I’ve titled today’s message the quick and the dead. That phrase is found in vs 1 of our text in the KJV. That title does not really describe the major content of my message, but I thought it sounded cool, so I decided to make it my title. If it sounds like the title to a western movie, it’s because it actually is. It was used for at least two movies by that name. One was what is called a revisionist western, which had cast some sultry actress as the gunslinger. I never bothered to watch that. As someone who grew up watching westerns, I felt that it was something like sacrilege to have that actress play a gunslinger in a western. The other movie called The Quick and the Dead was based on a Louis L’amour novel, and he did have a realistic knowledge of how it was in the Old West. And they had Sam Elliot play the lead in that. He at least looked and sounded like a cowboy.
Of course, in a western movie you would think that the word “quick” was a reference to how fast they could draw a pistol. But the origin of the phrase “the quick and the dead” is actually from the King James Version of the Bible and as I said it is found in our text today, in vs 1. Modern versions interpret it as the living and the dead. And that is more accurate. That phrase is used several times in scripture, and also in the Apostle’s Creed.
But that phrase, while it makes for a cool title, is really only a side note of this final message of Paul to Timothy. The context of this message really starts in chapter 3 vs 1, where Paul says, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.” I said previously that the last days speaks of the church age, which started with the first appearing of Jesus Christ and continues until His second appearing. And during this age, Paul said, there will be perilous seasons, actually becoming more perilous and more frequent as the age comes to a close. We are living in the last age, and I believe the church is in yet another perilous season.
Paul says that the danger to the church was there would be seasons where apostasy would run rampant in the church, when false teachers would prevail in the pulpits of churches, when people would be duped by a form of religion but without the power of the Holy Spirit to change their hearts from being dead in their trespasses to being made alive in Christ.
Now last Sunday as we studied the last half of chapter 3, I said that Paul gave Timothy and by extension, gives us, a strategy for surviving these perilous seasons. The first part of that strategy for surviving the perilous times which we covered last time, was the need for discipleship. Being a disciple means abiding in sound doctrine. Following the teaching and principles of the word of God as given by the apostles. Paul says in chapter three vs 10, “Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, [and] sufferings.” So being a disciple is to pattern your life after the example of Christ and the apostles.
And another aspect of discipleship that we talked about last week is the need to abide in the word of God. Avoiding the perilous times, the traps of the enemy, will be accomplished by continuing your walk according to the word of God, which is able to train you for righteousness and equip you for every good work. Today we come to the next part of the strategy for surviving perilous times, and that requires submitting to the preaching of the word of God. And we find that laid out for us in chapter 4, starting in vs one. We must remember that the chapter breaks are a man made effort to categorize the scriptures so that we might refer more easily to them. But when Paul wrote this letter, he did not make a break in his argument. There were no chapter breaks in the original text. So he continues his argument in chapter 4.
That being said though, we do see a heavy emphasis given here to the necessity of preaching in chapter 4. Paul gives a very solemn charge to Timothy to preach the word. Starting in vs 1 he says, “I solemnly charge [you] in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season [and] out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”
Paul gives Timothy a solemn charge to preach the word. I just don’t know how to say it any better. I guess the closest example is that it’s like a command from a superior officer, an order to do something that has serious, life or death consequences. An officer in the army who gives a solemn order to a soldier to perform a most serious mission, even a very dangerous mission, which has serious consequences.
Notice he gives this order in the presence of God and Christ Jesus. The Father and Son are ultimately the authority for the command to Timothy. He will be acting on their orders, on their behalf. You know it’s a serious responsibility to preach the word of God. We should not approach this responsibility with a cavalier attitude. James said, “let not many of you become teachers brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.” It’s a serious responsibility to preach the word of God, and it has serious consequences. It is a matter of life and death.
And Paul adds that aspect of life and death by saying, ““I solemnly charge [you] in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead.” As I mentioned earlier, in the KJV it reads “the quick and the dead.” I like that better. But I think it needs to be explained. Most commentators think that this phrase refers to those who are still living when the Lord comes back, and those that have died before His second coming. Thus the living and the dead or the quick and the dead.
