The following is an excerpt from “Preaching in the New Testament: An Exegetical and Biblical-Theological Study” by Jonathan I. Griffiths. This book is part of the New Studies in Biblical Theology series edited by D.A. Carson. Jonathan’s decisive approach to give us a solid, biblical theology on the topic of preaching is a welcome addition to today’s books on this topic. While I love the preaching books that focus on the how-to’s, this book grounds us in the biblical narrative of what it means to preach God’s word. This is a thought-provoking book that is sure to help solidify the call of the preacher as revealed to us in the Bible.

Cory Mansfield

Timothy is to make an authoritative proclamation of God’s word

The charge that Paul gives Timothy is not simply ‘to preach’, but to ‘preach the word ’(2 Tim. 4:2). The context makes it clear that ‘the word’ here is Scripture – and particularly its message of ‘salvation through faith in Christ Jesus’ (3:15). At the end of chapter 3 Paul impressed upon Timothy the sufficiency of Scripture for his ministry (3:16-17) so that, unlike the false teachers mentioned earlier in the letter, Timothy will stick with Scripture as the all-sufficient basis of his ministry, for the long run. Then follows the charge of 4:1-2, which spells out the precise way in which Timothy is to use this sufficient Scripture.

The charge is made up of five verbs in the imperative (‘preach the word’, ‘be ready in season and out of season’, ‘reprove’, ‘rebuke’ and ‘exhort’) followed by a prepositional phrase that qualifies them (‘with complete patience and teaching’). Although each of the five imperatives carries its own weight and meaning and could seem like one of a series of stand-alone instructions, the leading charge to ‘preach the word’ ‘plays a dominant role, not only by being first but also by being amplified by the second imperative “be ready in season and out of season”, and by the prepositional phrase with [didachē] at the end of this verse’. If the five imperatives were really stand-alone instructions (rather than the four relating closely to the first), the second charge would carry little meaning; the charge ‘be ready’ as a standalone charge immediately begs the question: Be ready to do what?

If the leading imperative ‘preach’ (kēryxon) is qualified by the four imperatives and the prepositional phrase that follow, each of these then communicates something of the nature of the preaching that Timothy is to engage in. To obey the charge to preach will require Timothy to be ready (epistēthi) ‘in season and out of season’, not least because sound teaching will not always be welcome (4:3). In his preaching, Timothy will have to ‘reprove’ (elenxon; that is, correct false understanding or sinful behaviour), ‘rebuke’ (epitimēson; that is, call his addressees to turn from ungodliness) and ‘exhort’ (parakaleson; that is, call the people to believe and live out the truth he proclaims). He is to do all this with ‘patience’ (makrothymia), because it will take time and perseverance for his addressees to accept and respond to God’s word. And he is to preach with ‘teaching’ (didachē), because his reprovals, rebukes and exhortations will only carry weight and be effective if they are grounded in a clear articulation and explanation of what the word of God says. Preaching the word cannot be reduced to teaching it (in the sense of simply explaining the meaning of the word as a purely didactic activity); it involves the urgent call to respond that is signified by the imperatives ‘reprove, rebuke and exhort’. At the same time, preaching for Timothy will always fundamentally involve teaching and can never happen apart from teaching.

The character of preaching as presented here in 4:2 is of an ‘authoritative and educational’ proclamation of God’s word. Timothy will patiently teach the meaning of God’s word and urge people to make an appropriate response to it.

*Taken from Preaching in the New Testament by Jonathan I. Griffiths. Copyright (c) 2017 by Jonathan I. Griffiths. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL.

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