What does it mean to preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2)?

The phrase "preach the Word" is found in 2 Timothy 4:2, which says: "preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching." Most likely, this was the last epistle Paul wrote before his death and it was for Timothy whom he considered to be a spiritual son (1 Timothy 1:2). This epistle talks about how to strengthen the church, giving instructions to pastors and believers. The principles within it are of equal value to all believers today as they were when Paul wrote them.

In 2 Timothy 4:1, Paul starts his final instructions by reminding Timothy of Christ Jesus as the judge of all who will return and establish His kingdom. By reminding Timothy of this, Paul is establishing the importance of what he is about to say. Paul first encourages Timothy to always be ready to preach the Word and to "rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching" (verse 2). He alerts Timothy that this will not be easy: "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." In these verses, Paul lets Timothy know that people do not always want to hear what is true—they want to hear what will make them feel good. He encourages Timothy to "be sober-minded," meaning: to keep his focus on teaching the truth of the Word, even if it is not what people want to hear.

The Greek word keyroxon is translated as "preach," and its definition is "publish or proclaim openly." There is no inherent limitation for preaching to only take place within the confines of a church setting or from behind the pulpit. Yes, pastors should be bold to speak the truth of the gospel within their churches. Like Paul, they are to be "proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance" (Acts 28:31). The content of their messages should be the Word of God (the Bible). However, "preaching" is not just for those with the title of pastor; proclaiming God's Word is something that all Christians should do (Matthew 28:19–20; Luke 24:46–47).

The Word can be preached in any setting, whether it be going through a Bible story book with your children, talking with a friend at lunch, or leading a small group at your church. God's Word can be shared through all forms of media—internet, TV, podcasts, radio, magazines, letters, and emails. It can be shared through social media and the fine arts. Any time the Word of God is presented to someone, it is being preached, or openly proclaimed.

We are each called to proclaim the gospel, and we need to be responsible to do so by using the talents and gifts God has given us. As we pray, let us ask God to strengthen us so that we may be ready to live out the exhortation of 2 Timothy 4:2, being ready to share when it is convenient and when it is not convenient, and being willing to reprove or rebuke from a place of patience and teaching. This good news of the gospel is meant to be shared: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations" (Matthew 24:14).

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