“Preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2). So charges the Apostle Paul to his pastor-like delegate, Timothy. No other duty of the pastor is as solemnly and yet so succinctly stated. While 1 Timothy 5:21 and 2 Timothy 2:14 come close in the gravity of their charge, however, “preach the word,” in its context, is unequaled in both its wording and its placement:
- It stands as the most critical duty in the final section of the body of Paul’s letter which addresses how to face and stay faithful in these difficult last days (2 Timothy 3:1-4:8).
- It occurs as first in the climactic charge of this final section (2 Timothy 4:1-8).
- It’s preceded by a solemn charge as though being sworn into duty before the imminently coming Judge and King to whom we will have to give an account (2 Timothy 4:1).
- It’s followed by a sobering anticipation of the duty’s unpopularity and thus its urgency and the need for perseverance (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
- It constitutes Paul’s final pastoral charge just before his martyrdom (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
No other pastoral duty is as critically framed and therefore as critical to be clear about and carry out. However, let not the brevity and terseness of “preach the word” lead us to any hasty conclusion that just about any sermon that cites Scripture fulfills this sacred commission. In fact, within in its context and with careful attention to its wording, it has and still stands as a much needed clarifier and corrective to the pulpit ministry of every local church.
In upcoming blog posts, we will unpack key aspects of this solemn pastoral duty and observe why such a responsibility warrants focused and specialised training toward that end. Part 2 in this series is here.