2 Timothy 4:1-5 – The majesty of ministry


2 Timothy 4:1-5                                                                           Notes -Ray C. Stedman


We are now approaching the climax of the Apostle Paul’s second letter to Timothy. From the loneliness of his prison cell in Rome, and in view of his approaching martyrdom which he knows is coming, Paul addresses these solemn words to Timothy, who is far away in pagan Ephesus: 2 Timothy 4:1-4

1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (NIV)


Few texts describes more accurately the day in which we live.

In these words, the apostle is seeking to open Timothy’s eyes to the importance of what he is called to do. Paul flings back the boundaries of time and space to reveal to Timothy the unseen realities before whom every Christian lives and works:- 1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge Paul says.


There is nothing more helpful to us amid the pressures of life than to realise that what we are doing is a very important thing; yet it seems hard to understand our Christian faith in this way. Like Timothy, we see ourselves as a minority amidst a majority largely indifferent, unbelieving and sometimes some are just plain evil. Our voice seems to be a mere whisper in the tumult of chaos and the clamour of other voices. We can easily think that our daily Christian living is   almost insignificant, that we are contributing nothing to arrest the moral slide of our day, that we cannot speak with any impact at all against the voices of unbelief we hear on every side.


I am sure Timothy felt that way too. In his day there was an upsurge in evil and an increase in the voices that were denouncing faith and belief. Immorality was widespread in Ephesus; sexual perversions were accepted as an appropriate lifestyle in that city, just as they are in our day.


  1. Living in God’s Presence.


What the apostle does here is roll back the separation between the visible and invisible worlds and show us in whose presence we are living.

Paul reminds Timothy that he is living and labouring in the presence of God:

  • the Father, the Creator, the One who holds in his hands the life breath of every human being, the One who is Sovereign over all human events.
  • And that he carries on his ministry in the sight of Christ Jesus, the One who is to be the Judge of all men, before whom every human heart is exposed, the One before whom everyone, believer and unbeliever, must ultimately stand and give an account.


So Timothy carries on his ministry before the One who thoroughly understands all of human history.


Not only do we labour in the sight of the Father and the Son, but Paul, in other passages, has told us that believers are called the “theatre,” the “spectacle” of the universe. In 1 Corinthians 4 he speaks of himself in that way: “We are made a spectacle before the world, before angels and before men,” he says {cf, 1 Cor 4:9}. In Hebrews 12 the writer reminds us that we are surrounded by “a great cloud of witnesses,” {Heb 12:1}. In our limited, finite observation of life we often feel like we have been abandoned to labour alone, but we are not.

Furthermore, not only are we being observed and helped by these powerful forces for righteousness in the universe, but we are involved, as Timothy was, with the greatest program the world has ever known. Paul charges Timothy not only in the presence of God and of Christ, but “by his appearing and his kingdom.”


” appearing,” refers to the second coming of our Lord. – epiphania, (the English word epiphany). At his second coming Jesus will “judge of the living and the dead”[v.1]. But also refers to his first coming. In fact, it is used in that same way in 2 Timothy 1:10 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (NIV)

Paul is asking Timothy to look back to that first appearing of Jesus, who by his death and resurrection brought life and immortality through the gospel and thus began in that invisible, remarkable way to spread the kingdom of God on earth.

And also to look forward to the day when ALL people will give account to Christ as Judge of ALL the world. By his witness, Timothy is involved in the advance of that greatest of all tasks which God is doing in the world.


That sets things in the right perspective. When we live and work and talk as Christians, we live righteously and justly, we live lovingly and compassionately before man. When we involve ourselves in the hurts of others to speak a word of comfort and relief, and especially when we point men to the Saviour who can change their lives, we are involved in this greatest of all human endeavours, in a work that eclipses in significance and importance anything that has ever happened in human history.


