To cope with the many demands placed upon us, and to still meet our responsibilities, many Christians desire an action plan that can be integrated into busy lives. This helps to explain the popularity of programs and study series which address aspects of Christian living. Unfortunately, there is much marketing but little in sustaining methods that endure. To assess this assessment, those who have purchased or attended various Christian Organizers should ask themselves which, if any, are they still following on a daily basis. Understand: it’s not being suggested here that living in the faith be completely regimented.
As we are led by the Spirit into opportunities arranged for us before hand, it is important that we do not become too formulaic in living for Christ. We can, though, extract from scripture a simple formula for what we are to do, and how to do it, that will serve us well in serving Him, and growing on towards perfection. This is a simple and general approach, and yet it is a method which when employed will render one serviceable, and in ready posture to be employed by the Holy Spirit in the work of glorifying Christ.
To do this we take the very next two verse that follow the last few we examined in 2 Timothy chapter three, and which begin in chapter four (q.v. Christianity – The Word). This was probably not the best chapter division selected by the translators because the following verses are tied to the previous ones, and culminate them in a call to action in light of them.
Remember we are using Thayer’s Greek Lexicon to expound a little on key terms:
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;(2Ti 4:1)
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.(2Ti 4:2)
The response of most people to the idea of preaching is that it is the pastor’s job. The pastor shepherds a congregation of believers teaching and ministering the word to them, but we are all called to be ambassadors for Christ to represent Him by His word (2 Cor 5:20). The idea is: we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth seeking out others to make into strangers and pilgrims on the earth by seeing them reconciled to God and becoming new citizens of a far country; and the only way to do that is through the gospel of Jesus Christ (Heb 11:13; 1Pet 2:11; Acts 4:10-12).
This is the crux of the matter, but there are also other important aspects to preaching the word contained in Paul’s admonishment to Timothy. As we will see, preaching the word also entails declaring all the counsel of God (Act 20:27)
Paul solemnly charged Timothy to preach the word, and outlined the service requirements. The word is to be proclaimed after the manner of an herald who goes through town proclaiming an important news. It is to be preached in the following manner:
We are to be instant: our appearance on the scene is to be as an advent, a sudden appearance of an angel-messenger sent from God.
We are to preach it in season: when opportunity presents.
We are to preach it out of season: in seemingly inopportune times; with the inference that we are to create opportunities, be consistent despite the conditions, and this is not a fair-weather occupation. Brave the storm.
We are also to use the word to point out error and warn of its penalty, call for correction, and comfort and strengthen believers:
We are to reprove: refute the errors of false gospels, expose apostates and reprehend them severely, and call them to give account of themselves.
We are to rebuke: point out the penalties of error, and admonish sharply for correction.
We are to exhort: to console, strengthen, and encourage by calling another to one’s side to comfort and instruct.
We are to be longsuffering: to exhibit patience, steadfastness, and endurance.
Finally, we are to do all this with doctrine: teaching and instructing from the Word of God.
No doubt, few of us feel we measure up to these requirements even half the time, and the fact is none of us ever actually measure up. It is the spirit of God in us that makes it possible for us to serve Him. For example, the requirement to be instant; I don’t have the effect on people when I walk into a room of being an angel-messenger sent by God, and therefore they experience an advent. I do note that when the spirit of God is strong in me an on me that the room does change when I enter; the faint are encouraged, and the evil are excited at my presence.
Many of you have noticed that same thing. We accomplish these things, when we do, by the power of God, and in the spirit:
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. (1Co 2:4-5)
This is the most encouraging part about preaching the word: God gives us the ability and power to preach it. We only need let His will be done, and it is His will for us to preach the gospel truth, and our staple is the gospel that saves.
Consider, we have only seven times recorded in the New Testament where Jesus cried out with a loud voice. This observation can be startling, and compel investigation. Twice He cried out to God from the cross. Once He cried out to raise Lazarus from the dead.
