The Focus of the Faithful
What does it look like for the Christian to remain steadfast in the truth? Join Dr. Marty Baker as we dive into 2 Timothy 4:1-5, take a look at the role of a pastor, and unpack what it means for all of us to hold onto sound doctrine.
his weekend we have talked about the most important concept known to man: truth. We all know our culture is under attack regarding what constitutes truth. With the rise of relativism, the belief absolute truth doesn’t exist . . . just truths and these truths can be diametrically opposed to each other, we now have a culture awash in opinions based on rhetoric, not reason. Classically, we define this new view of truth as the coherence view of truth. What does it teach? It argues that as long as a given group of people believes their position is true to them, it is, ipso facto, true . . . even if it logically contradicts the views of other people, groups, and data.
As we can all see on a daily basis, this view is quite destructive for it touches and dismantles every area of life:
- If one group wants to believe a man can have babies, then it is true.
- If one group wants to believe a woman can become a man, then it is true.
- If one group thinks having drag queens at school is a great way to educate young, impressionable minds, then it is true.
- If one group thinks all religions are the same, and that Jesus was just one of many passionate spiritual leaders in history and nothing more, then it is true.
- If one group thinks all love is love as defined by the groups in question, then all forms of love are truth and there is, by definition, no longer any way to determine what constitutes perversion.
- If one group wants to believe people who break our national border laws are merely migrants, then it is true.
- If one group wants to believe climate change is a real issue facing all the nations of the world (despite empirical scientific evidence to the contrary), then it (must be) true.
- If one group wants to believe that a person who commits felonies shouldn’t be called a felon, then the new, more generic definition, must be true.
You get the picture. Once you embrace the notion of a coherence view of truth, it negatively impacts every area of life from politics to policing, from sexuality to education. It is negative insofar as everyone just has their opinions and no one can be sure what is true, moral, or virtuous anymore.
Just recently a church here in Northern Virginia hired a new pastor. From the outset, the pastor informed the church that the Bible would no longer be needed on a given Sunday for sermons. Why? The Bible is just an old book which doesn’t speak to our progressive, intellectually gifted culture. How could a shepherd of a flock put the Bible on the proverbial shelf? This pastor has, for all intents and purposes, embraced the coherence view of truth. The pastor’s position is true because the pastor, along with his/her collective group of peers, believes it to be true.
A culture that believes in truths, as illogical as they might be, as opposed to Truth, is destined to be balkanized, confused, and chaotic at all levels, from the halls of justice to the halls of a given university. Is this not what we are watching unfold in our great land, a land that used to be composed of people who, by and large, feared God and believed in absolutes?
In chapter seven of his book Metaphysics, Aristotle, the great Greek mind who discovered the absolute logical principles God wove into the created order from the beginning, makes this cogent statement about what constitutes what the late Francis Schaeffer would call true truth:
To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, but to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, it is true; so that he who says anything that it is, or that it is not, will say either what is true or what is false.
What did he just say? He said true truth absolutely and always corresponds to the facts. (Note: the concept of “true truth” originated, I believe, with the late Francis Schaeffer). I can, therefore, say there is a drum kit on the stage because its presence can be easily validated in many ways. If I say there is not a drum kit on stage, when the data shows there is, then I am speaking falsely. Even if I managed to convince one hundred of you that he drum kit is not really here, and even though we, as a group, were highly passionate and vocal about it, it would not change the absolute fact that here sits a drum kit in real time and space.
What is most interesting is the Apostle Paul wrote about this conflict over two thousand years ago in his final words to a young pastor he mentored by the name of Timothy. Facing execution by Nero, which was carried out around 64 A.D., Paul gave Timothy specific counsel regarding how to function as a shepherd to sheep. His words at the opening of chapter four are enlightening and educational for us as they were for Paul’s mentee. Within these five verses we all learn, whether we are pastors or parishioners, what we are supposed to be doing as true truth is on the proverbial ropes.
In Light Of Christ’s Coming, We Should Speak And Live True Truth . . . No Matter What (2 Timothy 4:1-5)
Paul develops this main motif by presenting four concepts for Christians to think about.
