PREACH THE WORD
By Bob Buchanon
We are living in tough times! Anyone who doubts that is either completely out of touch or blindly optimistic. Society seems to be becoming more depraved every day. False solutions are deceitfully veiled as truth. Humanism has reached an all-time high. The atheists, agnostics, and/or evolutionists are looking for new ways to convince our youth they are nothing but the final step in a long evolutionary process-a monkey all dressed up with no place to go. Promises are quickly broken and commitments are both small and fickle. In the words of Paul, “perilous times” are upon us. How does the Christian cope? What are the techniques that spur us on and keep us stable? The words of Paul to the young evangelist, Timothy, offer wise advice to any person in any generation.
Look at Paul’s description of the perilous of grievous times as described in 2 Timothy 3:1-5; “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”
Paul was a true prophet. All of this began to be fulfilled in the day of Timothy. Indeed, such conditions as described in these verses have been fulfilled a great number of times in these last days. The “last days” does not refer to an end-time, as some have supposed, but rather to the entire time from the giving of the New Covenant to the second coming of Christ. We’re still in these last days, so let’s attempt to define the kind of men Paul was describing:
1. Lovers of their own selves - This may well be the root from which all of the other sins grow. This is the man with ego at the center of his life. See Titus 1:7: “self willed.” Trench borrows the illustration of the hedgehog which rolls itself up in a ball, keeping the soft, warm wool for itself and presents the sharp spines to those without.
2. Covetous - It would only be natural for a lover of self to become a lover of money and/or things. We cannot pamper self without money. The sin and the sadness of money-love was pointed out earlier by Paul in 1 Timothy 6:10. Think, too, of the Pharisees in Luke 16:14.
3. Boasters - This word originally referred to the “quack” wandering around the country peddling medicine, boasting about its healing virtue. But in the present passage boasting in general is meant. The loud-mouth braggard is trying to cover up the emptiness of his life.
4. Proud - While boasting about themselves and their “wares”, accomplishments, or talents, these people are overbearing (cf. Rom. 1:30; then Lk. 1:51; James 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5) in their attitude to others. They are the haughty type, “uppish.”
5. Blasphemers - These people, needing the favor of both man and God, are the first to use scornful language--insulting God and man (see 1 Tim. 6:4). When they speak, they hurt or injure.
6. Disobedient to parents - This is no light matter, for it indicates a deeper lack; a lack of respect or reverence for the person of God as well as the Law of the Lord. These people are lacking in such excellent qualities as submissiveness, thankfulness, holiness, affection for family, and the forgiving attitude.
7. Unthankful - When man feels he is sufficient unto himself, he sees no need to thank anyone but himself. He shows no appreciation of the many acts of kindness which his parents have bestowed upon himself, no appreciation toward other people, nor toward God.
8. Unholy - When a man has no standard from God - no standard for right and wrong - then nothing is holy to him.
9. Without natural affection - This refers to the love parents have for their children, and children for their parents. It is called “natural” in the sense that even animals possess such an affection. Such wicked perverts are worse than sick dogs in the streets. Romans 1:23-31 is a commentary on this condition.
10. Trucebreakers - Such persons will not keep their word or be responsible for any agreement with others.
11. False accusers - Slander is always done to the advantage of the one circulating the lies. The purpose is to destroy the reputation of another.
12. Incontinent - This means he has no self control. He is unrestrained, uninhibited.
13. Fierce - Having never settled down, they are untamed. This is the savage attitude toward all who oppose the selfish; animals hold this same attitude toward all who oppose them.
14. Despisers of those that are good - These people would despise virtue, are unloving toward the good.
15. Traitors - If betrayal of others is to their advantage, they do not hesitate to betray them.
16. Heady - This means to be headstrong. Such persons plunge ahead regardless of the advice of others, or the apparent consequences. They are like the bull in the arena who rushes to his death.
17. High Minded - This is one who is puffed up. It has reference to an exalted opinion of self. Such persons are blinded by the smoke their own conceit produces.
18. Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God - these people prefer the friendship of the world to the friendship of God. Those who love themselves worship at the shrine of sensuality. Whatever can tantalize any one of the bodily senses is held up as the object of their love.
19. Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof - After looking at the record of the wicked life of such persons, it comes as somewhat of a shock that they would profess any religion at all. These people claim to be members of the church, but it is nothing but an outward appearance. The form of godliness is only maintained because of its advantage to them.
Paul said with people like this roaming the streets, the times are going to be perilous, grievous, or difficult. This word is a vivid term meaning, “harsh, hard to deal with or handle, fierce, painful, savage.” How do we talk with God in times like these? How do we rear our families? If alone, how do we maintain our purity? How can we stay balanced and determined to live for God in a world rapidly bound for hell? The apostle helps answer some of these basic questions.
Timothy was instructed to “continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and has been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them” (2 Tim. 3:14). He was not to continue in everything he had heard from every man he encountered -- he was only to continue in what he had been assured of! Timothy had learned the holy scriptures from a child (vs. 15) and these will make one “wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Knowing that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (vs. 16-17), Timothy was told to “Preach the word” (4:2).
In fact, Paul solemnly charged Timothy (and I believe us, too) in the presence of God and of Jesus Christ. Now if the Scriptures will make us wise unto salvation, will be profitable for doctrine, will make us perfect, and furnish us unto all good works--why would we want to preach anything but the Word?
It is too easy to shove aside the standard in difficult times. Almost by instinct, when we are in need we gather together the latest writings from the best men and women of our day and seem more concerned with what some sociologist or psychologist said about the matter than we are about what God has said about it.
We have to “be instant in season, out of season” (4:2). This means to be ready, be on hand, have an alert mind. If we don’t, it’s only a matter of time before we get sucked into the world system and we backslide. Don DeWelt made this observation in his commentary: “There is no reason when the Word is not to be preached. There are times when it does not seem at all convenient; there are times when men will mock it, ignore it, oppose it. There are other times when men will welcome the herald and his good news. Above and beyond all outward circumstances, the preacher has a message that must be told” (Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus, pg. 249).
The time to preach it is now. By tomorrow the preacher, hearer, or both, may be gone. The truth can never be out of season. It is always needed--in all places, in all our duties, temptations, and trials. The Word must be preached when it will be welcomed and when it will not be welcomed; when it will make us popular and when it will make us unpopular; when the people want it and when they don’t want it.
Each of us make a stand-- “reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and doctrine” (4:2). Taking a stand involves our saying, “I will do right, whether anybody else in my family, my neighborhood, or my church does right or not.” Sin must be brought home to the sinner’s consciousness in order that he may repent. The sin must not be toned down.
Why are we to do all of this? Why is so much time and space given to urge us to “Preach the Word”? Paul says the time will come when the Truth will be rejected and lies will be supported: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own Trusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (4:3-4). There is the development of an accommodating theology. Teachers will be found that will only say the things they want to hear. These preachers will be skilled in the art of “beating around the bush” so as not to expose sin. Many of them are skilled, too, in the art or rationalization and misinterpretation. So great is their hankering to have their ears tickled that they pile up teacher upon teacher. This reminds one of Jeremiah 5:31, “The prophets prophesy falsely… and my people love to have it so” and of Ezekiel 33:32, “And lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear thy words, but they do them not.” The people pictured here are more interested in something different, something sensational, that they are in sober truth.
Stability is the badge of the Christian in an unbalanced and often insecure world. If you are the individual who has determined that his life style will be in accordance with the Bible, then most likely you will find yourself in the minority. But doing it God’s way results in reward (Heb. 11:6). The world we’ve described needs many who will take a stand. God uses such ones as “salt” and a “light” in their communities. Don’t give up; don’t slow down. Stand for what is right and continue to “Preach the Word.”
Originally published in Today Magazine, September 1984, pg. 3-4