Ministry In The End Times–2 Timothy 4:1-5

Pastor Greenfield preached this message Sunday morning, February 18, 2007

The Bible has a lot to say about the end times, but it can be possible to wonder, “Well, that’s great, but what does that mean for us now?” Christians and churches should learn from Scripture what God wants and expects of them in these times, especially what he expects of the man who feeds, leads, and protects the flock—the pastor. God’s Word provides pastors with four important truths that give guidance on how they must minister in these last days.

A Pastor Will Answer For His Ministry, 4:1

Paul is addressing Timothy for the last time, and for that reason these words have special significance. Timothy receives a serious call by the words “I solemnly charge you.” What Paul tells Timothy isn’t merely a good idea or nice suggestion—this is a momentous, somber charge. Pastors today need to see the seriousness of their calling and reflect that in their fulfillment of it. This isn’t a matter of fun and games.

This serious call is made in the presence of a solemn court, made up of “God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead.” The preacher’s life is continually under the gaze of God and Christ—24 hours a day, seven days a week—not just for a few hours on Sundays and mid-week meetings. The day will come when pastors will stand before Jesus Christ and give an account for how they have fed, lead, and protected the flock entrusted to their charge.

Paul gives this serious call before a solemn court in light of Christ’s sure coming, “by His appearing and His kingdom.” Jesus is coming, and when he does, the truth Timothy must proclaim will be clearly seen and false teaching will be exposed for what it really is. Jesus will reign, and when he does, believers will faithfully serve him. These are definite, future realities that have significant, practical importance now! They demand that God’s work be done God’s way until Christ returns.

Since a pastor will answer to the Lord Jesus Christ, he had better do what is expected of him! What does Christ expect?

A Pastor Must Preach the Word, 4:2

Here Paul gives four essential aspects of the ministry Timothy and today’s pastor must fulfill in these last days. First, he must preach the Word. The activity is clear—preach, proclaim, herald. It is not the pastor’s place to harmonize God’s Word with culture or science, to philosophize, or debate. He must preach the Word—all of it, not just pick out some things and ignore others. This is what Jesus wants for his church, and this is what the church needs!

Second, today’s pastor in the last days must always preach the Word—“be ready in season and out of season.” His ministry of the Word is not to be conducted by taking polls to find out whether people are ready to hear the Word or what they want to hear. It doesn’t matter if the times are “good” or “bad”—God’s message must be proclaimed! The call is not to “impact the culture for Christ” or to “bring in the kingdom.” The call is to preach the Word.

Third, pastors must preach to save souls—“reprove, rebuke, exhort.” Earlier Paul told Timothy “pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (1 Tim 4:16). The salvation of people’s souls depends on the faithful ministry of the Word. To “reprove” is to point out sin. To “rebuke” is to tell people to stop sinning. To “exhort” is to urge people to live for the Lord. These essential activities of preaching are hard to do if the pastor only speaks in generalities or ‘positive’ themes. Preaching in the end times won’t seek to bring a stop to specific aspects of sinfulness but will focus on making the hearers feel good about themselves, to “live their best life now.” Such preaching will not save souls.

Fourth, pastors must preach with compassion and conviction—“with great patience and instruction.” When preaching the whole counsel of God, reproving, rebuking, and exhorting, pastors cannot lose their temper—they must reflect God’s attribute of patience and forbearance. The soil out of which true Christian living grows is doctrinal, theological, and biblical in content. Pastors are not told to merely encourage moral living; they must give the doctrinal foundation on which a truly Christian life can only be built.

A pastor has a solemn calling: always preach the whole counsel of God for the salvation of his hearers. While engaged in this ministry, he must remember Paul’s third truth to Timothy:

A Pastor Must Understand The Times, 4:3-4

There are three important facts the pastor needs to know. First, people will not want sound doctrine—“the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” This world is not going to get better; evil is going to increase! The fact that people will not want true doctrine does not give the pastor the right to give them what they want or change the message so it is acceptable to them. Pastors must continue to preach the Word!

Second, the pastor needs to understand that people will only hear what they want—“wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.” Note where the blame lays—the hearers! Aaron made a golden calf because the Israelites demanded it (Exod 32:1). More often than not, people measure and evaluate a pastor by their own sinful feelings and desires. It should not be surprising that churches are formed on the basis of hip-hop music, beer, improving self-image, and thinking positively about oneself. That’s what people want!

Third, the pastor must know that people will reject God’s truth for lies—“they will turn away their ears from the truth and turn aside to myths.” They will actively reject God’s truth because their sin is reproved and rebuked. Refusing to listen to God’s truth, they will then invent a substitute that matches and supports their lifestyle.

By understanding the character of the times—that these last days will grow more difficult and sinful—a pastor must see the great need there is for preaching the Word of God in its fullness. The greater the darkness grows, the greater need there is for light. Pastors must not give people what they want; they must give them what they need—God’s Word!

There is one last truth a pastor in the last days must take to heart:

A Pastor Must Finish His Course, 4:5

The pastor in the end times must keep his head—“be sober in all things.” He must not be influenced by things that will divert and distract him from his holy calling of preaching the word. The pastor must not give up—“endure hardship.” The more evil these days grow (cf. 3:13) the stronger the current pastors must swim against. Pastors must win the lost to Christ—“do the work of an evangelist.” Sinners are saved through believing in Jesus Christ. How will they believe if they have not heard of Christ? How will they hear without a preacher? Pastors must finish the course—“fulfill your ministry.” They cannot go about their work in an uncaring manner. Pastors must throw themselves completely and fully into every aspect of their calling.

The kind of pastor a church needs in these end times is one who:

  • Recognizes the seriousness of his calling
  • Faithfully proclaims all of God’s Word
  • Does not bend to the times but faithfully ministers God’s Word in it
  • Devotes his life to doing God’s work God’s way