Preaching the Word
Bible Reading: 2 Timothy 4:1-5
Set in the early 1900s, the movie Pollyanna tells the story of a 12-year-old orphaned girl who is brought into the care of her Aunt Polly Harrington. Things are not okay in the embattled community of Harrington, as Pollyanna’s wealthy aunt runs everything in the town, including the Reverend. Reverend Ford has a problem. Each week dire Aunt Polly feeds him with ideas for his upcoming Sunday message. Her perspective is that he’s only got an hour on Sunday to persuade the people to not sin through the rest of the week. His wrathful messages are as dire as Aunt Polly’s attitude and the people go home from church with sour stomachs.
Pollyanna is buoyantly optimistic, so much so that her name birthed a word. According to the dictionary, to be pollyannish is “to be unrealistically optimistic.” Ultimately, Pollyanna comes to the Reverend’s rescue, encouraging him with her father’s perspective, whereby he’d look for the good in people. She points him to the happy texts found in the Bible. His preaching changes and everyone is made happy.
The problem for the fictional Reverend Ford is that he wasn’t to be answering to either Aunt Polly or to Pollyanna. Paul’s charge to Timothy to preach the word was “in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead” (2 Timothy 4:1). The preacher of the Word is accountable to none other than God Himself. His charge is a solemn privilege. His chief concern is to be found faithful (1 Corinthians 4:1-4). According to Paul’s own example, he is to preach “the whole counsel” of God (Acts 20:27), and preeminently “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2).
Kenneth Wuest paraphrases the preacher’s responsibility this way: “make a public proclamation of the Word with such formality, gravity, and authority as must be heeded. Hold yourself in readiness for this proclamation when opportunity presents itself and when it does not; reprove so as to bring forth conviction and confession of guilt; rebuke sharply, severely, and with a suggestion of impending penalty. Pleadingly exhort, doing all this with that utmost self-restraint which does not hastily retaliate a wrong, and accompany this exhortation with the most painstaking instruction.”
The congregation has its own responsibility. Their task is to listen. As we have previously noted, listening is no simple thing. There is a spiritual aspect to the matter that it sometimes overlooked. The same Spirit that indwells the preacher indwells the listener. Preacher and listener both possess the Word. Assuming the sermon to be Biblically well-founded, the listener needs to prayerfully engage himself. He needs to listen with “ears to hear” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).
We are warned here of a time that was to come in which “people will not endure sound teaching” (2 Timothy 4:3). Who are these folks spoken of here? They cannot be unbelievers since an unbeliever is by definition one who does not accept the truth. It’s speaking instead of those making a profession of faith. We live in such a time! The “big” church has been characterized in recent decades by its turning from sound teaching in preference to that which will “suit their own passions” (2 Timothy 4:3; Isaiah 30:10). Make note of this. You’ve a preacher who is careful in his exposition of the Word—praise God for Him; pray for Him! You’ve got a desire to hear the Word preached accurately and clearly—praise God for that too; and pray that God might protect that in you and use your example to encourage others!
“Christian preaching is the event of God bringing to a congregation a Bible-based, Christ-related life-impacting message of instruction and direction from Himself through the words of a spokesman.”J. I. Packer
SPEAK, O LORD
Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of Your Holy Word
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith
Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us
All Your purposes for Your glory
Teach us Lord, full obedience
Holy reverence, true humility
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
In the radiance of Your purity
Cause our faith to rise, cause our eyes to see
Your majestic love and authority
Words of pow’r that can never fail
Let their truth prevail over unbelief
Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
That will echo down through eternity
And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises
And by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us
Speak, O Lord, till Your church is built
And the earth is filled with Your glory
Songwriters: Keith Getty / Stuart Townend
Speak, O Lord lyrics © Thank You Music Ltd.