Even the men discipled directly by the apostles themselves faced severe temptation to compromise their basic convictions and commitments. Paul knew this all too well. He himself on one memorable occasion withstood and publicly reprimanded the apostle Peter for fatally compromising the truth of the gospel itself - Galatians 2:11-14. Nearing the end of his life (4:6), Paul is giving Timothy his final charge. Here, on the heels of explaining to Timothy that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work," Paul then gives him a most solemn command and exhortation - preceded by one of the most compelling prefaces in all of Scripture:
2 Timothy 4:1-5 -
1 - I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:
Think of the life led by the man who wrote this: A once-deceived, zealous Pharisee. A despiser of this new Christian movement who had a face-to-face encounter with the risen Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus (a town in which he hoped to imprison more of the church) - a man with fists of iron who hurled anathemas at opponents when it came to the defense of the gospel of a free salvation through faith alone in Christ alone / and a heart of gold when it came to patience, forgiveness, and love among the brethren - a man imprisoned, tortured, stoned, beaten, ridiculed, shipwrecked, mocked, loved, and hated - a man weather-worn by constant traveling and hard work - a man whose gratitude to Christ for his own salvation caused him to regard himself as nothing... Here is the preface to his final charge to his disciple, Timothy.
"I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:"
He wants Timothy to understand this with such seriousness and force that He invokes the very presence of God the Father and God the Son - specifically God the Son as the One who will judge the living and the dead.
The fear of men faced by ministers and preachers of God's Word may at times seem more immediate and intense than even the fear of God, but Paul here is exhorting Timothy to focus his attention upon the One to whom he will give an account for what he said, did, and taught in His name. The temptation to be "men-pleasers" will always be intense. Paul realized this, so did Jesus himself.
Luke 6:26 - "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets."
The desire for the approval of men and of the world tempts all of us.
Timothy, In the presence of God, I give you this charge. It is as if God were right here present with me. And I must put it to you this way because the temptation to compromise will be that great. Remember the one to whom you will answer!
2 - Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
Preaching is what God has ordained as the means by which His Word is to be communicated. Not dancing, drama, videos, etc. - preaching. It is not just the message of the gospel itself that is foolishness to those who are perishing, the means by which it is communicated is likewise seen as foolish. The temptation to dare to be wiser than God is so powerful now-a-days. What about the use of DVD clips as sermon illustrations? We had a lively discussion about this in a class I took on worship in Orlando. It was myself and a couple of other individuals against the rest of the class. These young Reformed people were insisting that we can successfully communicate the intention of our text quite well using movie clips - and that it is good to do this because it is meeting people where they are. After all, ours is an image-based, not a text-based culture. People learn from pictures and images better than from words on a page, so we were told. I raised my hand and asked the most outspoken individual advocating this, "If, as you say (I completely disagree of course), our culture learns better from images and pictures, and we can, as you say (I completely disagree of course) successfully communicate the intent of Scripture through movies and pictures, why not get rid of the sermon altogether." He said, "well, we don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water..." to which I responded, "But why not given what you've said? You said you are communicating the word of God through the movie clip - if it does that so well - why not just show movies instead of preaching...? Preaching is so outdated and boring anyway, ya know?"
God commands the preaching of His Word. God didn't reveal Himself in a comic strip, in pictures, or in movies, but in words and sentences on pages - the Bible. If the culture has moved from text to images, then we must bring them back to the text. People prefer images and moving pictures because they do all the work for them. Reading requires discipline, reflection, and attention - that is the type of revelation God has given us. Reading forces us to think - it forces our minds to be active and engaged. It is no accident that we speak of "vedging-out" in front of the TV. The TV does all the work for you - it supplies the words, the images, and the sound - no imagination required at all. Your mind shuts down and your senses do all the work.
We must be a generation of Bible readers. And Timothy, you be a Bible-reader and a Bible-preacher. You've known it from infancy, it makes you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, it is God-breathed and establishes doctrine, it reproves, corrects, trains in righteousnses, and will equip you for *every* good work!
1 Tim. 4:13
Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
"Be ready in season and out of season"
Be ready - this takes time, discipline, study, and preparation. Soldiers do not go into battle without being taught how to use their weapons. Doctors do not operate on someone's body unless they've gone to school and have been taught how to do so. The dentist doesn't drill your teeth simply because he "felt led" to do so one day - no, he goes to school and studies and learns how to do it. The preacher of God's word must be "prepared" for this great task. And he must do it "eukairos" - when convenient, and "akairos" - when not convenient.
I'd like to suggest that we are in a period wherein it is no longer "in season" to preach the Word. Today, it is in season to soft-pedal, modify, water-down, or outright ignore the Word. After all, we want huge churches with lots of people, loud music, and happy/shiny-faced, beautiful, upscale people.