But I don’t interpret it that way at all. I think it refers to those who are spiritually alive and those that are spiritually dead. We are all to be judged. Paul indicates that Timothy will be judged by Christ regarding how well he carried out his mission to preach the word. I will be judged by that same standard. 2Cor. 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” Everyone will be judged by what he has done in the body, whether good or bad.” All those that are spiritually alive and all those that are dead in their trespasses and sins will be judged when the Lord comes back. Everyone will face the judgment.
It is by His appearing and His Kingdom that the King will judge the earth and all the inhabitants of the earth, both those who are of His kingdom and those who have rejected His kingdom. The first time Jesus came to earth He came to establish HIs kingdom and offer salvation to those that would believe in Him and confess Him as their Lord. The second time He comes to consummate His kingdom and judge the people of the world. And those that He finds have been good stewards will be rewarded, but those who denied Him will be cast out into outer darkness.
Jesus said in Matt. 25:31-33 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.”
That judgement which will come upon the whole world is the reason that the charge Timothy is given is such a solemn, weighty command. Because the preaching of the word is the primary means by which God has established that people will be given the wisdom that leads to salvation and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. It is by the foolishness of preaching that men are saved, and by which those that are saved are trained in righteousness. 1Cor. 1:21 says, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not [come to] know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe.”
To preach, by the way, means to be a herald of the message that God has given to men. It’s the proclamation of the gospel, the good news of salvation. It is the exercise of what it means to be an ambassador.
And very important to note, Paul commands Timothy to preach the word. Not Timothy’s word. Not preach some form of spiritualism. Not human psychology. Not the social gospel. Not the prosperity gospel. Not how to have your best life now. Not how to win friends and influence people. Not what you think is a more current, relevant, socially acceptable, politically correct version of the gospel. And not preach something that is designed to make everyone feel all warm and fuzzy and loved and special and not hurt anyone’s feelings. But preach the word of God, the truth of God, the truth about sin, about hell, about the cross, about sacrifice, about atonement, about reconciliation, about justification, about sanctification, about glorification. Preach all of the word, every word of God given to us in scripture.
As we learned last week in chapter 3 vs 16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
Now in our text today Paul goes on to say that truly preaching the word of God will have four essential components. First, to “be ready in season and out of season.” This idea behind the phrase translated “be ready” to preach isn’t really communicated very well by our translation. Some versions say be instant, others be urgent, others be prepared. The original Greek translation is primarily used for the idea “to come, or to stand, or to appear.” So it’s a little hard to determine what it means exactly. But I think the idea is that he was to be consistent, on point, at all times. Not hot or cold. Not fervent in preaching in good times and in perilous times lax in preaching. But having an urgency that each opportunity to preach was of vital importance.
I have always personally applied that verse to my ministry, especially the in season and out of season part. It’s difficult to have seasons such as we have in our church. But remember, Paul was waring Timothy of the perilous seasons which were to come. Paul says be ready, be earnest, be prepared, be urgent in your preaching, both in the perilous seasons and in the more acceptable seasons.
The second essential component of preaching the word is to reprove. Another possible translation might be to convict. Sin must be preached against so that the sinner repents. To not preach about sin is to take away the whole purpose of the cross, to nullify Jesus’ atonement.
Thirdly, preaching must include rebuke. In the process of reproving, there must be a reprimand. Actually, I think there is very little difference between reprove and rebuke. I suppose you might say one emphasizes conviction, and the other emphasizes correction. This is what you have done wrong, this is how you correct it.
And fourthly, preaching must include exhortation. Exhortation is to encourage. Not just showing sympathy, but motivating the person to make a change, to take action, to get up, to continue, to persevere. Urging. That’s really the difference between preaching and teaching. Preaching is exhortation. Emphatically urging. I guess that’s why preachers tend to yell. Or at least, that’s my excuse.
Then as a modifier to all the above elements of preaching, Paul adds, preach with great patience and instruction. The preacher must be patient with the one hearing the message. Not patient as in “well, when you get around to it, eventually, you should do this.” But the pastor should persevere, be deliberate, willing to put in the time, to wait for the Lord to give the increase to the seed which he plants. Instruction means teaching. So preaching includes teaching. And his teaching should be characterized by great perseverance or endurance, which is perhaps the best idea behind patience.
