous, for pastors as well as congregants. That’s on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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When you go to church, when you think about it, it is, I think for us as a church, a happy providence, that we find ourselves in this particular passage of Scripture on this first day of a new year. Because after all, most of us are going to be confronted not so much by an amazing vista that opens before us, or a peculiar challenge that we have never yet encountered. Most of us are going to be faced, and are already being faced, with the inevitability of a return to the routine of life.

As a new responsibility, it is particularly daunting to deal with the same thing again. That's why I say it's a happy providence that we're here. Because 2 Timothy 4 says to Timothy, and all who are in the lineage of Timothy, essentially this. I want you to continue, as he says in verse 14, to continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed. He has already told Timothy that the Scriptures are divinely inspired, that they're completely reliable, that they're totally sufficient, and as he ended chapter 3, he pointed out that they are the key to the competence and effectiveness of the man of God. And the reason that this is of such importance is because Paul has already identified the fact that some in the Ephesian context have gone the way of deviation.

They've gone off track. Chapter 2, they have their teaching, which is spurious and spreading like gangrene. He's going to, as he continues in chapter 4, identify some who haven't gone the way so much of deviation as they've gone the way intrigued by innovation. And so he says to Timothy, I want you to make sure that you commit yourself to proclamation, and I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, preach the Word. Now, the Word there is an important imperative.

It's the Word that would be used of a herald who went out into the community proclaiming a message that he had been given. And this is the responsibility that Timothy is about to take on, and it is the responsibility that is then entrusted to all who become, under God's direction, teachers and preachers of the gospel. Now, let us summarize the opening two verses by noticing just two things. First of all, the solemnity of this charge, and then the simplicity of this charge. The solemnity of it. Solemnity is an important part of the way in which the Bible introduces us to all kinds of themes, and not least of all, to the responsibility of the preaching of God's Word.

If you look at this, you will notice that there is nothing casual or inconsequential about this. I charge you, he says, in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus. In other words, he says, God the Father and God the Son are your witnesses, Timothy. You're going to exercise your ministry, not hidden away from the gaze of God. God knows you.

He made you. The Lord Jesus Christ is your Savior and your King, and your ministry, I charge you to this ministry in the presence of Almighty God and his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, let's just allow that to settle on our minds for a moment, and let me illustrate it in this way. As a young minister in Scotland, I had the privilege from time to time of being part of, or present at, the induction of a minister—what we call in America here the installation of a minister.

And the process of induction there is a fairly formalized and traditional one. There would be at least two preachers. One would give the charge to the congregation, thereby reminding the congregation of its responsibilities to and for its new pastor. And then somebody, usually a seasoned minister, would give the charge to the incoming minister as he was about to take on the charge and responsibility of pastoral ministry. And I can remember being struck by just how awesome and how daunting that was.

There was usually, later on, a celebration and food and some good humor, but on the occasion of the induction itself, there was nothing that could have been regarded as anything other than solemn. And it wasn't unusual for these words from Richard Baxter or words like them to be quoted by the minister giving the charge to the young man. Quotes, It is a sad thing that so many of us preach our hearers to sleep, but it is sadder still if we have studied and preached ourselves to sleep, and have talked so long against hardness of heart till our own hearts grow hardened under the noise of our own reproofs. I can remember sitting on an occasion like that and saying, How unbelievably daunting is this? The far greater and more awesome prospect is not of having a congregation that doesn't listen to you but of having a heart that doesn't pay attention itself to the things that you're proclaiming, so that the longer you go in teaching the Bible, the worse you get and the harder your own heart becomes.

What would help you snap out of that? The solemnity of this charge. I charge you, in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is the one who will judge the living and the dead. Those who are alive and those who are raised to life will face the judgment of God. And the accountability that is represented in that is such that Paul himself recognizes it.

Down in verse 8, he's anticipating the day of the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so he says to Timothy, listen, Timothy, if you want to deal with judgment, which you must, because we all will. You see, we will all face judgment.

You understand that, don't you? 2 Corinthians 5, that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive that which is done in our bodies, that we will be judged in relationship to our works. Believers will not be judged in the same way as the rest of mankind. Believers do not face the judgment as cowards shrinking from it, but rather in light of what Paul says here in verse 8, to which we will come, looking forward to the day when a crown will be given to us. But nevertheless, the Christian view of judgment makes it clear that history has a goal, that judgment protects the idea of God's goodness and of the triumph of God and of the punishing of all wrong and of the setting of justice to rights.

All of that and more is represented there. But what Paul is driving home to Timothy and to all who follow in his line is this. You shouldn't be worried about being accountable to me, i.e., to the apostle. And you shouldn't worry about being accountable to your congregation in Ephesus.

If you want something to be concerned about, be concerned about this, that God's your judge. And he knows the motives of your hearts. People may impugn your motives, Timothy. People may make all kinds of observations on the strength of what you do, what you say, where you go. But the fact of the matter is, your judgment is secure in God himself.

