The Christian Charge

“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, … Preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. … But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”
—II Timothy 4:1, 2, 5

THOSE FAMILIAR WITH THE LORD’S Word realize that Paul’s charge to Timothy was a reminder of the commission to preach the good tidings prophesied by Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives.”—Isa. 61:1

Jesus applied this to himself. His true followers have realized that it has been their privilege also. It is even more than a privilege, it is a commission—a charge. If preaching is our charge, we do well to consider thoroughly to whom we may preach.


Some have hastily concluded that when Paul said, ‘Reprove, rebuke, exhort,’ this must be the bulk and substance of their preaching, forgetting that he also said, ‘With all longsuffering [forbearance] and doctrine.’ Reproof or rebuke may sometimes be necessary, but it should never be administered merely according to our own whims or imaginations. In every instance it should be ‘with doctrine’—with sound and scriptural reasoning—that it may be recognized as a correction from the Lord, though administered through the agency of a brother with Christian maturity, and not with an arrogance which forgets that all are subject to similar failures. Had this advice been more closely followed among the Lord’s people, how much richer many of their experiences along the way would have been.

Exhortation is also necessary, but should never degenerate into mere coaxing and urging without a sound and logical basis. Without sound reasoning and the strong support of the inspired Word, exhortation is weak, and is not lasting in its effects. This method of preaching without reason is common today, but was never indulged in by our Lord. Of him it was said: “He shall not cry, nor call out aloud, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.” (Isa. 42:2, Leeser) His preaching, and that of his disciples, was reasonable, doctrinal, and was delivered with the dignity and meekness becoming God’s messengers.


Some may inquire: “What are we called to preach?” To this Paul answers: ‘Preach the Word.’ It is in the Word that the ‘good tidings’ are found. Before we can engage in this commission we must familiarize ourselves with the Scriptures and have a clear comprehension of their message. The first duty, then, of everyone who would obey the call to preach is to become an earnest, faithful, diligent student of the Word of God, that he may be able to minister grace to the hearers.

Our invitation to be ‘ambassadors for Christ’ may precede our opportunities to engage actively in service. At the Jordan River, Jesus was anointed to preach, but he did not begin his ministry until after he had endured the wilderness temptations. The early disciples were called, but were told to tarry until endued with power from on high. For the special purpose of introducing the Gospel, the power came upon the Early Church suddenly and miraculously as soon as they received the anointing of the Spirit, but this has not been the case with the church since. Power in presenting the truth comes now to the anointed as the reward of diligent study of Holy Writ.


To many, study is distasteful; they have not been accustomed to it, and are not willing to give it the necessary time and concentration. Still they want to obey the call to preach, and the result obviously is confusion, bringing reproach and dishonor both upon themselves and upon the cause of Christ. The bearing of such reproach may possibly be for Christ’s sake, but it is not to Christ’s glory. The loss is the result of imprudence and negligence in regard to the injunction: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.”—II Tim. 2:15

However, in the study of the Word, there must be a sincere and earnest desire to learn the real truth contained therein, and an accompanying willingness to be taught. Without these motives for study we might be among those who are “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”—II Tim. 3:7

Truth, rightly divided and fairly presented, commands the respect of even its opponents, in many instances. Its symmetry and beauty will often irresistibly stamp itself upon the mind. Thus it was in the case of Jesus’ preaching, when the very men that were sent to lay hands on him and deliver him to the chief priests and Pharisees returned, saying: “Never man spake like this man.” (John 7:46) The people recognized that “he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Matt. 7:29) So also Festus said to Paul: “Thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.” Paul answered with becoming dignity and due deference to the powers that be: “I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely. … King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.”—Acts 26:24-29

Paul had great natural talents in speaking, which excelled most others of the Lord’s people; but the power of his speech lay in the great truths which he proclaimed. The weight of his message commanded even the respect of his enemies. They could not say, “Paul, you do not know what you are talking about.” Neither could they turn away with the excuse that his words were empty and his phraseology barren.

When Jesus, our great Exemplar, went out to preach and teach, the people listened with astonishment, and said: “Whence hath this man this wisdom?” (Matt. 13:54) And if we preach the same great truths which he declared, our message will, to some extent, bring similar response.