The Revelation (2 Tim. 4:1)
By revelation, Paul speaks of the soon and glorious appearance of Jesus, the Christ, in time and space.
1 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:
In the Greek text, the second word is not translated in any of the major English translations (KJV, NAS, NIV, NKJ). It is the word oun (Διαμαρτύρομαι οὖν ἐγὼ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ . . .), and it is a conjunction denoting the logical, and at times, pragmatic conclusion of a contextual argument. In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul has just argued for the divine origin and divinely designed function of the Holy Scriptures:
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3).
The Scriptures are, to use Paul’s Greek word here, God’s very breath as expended from His speech. And because He is truth (Isa. 65:16), His Word is true (unchanging) truth and is designed to assist a saint in his/her spiritual maturation.
Moving into chapter 4, Paul draws a logical conclusion by challenging all pastors/teachers, and ultimately all saints, to be all about communicating God’s Word of true truth to the world. He does this, of course, with a solemn charge. The Greek word diamarturomai (Διαμαρτύρομαι) comes from the Grecian courtroom where a person bore witness to the truth of something they had witnessed. It is highly emphatic too. We know this because the preposition, dia (through), is wedded to the verb to witness, martureo. Paul, therefore, states as strongly as he can that the marching orders, he is about to give Timothy are of utter, inexorable importance for his life as a shepherd of God’s sheep. And as Paul stands in the heavenly courtroom and gives this forceful testimony of how a shepherd should function, the two witnesses who substantiate his counsel are none other than the Holy Father and the Lord Jesus, the true Christ.
Before he digs into the job description of the shepherd in verse 2, Paul reminds Timothy who Jesus is:
. . . who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:
The angels who watched Christ’s ascension on the Mount of Olives said He would return one day (Acts 1:9ff). Their witness dovetailed with that of Jesus in His prior sermon on this mountain prior to His crucifixion (Matt. 24-25). He iscoming back and He will be the judge of all mankind:
22 For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, (John 5).
27 For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds (Matt. 16).
Are you prepared to stand before Him? Only those who confess Him as Lord and Savior will be adequately prepared for this day (Rom. 10:9). As His saints who share in His holiness (1 Cor. 1:30), they will walk into His heaven and enjoy it to the fullest. Those who reject Him will be judged with eternal punishment (Matt. 13:42; Mark 9:44-48).
Contextually, however, Paul is probably alluding to the Judgment Seat of Christ when the Lord will judge all of His people for how well they ran the spiritual race (1 Cor. 3:6ff; 2 Cor. 5:10). Applied to a shepherd of a local church the meaning should not be missed: The living Lord Jesus will judge each shepherd for how well they handled the Word of God, which is truth (2 Tim. 4:4; John 17:17). Ironic, isn’t it? The same book which some pastors put on the shelf because it is too old and irrelevant for today’s enlightened culture will become the very criteria for their judgment. If truth didn’t matter, if truth was fluid and not fixed, and if truth was related to how emotionally your group believed in it, even though your view contradicts known facts, God wouldn’t have inspired Paul to make this solemn, spine-stiffening statement. But He did make this charge through Paul’s pen because truth matters greatly, especially spiritual truth.
For those of you who are taking classes at Dallas Theological Seminary, which is located on our campus, or if you are taking classes remotely at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina, take note of Paul’s word here. For those of you who teach the Scriptures in this church, stand up and take stock of your life and ask yourself a probing, penetrating question: Am I ready to stand before Jesus and give account for how well I represented His truth? The older I get, the more I think about this, and that is why I pursue my study and analysis of the Word with great passion and zeal. I know my judgment will be greater on that day (James 3:1, Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment).
This timely revelation logically moves us to the core of what Paul wants to talk to all Timothy-types about:
The Rule (2 Tim. 4:2)
The first phrase is a direct command, not a suggestion.
2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
John MacArthur isolates the meaning of this verbal command well:
Preach is from kerusso, which means to herald, to proclaim publicly. In the New Testament times, the herald, acting as imperial messenger, would go through the streets of a city to announce special events, such as the appearing of the emperor. His duties also included public announcement of new law or government policies and actions.
