2 Timothy 4:1-5 The goal of evangelism is to transform people’s attitudes through the power of Christ

2 Timothy 4:1-5 The goal of evangelism is to transform people’s attitudes through the power of Christ

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Background

Paul, having warned Timothy of the difficult times and the judgment to come, charges Timothy to preach the word and save as many as he can. For there will come a time when none will listen to the truth. The goal of evangelism is not to convert, but to transform people’s attitudes through the power of Christ.

Observation

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

In the light of Jesus’s imminent return as Judge, Paul charges Timothy to preach the word with urgency. “Be ready in season and out of season” means in all circumstances; timely or untimely, convenient or inconvenient. Put it simply, Timothy is to preach regardless of the receptiveness of the audience. What should Timothy do?

Reprove – To scrutinise a person’s life in order to help him recognise his shortcomings.

Rebuke – To express strong disapproval, to give a serious warning to someone.

Exhort – (parakaleo in greek) connotes encouragement while coming along side the hearer.

How should Timothy preach the word? In all patience and instructions. In all patience: to preach the full counsel of God despite rejections and persecutions. Instructions: to communicate the truth clearly while exposing the wrongdoings.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.

The aim is to preach sound doctrine while their ears are still open. Sound doctrine refers to teachings that concern conduct, purpose, faith, patience love, and perseverance that leads to salvation (see v3:10). Unsound doctrines are worldly and empty chatter that leads to ungodliness (see v2:16); that which pander to fleshly desires. Sound doctrine does not pertain only to the identity of Christ or the work of the cross, but also the principles that Christ espoused. Put it simply, sound doctrine encourages and strengthens the hearer on the journey towards divine perfection. Unsound doctrine pander to one’s greed, lust and pride with the promise of perpetual exoneration through superficial knowledge and religious rituals. Paul warned that many will gravitate to teachers whose messages resonate with their fleshly desires. They will no longer read the bible for themselves preferring worldly and empty chatter. Even if they do read the word, they could not understand it because their spirit has turned aside to falsehood (myths). They could not accept the truth that one has to fully devote himself to the path of righteousness in order to be saved. Truths are centred around Christ, while myths are centred around the self.

But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

In the light of Jesus’s imminent return and the apostasy of the church, Paul charges Timothy to be sober in all things. Sobriety ensures a merciful and wise response under all circumstances. A sober person is never hasty or overcome by anger but is peaceable and true. He is quick to listen and slow to speak. His words are like apples of gold in settings of silver. That said, sobriety begins with self-awareness of one’s spiritual and mental state. He only acts when he is at peace with God and with others.

Timothy is to endure hardship by staying the course of evangelism. Evangelism is more than just making known the love and forgiveness of Christ or the existence of God. It is the call to walk in righteousness, to love God with all your heart and to love others as yourself. For God judges not the appearance of godliness but the heart and the works that flow from it. And Timothy is to fulfill God’s call of evangelising both the church and the world without letting hardship stand in his way.

Truth

The goal of evangelism is to transform people’s attitudes through the power of Christ

The goal of evangelism is to transform the society to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God (see Micah 6:8). Evangelists transform the way people live by the power of Christ. In view of the imminent judgment to come, all the more, people must be taught how they should live. Therefore, the goal is to transform them, as opposed to converting them. And the power of Christ’s blood frees them to live righteously. Hence, it is pertinent that the evangelist communicates truths for living both thoroughly, clearly and patiently. Paul charges Timothy to take hold of every opportunity to reprove, rebuke, and exhort. Indeed, God has given the task of evangelism and discipleship to every believer (see Matthew 28:18-20). However, evangelism is a tall order for many because it involves correcting and exposing people’s sins. People do not like to hear about their shortcomings, neither do they want to play the part in surfacing another’s shortcomings. Hence, most believers prefer to preach about divine forgiveness but avoid the unpleasant task of exposing another’s sin. That said, people can come to acknowledge God and repent when they see the believer’s good works. Jesus said,

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Therefore, the most effective way to evangelise the world is to live out the Christ in both our preaching and living. Be careful how you live, you may be the only bible they read. In fact, Christ did not just preach kindness and forgiveness, He lived it. He did not just preach righteousness, He gave His life defending it. Christ did not just preach about miracles and power, He moved in them.

Churches that preach forgiveness without dealing with sin unwittingly raise up persecutors.

In recent decades, churches have seen numerous conversions, but meager transformations. As a result, the church has been experiencing unprecedented persecutions from within. Churches, in wanting to grow in size and in wealth unwittingly attract people drawn by blessings as opposed to godliness. Such have over time hardened their hearts to the truth. Paul said, “they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”

And as these make their way into the church, they persecute the righteous and derail the gospel work. And ministers who preach godliness are replaced by those who preach a prosperity gospel. It is regrettable that in the name of church growth, many churches no longer tolerate sound doctrine preferring doctrines that appeal to the masses. Such churches are usually plagued by worldliness, sexual sins and internal strife.

Therefore, evangelists and church leaders must make transformation the goal of their ministry, not conversion. Baptising new “converts” hastily without careful scrutiny is not advisable. And it must be made known that baptism is only as good as the transformation inside. Over the years, these aberrant members will infiltrate the inner circles of leadership to persecute the righteous. Unfortunately, these errant ones will pose as formidable hindrances to the prayers of the righteous. Unless they are expelled from the leadership, they will continue to sow discord, and frustrate the work of the gospel.

Application

How do you evangelise your family, church and workplace? Paul calls all believers to do the work of evangelism: to reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. By evangelism…

  • We uphold justice and speak out against the oppression of the weak.
  • We forgive those who hurt us.
  • We heal those who are sick and broken.
  • We warn them of the judgment to come and the salvation found in Christ.

Do you often find yourself seeking God’s forgiveness without adequate self-reflection. What you do for yourself mirrors what you do for others. The aim of evangelism is to transform attitudes towards the likeness of Christ. The Spirit helps us to recognise sin so that we can transform the world through the power of Christ. The evangelist is skilled in recognising injustice, bitterness and pride. And he teaches with patience and clarity so that people may be transformed to live abundantly.

Dear Lord, I accept the Spirit’s call to become an evangelist. Use me to reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. In the process, I make the world a better place through the power of Jesus Christ. Strengthen me with the Spirit so that I may be sober under all circumstances. Help me to endure hardship and persecutions in my family, workplace and community. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.


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