I am trying to set forth for us what I have called, The Majesty of Ministry. We are doing an extremely significant thing. Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” {Matt 6:12, Luke 11:2 KJV}. When we are living, speaking and behaving as Christians should, that is what we are doing: We are answering that prayer, we are advancing the kingdom of God, we are causing the will of God to be done on earth as it is done in heaven. There is no higher calling.


ILLUS.: In John Pollock’s biography of Billy Graham there is recorded an incident which occurred when Lyndon Johnson was elected President of the USA. The President asked Billy, with whom he had been friends for years, what particular position he would like to have in his administration. Without a moment’s thought Billy said to him, “Sir, I believe that Jesus Christ has called me to preach his gospel. To me that is the highest calling any man could have on earth.” That was an appropriate response.


Billy Graham has turned aside from many such invitations so that he might maintain the calling to which God has called him. But we must not think of him as being unique in that regard — every one of us is called to the task of proclaiming the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.


  1. Proclaiming the Word of God.


2 Timothy 4:2 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction.


“preach the word,” doesn’t apply to preachers only, as if this can only be done in church, on a platform, or behind a pulpit.

This is not addressed to preachers only. It includes all the people of God, for it does not merely mean to “preach” as we tend to use word – i.e. from a professional preacher in a pulpit — the word is really, “announce, proclaim, set it forth, deliver the truth, make it known.” This can be done over a cup of coffee, in an office, or in a car while you are driving to work. It is something that can come up any place, anytime. Where human hearts are open, seeking, longing and hurting, there is the place, there is the opportunity to “preach the word.”


“Proclaim the good news,” Paul says — and it is good news. It is not news of what we have to do for God – that is not the gospel – The gospel is the story of what God has already done for us. That is what ministers to the aching heart. The gospel is the news that God loves us, he pities us, he sees us in our hurt, our agony, our failure and our weakness. The gospel is that he sees us in our strutting boldness and pride and still he loves us. And he has already done something about it — through the death and the resurrection of Jesus, in that amazing series of events that came through the appearing of Jesus on earth, he broke the stranglehold of evil upon human hearts — he found a way to set aside his own just sentence of death. Through those who open their hearts to the Saviour, he has found a way not only to die for us, but to come and live in us, and start the process of renewing us, remaking us, and restoring us to our lost inheritance. That is the word we are to proclaim. That is the answer we Christians have to the increasingly obvious hurt and heartache of human need all around. It is the most effective thing we can do in our day.


“Proclaim the truth; preach the word.” Then he tells Timothy, & us, how to do it:


2.1. Urgently

…; be prepared in season and out of season; … “Be urgent …,”

Urgency means to do it with passion, with a deep belief in our own hearts that this is what is needed.

Do not just come to somebody whose life is falling apart, and say, “By the way, I’ve got something that might help you. Let me see if I can remember it. It’s to do with Jesus and the gospel.” No, that leaves no impression at all. Rather come with a deep sense of commitment and belief yourself and say, “Let me share with you something that has meant everything to me.” This presupposes that we are convinced and passionate about Jesus and his gospel.


“in season and out of season.” Some have taken it to mean that you are to push the gospel on people whether they want it or not — like the Boy Scout who helped the woman across the street even though she did not want to go. Some Christians take this passage to mean they have the right to impose a witness upon people whether they are ready to hear it or not. But, as John R. W. Stott has wisely said at this point, “This is not a biblical warrant for rudeness, but a biblical appeal against laziness.”

It is directed at the Christian speaking NOT the person listening. Do it whether you feel like doing it or not. Always be ready to proclaim the Word. There is nothing else that can set human hearts free. That is why this is central and why, amidst all the other implications and exhortations of Scripture, the apostle singles this one thing out and says to Timothy, “In the light of the presence of God and the significance of the work you are doing, this is the one thing you must not neglect: Proclaim the word of God.”


2.1. Relevantly.

Then do it, Paul says, with a variety of approaches. Notice how helpful and practical this is. “..correct [convince], rebuke and encourage [exhort]..

