Archive for October 14th, 2011
“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.” 2 Timothy 4:1-2 NASB
Solemnly charge you – Is Paul commanding Timothy to become a great preacher or teacher or exhorter? When you read this verse, do you feel the pinch of the Spirit exhorting you to be a more effective witness, to study harder, to complete your apologetics courses? Did Paul want all of us to “be ready” at all times to reprove, rebuke and exhort? If you’ve read these words to Timothy and felt as if God were speaking to you, you might want to look a bit deeper into the text before you sign up for a class on evangelism.
Let’s look at this “command.” The Greek verb, diamartyromai, is a present, middle indicative. It is not an imperative! That’s quite odd because this translation certainly makes it seem like a command. But a present, middle voice, indicative is a statement about the subject that involves only the subject. Paul is really saying something like “I testify in the presence of God . . .” The conversion of this word to “I solemnly charge you” changes everything about the meaning of the text. In fact, this verb is translated thirteen of its fifteen occurrences as “testify” or “witness.” The only other occurrence where it might be translated “charge” is found in 1 Timothy 5:21. But even there the text could be translated “I testify before God” rather than “I charge you before God.” In neither case is the verb an imperative. It seems as though Paul is not commissioning Timothy. He is testifying for himself in front of God to the truth of this claim. The reason our translation suggests a command is the implication that this exhortation is directed toward Timothy as something Timothy is to do. But Paul is simply stating a fact, much in the same way that we used to put our hand on the Bible when we were sworn in to give testimony in a courtroom. There are commands here. They are “preach,” “rebuke,” “exhort,” and so forth, but there is no “charge.” Paul is giving truthful testimony before witnesses as the foundation for what he tells Timothy. Timothy is expected to accept Paul’s statement as true because of its witness before God and Yeshua. But the direction is in the actions, not in the testimony.
This means that we will have to find the essence of Paul’s direction to Timothy in those action verbs following his promise to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We cannot find any explicit commission of a preacher here. This is not an ordination ceremony. It is a truthful statement about Paul’s desire for Timothy. Of course, we could read it as Paul fervent desire for all of us too, but that isn’t what it says. Paul is not ordaining all future generations of preachers. He is telling Timothy that there are some things he needs to do. Exactly what those things are remains to be seen.
Does this let us off the hook? After all, we aren’t all preachers. Unfortunately no, it doesn’t. What Paul asks of Timothy applies to each of us, but not in the way you might think. What we know so far is that what Paul tells Timothy comes with the authority of YHWH and Yeshua. That should be enough for us to pay careful attention to what comes next.
Topical Index: preacher, solemnly charge, diamartyromai, testify, 2 Timothy 4:1-2