Preach the Word: The Antidote to False Doctrine–Part 3 Charge and Command

So far, I talked about the context of Paul’s call to action for Timothy and every pastor:  “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2) and the crisis mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:3-4.  This week, our focus is the charge and command stated in 2 Timothy 4:1-2.

The Charge

In 2 Timothy 4:1, Paul tells Timothy: “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom” (NASB).

Here, the phrase “solemnly charge” is language associated with a legal proceeding or courtroom trial.  It carries with it the weight of two concepts:  holiness and accountability.  Paul’s saying, Timothy, I want you to take pastoring and preaching seriously.  It’s not a joke, it’s not a side gig, it’s not an extracurricular activity, and it’s certainly not an afterthought.  And just to make sure you understand that God’s business is serious business, let me remind you that God and Christ Jesus are not only my witnesses but are your witnesses, too.


James echoes a similar point:  “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly’ (James 3:1). “


Peter Williams says this about Timothy and all ministers, especially pastors: 

“[They] carry out their ministry under the very eye of God. Moreover, when Christ returns to this earth to establish his eternal kingdom, and to judge the living and the dead, pastors and all other servants of God will have to give an account. Such a thought must surely act as a great incentive to all pastors to take their calling very seriously. They must not be so concerned to please their congregations, or be influenced by the criticism or praise of others to the extent that they forget that they are accountable to God in Christ.”  1

Paul  commands Timothy to do the following:  “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season;  reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Notice how this verse includes five imperative commands.  Grammatically, imperatives or commands have several characteristics.  First, the implied subject of a sentence is “you” which can be either a simple or plural subject.  On the one hand, the subject of this verse is “You” or Timothy.  Paul’s saying Timothy, I’m commanding you to do these things.   But in a greater sense, the subject is not in the person of Timothy but rather the Person of Christ and Him crucified.    Here’s why.


The imperative commands carry the authority of the one speaking compared to the compliance of the one listening. Paul commands Timothy to do five things:  preach, be ready, reprove, rebuke, and exhort.  Each command carries unique practical application today.

  • “Preach:”  read and preach from the words found in the inspired Word of God exactly as they’re written; don’t trivialize the Bible.
  • “Be ready:”  preach regardless of convenience; it’s about commitment to the Bible’s authority, clarity, and truth regardless of whether you feel like it.
  • “Reprove:”  be aware of, identify, and expose sin as God does but do so in a way that demonstrates a genuine desire to reconcile people to God.
  • “Rebuke:”   call out sin;  Don’t normalize it or sugar coat it;  Call sin, sin and don’t engage in intellectual and hypothetical conversations about the nuances/shades of sin.  What is sin?  Sin is sin.
  • “Exhort:”  encourage and commend righteous living; don’t just focus on what’s wrong, point out what’s right and what’s righteous.  In other words, live out principles found in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for  training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (ESV).

A puritan preacher, Richard Baxter, put it this way: “Let the people see that you are in good earnest.… You cannot break men’s hearts by jesting with them, or telling them a smooth tale, or patching up a gaudy oration. Men will not cast away their dearest pleasures upon a drowsy request of one that seemeth not to mean as he speaks, or to care much whether his request be granted.”  2


In an upcoming blog, I will talk about the Cure and Conclusion regarding false doctrine.

Williams, Peter. Opening Up 2 Timothy. Leominster: Day One Publications, 2007.  Digital.
Williams, Peter. Opening Up 2 Timothy. Leominster: Day One Publications, 2007.  Digital.

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