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)
An extended quotation and explanation of 2 Timothy 4:1-2 has been copied below. It is my prayer that thinking through the explanation of these verses will have a strengthening effect upon those in the ministry of God’s word and a call to hearers of his word to demand appropriate ministers and teachers in their churches.
This charge is commanded of men of God in the presence of God-Father and God-Son. The gravity of the command cannot be overstated. There is an appearance and a kingdom to prepare God’s people thereunto. At the Bema judgment, this charge will be required upon all those who have entered the preaching and/or teaching ministry of the gospel. Sober commands indeed.
At the end of chapter 3 Paul impressed upon Timothy the sufficiency of Scripture for his ministry (3:16-17) so that, unlike the false teachers mentioned earlier in the letter, Timothy will stick with Scripture as the all-sufficient basis of his ministry for the long run. Then follows the charge of 4:1-2, which spells out the precise way in which Timothy is to use this sufficient Scripture.
The charge is made up of five verbs in the imperative (‘preach the word’, ‘be ready in season and out of season’, ‘reprove’, ‘rebuke’ and ‘exhort’) followed by a prepositional phrase that qualifies them (‘with complete patience and teaching’). Although each of the five imperatives carries its own weight and meaning and could seem like one of a series of stand-alone instructions, the leading charge to ‘preach the word’ plays a dominant role, not only by being first but also by being amplified by the second imperative “be ready in season and out of season”, and by the prepositional phrase with [didache] at the end of this verse’. If the five imperatives were really stand-alone instructions (rather than the four relating closely to the first), the second charge would carry little meaning; the charge ‘be ready’ as a stand-alone charge immediately begs the question: Be ready to do what?
If the leading imperative ‘preach’ (keryxon) is qualified by the four imperatives and the prepositional phrase that follow, each of these then communicates something of the nature of the preaching that Timothy is to engage in. To obey the charge to preach will require Timothy to be ready (epistethi) ‘in season and out of season’, not least because sound teaching will not always be welcome (4:3). In his preaching, Timothy will have to ‘reprove’ (elenxon; that is, correct false understanding or sinful behavior), ‘rebuke’ (epitimeson; that is, call his addressees to turn from ungodliness) and ‘exhort’ (parakaleson; that is, call the people to believe and live out the truth he proclaims). He is to do all this with ‘patience’ (makrothymia), because it will take time and perseverance for his addressees to accept and respond to God’s word. And he to preach with ‘teaching’ (didache), because his reprovals, rebukes and exhortations will only carry weight and be effective if they are grounded in a clear articulation and explanation ofwhat the word of God says. Preaching the word cannot be reduced to teaching it (in the sense of simply explaining the meaning of the word as a purely didactic activity); it involves the urgent call to respond that is signified by the imperatives ‘reprove, rebuke, and exhort’. At the same time, preaching for Timothy will always fundamentally involve teaching and can never happen apart from teaching.
The character of preaching is presented here in 4:2 is of an ‘authoritative and educational’ proclamation of God’s word. Timothy will patiently teach the meaning of God’s word and urge people to make an appropriate response to it. (Griffiths, Jonathan. Preaching in the New Testament: An exegetical and biblical-theological study, NSBT, 55-57. I have omitted the reference footnotes within the quotation.)