The Spirit of the Charge — Relevantly

Relevantly. In addition, Timothy is to preach the Word in a relevant manner.240 Somebody once said that the purpose of preaching is to comfort the disturbed and to disturb the comfortable. That is the spirit of the charge here. The preacher of the Word is to “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (v. 2). There is the negative aspect of preaching—“reprove, rebuke,” and the positive aspect of preaching—“exhort,” “doctrine.”241

The word “reprove” (Gk. elegcho), means, to “convict, convince, tell a fault,”242 “bring to proof,”243 or “expose.”244 According to F. Buchsel, the root word, ykh, denotes “God’s disciplining by teaching, admonition, testing, and correction.”245 Hence, the preacher of the Word is to convict, admonish, convince, or prove to people what is true. He is to expose also, what is false, erroneous, and heretical by the truths of the Word.

The word, “rebuke” (Gk. epitimao), denotes, “to tax upon, i.e., censure or admonish; by implication, forbid.” The root word, timao, means, to “fix a valuation upon; by implication, to revere: honour, value.”246 Robertson thus defines epitimao as “to give honour (or blame) to, to chide [Luke 17:3].”247

The New Testament treats human rebuke “with great reserve” (Matt. 16:22; Mark 10:13, 48), as E. Stauffer notes, in a spirit of “humility” (Luke 23:41) and “forgiveness” (Luke 17:3).248 Thus, the herald of God is to admonish, chide, or  reprimand with the Word with all self-control and humility, and in a forgiving spirit. Scripture is like a hammer that breaks sin. But no preacher should use it as such without a spirit of love.

On the surface, the words “reprove” and “rebuke” both carry the same idea of correction or telling a fault.249 Yet, there is a vital difference. To reprove is to correct false doctrine, errors, or sinful behavior by convincing people of what is true and false according to the Word. To rebuke is to correct people’s sinful motives and thoughts about sin—leading to repentance (Luke 17:3; Heb. 4:12).250

To reprove is to convince people of things that are doctrinal and behavioral. To rebuke may correct matters that are motivational and moral. The goal of reproving is to make them sound in the faith (Titus 1:13). The goal of rebuking is to facilitate repentance (1 Tim. 5:20).

There are many pastors today who disregard this part of the apostolic command. In their desire to attract more people to their church, they avoid offending their target audience. Of course, we are not out to attack everything we dislike in our listeners. The church is not the place for Sunday “bull sessions.” But the context of the apostolic mandate to preach the Word in 2 Timothy is the spread of false teachers and the falling away of some from the faith (2 Tim. 3:13; 2 Tim. 4:3-4). It is the duty of every biblical pastor then to rebuke and reprove believers with the Word.

The speaker of the Word must also “exhort” or “encourage” (NIV). Yet the word (Gk. parakaleo) has a deeper meaning. It is a compound of the preposition para (meaning, “near, i.e. from beside, at the vicinity of, to the proximity with”) and kaleo (meaning, “to call”). Parakelao therefore denotes “to call near, i.e., invite, invoke (by imploration, hortation or consolation), call for, be of good comfort.”251 Thus, the AGNT literally translates it, “call to [one’s side].”252

Yet the sense “‘to call in’ fades into the background” of the rich New Testament usage of the word. The word carries the idea of admonition (Heb. 13:22; 1 Pet. 5:22; Jude 3) “in Christ,” “by his name,” “by his meekness and gentleness,” and “by the mercy of God” (Phil. 2:1; 1 Cor. 1:10; 2 Cor. 10:1; Rom. 12:1).253 One must therefore exhort, encourage, comfort, or admonish in the name and wisdom of Christ, and in a Christ-like way.

Exhortation is “addressed to the feelings and will with a view to the regulation of the conduct.”254 Thus, the herald of the Word is to admonish, encourage, and excite people with the Word of God. He is “one who presents the warnings and the promises of God, to excite men to the discharge of their duty.”255 Similarly, the gift of exhortation calls “others to obey and follow God’s truth . . . used negatively to admonish and correct regarding sin (2 Tim. 4:2), or positively, to encourage, comfort, and strengthen struggling believers (cf. 2 Cor. 1:3-
5; Heb. 10:24, 25).”256

The command to reprove, rebuke, and exhort are all in the aorist imperative  tense.257 Pastor Timothy must do all of it urgently and immediately—now—in these last days.

To preach the Word relevantly then is to proclaim it with both the head (truth) and the heart (grace) (Acts 20:31; 2 Tim. 1:13). The preacher is to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). The church will suffer from both a headless sermon and a heartless sermon. John Piper says that both kinds will kill the preacher, the preaching, and “not too long after, the church.”258


240 Stott, 2 Timothy,108.
241 Stott, 2 Timothy,108.
242 Strong, Strong’s Greek Dictionary in Power Bible CD.
243 Robertson, Robertson’s Word Pictures in Power Bible CD.
244 Friberg and Friberg, Analytical in Bible Windows CD.
245 TDNT, s. v. “elencho” by F. Buchsel.
246 Strong, Strong’s Greek Dictionary in Power Bible CD.
247 Robertson, Robertson’s Word Pictures in Power Bible CD.
248 TDNT, s. v. “epitimao” by E. Stauffer.
249 The NIV translated word, “correct,” may not distinguish it from the word, “rebuke.” Both words can mean the same thing—correction.
250 MacArthur, MacArthur, 1880.
251 Strong, Strong’s Greek Dictionary in Power Bible CD.
252 Friberg and Friberg, Analytical in Bible Windows CD.
253 TDNT, s. v. “parakaleo” by O. Schmitz, 781.
254 Jamieson, Fausset, Brown, JFBC in Power Bible CD.
255 Barnes, Barnes’ Commentary in Power Bible CD.
256 MacArthur, MacArthur, 1717.
257 Zodhiates, The Complete, 706.
258 John Piper, “Advise to Pastors: Preach the Word.” Cited __ Online:


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