These are the last recorded words of Paul, the great apostle. He wrote them from a Roman dungeon shortly before he died around 67 AD. From the time he was saved and called to apostleship in Damascus thirty years before, he had traveled far and wide to spread the gospel, plant churches, and develop leaders.
It was not easy work. Paul was often imprisoned, beaten, and mocked for making disciples. He was shipwrecked, left for dead, deserted (v.10), and left to face the end alone (v.16). But here at the end of his life he was able to look backward to a battle well fought and a race well run — and forward to the reward of seeing Jesus (v.6-8). And through all the hardships and the struggles he looked to the Lord Jesus, who stood by him to give strength, to rescue him, and to eventually take him safely to heaven (v.17-18). With that in mind, he wrote a few final Spirit-inspired words of instruction to Timothy, his friend and protégé.
Paul’s charge to Timothy should be embraced by every pastor and preacher: “Preach the word” (v.1-2). Preachers should be ready to preach at all times and to all needs (v.2). Sometimes the listeners need to be “reproved” or “rebuked” — corrected, called to repentance, and told they need to change. At other times they need to be “exhorted” — encouraged, comforted, and strengthened. And sometimes the preacher needs to “do the work of an evangelist”, calling people to be salvation in Christ (v.5). In some settings all these approaches are woven together in the same sermon or lesson. Preachers can’t neglect their time in preparation for preaching. That preparation is mission-critical for the church.
The preacher is to take his job seriously (“always be sober-minded”, v.5). He can’t fall into the trap of only telling people what they want to hear or adjusting their message so that it will always be liked (v.5). “Sound teaching” is what is needed in these last days (v.3). Only the truth of the gospel will save and sanctify; half-truths and “myths” will send people wandering into hell (v.4).
There is also a word here for church members. The implication in verses 3-4 is that when the preacher is preaching, the church ought to be listening. Preachers, prepare well and make sure your message is worth hearing. Members, prepare your heart to receive the truth and listen up. People like Paul and Timothy risked their lives and shed their blood to get that message to you.