“preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2, ESV)
Preaching the gospel ought to include personal applications. After all, its purpose is to convict hearts of sin and convert souls to the Savior. That’s hard to do without getting personal. Nathan got personal when he exposed David’s adultery with, “You are the man!” (2 Sam. 12:7). Peter certainly got personal when he preached, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Yet, there is a lot of “no application” preaching these days. A well-known preacher (Joel Osteen) will not use the word “sin” when he preaches. (He is not preaching the gospel of Christ.) Others refuse to make personal applications that identify sinners with their sins like Paul did when he named Hymenaeus, Alexander, and Philetus and their error (1 Tim. 1:18-20; 2 Tim. 2:16-18). Some think a good sermon is one that flies over their heads and hits their neighbor between the eyes! No, a good sermon will cut us to the heart (Acts 2:37). We must preach the applications of God’s word or our preaching does not profit the listeners (Acts 20:20). Application-less preaching fails to declare “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). When gospel preachers preach there will be personal applications that “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” (2 Tim. 4:2). Listen for the personal application of truth in your life. Oh yes, gospel preaching gets personal!
“holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” (Titus 1:9, NKJV)
In today’s verse, the bishop (overseer or elder, Titus 1:5, 7) is charged with having unwavering devotion to the word of God he has learned. While several reasons for why he must be “holding fast the faithful word” may be cited from other passages of Scripture, Paul gives a defining reason here which explains part of his work as a bishop. His steadfast devotion to the word of God enables him to use its sound teaching to exhort and to convict those whose lives and teachings are contrary to divine truth. To exhort means to implore a person, to call near, to beseech (Strong’s). To convict means to “convince, tell a fault, rebuke, reprove” (Ibid). The overseer does not demand or force “gainsayers” (KJV) to stop their rebellion because of his position as overseer or because of the force of his personal character. Their rebellion is against the truth. Therefore, he uses the force and power of the “sound doctrine” of the “faithful word” to exhort and to convict those who contradict (defiantly reject) the will of God. Undoubtedly, this work of an overseer is meant to build our faith upon the word of God and not upon the force of the will, wisdom, or personality of the overseer.
2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Timothy 4:2–4, NKJV)
A Christian friend shared the following sign with me: “Too much sugar preaching leads to truth decay.” I like that. Just as we are drawn to the sugary high of candy (that leaves us without nutrition, and eventually with cavities), we can be lured away from sound doctrine by feel-good preaching (that fails to nourish our souls with truth, as it leaves spiritual decay of error in its wake). Do you “endure” (allow, bear with) sound doctrine, or have you replaced it with the soothing scratch of your itching ears? We must not become intolerant of Bible preaching that convinces, rebukes and exhorts. Preach me the word, because its truth convinces me of Christ, of my sin, and of His way of salvation. Preach me the word, because its truth rebukes my error, and does not comfort me in sin. Preach me the word, because its truth exhorts me to bear the image of Christ, to live by faith in holiness and righteousness of truth. The word is not always easy to accept, but it is exactly what we must hear, receive, and hold fast to be fruitful and blessed in the Lord (Lk. 8:15).
And I appeal to you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation, for I have written to you in few words. (Hebrews 13:22, NKJV)
This inspired writer was concerned about how his readers would receive his words. Although brief, his letter had been written as a message of exhortation to give comfort, to console and to entreat his fellow Christians to be vigilant in their faith. The writer wanted them to agree with his word of exhortation and be compelled by it (not merely tolerate it). When we exhort others, we must do so from the word of God, with a clear goal in mind. Our aim ought to be instruction and persuasion intended to bring about righteous, holy conduct. Perhaps the exhortation we wish to give another is a warning against some spiritual danger. In that case, our goal is to rescue and save the lost (Jas. 5:19-20). When we find ourselves on the receiving end of exhortations, let us receive them and conform ourselves to the truth they contain. Exhortation s given in truth and love encourage us to do better, to be better. We all need that. So, be an exhorter. And, be ready and eager to accept the word of exhortation when it is given to you.