2 Timothy 4:2 “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.”
The word “preach” describes a very specific method for delivering the message. Let me try to illustrate what it says about the preacher’s task. If this matter of preaching were part of an earthly business, then your pastor would not be in management, making the decisions. He would not be in research and development, trying and creating new products. He would not really be in production, putting the product together, or even marketing, trying to make the product appealing. Your pastor would be the guy driving the UPS truck. He would simply be in delivery. You don’t want the delivery man manufacturing your product, or opening the package and messing with it. You want him to deliver it faithfully to your door.
What he delivers is the Word, the message. Paul give us an indication of its two parts. First, “Be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke.” Correct and rebuke are the law. It’s no one’s favorite part of the message, not even your pastor6. I knew a pastor who used to joke, “My people love the law, and I love to preach it to them,” but not when it’s made personal. Not when it is being used to rebuke us.
We need that law to rebuke us, though. We need it to break us down and expose our weak spots. We need to feel the pain. It’s a little like weight lifting. You have heard the fitness experts recite their creed, “No pain, no gain.” Unless our exercise is actually tearing our muscle fibers apart (within reason, of course), our bodies don’t go through the process of repairing and rebuilding them, which is how we get stronger. Unless the law gets a chance to tear us down where we have sinned, the gospel doesn’t come in and apply God’s grace: building our faith, repairing our life, and making us stronger.
The gospel is where the real strength lies. Paul brings it here, too. “Correct, rebuke, and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” I suppose that the word “encourage” doesn’t so much describe the gospel’s content as it describes its function: it comes along side of us like a friend to comfort us and hold us up and make us brave again.
What does the preacher say to make this happen? If you are feeling guilty about your sin, it’s about Jesus’ loving sacrifice at the cross. “If anyone does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense: Jesus Christ the Righteous One. And he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Or “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
If you are suffering for some reason, if you are under attack or live with some great need, it is about Jesus’ loving sacrifice at the cross. “What, then, shall we say in response to all this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
If you are looking for the power and motivation to live the Christian life, it is about Jesus’ loving sacrifice at the cross, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died, and he died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”
You get the idea. There are trendy and faddish things churches may do with their preaching. Not all of them are all bad. But as you consider your pastor’s task, remember what God has sent him to do: “Preach the Word…correct, rebuke, and encourage.” May God give you a man who faithfully delivers the message to your door.