THE MYSTICAL ORDER OF SPIRITUAL BAPTIST Inc.
FROM THE DESK OF THE ARCHBISHOP AND APOSTOLIC HEAD
Sir Dr. Godfrey Gregg
A CHARGE TO KEEP
Turn with me in your Bibles to 2 Timothy 4:1-5
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
In 1762 Charles Wesley penned the words to the great hymn “A Charge to Keep I Have.”
A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify,
A never-dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.
To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfil:
O may it all my powers engage
To do my Master’s will!
Arm me with jealous care,
As in Thy sight to live;
And O Thy servant, Lord, prepare
A strict account to give!
Help me to watch and pray,
And on Thyself rely,
Assured, if I my trust betray,
I shall forever die.
We have every one of us a charge to keep, an eternal God to glorify, an immortal soul to provide for, needful duty to be done, our generation to serve; and it must be our daily care to keep this charge, for it is the charge of the Lord our Master, who will shortly call us account about it, and it is our utmost peril if we neglect it. Keep it “that ye die not”; it is death, eternal death, to betray the trust that we are charged with; by the consideration of this we must be kept in awe. Leviticus 8:35
I believe every Christian has a charge to keep. It is a sacred trust, for which we will give a strict account. Carrying out that sacred charge will require that we engage all our power to do the Master’s will.
Without a doubt this is the passage that prompted Charles Wesley to write this challenging song. He and His brother John made an indelible impact on their generation. This great challenge has been passed on to us in the Word of God.
It Is a Very Solemn Charge.
It is a very SACRED charge.
In verse 1 Paul charges Timothy, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:
2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.
Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”
At the very heart of this word “charge” we get our English Word “martyr”. We think of a martyr one who gives his life for the cause of Jesus Christ. The meaning in the dictionary defines it as “a witness…a person who chooses to suffer or dies rather than gives up his faith or his principles.”
The primary concept is that of a faithful and full witness. Paul spells out his own martyrdom in verses 6-7, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith.” There is no better definition of martyrdom than that. Paul is putting his life on the line in order to be a faithful witness of Jesus Christ, He absolutely refuses to deny, or even to compromise, his testimony for Jesus Christ, even though he can hear the executioner sharpening the axe that will soon separate his head from his body.
We are often reminded of the word martyrdom which we see in three stages, and should give us a challenge.
“First, witnesses are passionately involved in the case they seek to present. They have been apprehended by it, and so they have an inner compulsion to plead its merits with others. Like their first-century predecessors, they cannot but speak of what they have seen and heard.
“Secondly, witnesses are held accountable for the truthfulness of their testimony. Perjury was, and still is, a serious offense punishable by heavy penalties. This solemn sense of being responsible under God for speaking truthfully appears in Paul who four times declares, “God is my witness”. Applied to preachers, this means that they are driven back to the Scriptures as the standard whereby their witness is to be judged.
Thirdly, witnesses must be faithful not only to bear the facts of the Christ-event, but also to their meaning. This entails presenting Christ and His message in the significance which truly belongs to them.
“To be faithful witnesses we must ever keep before us and…our hearers, the fully rounded, finely balanced, many-sided yet unitary significance of Christ.”
All three of those concepts are loaded into this little word “martyr”. The faithful witness, the accountability for truthfulness, and the unsurpassed, incomparable significance of the person and work of Jesus Christ are the driving forces of the dynamic witness for Jesus. And Paul loads it all into his charge to Timothy.
You can hear this charge thundering in the ears of faithful preachers through the ages: “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:
Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”
First of all that is a very SACRED charge.
We were taught to sing:
“I gave my life for thee, my precious blood I shed, that thou mightiest ransomed be, and quickened from the dead; I gave, I gave my life for thee, what hast thou given for me I believe God answers that question in this passage. It is a very sacred charge. If I am ever faced with the choice of giving up my life or giving up my faith, I want to keep the faith and give up the life. That decision is at the heart of martyrdom. It is at the very heart of this challenge.
Second, it is A very SOBERING responsibility.
Look again at verse 1. Pay special attention to the second part of the verse, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom…” That is a sobering responsibility! It is a very serious and solemn responsibility. It has everlasting consequences.
Above all else I want to be faithful in my responsibility to “preach the word.” It is a very sacred charge and a very sobering responsibility. My ultimate desire is to maintain the faithfulness of a martyr.
This Is a Very Serious Assignment.
Verse 2, “Preach the Word!” This is the Primary task of the Pastor.
That’s what Paul means when he says, “Be ready in season and out of season.” We are living in a time when preaching the word is out of season. People have itching ears and they don’t even know where to scratch.
A few years ago I read in the headlines of the newspaper that people are searching for God. I was so disappointed when I read that article. People aren’t searching for God. They are searching for an alternative for God. They have rejected God. They have scorned His Son.