Again the query arises, “How long must I tarry for preparation, and how shall I know when I am adequately qualified to tell the good tidings to others?” Of course there are ways in which it is possible to make known God’s wonderful truth even while we are laying the groundwork of our faith. This is possible through the use of the printed page wherein we are able to pass on valuable information to others. However, it is requisite that all who proclaim any message first have the deep conviction that what they are heralding forth is true. As long as there is uncertainty in our minds we are correspondingly unprepared to illuminate the minds of others. “If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”—I Cor. 14:8

We cannot form real convictions by hastily glancing at the Word of God, for that would merely be a matter of ‘jumping to conclusions.’ We must be thoroughgoing in our study, and search the Scriptures until we clearly see and comprehend the Divine plan of the ages which is contained therein. When we see clearly the Divine plan of the ages, we will want to tell it to others, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”—Matt. 12:34

Even when we are prepared “to give an answer to every man that asketh … a reason of the hope” that is in us, we must not feel that our need for study has diminished. (I Pet. 3:15) Can any say concerning the Bible, “We have sounded all its depths, and measured all its heights, and therefore have nothing more to learn”? Surely not! To have a general outline of God’s plan clearly in our minds is very desirable, but we should have its various features so clearly fixed as to be able to convey them to others. Therefore, review is also necessary.


Paul charged Timothy to preach the Word. He said: “Be instant in season, out of season.” (II Tim. 4:2) This also applies to all who would have a part in proclaiming the message of truth. But did Paul mean that we are to preach when it is ‘out of season’ for others to hear? No, for that would be contrary to the Lord’s teaching to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Matt. 10:16) We must, therefore, understand his words to mean that we are not to regard our own convenience or inconvenience, but always to be ready to show forth his praises when it is opportune for others to hear, even if it might be inopportune for us.

In Acts 16:23-34 is recorded an occasion wherein Paul, by his actions, effectively demonstrated what he meant by preaching ‘out of season.’ We can, perhaps, recall how Paul and Silas were seized by the authorities in Philippi and thrown into a dungeon after they had first been beaten. And there in the dark cell we can imagine that Paul called out to Silas to inquire for his welfare, saying, “Silas, are you all right?” And we can imagine him replying, “Yes, I’m all right, Paul, even though they beat me unmercifully.” And Paul perhaps said, “They did the same to me.” And no doubt, like Peter, James, and John, they began to give thanks for the privilege of suffering for Christ’s sake.

Doubtless in this experience they recalled some of the words of our Lord that we are to suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake. This is why they were rejoicing, and began to sing hymns of praise unto God. While singing, an earthquake miraculously shook the prison doors open and loosed their bonds. There were other prisoners in that prison who heard Paul and Silas talking and singing (Acts 16:25), and must have been impressed with Paul’s message, because none of them tried to escape. The keeper, aroused from sleep, and seeing what had happened, prepared to kill himself. But Paul called to him, telling him not to harm himself because “we are all here.” (vs. 28) This miraculous demonstration of the Lord’s power awakened the keeper’s interest, and he began to inquire about salvation.

It would have been easy for Paul to have said, “I am badly bruised; my arms and feet are benumbed from being in those stocks, and much weariness is with me; so just let us rest up tonight, and perhaps tomorrow we will tell you what you must do to be saved.” But no! Notwithstanding the cruel and unjust treatment they had received, they used the opportunity to proclaim the glad tidings not only to the prison-keeper, but to all his house. From this account we can better appreciate that no matter how much ‘out of season’ to ourselves, we should be willing to preach.

The apostle further enjoins that we “watch [be sober] … in all things.” (II Tim. 4:5) Therefore, we must exercise ourselves to handle the truth with all gravity and reverence, living as examples of its influence, not carried away with excitement or emotion. With this, he further exhorts that we “endure afflictions.” Such afflictions will naturally arise from those who love darkness rather than light, even though they measurably recognize the light we bring.


The extent to which each one of the Lord’s people may be used in proclaiming the good news may differ greatly, both in opportunity and in natural abilities and qualifications. Some may never have the opportunity to discourse to public audiences. God uses us according to our talents. Paul, Peter, and others were able to preach publicly, but Aquila and Priscilla, unable to preach in a public way, could invite Apollos to their home and explain to “him the way of God more perfectly.” (Acts 18:26) Thus the devoted and eloquent Apollos, more perfectly prepared, was better enabled to continue his public ministry. If Aquila and Priscilla had not been students of the Word, what an opportunity they would have lost.

Our opportunities to explain the meaning of the Scriptures include not only our neighbors and fellowmen, but oftentimes enable us to edify our brethren by furnishing them with our findings, as well as by helping them to a more perfect understanding of God’s Word. Hence, it becomes mandatory for the Lord’s people to study if they would have the Lord’s approval.

The charge given to Timothy applies to all of us. Paul, as God’s and Christ’s spokesman, is exhorting us to be faithful in carrying out of our consecration vows. May we do so as faithfully as Timothy did, not only in his assistance to Paul, but to the Early Church in general.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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