3 - For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;
Here is why, Timothy, you must be ready in season and out of season to convince, rebuke, and exhort. Every kind of false doctrine and false teaching is going to come into the fray. Sound doctrine will disappear entirely and become unpopular or dismissed as boring. People's ears will "itch" for falsehood. People prefer lies to the truth. People prefer to be lied to when it comes to spiritual reality - they want to be told they are ok.
What is “sound doctrine?” It is theology. What is theology? It is sound doctrine.
The rejection of sound doctrine will be done on the basis of "their own desires." You see, people bring many biases and agendas, i.e. "their own desires," to what the Bible actually says. They know there are millions of people all over the world who revere the Bible as the Word of God, and hence they try to use it to promote "their own desires." They "no longer endure sound doctrine" but will still use the Bible to try to promote their program. You see, very few people would listen to someone speak on their own authority about a world-changing ideology. But if there is some way I can twist Scripture into sounding like it fits my agenda, given the vast numbers of people who claim to follow its teaching, I will use it if it is possible to do so. Many men who do this are published churchmen who masquerade as believing Christians and are often lettered scholars who wield much credibility in what they say.
But the Christian who is armed with constant Bible-reading and study will not be led astray by their mumblings. Some recent, major "desires of their own" which false teachers are "no longer enduring sound doctrine" for are the following:
1. Some think the primary concern of all life is social justice, social unity, etc. and lo and behold, they read the Bible and walk away thinking the gospel of Jesus Christ is primarily a social message instead of a message about individual salvation and redemption from sin and its eternal consequences. Does the gospel, when believed and embraced, effect those issues? Of course. But are those issues what "the gospel" itself specifically addresses? No. And can the gospel be said to be *primarily* a social message? Absolutely not.
2. Others think the primary concern of all life is making the world a more moral place - they read the Bible and lo and behold, they find a message whose center is nothing more than, "be nice to each other and all will be well with you."
3. Others think the primary concern of all life is the spreading of a particular political ideology. They read the Bible and lo and behold they tell us: “the gospel is politics.”
4. Still others think that personal prosperity and health are the primary concern of Scripture. Lo and behold, we have the health and wealth, name it / claim it prosperity gospel.
But you, Timothy, are to guard, keep, preach, explain, and teach the "doctrine" I, Paul, delieverd to you. The theology, teachings about God, man, sin, Christ, justification that we find in the rest of Scripture – Timothy, that is what you are to preach and teach – that “sound doctrine” these false teachers cannot “endure.” Listen to Paul's words to Timothy about this and then tell me Paul wasn't interested in doctrine or theology:
1 Tim. 1:3
charge some that they teach no other doctrine,
1 Tim. 1:10
[BE SURE THERE IS NOTHING] contrary to sound doctrine,
1 Tim. 4:6
nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.
1 Tim. 4:13
give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
1 Tim. 4:16
Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
1 Tim. 5:17
Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.
1 Tim. 6:1
so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed.
1 Tim. 6:3
If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments …
2 Tim. 3:10
But you have carefully followed my doctrine
2 Tim. 3:16
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine
holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.
But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine:
in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility,
not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.
Why all this admonition about doctrine?
The prophets prophesy falsely,
And the priests rule by their own power;
And My people love to have it so.
But what will you do in the end?
Every generation of Christians have had to deal with indifference to doctrine. Doctrine is theology, theology is doctrine. God has revealed a system of truth to us in Scripture which is logically consistent and must be understood – the gospel being something we know and believe. This system of doctrines is called, in Scripture, “the faith” – Jude 3. We are to contend for “the faith.” This system of doctrines, teachings, propositions was delivered by Christ to his apostles and then was preached in the world.
Sadly, those not well-grounded in Scripture tend to lean in one direction or the other – intellectualism or emotionalism. People view “doctrine” as a purely intellectual enterprise with no real practical ramifications and hence downplay its importance. Or people view their emotions as the way in which God speaks to them and discard doctrine altogether and end up neglecting the exclusive truth-claims of the faith. We must understand however that it is our theology and doctrine that will shape all of life. For example: When the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ alone through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the sinner came to bear upon Europe, the societal changes were massive. Monasteries were closed and turned into orphanages. People turned their eyes off of themselves, off of trying to make sure they secured their salvation by doing enough works, pilgrimages, sacrifices, etc. and turned them towards their neighbor. People believed that all jobs and vocations, if they served their fellow man, were glorifying to God – hence, that marvelous thing known as the “Protestant work ethic” was born. Economies flourished, the quality of life increased, and science progressed. Christ alone is sufficient to save the believing sinner and so now he can stop his selfish preoccupation with his own salvation and look to the good of others – not to try to gain merit for himself, but merely out of love and a thankful heart. What brought these changes about? Theology – the doctrines taught and believed by the people. Anyone who says Christianity is not doctrine and theology obviously, according to this passage, would be one who does not “endure sound doctrine” for the sake of “his own desires.”
