We live in a day of apostasy. We live in a day of complete disregard for the semblance of truth. Without doubt, we live in the last days – even the last of the last days, it would appear. Paul’s 2nd letter to Timothy addresses this subject and how we are to prepare ourselves in great detail. In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, we read, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” If this passage is true, the last days are upon us. This describes our generation with pinpoint accuracy. Notice as part of this entire time of apostasy, there are those that have only “the appearance of godliness”. That is, they put on something that appears to be religiously valid to the outside world. But from God’s perspective, it is not. And, Bible believers shouldn’t be fooled. In fact, Paul says of these types that “they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all” (2 Timothy 3:9). How though? How will true Bible believers recognize those in error? The best way we can find the answer to this question is to simply explore this complete passage – that is, stick to the text.
Following this prophecy of the last days, Paul immediately instructs Timothy how to prepare for it. First of all, he tells Timothy to follow his example (2 Timothy 3:10-14). Though Paul had certainly been mistreated in nearly ever place his foot had stepped, he continued to persevere in the things of God. He had been faithful in proclaiming the Gospel to the lost. He had been faithful in defending that true Gospel. Don’t misunderstand; it’s not so much that Paul was on the attack. It’s that in sharing the truth, Paul himself was being attacked! Anything that has the guise of an attack from Paul was in reality a defense from legalists, from Judaizers, from false brethren – a defense of the truth that he preached. He certainly was quick to point out the error of his attackers – even sometimes by name. But understand, his actions remained a defense of the truth. As soon as we allow the error of a heretic to become the center focus, we have replaced the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The truth must always remain the focus of our ministry…even if we find ourselves defending it.
Paul gave Timothy no greater example than that of preaching the Word of God. Make no mistake, Paul preached the Word. In his day, this was primarily the Old Testament Scriptures since the New Testament was just beginning to be written. But Paul preached the Word. He reminded Timothy that it was the Word of God (empowered by the Holy Spirit) that had saved his soul and would ultimately mature him in the faith. Paul wrote, “…and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17). The Bible that we hold in our hands is “breathed out by God”. That is, God didn’t so much breath into the human authors his Word and then they wrote it, He breathed it out of them. Somehow…miraculously…He allowed them to retain their own writing styles and draw from their own personal experiences. That’s the miracle of inspiration. But don’t misunderstand, the Bible is the Word of God – not the words of Paul or Peter or Matthew or John. God breathed His Word out of those men and out of every other human author.
The Bible must retain a focal point in the pulpit. Too often, we find ourselves in Bible classes following books by human authors. More than that, we find ourselves in a pew listening to a man “preach” for 40 minutes on one verse – and even that verse loses its proper meaning about 3 minutes in. Worse yet, when we do encounter “Biblical preaching” with more verses, it’s often little more than proof texting – that is, twisting verses to fit our subject. Even if this is done to defend a true doctrine, it’s a misuse of the God breathed Word of God. We must make sure (as Pastors and congregations that hold the pastor responsible) that we are preaching the Bible fully and contextually. The Bible cannot mean what it was never intended to mean. It means what it meant originally – and that’s it. Understanding the Word of God thoroughly and contextually will mature a congregation. If your church would dissolve over the sequential expository preaching of the Word of God, there is a bigger problem that must be dealt with.
Having proven the benefit of God’s Word to believers, Paul moves on. He wrote, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:1-2). The Word of God was “breathed out by God” to mature the people of God thoroughly – so preach it! It will right wrongs. It will correct errors. It will grow men and women in grace and knowledge. “Preach the Word”! Preach it when it’s accepted (“in season”) and when it’s not so popular (“out of season”). When the Word of God is preached, it will “reprove, rebuke and exhort” the hearers. Every one of us without exception needs to be reproved, rebuked and exhorted. If we can only see the wrong in others, we have an awful large log in our eye that is hindering our vision of the mirror (Matthew 7:3-5). The Word of God exposes our own personal error and encourages us to act properly. No other book guarantees such results. So, Paul charged Timothy to preach it! And in doing so, preach it “with complete patience and teaching”. As pastors, our attitude must be meek, yet confident. Our fuel must be love for our fellow man and love for the truth. We must learn patience if we are to properly “preach the word”.
But there’s another reason to preach the Word of God. Paul tells Timothy to “preach the word” because “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Paul’s understanding of this time of apostasy led him to charge Timothy to “preach the word”. We seem to have lost some understanding of this most basic, foundational truth. Today, it seems the common weapon used against false teachers is merely an attack of their heresies with little or no instruction from the Word. Now certainly, there is a place for warning our people against the many heretics of our day. But this cannot be divorced from the preaching of the Word. Paul understood that the antidote for apostasy was simple – “preach the word”. If believers can get a grip on what the Word says, they will recognizes religious “myths” when they hear them. If our entire ministry becomes so focused on attacking false doctrine that we fail to “preach the word”, we aren’t nearly as faithful as we’ve convinced ourselves that we are. The Word will correct every ill…every falsehood…every heresy of our day…every myth that is dreamed up by fallen man. The faithful preaching of the Word of God is the antidote for apostasy.
Do you attend a church that preaches the Word? Can you truly say your pastor takes great pains to teach you the Word of God in context by handling large portions of Scripture – even entire books? Does your church rejoice in the preaching of the Word? Or, is the Word laid aside for other excitements? The apostasy of our day demands that we “preach the word”. If this is merely proof texting and not contextual, expository preaching of the Word of God in full, we are failing our generation. And while we may feel like we are battling the Biblical illiteracy that pervades our day, we may actually find ourselves contributing to it. The authority of God’s Word is powerful – much more powerful than our own supposed authority or creed or confession. Let us preach it. Let us preach it with zeal, but let us preach it. Let us preach it with love, but let us preach it. The truth…the truth of God’s Word must remain the focus of our generation as apostates are on the rise.
Preach the Word.
Todd Bryant is the Lead Elder at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Northport, AL. He has pastored there since 1998. For more more information on the church and links to audio sermons and apps for electronic devices, visit www.sovereigngrace.net