Then in vs 3, Paul gives a reason why Timothy must be so diligent in preaching the word. Because he says, “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but [wanting] to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”
The perilous season will be a time when men will not listen to sound doctrine. Men will not tolerate the truth, or say that there is not absolute truth, and so give ear to false doctrines and myths.
The different translations translate the phrase differently, “wanting to have their ears tickled.” Some say “having itching ears.” Itching ears means you want to hear something that scratches that itch. You want to hear something that suits your own desires. You know it’s a strange irony in Christianity that a lot of people have an interest in church, or an interest in religious things, they seek out Bible studies, they hop from one church after another, trying to find one that tells them what they want to hear. It’s like Paul said of certain idle women in the church in the last chapter, “always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Sometimes it’s taken me awhile to recognize a person who seems to have an interest in the Bible, in being taught the things of God, and I suppose that because they have been going to Bible studies or to other churches that it’s evidence of their sincere faith. But it sometimes becomes evident later on that they really had no saving knowledge of the truth at all, but were merely searching for someone to scratch their itch, to validate their false belief. So pursuing religious activities, or going to church is not a true measure of one’s desire to know the truth. Paul says they don’t want to know the truth, they want to hear something to validate their false doctrine.
And so he says they accumulate to themselves these false teachers, these teachers that over emphasize some doctrines, yet overlook other aspects of scripture. They are attracted to teachers who add human psychology and mysticism and spiritualism and all kinds of other isms to their message. The bottom line is that people in these perilous times turn away from the truth, the pure milk of the word, and turn to false doctrines. And that’s what is so perilous about these difficult seasons in the church age, it causes men to believe a lie, and as such remain dead in their sin.
Paul concludes this solemn charge to Timothy by saying in vs5 “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” Paul is making a sharp contrast between the false teachers that people accumulate and congregate around and listen to, and Timothy’s ministry. I think he is indicating that Timothy must recognize that he is to take the less popular path. The false teachers are very popular. They have no problem gathering a crowd with their people pleasing doctrines. The truth is much less popular. Timothy must accept that, and endure the hardship that comes from preaching the truth, to not being popular.
You know, the prophets in the Old Testament were rarely popular. Not even Moses was popular while he was living. The people usually were antagonistic towards God’s prophets. But the false prophets are popular. Don’t judge a preachers’ message by the size of his congregation. At least not by the standard that bigger is better. That’s not how God measures, or how God will judge his ministry. God will judge a preacher by how faithful he was to God’s word.
Paul encourages Timothy to do the work of an evangelist. An evangelist is someone who preaches the gospel. It could be used as a title as well. It was used as a title for some early preachers like Philip. But notice Paul is not saying Timothy is to be an evangelist, but to do the work of an evangelist. That simply means to be a gospel bringer. To bring the gospel. To bring it, in season and out of season, in good times, and in hard times. Bring it. Don’t back down, don’t hesitate, don’t grow tired and discouraged and want to take a break for a while. Stir up the fire in you and bring the gospel to a world that is dying. Bring the gospel to the quick and the dead. That’s the mission, that’s the command. Fulfill your ministry.
What is your ministry, or better yet, what is your part in the ministry? Paul said in Eph 4:11-16 “And He gave some [as] apostles, and some [as] prophets, and some [as] evangelists, and some [as] pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, (that’s you, that’s your ministry – the work of service) to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love,(that is the work of an evangelist; speaking the truth of the gospel in love for those that are dying) we are to grow up in all [aspects] into Him who is the head, [even] Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, (that speaks of each of you doing your part in proclaiming the good news) causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
So you have been commissioned to bring the gospel as well. To do the work of an evangelist. To build up the body of Christ, that is to build up the church, to add to the church, to make disciples. That is every Christian’s commission. That’s your solemn charge. It’s a matter of life and death. I pray that you will heed the call, and fulfill your ministry, that you may be found a faithful servant when the Lord comes again to judge the quick and the dead.