Why We Must Preach the Word, Part 4

John MacArthur | June 4, 2015

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Motivation 3: Preach the Word
Because of the Dynamic of the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15–17)

The faithful expositor is motivated, thirdly, by the nature of the Bible itself. He understands that Scripture is no ordinary book; it is the inspired revelation of God Himself. If the pastor desires to honor the Lord in his ministry, or to see the Holy Spirit’s work unhindered in the lives of his people, he has no other alternative than to preach the Word faithfully.

Timothy had experienced the power of God’s Word from a young age. Paul reminded him of that reality with these words: “From childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (3:15). It was clear to Timothy where the power and authority in ministry lay.

The term Paul used for “childhood” refers to an infant. From the time Timothy had been a baby in the arms of his mother he had been exposed to the Word of God. And it was through the Scriptures he had come to saving faith in Jesus Christ. The apostle appealed to Timothy’s past, essentially asking, “Why would you do anything other than preach the Word when you know, from your own personal testimony, that it alone is the wisdom that leads to salvation?” When the mission is to present the message of salvation in all its Spirit-empowered fullness, the only option is to faithfully proclaim the truth of God’s Word.

Having already appealed to Timothy’s upbringing, Paul reinforced his point by emphasizing the Bible’s true nature and dynamic effectiveness:“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (3:16–17). This sacred book is “inspired by God,” or more literally, God-breathed. And, as these verses indicate, it is not only powerful to save (v. 15), but also to sanctify.

The Word of God is profitable, or useful towards sanctification, in four ways. First, as the sole source of divine truth, it provides the doctrinal content for teaching. Second, it is the authority for admonition and reproof, because it confronts sin and error. Third, it provides the vehicle for correction. The Scriptures not only expose wrong-doing, they also show transgressors how to be restored to an upright position. Finally, after the truth of God’s Word has torn down sin and error, it builds up the believer through training in righteousness. Clearly, the function of the Scriptures in the life of the believer is a comprehensive work.

The result of this all-encompassing work is that the man of God and everyone under his influence is made mature, whole, complete, and equipped for every good work (v. 17). The first student of the Word is the preacher, who himself must be impacted. He is the primary beneficiary, and his ministry to others flows out of the Word’s transforming work in his own heart.

With such a comprehensive work of both salvation and sanctification available through the power of the Scriptures, why would anyone be tempted to preach anything else? The pastor who cares about the spiritual growth of his people must make God and His Word the centerpiece of his ministry. In order to do that, he must preach the Word.

Motivation 4: Preach the Word
Because of the Demand of the Sovereign (2 Timothy 4:1–2)

Up to this point, Paul has prefaced his command to preach by warning Timothy about the dangerous seasons that will come, and by pointing to his own example and to the supernatural power of Scripture. But in 4:1, the apostle escalated his exhortation to an even greater level.

Invoking God Himself, Paul expressed the seriousness of the situation in explicit terms: “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead and do so by His appearing in His Kingdom.” Those piercing words should strike holy fear into the heart of every preacher. They stand as the apex of Paul’s previous statements, and should serve as the most compelling motivation in the life of the expositor.

The Scottish Reformer John Knox certainly understood this reality. Upon being commissioned to preach, and feeling the weight of that responsibility, Knox “burst forth in most abundant tears and withdrew himself to his chamber” (Marion Harland, John Knox, 16). He was completely overwhelmed by the awesome accountability of that duty.

Timothy’s call to preach came not simply from Paul, but from the Sovereign King by whom he was commissioned, and before whom he would one day give an account. Jesus Christ is the one who will judge the faithfulness of his ministers. As men of God, they are under holy scrutiny from the Lord himself. This is nowhere made clearer than in Revelation 1:14 where Christ is portrayed as surveying His church with penetrating eyes of fire. Those who are called to preach are under inescapable divine observation (cf. Prov. 15:3). There is no relief from His gaze, no hiding from His evaluation (cf. Psalm 139:7–12).

It is for this reason that James exhorted his readers to stop being so many teachers, as theirs is a greater judgment (Jas. 3:1). It is why the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:3–4 that it was a small thing what men thought of him, including what he thought of himself, because he was accountable to God. Hebrews 13:17 plainly states that leaders “will give an account” for their ministry. The most dominant force in the preacher’s life and ministry is the realization that he will one day give an account to God (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10).

Consider the following anecdote from Spurgeon’s ministry:

A young preacher once complained to Charles Spurgeon, the famous British preacher of the 1800s, that he did not have as big a church as he deserved.
“How many do you preach to?” Spurgeon asked.
“Oh, about 100,” the man replied.
Solemnly Spurgeon said, “That will be enough to give account for on the day of judgment.”
(Cited from W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 2:254)

Serious ministry is motivated by that weighty reality. Popularity with people, recognition from peers, winsomeness in the pulpit—these are not the standards of success. God’s opinion is the only one that ultimately matters. And His measure of success is faithfulness (cf. Matt. 25:21, 23). Knowing this, the biblical expositor is driven to carefully, clearly, and consistently preach the Word.

Part 5

John MacArthur avatar
John MacArthur is the Chancellor Emeritus and professor of pastoral ministry at The Master's University and Seminary. He is also the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church, author, conference speaker, and featured teacher with Grace to You.

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