Preach the Word
Graham Hobbs, Bognor Regis, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
Sharing Good News
HULM, THE GREAT NATURALIST, tells us that if a wasp discovers a deposit of honey, or other food, it returns to the nest to impart the news to its companions, who will sally forth in great numbers to partake of the fare that has been discovered. Good news is meant to be shared - are we, who have made a much greater discovery, less considerate of our fellow-men than wasps are of their fellow-insects?
The four lepers at the gate of beseiged, famine-struck Samaria amazingly discovered a bountiful food supply (God had caused the Syrian enemy to flee their camp) and started to gorge themselves. Then, realizing their selfishness, they said, 'We do not well: this is a day of good tidings and we hold our peace ... now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king's household', 2. Kgs 7. 9.
Come to Samaria again and listen to the anonymous woman of Sychar's well, 'Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did. Is not this the Christ?', John 4. 29.
The command of the Lord Jesus to that previously demon-possessed man, now sitting, clothed and in his right mind, was simply this, 'Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee ...', Mark 5.19.
Following a great stress on the importance and significance of the word of God to the child of God and for the man of God, 2. Tim. 3. 14-17, Paul gives a solemn charge to Timothy in chapter 4. 1-5, which devolves upon us, his spiritual successors, today. It includes-
Preaching the word, v. 2
Teaching the word, v. 2
Evangelizing the word, v. 5
These are distinct ways in which we must disseminate the word of God.
Preaching the Word
The word kerusso is used 59 times in the New Testament and it means to herald forth; to proclaim like a herald; to make an important announcement. It does not include the idea of teaching and the emphasis is on the Manner, rather than the matter, or content, of the presentation. Historically, the herald was a man of dignity in a royal court, his Master's trusted servant. Later he became a servant of the state, opening public assemblies in prayer, officiating at public sacrifices - he was often given the tongue of the sacrificial animal! Similar to today's town crier, he delivered publicly a message on behalf on others. Heralds were required to have two qualifications: (i) a loud, clear voice, and (ii) to be dignified and loyal. The word is used 20 times of the Lord Jesus and 5 times by Him. He deliberately identified Himself as the prophesied herald, 'The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel', Isa. 61. 1; Luke 4. 18. It is used 9 times in the book of the Acts and Paul uses it in all but three of his letters. He was a herald of God, the sovereign, almighty God - that gave authority and dignity to his office, power and substance to his message. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he throws down the challenge, 'How shall they hear without a preacher? How shall they preach, except they be sent? How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things', Rom. 10. 14-15. But what is preaching and who is equipped to do it? Preaching is not the proclaiming of someone's private opinions; still less is it the public airing of doubts; it is the powerful presentation of the great truths of the bible. While the task of preaching is certainly not for everyone, it has been well said that preaching is not a profession, and a preacher is not a product of the schools. The first requisite is a divine commission. God's call smiles quizzically at human qualification. If Paul was called for his learning and eloquence, why was Peter called with his lack of education and Galilean brogue? Paul answers for both, 'not of men, neither by men, that the gospel be not the wisdom of man's words'. So like Timothy, we are exhorted to 'preach the word' - not exclusively the gospel, but in the light of earlier references in the letter, it should be seen as describing the whole body of revealed truth, 2. Tim. 1. 13; 2. 15; 3. 15-16. It is not too much to say that preaching is part of God's act of redemption; it is a way, not the only way, but certainly the chief way that God communicates salvation to men.
Teaching the Word
The word didasko essentially means to give instruction, and from it we derive our word didactic, and the noun teacher. It is used 105 times in the New Testament, occurring almost 50 times in the gospels alone and frequently in the book of Acts. It is used of Jesus at the beginning and end of the 'Sermon on the Mount', when 'he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes', Matt. 5. 2; 7. 29. Nicodemus recognized 'That thou art a teacher come from God', John 3. 2. Even the Pharisees, who were always trying to ensnare Jesus in His words, ironically confessed,
'Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth', Matt. 22. 16.
The teacher was a familiar figure in the first century A.D. and his duties and abilities were well known. Teaching was by means of formal instruction and generally no methods other than the traditional scholar-master relationship were employed. The Jewish rabbi and the Greek philosopher were both teachers, and they would lecture their students, who sat at their feet or on the hard benches provided. It was a way of imparting distilled knowledge and understanding, and frequently had an emphasis on the learners doing something as a result of the teaching.
