20 “O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge— 21 by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith. Grace be with you. Amen.” (1 Timothy 6:20–21, NKJV)
Timothy was Paul’s “true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). Paul charged this young evangelist with guarding the gospel that had been committed to his trust. Timothy would accomplish his task by turning away from base, empty chatter that contradicted the sound words of Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:3-5). This charge continues to ring true. We must distinguish between teachings that are “falsely called knowledge, and what is actually “the faith” (the gospel of Christ). God’s word is a symphony of harmonious truth, not a discordant accumulation of opinions and human wisdom that passes for knowledge. Therefore, God’s preacher must preach God’s word, not the speculations, opinions, and traditions of men that lead souls away from the faith. What message is being preached by the preacher to whom you listen; the faith, or that which contradicts the Bible? It matters. Following the faith keeps you in God’s grace. Following contradictions of God’s word leads you astray from the faith, putting your soul in peril.
15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:15–18, NKJV)
Some people preach the gospel from evil motives. Others preach the gospel from godly motives. Paul made this observation while imprisoned in Rome for Christ’s sake (Phil. 1:13). Some were preaching Christ out of envy for the apostle, attempting to foment strife against him. Driven by selfish ambition, they pretended affection for the cause of Christ. But, they only loved themselves. Their insincerity became obvious, as they aimed to harm the apostle, not help him in his bonds. Others were preaching Christ out of goodwill and love, knowing the apostle was determined to defend the gospel. Amazingly, Paul rejoiced that the gospel was being preached, even though some preachers’ motives were evil. He did not seek personal vindication, he sought the progress of the gospel and the salvation of souls. Even if a gospel teacher’s motives are shown to be evil, rejoice in the truth he has taught. And, do not blame the truth when men, including preachers, sin against it. One man’s sin against the truth is not your license to reject the truth.
But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:5, NKJV)
What is the work of a preacher? Is he a socialite who plans and provides the social events for the church? No, that is not the Bible description of his work. Is he the liaison between the church and the community, always expected to be seen at community events to represent the congregation? No, such a work is foreign to the pages of inspiration. Is he the pastor of the congregation? Not unless he joins equally qualified men as elders of the flock, since these are the shepherds of the flock (1 Tim. 3:1-7; 1 Pet. 5:2). His work is to preach the word (2 Tim. 4:2). He is a messenger of the gospel, the “sound doctrine” of Christ (2 Tim. 4:3). He does his work with a godly manner (reprove, rebuke and exhort with longsuffering and teaching) and with godly urgency (“in season and out of season”). He is a watchman (“be watchful”), and he is a servant (“ministry”). He must bear up under pressures that minimize and reject the gospel he preaches. Is this the work your preacher is doing? If so, encourage him, and help him fulfill his ministry.
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. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:2–5, NKJV)
The Bible tells us the kind of preacher every preacher is commanded to be, and therefore, the kind of preacher we all should want. Do you want a preacher who boldly preaches the whole counsel of God? Do you want a preacher whose goal is to leave you feeling good about yourself instead of warning you of the spiritual danger of personal sin? Do you want a preacher to scratch your itching ear (by preaching what you want to hear instead of what you need to hear)? Do you want a gospel preacher like Timothy, who is watchful, persevering and fulfills his ministry? Or, do you want a preacher who comforts you with the fables of error? Does your preacher “do the work of an evangelist”? These are crucial questions for everyone who is interested in the word of God, including preachers.
25 And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:25–27, NKJV)
We learn many valuable lessons from Paul about what it means to be a gospel preacher. (Many of which do not conform to the modern concept of the preacher.) This passage teaches us what Paul preached, how he preached it and his moral responsibility before God. Is your preacher preaching “the kingdom of God” like Paul did? When Paul preached “the gospel of the grace of God” he did so by preaching the kingdom of God, the counsel of God and the church of God (vss. 24, 25, 27, 28). He preached a present kingdom, composed of those delivered from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s Son (Col. 1:13). When Paul preached he accepted its weight of moral responsibility. He would be guilty of the blood of sinners if he preached error or if he did not fully preach the gospel (cf. Ezek. 3:17-21). My preacher friend, never forget that your work points immortal souls toward eternity. Preaching is not about you; it is about the Lord, the lost and the Lord’s little ones. Boldly preach all of God’s word; hold back nothing that is needed for the lost to be saved and for the saved to be safe (vss. 28-32). This is your work as an evangelist. Do it well.
26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. (Acts 20:26–27, NKJV)
God holds preachers responsible for what they preach – and for what they do not preach. The apostle Paul was innocent of contributing to the sins of others because he was bold to declare to them all of God’s plans and intentions. He did not hold back anything through fear or favor of men. He did not hesitate or avoid announcing the messages his audiences needed to hear. Does your preacher declare “the whole counsel of God”? Or, does he refuse to address certain Bible subjects? Furthermore, do you want to hear everything God’s word teaches, even when it rebukes you of sin? Or, are there some Bible subjects you do not want the preacher to preach? Insist upon preaching that proclaims the whole counsel of God. Your soul, and the soul do your preacher, rests in the balance.