The duty of the pastor is to proclaim publicly “the word” (τὸν λόγον). Note, this is definite as opposed to indefinite, underscoring how there is only one inspired written Word from God to man, the Bible. It is the word, not a word among many other so-called “divine” words in other religious books. Grammatically, we can also classify the use of the article here as a case of anaphoric, meaning it looks back to a prior usage in the book in question. The same construction occurs earlier in chapter 2:
15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth (2 Tim. 2).
15 Σπούδασον σεαυτὸν δόκιμον παραστῆσαι τῷ θεῷ, ἐργάτην ἀνεπαίσχυντον, ὀρθοτομοῦντα τὸν λόγον τῆς ἀληθείας (2 Tim. 2).
Here, Paul states that the shepherd, and really all saints, need to be perpetual students of the Word. Why? It is thetruth, not a truth among so-called truths. From Genesis to Revelation, this book not only validates its divine veracity by means of prophetic fulfillment (cf. Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands A Verdict, pp. 277-332), it gives us divine insight into all the great questions of life:
- Why is there something rather than nothing?
- Why are there humans only on one planet?
- What is man’s problem?
- Where did languages, as complex as they are, originate?
- Where do the races come from?
- Why are there fossils buried all over the planet under vast amounts of rock?
- How is it that we live in a finely-tuned, highly complex cosmos when things could have been so different?
- Where did sin and evil come from?
- Why are there so many religions and how do we know which one is true?
- What is the solution for our sin?
- Is there something beyond our dimensional limitations?
- Is history actually going somewhere, or is it just blindly plugging along to nowheresville?
- Is there hard evidence that Jesus was, in fact, the God-man in the flesh who came to die for our sins?
- Is there hard evidence Jesus did rise from the grave in time and space?
No book answers these questions like the Bible because the Bible came from holy men who were inspired to write by God concerning what the living God wants mankind to know in order to find Him, to secure a relationship with Him, and to learn how to live effectively before Him (2 Pet. 1:16-21).
Since this is God’s holy Word of truth, it meets all the demands of truth. Regarding this, the late Dr. Norman Geisler correctly surmises:
- Truth is transcultural: if something is true, it is true for all people, in all places, at all times.
- Truth is unchanging even though our beliefs about truth change.
- Beliefs cannot change a fact, no matter how sincerely they are held.
- Truth is not affected by the attitude of the one professing it. (An arrogant person does not make the truth he professes false. A humble person does not make the error he professes true.)
- All truths are absolute truths.
In short, contrary beliefs are possible, but contrary truths are not possible. We can believe everything is true, but we cannot make everything true.
So much for the coherence view of truth. The Holy Scriptures are truth for they not only originate in Him who is truth, but what they speak about corresponds perfectly with historical, and at times, scientific facts.
Scripture, therefore, must be preached and proclaimed for it is the essence of truth, and as truth it fulfills all the metaphors which attempt to describe it:
- It is like a personal counselor (Psalm 119:24).
- It is like fire which devours the chaff of what is sinful (Jer. 5:14; 23:29).
- It is like finding spiritual gold (Psalm 19:9-10).
- It is like a hammer that destroys false belief (Jer. 23:29).
- It is like a bright lamp for the dark, unpredictable path of life (Psalm 119:10).
- It is milk for the baby believer who just came to know Jesus as Savior (1 Cor. 3:1-5).
- It is a mirror that can, and will, show you the real you as you read it (Jam. 1:23-25).
- It is like meat for the spiritual stomach of a person who has walked with God for many years (Heb. 5:11-14).
- It is a sword that cuts deep into your soul to show you your real motivations and intents (Heb. 4:12).
No wonder, then, Paul commands Timothy, and all pastors, Bible teachers, and saints to study and proclaim this Word. It is the Word of truth each man needs to know in order to know God and how to live effectively for Him. To put it on the shelf and fail to preach it is serious sin for the Lord has commanded us to make sure the world knows His absolute, unchanging truth so they are prepared to live for and meet Him.
When are we supposed to preach this Word of Truth?
