The Inoculation Against Apostasy, Life-Study of 2 Timothy, Message Seven, pp. 57-60
I. THE APOSTLE'S CHARGE
In 4:1 Paul says to Timothy, "I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, Who is about to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom." God has given all judgment to Christ because He is a man (John 5:22, 27; Acts 10:42; 17:31; Rom. 2:16). As the righteous Judge (2 Tim. 4:8), He will judge the living from His throne of glory at His second appearing (Matt. 25:31-46), and He will judge the dead at the great white throne after the millennium (Rev. 20:11-15).
In 4:1 Paul speaks of Christ's appearing and His kingdom. Christ's appearing will be for judgment, to reward each one of us (Matt. 16:27; Rev. 22:12), and His kingdom will be for His reigning with His overcomers (Rev. 20:4, 6). By these two events the apostle charges Timothy to fulfill his ministry of the word faithfully. Here it seems that Paul is saying, "Timothy, you must realize that your life and work today have much to do with the Lord's appearing and His kingdom. At His appearing will you be praised by the Lord, or will you receive a rebuke from Him? Will you receive a reward or chastisement? Will you be considered qualified to participate in the divine kingship and reign with Christ for a thousand years, or will you be disqualified from reigning with Him? Timothy, you need to think seriously about these things. Thus, I charge you by the Lord's appearing and kingdom."
It is a matter of great significance to be charged by the Lord's appearing and kingdom. As genuine Christians we are saved for eternity, but how are we living our Christian life, and how well are we fulfilling our Christian duty? Are we taking care of God's New Testament economy? Do we practice the proper church life, the Body life, to express God in Christ through the Spirit? These questions deserve our attention, for the way we answer them may determine our future as far as the Lord's appearing and coming kingdom are concerned. Do not listen to the superstitious and superficial teachings which tell you that as long as you are saved you cannot have any problems with the Lord at His coming. You may have great problems when you meet Him at the judgment seat. Every believer in Christ, every genuinely saved person, must stand before the judgment seat of Christ and be judged by Him not concerning salvation or perdition, but concerning reward or punishment. Because this is a solemn matter, Paul charged Timothy before God and Christ Jesus and by the Lord's appearing and kingdom.
In verse 2 Paul continues his charge: "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching." The word Timothy was to preach included what he had learned both of Paul and of the Old Testament (3:14-15). This proves that verses 1 and 2 are a continuation of 3:14-17. In caring for a local church, especially in a time of the church's decline, the preaching of the Word is vital.
Timothy was not merely to preach a word about salvation from hell to heaven. He was to speak a completing word regarding God's revelation concerning Christ and the church. Such a healthy word is the truth, the reality of the contents of God's New Testament economy. Timothy was charged to be ready to preach this word in season and out of season. To preach in season and out of season means to preach whether the situation is opportune or inopportune, whether it is convenient or inconvenient, whether you are welcome or unwelcome. Furthermore, Timothy was to reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all longsuffering and teaching. Reprove here means to convict. The adjective all modifies both longsuffering and teaching. It speaks of teaching in many aspects and directions. The carrying out of such teaching requires longsuffering.
II. THE TIME OF APOSTASY
Verses 3 and 4 say, "For the time will come when they will not tolerate healthy teaching, but according to their own lusts they will heap up to themselves teachers tickling the ear, and they will turn away their ear from the truth, and will be turned aside to fables." The time mentioned in verse 3 refers to the time when the decline of the church becomes worse. At that time many will not tolerate healthy teaching, teaching which is healthy in life and which ministers the supply of life. Instead, they will prefer teachers who tickle the ear. This indicates that those who do not tolerate healthy teaching have an itching ear, an ear which seeks pleasing speaking for its own pleasure. Furthermore, such persons will turn away their ear from the truth and will be turned aside to fables. The itching ear that is turned away is the main factor of the worsening decline in the churches.
Many Christians today do not tolerate the healthy teachings related to God's economy. When we teach that Christ is the God-man, the One who is the embodiment of God as His expression, some accuse us of blasphemy or heresy. Some have even gone so far as to twist our words concerning Christ as the God-man and, in print, to falsely accuse us of teaching that Christ was neither quite God nor quite man. In The Four Major Steps of Christ I say, "We know that Christ is God incarnated as a man. Christ is the God-man. He is not only a man of God, He is also a God man. Therefore, the incarnation of Christ simply means the mingling of God with humanity" (p. 6). Twisting our words and grossly misrepresenting us, certain of our opposers have written, "This incarnate deity was neither quite God nor quite man; He was a third thing, a mingled God-man." We believe that because Christ is true God and true man, He is the God-man. He is the perfect God and a complete man as well. Both His divine nature and His human nature, each being complete, concur in His one Person—without separation, without confusion, and without being changed into a third nature. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the God-man, one Person with two natures, is worthy to receive our worship and praise forever.
Because many Christians today will not tolerate healthy teaching, they heap up teachers to tickle their itching ears. The teachings in the Lord's recovery are altogether different. Our teachings do not tickle the ear. Instead, they may operate on the ears of those who hear. Unable to bear such an operation, some turn their ears away from the truth.
We have pointed out again and again that in 1 and 2 Timothy truth refers to the reality of the contents of God's New Testament economy. This reality consists primarily of Christ as the embodiment of God and of the church as the Body of Christ. Instead of listening to proper teachings concerning Christ and the church, many Christians have turned aside to other things.