And it is that sense of accountability which drives home the solemnity of it. That's why when the writer to the Hebrews is wrapping up his letter, he says to the congregation under his care, Obey your leaders and submit to them, because they're really nice people. No, obey your leaders and submit to them, because they're really, really gifted.

No, obey your leaders and submit to them, because obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will give an account. To whom? To God.

To God. I think you get something of the solemnity of this. This Jesus, who is the judge of the living and the dead, is going to appear, and his kingdom will be consummated. And so he says, I'm setting this before you, Timothy, and I want you to understand the solemnity of what I'm saying, and also, secondly, to understand the simplicity of what I'm saying.

What is he saying? In a phrase, preach the word. There's actually a series of imperatives here. Preach, be ready, reprove, reproup, exhort, and in verse 5, another group of four, I think it is, you can check yourselves. But what is Timothy to do in Ephesus? Well, he's to preach the word. Well, Timothy would be in no doubt now about what Paul meant. He has spoken to him throughout his letter about the pattern of sound words that he's to hold to, the good deposit that he is to guard, the word of truth that he is to proclaim, the sacred writings that he has known from his infancy. All of that underpins the simplicity of this charge, preach the word. In other words, Timothy, I want you to teach the Old Testament Scriptures, and I want you to teach in turn the things that you've learned from me and that you will learn from the other apostles. You will notice that he's not charged with coming up with something but rather declaring the message that God has spoken. I know you're as intrigued as I am about where all my hymnody comes from.

I don't even know where it all comes from. And every so often I find a hymn is in my head, and then I go in search of it, and I'm amazed where it comes from. I had the experience just last evening as I was scribbling. And a phrase came into mind when I was thinking about this, I don't come up with it, it comes down to me, and essentially the line came, well, it is a message from God. And then I went to, I have a message from the Lord, hallelujah. And I thought, well, that's interesting. I wonder why the guy put hallelujah in there.

I think it's just the syntax, you know? So, I have a message from the Lord, hallelujah. This message unto you I give.

It's recorded in his word, hallelujah, and the message is to look and live. I've known that since forever. So, I went to look for where did it come from? I found it came from a man called William Ogden, who was born in Franklin County in Ohio in 1841. Never met him in my life.

And in the Civil War, he was part of the Indiana Volunteer Infantry, because his family moved to Indiana when he was a young man. But in the course of that, he exercised, if you like, a heraldic ministry amongst his friends, and this is what he said. I've got a message from the Lord. And here's a message. Look and live. Taking that from the Old Testament picture of the serpent in the wilderness, where in order to be freed from their condition, they were instructed not to scrub themselves, wash themselves, fix themselves, meditate themselves, but to look and to live. And he says—and this is the message—look and you will live. It remains the message. Secular man says, I never heard anything so ridiculous in all my life. It's got to be far more elaborate than that. It's got to involve me far more than that.

No, it doesn't at all. Here is the message. Now, to me, this is what I want you to do. He says, I want you to go out and proclaim this message. What God has spoken in the apostles has been bequeathed to us in the Bible, so we are to preach the Word and nothing but the Word. And when are we to do it?

Well, he tells us when we're to do it. We're to do it ready, in season, and out of season. Be ready. I think the notion of readiness—I ready, A-y-e ready—is part of the Canadian Navy, but I haven't checked. It's certainly the theme and the symbol of my soccer team from Glasgow. Unfortunately, my team hasn't been ready for a number of years, despite having on its crest that it is always ready. Could have fooled me the last time I saw them play it. But anyway, they're supposed to be ready.

And that's what he's saying here. It's standing by, Captain. Ready!

Ready when you are! That's the whole thing. The pastor doesn't need to be cajoled into preaching. He doesn't need to be cajoled and lured and… No, no, no, he's just ready. He's ready. Whether he feels like it or whether he doesn't feel like it, that's the whole point here.

In season and out of season. Paul understood for himself there were seasons where it was more delightful, other times where it was more daunting. There would be times when it was discouraging.

And what he used to do is to press the message home on all occasions, deeming it convenient or inconvenient. Now, let's just reinforce this. Realize how straightforward, how simple this is, and yet how unusual it is, how unusual it is, for a man to stay the course as a Bible teacher, to just keep teaching the Bible.

What he's saying to him is this. I want you to preach the Word, Timothy, if the environment is marked by receptivity or of hostility. You must preach the Word of God when the prospect of it fills you with delight, but also when it fills you with dread. Now, let me just say a word to my fellow pastors who are within earshot of what I'm saying now.

Don't let's kid ourselves. There are seasons in our souls, there are seasons in a congregation, there are seasons in the framework of life that make it far more daunting than delightful to stick with the task. You just gotta preach. Preach though your heart is breaking. Preach when it is delightful, when it is dreadful. Preach when your listeners are attuned to what you're saying, and preach when your listeners tune out what you're saying. Preach when the crowds are growing. Preach when the congregation is dwindling. Preach.

Why? Because it's God's Word, and God's Word always accomplishes its purposes. It's so simple. It's not that Paul is given a warrant here for some kind of brusqueness or rudeness. Well, I'm just going to preach whether they want to hear it or not.