2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
Whether it is convenient or inconvenient we are called to speak up and out for God. When I spoke the Word at the Pentagon several years ago for the National Day of Prayer, that was convenient. When I spoke the Word at the funeral years ago of a non-Christian young man who got out of jail, only to come home and hang himself in his garage, that was inconvenient, as it were. When you’re sharing the Word with your buddies at Iron Works, that is convenient. When you are speaking up for God and truth with a bunch of hostile co-workers at the Pentagon, that is inconvenient. Regardless of your circumstance, you are to seize the moment for truth. Alexander Solzhenitsyn learned the value of this. After he was released from a Russian gulag for his opposition to the communist party, and then eventually expelled from his country in 1974, his famous article Live Not By Lies was published by the Washington Post. In it, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and godly man spoke eloquently how communism, as a false belief system, could not have flourished if the people had collectively and courageously chosen to speak only truth. His counsel merely echoes what Paul told Timothy and all preachers and saints some 2,000 years ago. Preach, teach, and live truth, especially God’s truth, and secondarily all truth that corresponds to reality.
What are we supposed to do with this divine book of truth? Three imperatives give us our answer:
2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
“Reprove” in Greek means to show someone they have done something wrong. Think of Paul when he reproved Peter for being a hypocrite by eating food offered to idols with Gentiles, but then acting all high and mighty when he was careful what he ate with Jews (Ga. 2:7ff). The goal of the reproof was designed to call Peter to a more consistent, mature faith, and it was, of course, based on the unchanging truth there is acceptable and unacceptable behavior where faith living is concerned.
“Rebuke” in Greek is from epitimason (ἐπιτίμησον), and it literally spoke of something out of place, like a broken bone. To rebuke, therefore, came to denote making a verbal statement that something wasn’t quite right and needed to be fixed. If you are married, perhaps you know this word well. When the disciples fought among themselves as to who would be the greatest, Jesus saw this attitude was out of place, i.e., sinful, and he rebuked them so they could move onward and upward toward real maturity (Luke 22:22-24). If truth were simply coherent, then Jesus would have not had grounds to say anything to these men who frequently had this discussion among themselves. But since pride is always sinful, Jesus had every right to grab their attention.
On a positive side, in our preaching and teaching the Word, we are to use it for exhortation. This comes from the Greek that denotes confrontation coupled with encouragement. Literally, the word, parakaleson (παρακάλεσον) means to come alongside of someone. Think of a coach coming alongside you between innings and putting his arm around you to encourage you to pay more attention when taking a lead from first base so you don’t get picked off again. Likewise, this is how we are to use the Word of truth as we preach and teaching, knowing that saints sometimes act like sinners and need a gentle reprimand so they can run better next time.
And just what should our attitude be when we use this unchanging, powerful Word of God to attempt to positively impact saints who are having sinful moments? The last clause gives you your answer:
We are to be patient. Why? Saints don’t always leave sin after the first conversation. If you have teenagers, then you know what I’m talking about. We are to follow our patience up with sound, perpetual teaching, teaching grounded in the Word of God. “No, Larry, the Scriptures are quite clear you are not to lie, even it is the means to secure a lucrative government contract so you can really provide for your family.” “No, Karen, it is not all right to flirt and go to Starbucks with your trainer when you are married.” And so on and so forth. Truth is truth and it never changes, but too often we delve into sin and forget the essence of truth. That’s when the Word which is proclaimed comes to you through a pastor, a friend, a cousin, or a wife and grabs your attention so you can fly right again.
Paul is very clear about the need for God’s truth to be taught. Believe me, we are committed to his command, knowing God’s blessing resides on those who keep the Word central. Yet, turning to verses three and four, Paul gives us deeper insight into why we need to be inexorably committed to the perpetual communication of the Scriptures:
The Reason (2 Tim. 4:3-4)
Speaking by way of prophecy, Paul looks down the halls of time and says there will come a time when the Word of truth will be abandoned. I’d dare say the time he prophesied about is here:
3 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; 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.
