“Preach the Word”—Where and Why?
IT WAS about 64 or 65 C.E. The apostle Paul was suffering in chains as a prisoner in Rome. Under these circumstances he wrote his final letter to Timothy. Paul’s purpose was to equip Timothy, as a Christian overseer, to resist apostate elements in the congregation and to build it up as a mighty “pillar and support of the truth.”—1 Tim. 3:15; 2 Tim. 1:8, 16.
Paul knew that he would not much longer be on hand to observe how Timothy cared for the ministry as an overseer or “older man.” But God and Christ would. Therefore he wrote: “I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is destined to judge the living and the dead, and by his manifestation and his kingdom, preach the word, be at it urgently in favorable season, in troublesome season, reprove, reprimand, exhort, with all long-suffering and art of teaching.” (2 Tim. 4:1, 2) But where was Timothy to “preach the word” and why? What did it mean for him to do so in “favorable season” and in “troublesome season”?
A consideration of the context reveals what Paul had in mind. Earlier he warned Timothy about the apostasy that was beginning to manifest itself and that would eventually spring into full bloom. (2 Tim. 2:14-18; 3:8-13) And after admonishing Timothy to “preach the word,” Paul alluded to persons who would turn away from the truth, that is, become apostates. He stated: “There will be a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, whereas they will be turned aside to false stories.”—2 Tim. 4:3, 4.
So from the context it is clear that Paul was not speaking about preaching to outsiders, but about preaching inside the congregation by one who was an overseer or “older man.” Hence the expressions “favorable season” and “troublesome season” must be descriptive of circumstances, not in the world, but within the congregation.
FAVORABLE AND TROUBLESOME SEASONS
Paul’s letter indicates that Timothy had to contend with persons who ‘fought about words,’ indulged in “foolish and ignorant questionings,” and who were “not favorably disposed” to the truth. (2 Tim. 2:14, 23-25) The presence of such persons in the congregation would certainly create a “troublesome season.” Trouble or opposition coming from those wrongly inclined within the congregation might cause a tendency to water down the “word” or to answer in kind, copying the methods of the opposers. Nevertheless, Timothy was to preach, not human philosophies or speculations, but God’s “word” unadulterated.
Regardless of whether the congregation was experiencing favorable or troublesome season internally, there were good reasons for Timothy to “preach the word.” Such preaching would strengthen the congregation spiritually, thereby acting as a deterrent to the apostasy. Timothy would thus be able to say, as Paul had previously said to the older men of the Ephesus congregation: “I am clean from the blood of all men, for I have not held back from telling you all the counsel of God.”—Acts 20:26, 27.
AVOIDING HUMAN WISDOM
Today overseers or “older men” in the congregations of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses appreciate that they, too, must be examples in ‘preaching the word.’ Therefore they seek to imitate the example of the apostle Paul. Though well educated, he shunned showy speech and display of human wisdom and its power to persuade. While human wisdom or cleverness was very appealing to the ancient Greeks, Paul avoided it because he wanted his hearers to found their faith, not on man’s wisdom, but on Christ and have it built up through God’s spirit and power.—1 Cor. 2:1-5.
Whereas today clever sayings or devices, jokes and the like may have a certain appeal, such things generally detract from ‘preaching the word.’ They have nothing to do with “a dispensing of anything by God in connection with faith.” (1 Tim. 1:4) They are a product of worldly wisdom.
Being under command to “preach the word,” overseers or “older men” recognize that they must shun things that tend to diminish the full force of God’s message or word. If they find that those who hear their discourses are talking much more about the illustrations used than about the principles of God’s Word learned through these illustrations, these men make adjustments. They know that they have not succeeded in fulfilling their assignment to “preach the word” if in any way they have hindered their listeners from getting the full impact of the instruction from the Bible.
Nothing is as effective and powerful in motivating others to action as the message of the Bible. “The word [or message] of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and their marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) The “word of God” can penetrate the very motives of an individual. It reaches the heart and reveals whether one is actually living according to right principles or has a desire to do so.
EFFECT ON THOSE OUTSIDE THE CONGREGATION
Therefore in the preaching and teaching done within the congregation nothing should be allowed to detract from God’s Word. Not things done chiefly for effect, but Biblical instruction strengthens and builds up the congregation spiritually, encouraging all to remain faithful to Jehovah God. Outsiders, too, are affected in a wholesome way. When attending meetings where speakers concentrate on imparting instruction from the Bible, outsiders can readily see that something more valuable than human wisdom is being imparted, prompting sincere ones to say: “God is really among you.”—1 Cor. 14:25.
Since there must be this ‘preaching of the word’ inside the congregation, it is only logical that the same “word” be declared to outsiders. No reason exists for going beyond the Bible and speculating on such matters as what people may expect in the way of homes, and other possessions, work and entertainment in the “new earth” of God’s making. All the information that individuals must know to gain God’s approval and life is contained in the Bible. Hence they need to hear what God’s Word has to say.
So, whether done inside or outside the congregation, let our preaching as true Christians be a ‘preaching of the WORD.’ Such preaching alone will strengthen sincere hearers in their determination to be faithful servants of Jehovah God.