It is rather interesting that those words reflect three different approaches that we can use in announcing the gospel.

“Convince” is a word addressed to the mind — argue, reason, set it forth in a systematic, reasonable way, answering questions, [and questioning answers] removing obstacles.

That intellectual approach is perfectly suitable because many people have doubts that need to be answered.

We need to know what we believe and why. It is a reasonable, logical explanation of what is going on in the world, for why men act the way they do.


But also there may be some who will need “rebuke.” That contemplates someone who has fallen into sin, someone who needs a word that will appeal to the conscience because of sin which is destroying him or her and hurting others, sin which is demolishing, depersonalising and dehumanising those involved in it. Sometimes it is necessary to speak a word that points out the evil effects of wrongdoing, a word that seeks to address the conscience to turn away from this so that it no longer spreads evil among humanity. When you do that you are proclaiming the gospel.


Then there are some who need “exhortation,” encouragement; they need their wills challenged and encouraged to act. Many people are fearful to try something new, fearful to believe something that they cannot prove. Here is where the approach of encouragement comes in, exhorting them and encouraging them to set aside their fears and believe the truth of the gospel. We are to involve ourselves in all of these helpful approaches.


2.3. Patiently and intelligently


“be unfailing in patience and in teaching” — patiently keep on teaching. I believe this indicates that Christians ought to beware of pressure tactics that seek to make people act or say they believe when they are not yet really convinced. Many evangelists and others, unfortunately, have resorted to psychological tricks and gimmicks, pressure tactics to get people to come forward and commit themselves in an emotional movement or mood that does not represent a real commitment of the heart. That is not a part of the gospel approach – we are not to employ pressure tactics to get people to move.


Nor are we to abandon those who are slow in responding, – we are to keep on explaining; answering questions, clarifying, applying the gospel to specific situations. All of that is the work of teaching.


Notice the text begins and ends with an admonition to “Proclaim the truth.” State it first, announce it, herald it, proclaim it; and then explain it, teach it, break it down, make it clear.




  1. The Context of Proclaiming the Word.


The opening words of Chapter 3 describe the condition of some., “Men will be lovers of self, lovers of money … lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power thereof,” {cf, 2 Tim 3:2-5}.


He picks this up again here – At its base is a dislike of the truth:

2 Timothy 4:3-4 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (NIV)

Surely that is descriptive of our own day. It indicates a time when the general population will forsake what is commonly called ‘a Christian consensus,’ an undergirding of the institutions of social life by Christian principles, and substitute others.

This is the time in which we live: “They will not put up with sound teaching.” Sound teaching is that which leads to health and wholeness of spirit, soul and body, teaching that permits human beings to live at peace, to develop themselves and enjoy their lives. But, Paul says, men and women will turn away from that and refuse to hear it.


WHY? … because truth requires the admission of human weakness, which people do not like to admit; the restraint of passions, which they do not like to do; and submission to the authority of God and other authorities under him, which they dislike and reject. They turn away from the truth, as this indicates; they will not even give it a hearing. It is not that they will listen to the truth and then decide whether it is right or wrong; no, they do not even want to hear it. They do not want you to say anything in this direction, and they resist, sometimes openly, sometimes with subtle influences, every attempt to introduce the truth into any kind of social or governmental situation.


Then, since they will not listen to teachers of truth, as the apostle says, they will look for others who will teach them what they want to hear. There is a disease, widespread in our day, called “itching ear disease,” which Paul mentions here. This is an ear that wants to hear a particular line of things, an ear that wants to be entertained, that is always looking for something new, an ear that wants constant affirmation and does not want to hear anything negative or contradictory. People who have this disease look for teachers who will scratch that itch; and the result is that they “wander into myths.”


What do these teachers, which such people accumulate in great numbers, teach? They cannot teach the truth because the truth is unacceptable, so they teach attractive lies, fantasies for the most part, speculative philosophies that emerge from the minds of men.