They are looking for a viable alternative—and there are plenty of alternatives around. They are not really looking for God. If they were they would have found Him. His promise is “Ask and it
Shall be given to you. Seek and you shall find. Knock and it shall be opened to you.” God isn’t hard to find! But you have to search for Him with your heart. God says in Jeremiah 29:13, “…you will seek me and find me, (when?) When you search for me with all your heart.” That’s the real problem. God isn’t playing hide and seek. We’re just not looking for Him. If you open your eyes you can’t miss Him. What’s the problem? We’re playing blind man’s bluff. Have you ever played “Blind man’s bluff’? You put on a blindfold and try to catch and identify the other people in the game. Take off the blindfold, take a good look at Jesus, and I guarantee you will find God. He says, “You will find me”—when? “When you search for me with all your heart.” You will find Him in the Word of God-the Bible. The preacher has to “Preach the word!” The fisher of men has to fish in season when all the fish are biting. And he has to fish out of season—when the fish are so fat and sassy that they look at the feast on your hook and turn up their noses. Our answer to indifference is to “Preach the word. We need to be vigilant.
We also need to be DILIGENT.
Paul uses three words in verse 2 that add up to diligence.
The first word is Convince.
We are to preach with conviction. We are to convince people of their need for the Lord Jesus Christ. Our preaching of the Word must expose those falsehoods that cause people to turn away from the truth. If an unbeliever comes to our church he should leave convinced of the truth of the gospel.
As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:24, “…if…an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in (to one of our worship services), he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all.” The word “convinced” is the same word Paul uses to describe his concept of preaching. In 1 Corinthians 14:24 we convince people by our behaviour. In this passage we convince people by our preaching. There should be no contradiction between what we preach and the way we live. They both should do the same job. Both our lifestyles and our preaching should convince the hearers of the truth. My lifestyle is the most convincing element of my preaching. We need to live the word of God before we preach it. Then, after we preached the word we ought to live it. Who is your example of Christian living? Your answer is not far from you, Jesus Christ the Perfect One.
The second word Paul uses to define our diligence is the word “Rebuke.” It is not censorship it is loving rebuke. We need someone to rebuke us when we are travelling on the wrong road. I remember in the dream of John Bunyan when Christian was pointed to the Celestial City. He was told not to turn left or to the right because straight is the way and narrow is the gate that will lead him to the City. For some unknown reason he met someone who convinced him that the road was difficult and he should turn of at the next junction. Christian disobeyed the instructions of Evangelist and soon found himself lost. He prayed and was joined again with Evangelist who rebuked him and put him back on the road to continue his journey. Rebuke is a positive concept. It tells us when we are going wrong and helps us get back on track.
The third word defining our diligence is Exhort.
This is the third word Paul uses to define the diligence required of a Minister who preaches the Word of God. Exhortation is a form of encouragement. We all need encouragement, don’t we? Our Patriarch and Presiding Prelate hits home with his remarks on this word. He says, “The ministry is no place for the individual with a short fuse. Correction and rebuke rarely accomplish their purpose first time around. In fact, people are so sensitive that it may take considerable time to regain their balance after being confronted with the need for change, but in time God’s Spirit reshapes the way believers live so that they begin to act in the way Christ would have responded under similar circumstances.”
In all these communications we need to Be SENSITIVE.
Paul emphasizes this at the end of verse 2, “…with all longsuffering and teaching.”
Long suffering is patience. It is endurance. It is tolerance. It is being quick to forgive and slow to anger. It is taking time to think and pray before you retaliate. It takes the time and effort to find a more constructive way to deal with your anger. As Ministers we are to walk in the vocation that Christ has left us, and that means being angry and sin not. You hear me preach all the time and in my writings I often mentioned our behaviour must be above reproach. We need to ask ourselves how Jesus would have responded to this situation.
Paul adds Teaching to longsuffering. Why do so many of our young people have such deep and difficult problems? Why do they have such a hard time communicating with their parents and other authorities? I think the answer is right here. There is a lack of teaching in the home. Listen to me my brothers and sisters it all begins at home. You spare the rod and you will spoil the child. The problem of raising your children lies in the hands of the parents. It is too late for some and the only answer there is re the prison and the jails. This is a sad moment because the laws are against parental discipline.
Hear me as your Archbishop; the church can never be a substitute for parental responsibility and teaching. However we can help by teaching parents and children how to communicate with each other. Paul tells Timothy this is part of our responsibility as a church.
It Is A Very Dangerous Assignment.
Archbishop Williams says, “Danger feared is folly, danger faced is freedom.” The great theologian Dr. Bess says, “Wherever there is danger, there lurks opportunity; whenever there is opportunity there lurks danger. The two are inseparable; they go together.” I believe this is especially true in foreign missions.
But it is becoming more and more a reality in America as well in the Caribbean. I never thought I would ever see the day when there would be hostility between the church and the state. But here we are in 20th century we are still fighting to maintain our status in the community.
