Preach the Word: The Antidote to False Doctrine Part 4–the Cure Against False Doctrine

In previous blogs, I’ve addressed the context, crisis, charge, and command against false doctrine.  Now let’s take a look at the cure stated in 2 Timothy 4:5 by Paul to his mentee, Timothy:  “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (NASB).

The word “but” is a conjunction that serves as a sharp contrast to what has been said before. Steven Lawson reminds us of the observation of the great Bible Expositor, Martin Lloyd-Jones:  “Praise God for the buts in the Bible.”  1

I’m reminded of several “but” examples including Romans 3:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” and 2 Peter 1:16  “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty“ (emphasis added). 
To what then does this “But” in 2 Timothy 4:5 refer?  In short, Paul points out the contrast between the crisis of false doctrine in verses 3 and 4 and the cure or the antidote in this verse.   Let’s look at several key words that help unpack Paul’s admonitions.

Be sober in all things

While some point to this phrase in relation to abstaining from wine, this doesn’t fit the context of this chapter.  It’s more accurate to view this as Paul’s advice for Timothy to remain level-headed while encountering and addressing false doctrine.  Timothy’s understandable righteous indignation must be seasoned with love and reason.  This is an important lesson that’s true today.

Endure hardship

Although salvation is “free” in the sense that it can’t be purchased through monetary means, it does “cost” believers in terms of hardship.  Both 2 Timothy 1:7-9 and Ephesians 6:10-17 reveal how we should prepare for spiritual opposition and warfare.  Christian living demands Holy help in an unholy world.

Do the work of an evangelist

Here, Paul reminds Timothy of the call of every believer, but pastors specifically, to evangelism.  The Greek word euangelistēs refers to a “proclaimer of the gospel” also referenced in Acts 21:8 and Ephesians 4:11.  2 The lesson is clear:  conviction must be matched with actions.  Timothy is reminded that proclaiming the Gospel is an essential cure for false doctrine. As James 1:22 reads, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”

Fulfill your ministry

I recently heard a Christian comedian talk about believers who like to add the word “ministry” to legitimize their personal and sometimes dogmatic approaches to church work.  For example, “I have a ‘tissue ministry.”  
For Paul, ministry is no laughing matter because it speaks to the God-ordained office of an evangelist.   In this sense, a pastor’s evangelism and ministry are interconnected.  Robert Utley contends:  “Gospel ministry without evangelism is not a full ministry (cf. Col. 4:17). Evangelism is the heart of God, the purpose of Christ’s sacrifice, and the primary task of the Spirit.” 3  Peter Williams puts it this way:  “Ministry is hard, painstaking work, and God requires his servants, in the first instance, not to be ‘successful’, but to be faithful. The success or otherwise can be safely left in his hands.” 4

In summary, Paul’s language involves imperative commands and not options for Timothy.  This makes clear to us that false doctrine and the disease of spiritual atrophy must be addressed head on.

We’ll conclude this blog series next week.
Lawson, Steven.  The Heart Of The Epistle- Romans 3:21-26.  Onepassion Ministries. Digital.
2  Swanson, James. Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) 1997:  Digital.
3  Utley, Robert James. Paul’s Fourth Missionary Journey: I Timothy, Titus, II Timothy. Volume 9. Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International, 2000. Print. Study Guide Commentary Series.
4  Williams, Peter. Opening up 2 Timothy. Leominster: Day One Publications, 2007. Opening Up Commentary.  Digital.

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