Saturday, November 22, 2014

Preach the word 務要傳道

張國昇牧師 11/9/ 2014

At the time Paul was writing this letter to timothy it was close to the end of his earthly ministry. He was in a dungeon deserted by all but Luke. Despite his circumstances Paul was not downcast, he was looking heavenward with assurance, “For I am already poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge , will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2Timothy 4:6-8) It is time to pass the baton to young Timothy. He was giving Timothy a charge fully aware that he did so in the presence of God and Jesus Christ and with the assurance of the return of the Lord establishing the glory of His Kingdom. This was a serious charge, “Preach the Word, be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” (2Tim. 4:2)

The foremost charge is to ‘Preach the Word’ and the key to accomplish that charge is to be ‘prepared’. The word ‘prepare’ certainly conveys the idea of making preparations. There is a Chinese saying: If you want to accomplish good work; you have to sharpen your tools. 「工若善其事、必先利其器。」If we wish to minister to others with the words of God; we must first be familiar with the word of God. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my command.” (John 14:15) and again when Jesus was about to ascended to heaven he gave his disciple a great commission, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and made disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am wit you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) If you love Jesus and want to be a serious disciple of Jesus you would obey him and do his command. A serious Christian is a serious student of the Bible because he wants to thoroughly prepare himself with the word of God. Knowing the word of God well is the basic preparation a Christian needs to preach or teach. The church is also doing her part in equipping Christians for ministries. There are Sunday School teachings; Bible study fellowship and Bible training courses offered to the members of the church. Church members should take advantage of the opportunities and equip themselves for ministries.

Paul was also exhorting Timothy to be prepared 'in season and out of season'. That means to be prepared at all time; to stand by to serve whether the occasion seems opportune or not. Some people may listen; others may not. But your job is to take every opportunity to preach and teach whether man will listen or not! Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples of all nations. In city like Austin where there is a major university, all nations will come to your doorstep! It is a challenge to Christians to be prepared to bring the Gospel to the people of all nations in season and out of season. If all nations do not come to you, you may want to obey the Lord's commission to go to them. There are many mission opportunities offered by Hyde Park. If you retired early from your job, and if The Lord is calling you, you may want to consider to go on a long term mission trip; if you are a college student or a working professional, you may consider a short term summer mission. You have just heard the missionary call from Venezuela, how does The Lord lead you to respond?

Paul exhorted Timothy not only to preach the Word but also to correct, rebuke and encourage with the Word. In the previous chapter Paul declares that all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2Tim. 3:16-17) Only a man of sound doctrine thoroughly equipped with the word of God be able to detect false doctrine and correct the error. It was crucial in Timothy's time when people had already shown intolerance to sound doctrine. Instead they would gather themselves around false teachers who would say the things they wanted to hear! (2Tim. 4:3) Same thing is happening in our time. It is also crucial for us to thoroughly equip ourselves with the Word of God so that we are able to discern and correct false doctrines. 'Rebuke' is generally referred to the art of pointing out wrong behavior especially concerning the moral aspects of the behavior. The rebuking of wrong behaviors should always be accompanied with encouraging good behavior. It is indeed an art because it should be done with great patience and careful instruction. (2Tim. 4:2) It is very important for Christian to speak the word of rebuke and correction with great patience and grace. If not spoken with patience and grace, the word would sound offensive and not be listened. It might even be harmful to the cause of Christ. It is equally important for Christians especially in trying time to speak the words of encouragement. The Apostle Paul knew it well. His ministry had met with challenges, setbacks and oppositions. He had been beaten and imprisoned several times. Yet through his trust and devotion to the Lord he had fought a good fight and kept his faith. Finishing well is more important than beginning with a bang. His word is validated by his own life; it is also an encouragement to young Timothy whose ministry would certainly meet the same challenges that Paul had experienced. 

Paul was giving a solemn charge to Timothy to preach the word in a very trying time. However, it is more like a universal charge for Christians of all ages to preach the Word and defend the faith with sound doctrine. Paul exhorted Timothy to be prepared to meet the challenge in season and out of season. It is even more urgent and crucial today because the coming of The Lord is very near!