No. What he's saying here is an appeal against laziness. Laziness. Because you will notice that as he said in verse 16, Scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, and for correction. Now he comes round to it again and he says, and the elements in preaching the Word as you're ready in and out of season will be to prove or to reprove, helping people think properly about the Bible. The doubtful are in need of solid arguments.

They're in need of reinforcements. Therefore, you're going to have to speak apologetically and prove and reprove their thinking, correcting those who are thinking wrongly or who are living wrongly. It's not easy to say these things in correction, but correcting our own souls and exercising a ministry of correction, and also a ministry of encouragement. Encouraging people, as Paul does as he begins. First Thessalonians, remember, he says, I'm so encouraged because of your faith that functions, and your love that labors, and your hope that hangs on.

Faith, hope, and love present in the Thessalonian context. What an encouragement it must have been for them. But it is such a task, isn't it? And the nature of the task—to reprove, rebuke, to exhort—is then to be dealt with in a manner that is marked by patience and by teaching. Wouldn't it have been better if it just said, with a wee bit of patience? Why does it have to be complete patience? With complete patience. How patient are you? Are you using the utmost patience in your teaching? The ANIV has with great patience and careful instruction. Jim Boyce, now in heaven, is the one who said to me years ago, as a young man, you will tend to overestimate what you can accomplish in a year, and you will underestimate what you can accomplish in five years.

So be patient. To be a teacher, I think, demands patience. Whether you're teaching tiny children or big children. Because not everyone gets it. Not everyone gets it at the same level. Some people apparently never get it, and then one day they get it, like in My Fair Lady. And some of you are school teachers or university professors. That's been your great joy in life. That somewhere along the line, one of those characters that made it out of your class by the skin of their pants has met you in the thoroughfare and has said, oh, I finally got what you were on about.

And they may even have become a teacher themselves. Paul says, now, Timothy, if you think about this context in Ephesus, it's daunting without any question at all. I want you to make sure that you're patient.

And I want you to make sure that you're operating as carefully as you are patiently. In other words, it demands an approach to the Bible that is demanding. That if you want to come up with an approach to teaching the Bible that is like three illustrations, two jokes, and the odd practical idea, you never need to study again in your life. They abound everywhere.

There's books with all of that stuff. And it can be like both sides now, you know, and leave them laughing when they go, and if you care, don't let them know, don't give yourself away. Doesn't matter. But no, this is solemn. This is straightforward.

This is demanding, sensible, careful, intelligent instruction. Well, it's the first Sunday of the year, and here we are, same old thing. Right?

I mean, you're like, are you kidding me, Begg? We're doing the same thing again? Yeah.

And as God spares me, we'll be doing the same thing again next year. Why? Because it's a great idea.

No. If you think about it, this kind of didactic instruction is like a dinosaur. I mean, do you know any place where anybody is able to speak for more than twenty minutes and hold anybody's attention? But every so often, the sound of God appears across the horizon, and people suddenly realize, this must be God himself who speaks. And that's the whole point.

It is. In the old days at the churches in Scotland, they had that sign, Sir, we would see Jesus. I think, actually, it could equally be, Sir, we would hear Jesus. We want to hear from Jesus. Jesus is ultimately the preacher. We preach his Word.

So let me finish in this way. First of all, a word to our pastoral team, of which I am a part. It is a happy providence that we've arrived at 2 Timothy chapter 4 on this first Sunday of the new year. It is a word for our pastoral team to faithfully proclaim the Word of God in light of the judgment of God, whatever the response of the people of God. That's for the pastoral team. And a word for the congregation, that we might prayerfully support our pastors as they preach the Word of God and as we receive it gladly as from God. Pastors are to proclaim the Word of God in light of the judgment of God, whatever the response of the people of God. That's Alistair Begg with a message titled Preach the Word.

You're listening to Truth for Life Weekend. Although clever Bible teaching can be amusing, it is God's word that ultimately accomplishes God's purposes. That's why our mission at Truth for Life is to teach the Bible and only the Bible every day. Our prayer is that the Holy Spirit will work through the daily messages you hear on this program to change the hearts of unbelievers, to encourage believers, and to strengthen both pastors and church members within the local church. We also carefully think through the books that we recommend to you that will help you grow in your faith. Today, we're recommending a book that's written for young adults. It's titled Surviving Religion 101, Letters to a Christian Student on Keeping the Faith in College. Surviving Religion 101 anticipates many of the doubts and challenges that your son or daughter are likely to face as they navigate a secular environment on their own.

For example, the book offers answers to questions like why wouldn't a loving God just save everyone or how do we know that the Bible is really from God? To find out more about the book Surviving Religion 101, visit our website truthforlife.org. I'm Bob Lapine. Wouldn't you love it if at your next physical the doctor said you need to cut back on exercise, you need to watch more TV, and eat more dessert? Well, that may sound tempting, but there's no chance that's going to be good for your health. Join us next weekend when we'll learn why it's equally detrimental for a pastor to preach what we want to hear instead of telling us what we need to hear. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-23 17:38:26 / 2023-08-23 17:47:16 / 9

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