Of course, people strayed from doctrinal, biblical truth in Paul’s day. But what he speaks about here is a massive, worldwide abandonment of biblical truth and for the concept of truth for that matter. As Paul says, the time will come when people will not be able to endure anyone who dares to teach and defend healthy, sound, logical, biblical doctrine. To teach it will set them off, make them crazy, cause them to verbally attack you, defriend you, deplatform you, block you on Twitter, remove you from their Insta-gram feed, vow to never watch your pod cast, vow to never hear you preach, teach, or even talk. Believe me, I’ve had my fair share of folks who have walked out of sermons, and followed their exit up with a scathing, highly judgmental e-mail or two. So be it. I cannot and will not alter teaching to suit what you want to hear so you feel comfortable.
But this is exactly what will happen. Paul says people will turn from sound biblical truth, truth which corresponds to reality, only to embrace anything and everything, no matter how illogical, which will make them feel good. He goes so far as to say they will “accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.” The Greek for “accumulate” means to pile up more than you possibly need. Jay Leno, the now retired famous talk show host, has over 180 exotic cars, ranging from a $12 million dollar McLaren F1 and a Daimler ferret Scout armored car. Really, how many cars does a man need?
Applied to people seeking to escape sound teaching the application is pertinent. These truth deniers will literally surround their lives with people who will tell them what they want to hear so that they can (1) feel good about themselves by rationalizing their activity, (2) silence their active conscience, and (3) remain in moral darkness which they like. Rationalization really is a dangerous, destructive thing. As Robert Reilly remarks, “When we rationalize, we convince ourselves that heretofore forbidden desires are permissible . . . in our minds we replace the reality of the moral order to which the desires should be subordinated with something more compatible with the activity we are executing . . . Habitual moral failure, however, can be lived with only by obliterating conscience through a more permanent rationalization, an enduring inversion of morality.” And the best way to get on the road to rationalization for your sinful, immoral activity is to surround yourself with like-minded people.
All of this is why we, first and foremost, as preachers and teachers of God’s Word must continually impart it. We know they will reject sound doctrine, but we teach it anyway, knowing God will use it in their lives in due time. We know they will turn unto false worldviews, to any belief system so long as it is not Christian, but we teach anyway, knowing God will use the truth to challenge the falsity.
Has our current culture not walked away from biblical truth, especially where marriage is concerned? Indeed. For example, the new Respect for Marriage Act should really be called the Disrespect for Marriage Act. With any and all marriage combinations classified as protected legally, then the government will be free to prosecute anyone who’d dare speak truth about how God originally designed marriage to be between a real man and a real woman. This is where the culture is going, and they have surrounded themselves with teachers to tell them what they want to hear, so they can reshape marriage according to their desires, not God’s desire. How should we respond? We are committed to preaching and teaching the Word of God and showcasing what constitutes a marriage His face smiles upon.
For those who commit to living according to the rule and the reason for the rule Paul speaks about, we know there will be opposition. Paul knew this too, and that’s why he concluded this portion of his teaching with what I call . . .
The Road (2 Tim. 4:5)
Four imperatives tell us what God wants from us as the culture increasingly believes that the coherence view of truth is far superior to the correspondent view:
5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Tim. 4:1-5 NAS)
“Be sober” in Greek merely means to be clear-headed and self-controlled. Think through the issues at hand, and be prepared to give a cogent response to those who don’t know Christ. “Endure hardship” because you will be tempted to lay low so as not to draw attention to yourself, or to cause people to dislike or defriend you. No, you speak and teach truth like Jeremiah did of old, resting in the promise that God will use His word in a powerful fashion to change lives (Jer. 6:16; 18:18). “Do the work of an evangelist” is merely a command to make sure you always guide the lost to the cross of Christ where they can be saved by the Lord of truth. Lastly, “fulfill your ministry,” is simply a command to do whatever God has called you to do until He calls you home.
And what is He calling you to do? He’s calling you to teach and preach truth to a culture lost in false beliefs masquerading as truth. He’s calling you to also live not by lies, but by truth. Why? Truth is what saves people. Truth is what holds sin in check and moves people toward holy, moral behavior as they come to the Christ in faith.
Can the Lord count on you to be a truth-teller?
 Aristotle, Metaphysics, book 4, chapter 7.
 John McArthur, 2 Timothy (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), 171.
 Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (Wheaton: Crossway, 2004), 38.
 Robert Reilly, Making Gay Okay (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2014), 8.