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2Timothy 4:1-5:
An exegetical study on the charge to preach God's Word given by Paul to Timothy in 2Timothy 4:1-5. This charge calls us beyond superficiality to a serious and costly commitment to faithfully and steadfastly teach God's truth, because of the great certainty of Christ's return, and in the context of serious proliferation of error.


© Rosemary Bardsley 2008


2Timothy 1:12-14

‘I am not ashamed because I know ….’

‘What you heard from me, keep as a pattern of sound teaching …’

‘Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit .’

2Timothy 2:15

‘Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.’

2Timothy 3:12-16

‘In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is god-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’

The background of Paul's charge to Timothy is the sure and certain confidence that God has spoken, that there is such a thing as the Word of God in which true truth, absolute truth, objective truth is given to us.



‘In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:’

Note that the basis of Paul’s charge to Timothy is forward-looking, not retrospective: 

  • The presence of God and of Christ Jesus
  • The immanence and certainty of Christ’s judgement of the living and the dead
  • The certainty of Christ’s appearing
  • The certainty of Christ’s kingdom.

 Here is the basis of the charge to preach the Word of God. Here is its urgency. Here is its necessity.



‘I give you this charge …’

Greek: All of the above is one word – diamarturomai – and is placed first in the sentence.

  • I give a solemn warning
  • I bear solemn witness
  • I charge earnestly
  • I make a solemn affirmation
  • I declare solemnly or earnestly

This is no casual or flippant charge. It calls us, it commands us, beyond superficiality to serious commitment and dedication to a serious responsibility.



Preach the Word …

Aorist Imperative – Commands decisive action


  • publish,
  • proclaim,
  • proclaim as a herald,
  • announce openly and publicly,
  • announce as a matter of doctrine.

The ‘Word’ – ton logon. This is the content of our preaching – the Word.

Application: The content of our preaching and teaching is the Word of God. Not our own ideas. Not the latest Christian fad. Not self-help messages. Not any human redefinition of or substitute for the Word of God.

Be prepared …

Aorist Imperative - Commands decisive action

Epistethi [ephistemi] – be on ‘stand by’ - always on call – always ready. At hand.

  • In season – eukairos – in good times [convenient times]
  • Out of season – akairos – in bad times [inconvenient times]

Application: Be always ‘on call’, ‘on stand-by’ to preach God’s Word and rebuke and expose error. When you feel like it, and when you don’t. When life’s good, and when life’s bad.

Correct …

Greek: elengko –

Aorist Imperative - Commands decisive action  

  • Put to the proof, test
  • Refute
  • Convict
  • Reprove
  • Lay bare, expose

Application : Put to the test and expose all error.

Rebuke …

Greek: epitimao

Aorist Imperative – Commands decisive action.

This is an interesting word. It literally means to ‘put honour/value upon’.

Translated as: assess, allege, reprove, censure.

Meaning: Put weight, importance, significance on a thing.

Application : Don’t let things lose their significance – which is what the truth will do if no one cares enough to correct error. Give God’s truth its proper weight and honour. Give the corruption of the truth its due weight and significance. Don't treat it lightly as if it doesn't matter.

'Encourage … '

Greek: parakaleo

Aorist Imperative - Commands decisive action.

[The word is always with a view to the future, not respecting the past; not retrospective]

  • Exhort, admonish, persuade
  • Beg, beseech, entreat, implore
  • Encourage, comfort, console
  • Get alongside

Application: Not just stating the difference between truth and error, but actively getting alongside people to seriously urge them to put aside the error and return to the truth.



'With great patience...'

Greek: en pase makrothumia

[Indicates that there is something there to provoke anger, but the anger is suppressed.

thumos’ = ‘temper’ – strong passion or emotion of the mind; anger, wrath, swellings of anger; expresses an inward feeling, an agitated condition of the feelings and expression of feelings; the instant expression of feelings.]

  • Makro thumia – refers to the suppression of those feelings for a long or big time.
  • Self-restraint in the face of provocation; not hastily retaliating or promptly punishing.
  • The opposite of expressing anger; associated with mercy.

Application: It takes great patience to teach the truth in the midst of error. It is much easier to give up and keep one’s mouth shut about the heresies. It is much easier to grumble and complain and ask God ‘Why do I have to keep confronting the same misunderstandings and errors all the time? Why does it have to be so hard? Why do I have to remind these people of the same truths time after time after time?’

But as Paul wrote: ‘It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.’ [Philippians 3:1]

With great patience we must teach God's truth again and again and again, until people understand.

'... and with careful instruction'

Greek: en pase makrothumia kai didake

Teaching, doctrine, the act of teaching or instruction.

