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.
Today we close our series of meditations on Paul’s charge to Timothy to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.” We consider the last of Paul’s admonitions when he writes, “Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” What does Paul mean when he urges Timothy to continue in his work “with teaching”?
Paul’s words remind Timothy that when people enter into the Christian faith, they enter as infants in need of teaching and instruction. We do not enter the Christian faith as mature adults; the Spirit does not magically fill our head with doctrinal truth; rather, teaching is necessary; discipleship is the need of the hour, every hour; for this cause, Christ has appointed teachers in the Church to build up the people of God, instruct them in the Scriptures, and protect them from lies that parade as the truth.
Because of this necessity of teaching, the church has historically insisted that ministers of the Gospel be well-trained prior to entering into ministry. Paul writes, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2). This was the pattern. Paul taught Timothy; Timothy was to teach other faithful men; those other faithful men were to teach others. In this way, the work of God would be multiplied and the people of God built up in the knowledge of Christ.
This emphasis on teaching helps us to put Paul’s warnings about knowledge elsewhere in their proper context. For instance, Paul writes to the Corinthians that “knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (1 Cor 8:1). While some have erroneously inferred from Paul’s words that learning doctrine is dangerous at worst or superfluous at best, it is clear that Paul is warning us of the danger of severing knowledge and humility. A true knowledge of God leads to a profound sense of one’s own insignificance and of the magnitude of God’s grace. Teaching is not the problem; learning is not the problem; pride is.
How do we know? Because Paul insists that teaching is necessary. Ministers of the Gospel are to commit themselves to the task of teaching the people of God.
If ministers of the Gospel are to teach the Word of God, then what are Christians to do? Learn the Word of God. Paul writes in his letter to the Hebrews, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God…” (5:12). Paul is disappointed in these folks because they had failed to learn what Paul and their elders had striven to teach them. They did not give heed to the teaching.
So what of you? Are you taking seriously Jesus’ call to discipleship, Jesus’ call to become a learner? Do you know your Bible? Do you know basic Christian doctrine? Can you defend the Trinity? Can you articulate what it means to be reconciled to God? If not, then learn.
Reminded this morning that ministers of the Gospel are called to teach God’s people and that all God’s people are called upon to learn, let us acknowledge that we have often neglected our duty. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.