2 Timothy 4:1-3 is a great "go to" passage for preaching. Listen to what Paul says:
1 In 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: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people 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.
There are all sorts of reasons this passage shouldn't be overlooked by those who preach. The importance of preaching is clearly highlighted: Paul's command in verse 2 is to PREACH THE WORD. That simple command drives this passage. If you look closely, this passage highlights the gravity of preaching (v. 1), its importance (v. 3), and different ingredients that will make their way into our preaching over the course of time ("correct, rebuke, and encourage"). All of these things are worth thinking about.
But the place I want to focus is on the two "qualifiers" that Paul mentions at the end of v. 2. As we "preach the Word," we're to do so with "great patience" and "careful instruction." I'm worried that these important qualifiers can be too easily lost by some who want to focus exclusively on other parts of this passage, and so let's look briefly at each of these, as we factor them into our preaching (and teaching).
Preach the Word "with great patience"
Just a few verses earlier in 2 Timothy, Paul reminds Timothy that "All Scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so the the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). As preachers proclaim God's Word publicly, then, there's an anticipation for this to play out - that is, for people to grow in righteousness as we preach the Word; for those in our congregation to be equipped and do good works. And all of these are good goals! Preaching SHOULD contribute to the furthering of these things in our congregations.
But let's remember that growth often happens slowly. Let's remember that life may be growing beneath the surface - invisible to the eye. Let's remember that growth rarely happens uninterrupted, but is often accompanied by set-backs, roadblocks, and periods of stalling.
In other words, even as we preach God's Word for transformation, let's not be impatient. Rather, let's proclaim God's Word clearly and compellingly and faithfully. And patiently. With great patience, in fact.
Preach the Word with "careful instruction"
I'm fully aware that some are better at impromptu speaking than others. And I'm also fully aware that preparation can happen in a number of ways - it looks differently for every preacher and teacher.
Nevertheless, this qualification of preaching the Word "with careful instruction" must be valued. In part, it means pastors value making time to study - carving this time out in already-full schedules, and then guarding this study time with a blowtorch. As we preach the Word, we need to have first understood what the inspired biblical authors are saying.
It also means pastors know those to whom they are speaking, so they can apply truth from God's Word to the actual lives and situations of those listening. All of this is part of careful instruction.
With these important qualifications firmly in place, then, we fall back on and commit ourselves to the driving command of this passage: Preach the Word!
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