Monday, February 08, 2010

2 Timothy 4:1-5

V1-5 – 1In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His kingdom, I give you this charge: 2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. 3For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

V1-5 represent the conclusion of Paul’s appeal to Timothy begun in 2 Timothy 1:6. This is the final chapter that Paul would ever write; and he begins with a charge (v1) to Timothy coram deo, before the face of God and Christ. This is a grave situation, and Timothy cannot say he wasn’t sure or didn’t know. Paul is serious here. The audience of this charge is crucial, because the time is drawing near. Soon, Christ will return (epiphany) to “judge the living and the dead.” The command to “preach the word (Jesus)…in season and out of season” in v2 is directing Timothy to be faithful in that regard whether the situation seems promising or not. Each day may be his last, so he ought to live like it, not so much as selfish carpe diem, but a selfless carpe diem. Perhaps we should do the same, refusing to wait for that perfect opportunity to come along so that we can unleash the gospel, and instead to unleash the gospel in every circumstance, knowing that God’s word will not return to Him empty but will accomplish what He desires and fulfill the purpose for which it was sent (Isaiah 55:11).

Calvin says, “By these words he recommends not only constancy, but likewise earnestness, so as to overcome all hindrances and difficulties; for, being, by nature, exceedingly effeminate or slothful, we easily yield to the slightest opposition, and sometimes we gladly seek apologies for our slothfulness… Moreover, this earnestness must relate both to the pastor and to the people; to the pastor, that he may not devote himself to the office of teaching merely at his own times and according to his own convenience, but that, shrinking neither from toils nor from annoyances, he may exercise his faculties to the utmost. So far as regards the people, there is constancy and earnestness, when they arouse those who are asleep, when they lay their hands on those who are hurrying in a wrong direction, and when they correct the trivial occupations of the world. To explain more fully…” Paul urges Timothy to “correct, rebuke, and encourage.” He is to prove the truth, reveal falsehood, and encourage living the truth by preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ; and he’s to do it patiently and carefully (1 Timothy 1:16).

In v3-4, Paul speaks of professing Christians in the church who may or may not be genuine Christians. He says they have “itching ears,” a fascination with everything but the truth (v4). That’s why Timothy has to use sound doctrine to “correct, rebuke, and encourage” carefully; his audience “will not put up with sound doctrine.” One commentator says, “They just want to hear (1) those who agree with them (cf. Jeremiah 5:31); (2) those who teach new and speculative things, or (3) many different teachers (always a new seminar to attend).” People are always deviating from the standard course, turning away from truth and turning aside to myths, for one reason or another. And this is despicable, but it is truth, and good reason for believers to all the more “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3).

And again, as Paul commonly does, he contrasts the false teachers and their followers with Timothy. The previous verses are not to describe him, but he is to “keep [his] head in all situations, endure hardship, [and] do the work of an evangelist.” In other words, Timothy is to remain sober or even-tempered, understand that trials come with gospel ministry and endure them, and share the gospel, thereby fulfilling the duties of his ministry. Apart from these three elements (Ephesians 4:11), it may be impossible to claim that one’s ministry duties have been fulfilled.

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