Earlier this week I was reading an article from Outreach Magazine that discussed the oft quoted idea that sometimes your greatest form of evangelism is how you live your life. The article, found here puts forth the idea that evangelism requires words. Personally, I agree with this idea. I think that how we live our lives as Christians is extremely important and can open doors (or more accurately, living badly can slam doors shut) for evangelism to take place. But at the end of the day, evangelism requires a believer who is willing to tell somebody what it is they believe.
Use Your Words Well
In this chapter, Paul is giving Timothy valuable ministry instructions. Always be willing, at any time of the year and in any situation to preach the word. And don’t get the visual of a pulpit here. Neither Paul nor Timothy ever stood behind a pulpit preaching from their notes to a large number of people in pews. Those are all constructs of the modern church. Preaching simply meant sharing your faith and what you knew to be true about the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that others could be saved. And what are the three main things your teaching should accomplish: correcting, rebuking, and and encouraging. This should come as no surprise if you have read Paul’s epistles which endlessly correct, rebuke and encourage the church. Correction applies when somebody is teaching, preaching, or believing in something other than what the Apostles (Paul included) taught about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Rebuke is when somebody begins intentionally living in sin or in opposition to God’s will. And encouragement is what helps people doing well to keep doing well.
He cautions Timothy to avoid messages that will “tickle people’s ears.” This is often watered down to simply mean “preachers shouldn’t just preach easy, happy sermons all the time.” But that’s not necessarily the case. After all, Paul dedicated his life to preaching the Gospel, that is the Good News of Jesus. Preaching should be good and should be good news. What he is saying is that Christians should not compromise the first two obligations mentioned above, namely correcting and rebuking, in order to not offend. Ear-tickling-sermons are those that offer encouragement specifically to those who need correcting and rebuking. And when ministers effectively do this, they protect the sound doctrine or healthy teachings of the church.
Other Concluding Stuff
Paul’s letter takes a dark and personal turn here. Paul seems to realize that his time is drawing short in this section. He makes sure that Timothy and the church know the names of several who have betrayed him and abandoned him. If Alexander was causing problems for Timothy, this letter would have helped Timothy to reestablish some authority and position over Alexander in the church.
As always, Paul throws in a few greetings at the end. Luke is still with him and was with him throughout much of his imprisonment. I think that Paul likely contributed heavily to Luke’s writings, especially providing his own account of the events in Acts during this time. Paul mentions Erastus, who stayed in Corinth. I have seen the Erastus Stone in Corinth, which many believe to have indicated that this same Erastus possibly donated a street as a citizen funded civic project and as such had his name engraved on it. It can still be seen today. Pretty cool stuff.