There are many of these myths abroad today. I do not know all the myths that were taught in Timothy’s day, but these errors appear again and again in the course of human history.


Take the myth of reincarnation. –you can come back to earth to live another life, and then die and come back to earth again. That is the myth that says, “If at first you don’t succeed, die, die again!” Reincarnation directly contradicts the evidence of revelation. It is diametrically opposite to the biblical teaching of the resurrection of the body and then the judgement


Take the myth of evolution. In the last century, by and large, this myth began to take over the scientific world, again without a shred of empirical evidence to support it. Any attempt to try to set forth anything to the contrary is met with ridicule and mockery, put down as though those who hold any other view are village idiots, incapable of reasoning with intelligent men. I am not talking about changes in creation BUT a theory that ALL the universe just happened.

By believing the theory of evolution one can deny cretion and a creator, deny the Fall of Mankind THEN there is no need for any redemptive act on the part of God. Why should we need to be redeemed if we have never fallen? That is the theology of the lie of evolution.

Take the lie of human autonomy, which we hear on every side today. We hear that man is the measure of all things; man is the ultimate intelligence in the universe; our destiny is in our own hands; we can and must work out all our own problems; there is nothing more out there. Reflected almost every time you turn on the television, pick up a newspaper or read a magazine is this underlying assumption that man is the measure of all things.


On and on we could go

  • the myth that science has all the answers!!
  • The myth that my sexual orientation and practice is entirely my choice and is no business of anyone else – that it has not effect on society at large.
  • The myth that says the stars determine what happens to me


The Paradox of our Time

The paradox of our time in history is that

we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers;

wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints;

we spend more, but have less;

we buy more, but enjoy it less.

We have bigger houses, but smaller families;

more conveniences, but less time;

we have more degrees, but less sense;

more knowledge, but less judgement;

more experts, but more problems;

more medicine, but less wellness.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.

We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life;

we’ve added years to life, but not life to years.

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbour.

We’ve conquered outer space, but not inner space;

we’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul;

we’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice.

We have higher incomes, but lower morals;

we’ve become long on quantity, but short on quality.

These are the times of tall men and short character;

steep profits and shallow relationships.

These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare;

more leisure, but less fun;

more kinds of food, but less nutrition.

These are the days of two incomes, but more divorce;

of fancier houses, but broken homes.

It is a time when there is much in the show window and nothing in the stockroom;

a time when technology can bring this letter to you,

and a time when you can choose either to make a difference or just hit DELETE.

  • Kindest regards> Sheryl Ozinsky > CAPE TOWN TOURISM


What is the answer? – to condemn? Protest? Rant and rave? We want to seize hold of these things and smash them. But that is not what the Word of God says will work. The apostle reminds us that the most effective thing is, preach the word, announce the truth, tell of reality, make it clear, spread the word.


You and I are called to advance that work. Do not let anybody tell you that your life as a Christian does not count. It counts tremendously. It is the most significant thing taking place on this earth today, far and away above any international program, act of Parliament.

Glory in what God has called you to do, and be faithful to his command:


ILLUS.: Lloyd George, British prime minister during World War I, said, “When the chariot of humanity gets stuck … nothing will lift it out except great preaching that goes straight to the mind and heart. There is nothing in this case that will save the world but what was once called, the foolishness of preaching.” Men may not appreciate the ministry of the preacher and his divine imperative to preach the Word, but it is a high calling, one of the world’s most needed occupations.



2 Timothy 4v1-5


  1. Living in God’s presence


²   In the presence of God…

  • … and Christ Jesus (in view of his

Judgement, his comings, his kingdom)



  1. Proclaiming the Word of God


²   Urgently

  • Relevantly
  • Patiently and Intelligently



  1. The context of proclaiming the Word.


  • Selfish desires
  • Itching-ear disease

²   Myths












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