Only four times did Jesus cry out with a loud voice to all that could hear Him:
1. While teaching in the temple; that he was the Messiah sent from God (Jh 7:28).
2. At the conclusion of the feast of Tabernacles; for all who thirst to come to Him and drink (Jh 7:37).
3. Declaring and ensuring; that whosoever believed on Him, believed on God who sent him (Jh 12:44).
4. Remarkably, Jesus Cried with a loud voice; over our hearing of the parable of the Sower (Lk 8:8).
Certainly, the parable to the Sower must be of extraordinary importance, and so we will reproduce it here:
And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Luk 8:4-8)
We know from the explanation He gave to His disciples that the seed is the word of God (Lk 8:11). We also have another important piece of information from His discourse with the disciples regarding this parable. After crying out with a loud voice so that we who have ears to hear would listen, Jesus tells us to take heed how we hear (Lk 8:18).
A military command to march, when it is heard in the ranks, produces marching.
Notice that the overwhelming majority of the Sower’s seed did not produce fruit, but there are some things we need to consider about what appears to be waste. The Lord did not criticize the Sower for being wasteful with the seed. In fact, as a return on the sowing, 25% brought back an hundred-fold increase. If it were to be counted with the 25% that sprang up, that would actually be a 125% return. But there is more to consider.
We looked at what scripture accomplishes for the Christian (q.v. Christianity – The Word). To better understand the parable of the Sower, here we might glimpse into what scripture accomplishes for God.
Most are probably familiar with the fact that all who live godly in Chris Jesus will suffer persecution (2Tim 2:12), and that our faithful endurance produces a faith like gold tried in the fire (Rev 3:18). But there is another side to this coinage in the economy of God that fewer have considered.
We read in 2 Thessalonians that the tribulations and persecutions we endure can also be a token of the righteous judgment of God. It is a token by which we are not only accounted worthy of the kingdom, but when tendered those who have shown their rejection of the gospel by persecuting its messengers are recompensed by that token with God’s vengeance, and everlasting punishment (2 Thes 1: 4-9). God’s word accomplishes His purposes (Isa 55:11).
At the Great White Thorne Judgment most, if not all, will be without excuse (Rom 1:27; Rev 20: 12), but it appears that some will be more without excuse than others; for instance, having rejected the gospel by persecuting the saints. Our forerunner as an ambassador was the Apostle Paul. He was in prison and in when claimed that title (Eph 6:20). It is an affront to a sovereign nation to imprison or deport its ambassador. Indeed, when the Lord met Paul on the Damascus road, the Lord told him that in his persecuting the early Christians he was actually persecuting Christ (Acts 9:4).
In God’s plan, and for purposes know only to him, some will be guilty of greater sins, and deserve the greater punishment (Mat 10:14-15; Lk 10: 13-14; Lk 12:47-48; Jn 19:11).
We cautiously examine this dimension of God’s plans and purposes for the ages in order to highlight that we cannot assess the effectiveness of God’s word by what we may be able, or allowed, to see. We must put our faith in its author, confident that His word does not return to Him void (Isa 55:11). We may put our confidence in the power of the word:
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb 4:12)
The idea is not to look to the results we see as indicative of our success, and much less that of the word’s success. Indeed, one plants, another waters, and yet another may harvest, but we are assured it is God who gives the increase (1Cor 3:6).
I believe all should start as the sowers. It is easier to cast seed than to haul water or partake in the hard work of the harvester (Mat 9:36-38). If faithfully occupied in sowing, one will probably see action in the other areas. But I think it’s being occupied as the sower that makes it possible to move on to watering and harvesting. Unfortunately, this is an entry level position that too few are entering, and perhaps why it seems the harvesters are also few.
While preaching the word includes declaring the whole counsel of God for encouragement and edification, and to warn and correct, the weight here has been placed on declaring the gospel of salvation. This emphasis on salvation is appropriate because of the time, and due to the hour, and because of what it can do for the unsaved, but also because of what it does for us. Aside from the benefits of submitting to the will of God, the occupation of sower makes it possible to have a ministry, an occupation with a daily faith walk with Christ. To more easily become ambassadors in this endeavor, in circulation and fit for use, in our next session we will move on from parable and metaphor to practical example.