Application: Teaching in the context of error requires great care. It is necessary today to state not only what the truth is [thesis] but what the truth is not [antithesis]. Many loose interpretations are given to biblical/Christian words and concepts, and we must never think that what we say and mean is what our audience actually hears.



‘For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.’

‘Sound’ = sound, pure, uncorrupted, wholesome, whole

‘not put up with’

  • ouk anexontai
  • future tense
  • not bear with, not endure patiently, not admit, not permit

[Note the contrast with the instruction to Timothy, who has to teach, correct, etc ‘with great patience’ - makrothumia. People can't be bothered to search for the true truth and to accept its demands. They won't stop and listen to something that demands so much of them in faith and obedience.]

‘Instead, to suit their own desires …’

Greek: ‘but’ [strong adversative], not ‘instead’.

Kata tes idias epithumias

  • according to their own desires [earnest desires, lusts, irregular or violent desires, cravings, longings (mostly evil)]

[Note the contrast with the makrothumia commanded to Timothy. Timothy, the preacher of God's Word, has to constantly suppress his 'thumia' - his feelings and desires; in contrast, the people he must confront constantly feed their 'thumia' with whatever teaching appeals to them.]

Application: Note the feelings-based approach to what people want to hear. Don't be influenced by this and alter the message.

‘… they will gather around them a great number of teachers …’

They will ‘heap up’, ‘accumulate’ teachers …

Note : The active accumulation of great numbers false teachers.

‘… to say what their itching ears want to hear.’

Greek: knetho = tickle, cause titillation, procure pleasurable excitement for, indulge an itching.

Note the criterion by which people select their teachers: whatever excites or titillates them, whatever gives them a pleasant feeling.

‘They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths’


Jeremiah 2:13: My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.’

Romans 1:18-31: ‘… who suppress the truth by their wickedness … although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened … they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images … the exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator … they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God …’

Galatians 1:6-7: ‘I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all.’

Lest we think that preference for error is a modern phenomenon, these verses teach us that this is how it has always been, and always will be. This is the context in which the truth must be proclaimed. Indeed, this is the reason why the truth must be proclaimed.



‘But you …’

In contrast to those who are given over to searching out exciting but aberrant teaching …

‘… keep your head in all situations …’

Present imperative - Commands continuity of action.

Greek: nepho:

  • Sober, not intoxicated, not under the influence of anything.
  • Vigilant, circumspect.
  • Not fuzzy-headed.
  • Not influenced by strong feelings
  • Not wandering all over the place
  • Calm and collected
  • Free from mental or spiritual intoxication.
  • Not taken in or influenced by the latest spiritual craze.

[Note: The fruit of the Spirit is ‘self-control’. Note also, in Galatians 3:1, Paul asked the deceived Christians ‘who has bewitched you? He also calls them ‘foolish’ – anoetoi – mindless. False teaching, in appealing in one way or another to the emotions, influences people to abdicate their minds and allow feelings to dictate actions, choices and beliefs. Conflict situations also have the same affect.]

‘… endure hardship …’

Aorist Imperative - Commands a decisive action.

Greek: kakopatheo

  • literally: bad things suffer
  • suffer evil or afflictions

Application: When preaching the Word is difficult or involves suffering/hardship, accept it. Don’t let it throw you into a tail-spin. That’s the way it is.

‘ … do the work of an evangelist …’

Aorist Imperative - Commands decisive action.

  • Tell people the good news

Application: Does what we do actually communicate the good news of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone to believers and unbelievers? Or does our teaching and preaching undo and disempower the good news?

‘… discharge all the duties of your ministry.’

Aorist Imperative - Commands decisive action.

Greek: ten diakonian sou plerophoreson [the verb means 'fill full'!] 

  • your ‘service’, your ‘ministry’, the work given to you
  • fulfil – discharge completely, carry out to the full,

Application: Don’t give up half-way. Don’t do it half-heartedly or incompletely. Do it fully, completely, the way God intended it to be done.



Paul’s charge to Timothy and to us calls us beyond superficiality:

  • It is comes from a serious and sincere knowledge that God’s truth is the only true truth.
  • It is grounded on the sure and serious facts that Jesus Christ is the judge of the living and the dead and that the day is most certainly coming when he will return as the Lord of lords and King of kings.
  • It is a charge to a decisive and deliberate presentation of the truth in a way that confronts and challenges all contemporary error.
  • It is a charge that demands of us a great depth of patience and a great degree of carefulness in teaching because of the context of error in which we teach.
  • It is a charge necessitated by the presence and proliferation of error, and the eagerness with which Christians and non-Christians alike prefer error over truth.
  • It is a charge that commands continual clear-thinking, so that at each point or moment of conflict or opposition, we will evidence spiritual stamina, we will repeatedly affirm the good news, and we will demonstrate a serious commitment that is there for the long haul.