2 Timothy 4:1–2 (NKJV)
1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
What exactly does it mean that Timothy is, in Paul’s words, to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season”? Thankfully, Paul gave Timothy some guidance and direction, guidance and direction that can help ministers of the Gospel today understand their task. Paul continues, “Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” So let us consider each of these commands, beginning today with what it means to “convince.”
The Greek word behind “convince” is elencho and means “to show someone his sin and to summon him to repentance” (TDNT). The ESV translates it as “reprove” in this case and that captures the sense. Paul uses the word elsewhere in the pastoral epistles:
· 1 Tim 5:20 – He commands Timothy, “Those [elders] who are sinning [reprove] in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.”
· Titus 1:9 – Paul notes that elders are to “be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and [to reprove] those who contradict.”
· Titus 2:15 – Paul commands Titus, “Speak these things, exhort, and [reprove] with all authority. Let no one despise you.”
To reprove, therefore, involves two components. First, the preacher must identify what is erroneous or sinful – he is the “reprove” those who are sinning, to “reprove” those who contradict, and to “reprove” with all authority. Second, the preacher must summon the offender to repentance. “Let no one despise you,” Paul commands, since the preacher is to speak the very words of God to the one sinning.
What this means is that the minister of the Gospel must be prepared to deal with the sins of his people. It is not the job of the preacher to tell smarmy stories that make God’s people feel good about themselves; it is not the minister’s responsibility to make people feel comfortable; his responsibility is to speak the Word of God into the lives of God’s people so that their sins are exposed and they grow in holiness and in the fear and love of God.
If this is the duty of ministers of the Gospel, if ministers are “to show someone his sin and to summon him to repentance” then what corresponding duty does this require of those who are reproved? What is your responsibility? Your duty is to listen and to give heed. Your duty is not to harden your neck and resent correction, but to cultivate a spirit that longs for reproof.
So reminded this morning that preaching the Word involves exposing sin and summoning God’s people to repentance, let us acknowledge our sin: preachers often fail to speak clearly about the sin that so easily entangles us and Christians often bristle when our sin is exposed and confronted. Rather than humble ourselves before the Word of God, we are tempted to say, “What will they think of me if I say that?” or “Who do you think you are to confront me?” And so reminded of our sin and that there is only one sacrifice, Jesus the Christ, whose shed blood can cover the guilt of our sin, let us confess our sin, beseeching God’s forgiveness. And as we confess, let us kneel together as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.