by Michael Gilbert (part 2 in a series)
Among God’s children, gospel preaching is not as popular as it used to be. We’ve come a long way since the in-depth sermons of the pioneer preachers that really grew the church. Preachers no longer study as they once did, and Christians have a noticeably smaller spiritual appetite. This author believes the Lord’s church was stronger, more faithful when we actually looked forward to good biblical sermons – and we believe that preaching deserves a higher place in the hearts of both preachers and Christians than it currently occupies.
The section of Scripture that we are studying (2 Tm. 3:1 – 4:4) hinges on Paul’s command to “preach the word” (2 Tm. 4:2). He didn’t want Timothy to stop preaching or to change his message because of opposition. Paul was mindful of Timothy’s tears (2 Tm. 1:4) as he encouraged the preacher to “stir up the gift of God” (2 Tm. 1:6) that was in him. Timothy’s critics must have been playing havoc with his faith, else Paul would not have urged him to replace his “spirit of fear” with a spirit “of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). Paul knew that God’s Word was (and is) the need of humanity, so, he wrote Second Timothy to keep a preacher from giving up. He gave Timothy at least five reasons to continue preaching “the word” – let’s notice the first reason together.
Paul wrote, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Tm. 3:1). The Bible student understands that “the last days” mentioned in our text began in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1, 16-17). Timothy, then, was already preaching in the “last days“, and they will last until the Savior returns (1 Cor. 15:23-24). During these “last days“, the Lord’s church would face “perilous times” (i.e., ‘dangerous seasons, or epochs’ in the Greek; 2 Tim. 3:1) that would come and stay (“shall come”, in the Greek, carries the idea of ‘coming and staying’). During these dangerous, stressful, and trying periods, God would need faithful preachers like Timothy to “…hold fast the form of sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13).
To give you an idea of what these “stressful, difficult seasons” might be, some church history is in order. One of the first “stressful seasons” for the church involved Christians who began teaching gnosticism, which is basically the idea that Jesus did not come in the flesh. John wrote against this doctrine (1 Jn. 4:2-3). This doctrine distressed Christ’s church for many years. Another difficult time that burdened the church was when the saints opted for a hierarchy system of church government instead of the simple scriptural idea of local elders, deacons, and members (c. 100-150 AD). Obviously, this period came and it stayed – we still have the result of that departure evident in the Catholic church today. Early on, the family of God also faced the false doctrines of sacerdotalism and sacramentalism – which two ideas still plague us.
In more modern times, you might recall when the church began to fight against liberalism, anti-ism, rationalism, and emotionalism. During these “perilous times“, God’s word must be preached without compromise. Timothy, preach the Word!
Oh, how much we need to encourage our faithful preachers, Bible class teachers, home Bible study teachers! A big “thank you” is in order for those who work diligently to prepare for their Bible classes each week – for their work is perhaps the most vital of all to the life of a congregation! Teachers, as you labor diligently each week, remember two things: 1) your service of preaching & teaching God’s Word (and only His Word) is important and needed because of the “perilous times” we live in, and 2) we are praying for you!