Jesus said, concerning the Holy Spirit, 'he shall teach you all things', John 14.26. It was part of His great commission to His disciples, 'Go ye therefore and teach all nations (make disciples/to learn/to follow the teaching) ... teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you', Matt. 28. 19-20. The first Christians 'continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine (teaching) ...', Acts 2. 42. At Antioch Paul and Barnabas assembled themselves with the church (for a whole year) and taught much people, cf. Acts 11. 26. In his missionary journeys, wherever possible, Paul engaged in consecutive teaching of the word of God; as in Corinth, for example, he continued there a year and six months! teaching the word of God among them', Acts 18. 11.
An elder in a local church is one who is 'apt to teach', 1. Tim. 3. 2, certainly privately even if not necessarily publicly. We know that God is concerned for an active transmission of truth from one generation to another, 'The things that you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men, who will also be qualified to teach others', 2. Tim. 2. 2, NIV. Are we failing today in this responsibility?
Before leaving the subject of teaching, there is one further word used to describe a particular method, dialegomai (from which we derive our word dialogue). It means to discuss, and is variously translated in the KJV as reasoned, disputed, argued and persuaded. It involved a formal lecture by the teacher, which led into a discussion, similar to our public bible readings today. It was a favourite method of teaching employed by the apostle Paul and he used it evangelistically, Acts 17. 2; 17. 17; 18. 4; 18. 19; and in ministry to believers, Acts 20.7,9. So it was that he exhorted Timothy to do likewise, 'these things command and teach', 1. Tim. 4. 11; 6. 2.
From a biblical study of this aspect of disseminating the word of God, it appears that teaching should be - authoritative: systematic : consecutive: objective. Under the guise of 'the leading of the Spirit', are we not being too casual and ad hoc in our approach today?
Evangelizing the Word
The word evangeliso occurs 17 times in the New Testament and means, literally, to bring or announce good news, e.g., 1. Thess. 3. 6. The emphasis here is on the matter, not on the manner of its presentation. Having no English word equivalent, the tendency has been to mis-translate it by the word 'preach', e.g. Acts 5.42; 8. 4; 8. 35. While 'preached' is unhelpful, it is quite unworthy to say that the persecuted believers were 'gossiping' the gospel- they were evangelizing the word, or evangelizing with the word.
Philip did not in reality 'preach' to the Ethiopian eunuch, he 'evangelized Jesus to him'. It is appropriate and adequate to use the word 'announce'. If our evangelizing today is strictly limited to the traditional gospel meeting, it is quite possible that we are being ineffective in our spreading of the good news. While in no way advocating a jettisoning of scriptural principles, we may well need to break the mould of our human tradition to reach people with the gospel. This surely calls for the application of sanctified imagination, as we seek to apply God's relevant message in a relevant way. It surely is significant that, of the 40 diseased people whom Jesus healed, the New Testament informs us that 34 of them were either brought by friends to Him, or Jesus was taken to them.
Responding to the Challenge
The solemn charge which Paul laid upon Timothy in 2. Tim. 4. 1-5 comes with renewed challenge today. The keynote is faithfulness towards the truth in spite of opposition and apathy towards the preaching. Are we giving up because of adverse circumstances, or are we remaining faithful? The charge is intensive and bears the weight of a legal commitment, in the sight of the One who is appointed Judge and Discerner of all, and by His appearing and kingdom, v. 1. The word is to be preached at every opportunity, whether the time is convenient, or inconvenient, v. 2. The time referred to is surely with us, even as many professing believers refuse the word of God which they need and then receive only what they want to hear, v. 3. The force of the expression 'turn away from the truth' is to have one's ears always in such a position that they will never come into contact with the truth, v. 4.
To 'watch' means to be sober, to avoid the excitability of novel teaching which has no basis in truth. In times of departure from the truth of God's word, those who remain faithful to it will certainly have to 'endure afflictions'. Philip is the only evangelist, so called, in the New Testament; but Timothy was exhorted to 'do the work of an evangelist' - and so should we, v.5.
Timothy was charged with completing the work of God effectively, leaving nothing undone. Is our commission, our responsibility, anything less? May the Lord help us to be diligent, zealous and faithful in preaching, teaching and evangelizing the word of God.
AUTHOR PROFILE: Graham Hobbs is retired training manager and is now in fellowship with assembly in Bognor Regis. His written and oral ministry is appreciated in England and he also regularly visits Albania where he is involved in Bible teaching.