Text: 2 Timothy 4:1-8
The big idea: Keeping God’s word central in our preaching and in our lives will help guard our hearts and keep us faithful to our call.
The Bible reminds us how to stay faithful, to be healthy, to be growing as disciples of Jesus, making other disciples of Jesus. And it all has to do with keeping God’s word central. In this powerful passage, there are three main imperatives or commands that Paul makes clear – three ways we as a church can remain faithful to the mission Jesus has given us:
1. Prioritize the preaching of Scripture (v. 1-2)
Paul is telling Timothy, “The Lord Jesus Christ is my witness that this command comes from Him. In His presence, by His appearing, and for His kingdom, here’s the charge: Keep on preaching the Bible. Don’t stop. Don’t get distracted. Don’t be tempted to replace the role of scripture with something else. Don’t be tempted to spend your time debating false teachers with your own opinions. Don’t try to encourage the saints with pat answers and clever sayings. Give them God’s Word!”
There is no greater resource of truth. No greater source of wisdom. No higher authority. No better place to turn than the Bible. Why? Because it’s God’s word. It is breathed out by the Creator Himself. God’s word is powerful. God’s word is sufficient. Not just for rebuking the false teachers who oppose the truth, but also for teaching and gently correcting God’s people who need to mature and grow.
Don’t base your beliefs on what someone else has told you. Verify it in Scripture. Did God say it? Then believe it. Is it in the pages of Scripture? Then you can stake your life on it. It’s not always easy to trust the Bible. It’s not always convenient. But it’s always right and good because it is God’s word, and God is good.
We are leaky vessels. We get truth, and we forget. We hear a sermon, and it moves us, but we forget. We read scripture, and we forget. So, we are in constant need of being reminded what God said, over and over. That’s why we must be in His Word daily – not as a religious box to check off, but as a lifeline. As food for our souls. As life and breath to us.
And that’s why we mainly do expository sermons – preaching verse by verse through the Bible, saying what God has already said. We want to be a church that prioritizes the preached word, that honors God by keeping His word central – in the songs we sing, in the prayers we pray, in the sermons we preach, and in the lives we live.
2. Prepare for an intolerance of the truth (v. 3-5)
We live in a culture where truth is relative – it’s whatever you want it to be. Whatever lines up with my own opinions, my politics, and my preconceived notions, and yet makes no real claim upon me, places no responsibilities on me, does not ask me to surrender to a higher authority, does not invade my comfort zone, and allows me to stay the way I am. Sadly, that is how many define truth.
Paul reminds Timothy that there is coming a time where this will increase – not only in the culture, but also in the church. People will increasingly become offended with what the Bible says. Even people who would number themselves among the followers of Christ will increasingly reject the authority of Scripture and replace it with their own opinions.
In our day, this is evidenced by those calling themselves Christians who will advocate for gay marriage, those who will vote for and elect pro-abortion politicians, those who think it’s unloving and closed minded to claim that Jesus is the only way of salvation.
There is coming a time, Paul says, and that time is now, when there will be those in the church who will not endure, or will not tolerate sound, biblical teaching. Some who call themselves followers of Christ will openly reject the authority of Scripture. When we turn from the truth, the only alternative is myth. To turn away from Jesus means I am turning to Satan. There is no in-between.
But as for the Christian, we are to (v. 5):
–Be sober minded – “clear-headed”, “undistracted”. Keep your mind and heart focused on Christ and the truth of His word.
–Endure suffering – Those who hold to the Bible will suffer. But they will also be the ones who will have strength in the midst of their suffering. When all else around you is shaking, the one who is planted in God’s word will not be shaken.
–Do the work of an evangelist – Preach the gospel to the church. But don’t keep it contained there. Preach the gospel to the lost as well.
–Fulfill your ministry – Don’t get distracted, don’t get side-tracked or discouraged Timothy. Fulfill the gospel mission God has called you to.
3. Persevere until the end (v. 6-8)
In Romans 12, Paul appeals to Christians to present our bodies as “living sacrifices”, that we would live in such a way that our lives would reflect the grace and holiness of Christ, and this kind of life is our “spiritual act of worship”.
That’s how Paul viewed life – not as something that belonged to us that we loan to God now and then. But all of me – mind, body and soul – belongs to God all the time. The very breath in our bodies is a gift from the Lord. So, the highest honor, the greatest joy we can know is a life spent living for Christ, making Him known, and helping others to follow Him.
Paul has fought like a good soldier. He has competed and run the full marathon like a good athlete. And as a follower of Christ, he has kept the faith – meaning he has kept the gospel of Jesus intact and uncontaminated – both in his own heart and in what he’s passed on to others through his teaching and preaching.
That didn’t happen because of Paul’s natural giftings or his earthly training or his raw courage. Paul was able to fight the good fight, to finish the race, and to keep the faith by being full of the Holy Spirit and by the power of God’s word.
In his darkest moments, in his most hopeless situations, Paul knew Jesus was with Him. Paul knew that it is worth losing everything if you gain Jesus.
Paul is saying, “Timothy, my end is near. But don’t weep for me. I know what’s coming because God’s word tells me. I’ve got waiting for me a crown – a crown of righteousness in heaven. But Timothy, that’s not the best part. That crown will be given to me by the one who wears many crowns, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords Himself. Jesus, righteous judge and our loving Savior, He will welcome me into His kingdom.”
Now Paul could have ended it there. But he didn’t. He wanted to remind Timothy and every one of us today, that this reward is not reserved for only the Apostles, not only for the ones who saw the risen Jesus and were commissioned by Him personally. No. This reward is for every single follower of Christ, every faithful disciple who has trusted in Jesus, who has kept His word central in their lives, and who long for His appearing – every single one of us will be given a crown of righteousness, placed on our heads by Jesus Christ Himself.