Why fences around true doctrine are necessary – without them, we will have no gospel to preach to any or to take to any nation in 50 years. The baton is ours – all who are alive and in the church now – what will we do with the church?
When the liberals (i.e. men who rejected the absolute authority of Scripture, men who rejected the theology of Scripture and replaced it with social and political concerns) came back in the 1920s and 30s, the Christian believers put up with them too long and hence lost control. The liberals took over because those who believed the doctrines of Scripture didn’t take a hard enough stand against them. After all, they reasoned, these are godly churchmen who are highly educated, good speakers, etc. They have the respect of others for their moral family-lives, etc. How can we attack them as being anti-Christs, false-teachers, or heretics? Not only that, every attempt we make to confront them is met by the constant accusation that we’re being divisive, unloving, uncharitable, not giving them the benefit of the doubt, etc…
The apostles of false-gospels always come to us as “angels of light” and “ministers of righteousness” – always – just as Satan himself does. 2 Corinthians 11.
Listen – the teachers of false doctrines always cry-out: “intolerance, you’re unloving, you’re mean and nasty, etc.” because they know they can only survive as long as the Bible-believers and believers in Christian truth remain silent. Well, back then they remained silent too long.
The damage was done and now where are those churches? They’ve died! They have nothing to preach – no gospel – no good news to the person troubled by their sin wanting to know if there is a way to be saved. These men despise the idea that Christianity is about individuals being convicted for their sins, repenting, trusting in Christ and being justified before God by the atoning death and imputed righteousness of Christ. They deride and mock that idea.
How will we do when we are up against, as Paul promised we would be, those who cannot “endure sound doctrine” – sound theology, sound teaching? Are we going to “convince, rebuke, and exhort?” or are we going to stand by, watch TV, and say, “well, they’re good and godly men with the best of intentions… just leave them alone…nobody can really understand them anyway…”
We must “convince, rebuke, and exhort!” That is the apostolic admonition – fight for the faith. Contend for the doctrines of Scripture – as Paul exhorted Timothy and Titus to do over and over again…
4 - and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
Heretics and false teachers, historically, have *always* been very successful. Generally speaking, the Bible-believers and the orthodox lose. Did the Nicene Creed get rid of the Arians who were denying the deity of Christ? No. In fact, that Creed had to fight for 60 years to survive while the vast majority of the church turned Arian… but nevertheless, God preserved His believing church. Were Luther and the Reformers able to reform the Catholic church? No, they lost and were excommunicated and true Bible-believers were slaughtered by the thousands… but nevertheless, God preserved His believing church. Was Machen able to gather a great following of Bible-believing Presbyterians to go into his newly founded Orthodox Presbyterian Church? Hardly. Only a small group left the apostate mainline church… but nevertheless, God preserved His believing church.
What about the laity today? Will they, as the text says they will, “turn their ears away from the truth and *be turned aside* to fables?” If history is an indication of anything, probably a great number will.
Will we have to redo fighting the social gospel, the gospel of therapeutic narcissism, the political gospel, the ever-present gospels of works-righteousness, and all the other false gospels that seem to rear their heads in every generation? Yes, we will. How will we do? Weigh this next verse carefully brothers and sisters in Christ – weigh it carefully – verse 5:
5 - But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Here is what you must do:
1. Be watchful in *all* things
2. Endure afflictions – you will be attacked, ridiculed, made fun of, etc. Endure this.
3. Evangelize – we can’t do this without the evangel (the gospel). And one thing is certain – no question about it whatsoever – those who are re-promoting the political and social gospels today are not engaged in evangelism because they’ve got no evangel, no gospel, to preach! But you, Timothy, you do the work of an evangelist – and what is that gospel Paul preached? Is it “sociology and international relations?” No. Is it politics? No. Is it even about transforming public life and morality? No. The gospel is simply this, as Paul defined it in 1 Corinthians 15 – “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and raised again the third day according to the Scriptures.” Paul said, “We preach forgiveness of sins to you in His name.” He said, “through him a man is justified from all things by which the law of Moses could not justify you.” Our neo-liberals aren’t preaching the gospel – for the simple reason: they despise it.
4. Fulfill your ministry – stay the course, don’t deviate, don’t get sidetracked – your mission: Make disciples of all the nations, preach the gospel unto every creature. No matter how many other voices are squawking on the landscape, no matter how many other agendas people come up with, you be faithful, Timothy to this charge – preach the word! Guard sound doctrine! Refute those who oppose it! Be watchful for false teachers! Do the work of an evangelist – command every creature to repent and believe on Christ to the saving of their souls! And do it from now until the end! Don’t loiter on your heavenly journey!