Preaching 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 proclailm 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.