We need to Be Aware of the Appetites for FALSEHOOD.
Verse 3, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; Dr. Piper discusses this in his “Word Studies in the New Testament.” He says, “(They) shall invite teachers in groups. In periods of unsettled faith, skepticism, and mere curious speculation in matters of religion, teachers of all kinds swarm like flies in Egypt. The demand creates the supply. The hearers invite and shape their own preachers. If the people desire a calf to worship, a ministerial calf-maker is readily found.”
They have itching ears. Dr. Williams describes certain teachers as “scratching and tickling,” Dr. McGee comments on this statement: “…in no human way, the ears of those… eagerly desire to be scratched. Some come to hear, not to learn, just as we go to the theatre for pleasure, to delight our ears with the speaking voice or the plays. What a picture of our day! As someone has said, ‘some people go to church to close their eyes and others to eye the clothes!'”
The faithful Bible teacher will be Attentive
To Rejection of TRUTH.
Verse 4, “They will turn away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”
This is happening in our day as it has never happened before. What are we to do when this phenomena happened Are we to tone down the doctrine and elevate the entertainment? Many people get a little uneasy when the preacher says, “We are saved by the blood of the crucified One.” They don’t seem to appreciate the emphasis on the theme that Jesus shed His blood for you and for me.
I suspect that many today don’t come to church to hear sound doctrine. They come to hear the sound of music. As Bishop Brown says, “They want entertainment from Christian performers who will tickle their ears.” I believe this craving for novelty will increase as we approach the end times. Bishop Brown warns, “…that itching ears soon become deaf ears as people turn away from the truth and believe man made fables.”
But the real problem is not so much the form of worship as it is the content of worship. Paul’s emphasis is on sound doctrine. “Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and doctrine.”
That is the primary task of the preacher. I firmly believe that good, solid exposition of God’s Word communicates. I have a responsibility to feed the people the truth of God’s Word and I will not deviate from it for a moment. That is why I put so much of my time and energy into it. My written sermons will tell the time of study and prayer to accomplish this goal. The greatest compliment you could ever pay me is to say, “He preaches the Word of God faithfully.” That is my greatest desire.
At the same time I fully believe that we need worship services that excite the imagination and communicate to the heart and soul. I don’t want them to go away saying, “Wow, that was a dull, boring and unedifying experience.” We need to make our worship services both exciting and edifying to all who come. It should be a learning experience. It should be an emotional experience. It should be a nurturing experience. It should be a spiritual growth experience. It should be a vibrant, life-changing experience. It should leave the worshipper wanting to come back for more. In our Spiritual Baptist Churches we need to minister the word more that entertaining. We need to put God first in the preached word and that will bring the rejoicing. I know I will be chastised for that foregone statement, but I have an obligation to preach the Word at all times regardless of convictions.
My brothers and sisters in Christ the word of God is a sure foundation that we must build on. We don’t want to make the mistake of thinking that being dull, lifeless, and predictable is synonymous with being spiritual. Nor do we want to make the mistake that being old fashioned and routine is synonymous with spirituality. More often than not it just means we are in a rut. We need new life. New life brings fresh experience and refreshing changes.
God will never change. His word will never change. Everything else is unpredictable. It is subject to change. How we preach the Word will change. How we perceive God will change. How we respond to God will change. We will either change with the times or we will die on the vine.
Amidst all this change Paul emphasizes to Timothy and to all future preachers that they are to “Preach the Word!” In season and out of season we are to preach the Word. We are to translate it in every language on earth. We are to preach it to every generation. Too, often we stoop to just arguing about it. If I’m not careful I’m going to get passionate about this theme. We often want to preach to the Church and are afraid to preach to our children and families. Our job as Ministers of this Gospel is to tell it like it is. Here is an example of Jesus to the woman at the well “Thou hast five husbands and the one you living with is not yours.” The word of God must prevail under any circumstance. Preach-the word to those who long to hear and have some new and novel ideas. Preach the Word to those who yearn to hear something besides the same old story. Our number one priority is to tell the old story of Jesus and His love.
Be Alert To Inevitable AFFLICTIONS.
Verse 5, “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry.”
In all these signs of defection from the faith we are to exercise vigilant watchfulness. When afflictions come, as I’m sure they will, what are we to do? One of the Cromwell’s of history was credited with saying, “Put your trust in God, my boys, and keep your powder dry.”
There may come a time when that will be appropriate advice for those of us who live in America. I will also say in the Caribbean where the guns are the only weapon to afflict others. But for now we have a wide open door of opportunity. We need only to take advantage of it. But never forget the ominous power and the wretched sinister nature of our enemy. Paul puts it all on the line in verse 5, “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry.”
I trust that we will leave here with a better understanding of the charge before us and be a better people. Especially those of us who minister the word of God.