This series, The Role of the Pastor, comes from a study that we’ve been doing on Wednesday nights at Second Baptist Church in Warner Robins, GA.
This post will conclude the series on The Role of the Pastor. We’ve covered three of the four major functions of the pastor: love, lead and protect. And here, we’ll talk about how the pastor is to feed the people.
Paul says to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-5, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
The pastor/shepherd has the responsibility of feeding the flock. This refers to the pastor’s responsibility of preaching. The church is fed through preaching, from the Word, by the Holy Spirit. The role of the pastor in feeding the people with the word is of primary importance. The importance of the preaching ministry of a pastor cannot be over-emphasized. It is vitally important to the believer and to the body of Christ; to the Christian and to the church.
1. The solemn charge: 1
Let’s take this verse one chunk at a time. “I charge you…” The word “charge” here gives the idea of a testimony in a courtroom. It literally means “to invoke someone as a witness about something.” This parallels the last phrase of this verse, “Before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom…” Paul is essentially saying, “I’ve taken the stand as a witness before the righteous judge and I’m testifying to the truth. Because God will judge me and He will judge you one day as well.” This is a solemn charge.
There’s another word that’s easy to miss but very important; the word “therefore.” This refers to something that has just been stated. What was that? 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Here’s what it says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work”
This is a solemn charge because you are dealing with sacred truth. True preaching is based upon the truth of God’s Word. If it’s not based upon the Word, it’s not preaching.
2. The sacred calling: 2
There’s an all-important phrase in verse 2 that every pastor must consider; “preach the Word!” The construction of this phrase indicates that this is a command to be obeyed immediately. It is a sharp command that takes on almost a military tone. The word “preach” means to announce in a formal or official manner. A herald would communicate a message from the king to the people. This is indeed what preaching is. It is a message from the King of Kings to His subjects, His people. This preaching should be accompanied by that note of authority which will command the respect, careful attention, and proper reaction of the listeners.
Kenneth Wuest says, “The “Word” here refers to the whole body of revealed truth. The preacher must present, not book reviews, not politics, not economics, not current topics of the day, not a philosophy of life denying the Bible and based upon unproven theories of science, but the Word. The preacher as a herald cannot choose his message. He is given a message to proclaim by his Sovereign. If he will not proclaim that, let him step down from his exalted position.
This is why I call the task of preaching a “sacred calling.” Because it is handling the great truths of the great King! Therefore we must be “ready in season and out of season.” In other words, be ready at all times; good times and bad times, easy times and hard times; times of sowing and times of reaping.
Then, Paul lists some things that must be done while preaching, “Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching.” If all of your preacher’s sermons are “exhorting” but none are “rebuking” then you have a pastor that doesn’t follow the biblical model. All of this must be present from time to time in preaching.
3. The sad condition: 3-4
The Bible says there will come a day when people won’t “endure sound doctrine.” The word “endure” literally means to “hold one’s self upright or firm against a person or thing.” In other words, they hear the truth but push it away.
Instead, they “heap up for themselves teachers…and they will turn themselves away from the truth…” They listen to preachers who make them feel good and say what they want to hear. These preachers scratch them where they itch – “itching ears. Do you want to know why we have so many sorry, wimpy, feeble-minded preachers on TV these days? Because it’s what people want and it’s what they watch. What a shame!
4. The serious command: 5
Paul contrasts these false teachers with Timothy. He turns to him and says, “But you…” In other words, it’s going to be different for you, this is not how you’re going to act. He lists four things…
a) Watch: “be watchful in all things…”
Keep your eyes open to your circumstances and surroundings. Watch out and be aware of what’s going on.
b) Endure: “endure affliction…”
Most of Timothy’s sufferings would come from the “religious crowd” that did not want to hear the truth. It was the “religious crowd” that crucified Christ and that persecuted Paul and had him arrested. Timothy would have to be a faithful soldier and endure affliction for the sake of the gospel.
c) Reach: “do the word of an evangelist…”
A preacher, no matter what he is preaching, should keep the lost souls in mind. This burden for the lost should characterize a pastor’s private ministry as well. Vance Havner once said, “A lot of preaching is motivated by love for preaching, not love of people.”
d) Fulfill: “fulfill your ministry…”
This means, “fulfill whatever God wants you to do.” Do what God has called you to do. Timothy’s ministry would not be exactly like Paul’s, but it would be important to the cause of Christ. A young preacher once complained to Charles Spurgeon, the famous British preacher of the 1800s, that he did not have as big a church as he deserved. “How many do you preach to?” Spurgeon asked. “Oh, about 100,” the man replied. Solemnly Spurgeon said, “That will be enough to give account for on the day of judgment.”
We do not measure the fulfillment of a ministry only on the basis of statistics or on what people see. We realize that faithfulness is important and that God sees the heart.
As I conclude this series of blog posts, I want to make one last point. The pastor’s role is to feed the people through the preaching of the Word of God. But it’s important to remember that the people must be willing to receive the Word and obey it. You’ve heard the phrase you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. I want you to understand this one: You can lead a sheep to pasture but you can’t make him eat.