Just think of Jesus in this season of Epiphany for a moment. We’ve come out of Christmas. He’s born in wonder, angels sing his arrival. Then he’s out to be baptized and God authorizes it by breaking open the heavens. He fulfills prophecy; still hometown friends and neighbors reject him; miraculously he walks right through their angry crowd, safe and sound. Speaking of miracles, this week he drives out demons and heals hundreds. And, add in all the other classic bible stories you know, they’re almost all in Epiphany – isn’t it just evident—glowing, bright, shining out and obvious—we call Jesus the “God-man” for good reason. He is the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Savior; God’s own Son walks the earth in human flesh and in word and work he is divine. Would you find it appropriate though—in this or any season—if I called you God-men and God-women too? That’s exactly what Paul does this morning when he speaks to Timothy. As he urges Timothy to use God’s Word, Paul urges him to Be a God-Person.
Here’s my business card. I look at these now and again – don’t use them super-often. They say, “Philip Casmer: pastor”. That’s who I am; what I’m supposed to be. You know, in various moments, that’s kind of a daunting title – you don’t live up to it or you assess during a call whether your gifts might serve best here or there. If we all had spiritual life-cards they would read something like that – “insert your name here” – God-person. And here’s the primary characteristic Paul lists for a God-person: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of”. Being a God-person means continuing in what you know – the Word of God you’ve been taught, the Word you know.
And, in one respect that very much should be a daunting thing, because, for continuing in, you can look at the God-man, Jesus. There’s fidelity, constancy, and shining righteousness. And you and I, we’re not like him. You know the Sunday School teacher or the old pastor who taught you and instructed you – you can look back fondly to their words and their care. But you know something else: that there have been times since then that you’ve decided you needed something more than what they gave – because of struggles in your life or maybe that you’ve felt God’s Word doesn’t answer the world’s complaints or you needed something powerful. You know the times you’ve departed from the Word in the words you’ve spoken, and you looked for other words you wanted to hear. You know you’ve prioritized other things than God’s Word – been about all sorts of other business. We don’t always continue in the Word; we’re tempted to mark out new paths and other powers.
On the other hand – Paul’s not discouraging Timothy when he writes, is he? It’s a letter of encouragement to a young pastor on the basis of God’s Word. Which is good to acknowledge: how encouraging, how wonderful it is to know what you know – to know the Word of God that reveals the God-man, Jesus Christ. How wonderful that it shows you you’re not anything like that God-man; that Christ Jesus is remarkable, singular in history. That’s exactly God’s purpose. The Word from God is wonderful because it encourages you and me to faith in that Jesus Christ. In him, we are wise for salvation. It lets you know that this shining, gloriously perfect Jesus brings rescue; that in him your glaring sins are gone, washed away, their guilt paid for. It shows you Jesus’ righteousness as the perfection God sees instead of our sins. The Word of God gives this: because Jesus was the God-man first, by faith he gave the same to you – you’re a God-person.
This is why Paul encourages the person of God to continue in what you know. This message convinces you – in a way unlike the wisdom and the promises of this world. This is a totally dependable message— and I’m looking at v.16-17—because it’s God-breathed. It came right from God’s mouth—the one who is perfect, who can’t lie, who doesn’t change. And it’s useful. It’s not like the shoes and the clothes that wear out or don’t fit correctly; it’s not like that useless information you gather up on Instagram reels. It’s useful for God-persons because, no matter your age or your station in life, it equips you with the things you need to do what pleases God. It teaches—gives you the schooling to know what’s actually true: that you don’t live under the guilt of sins past or the doubt of an uncertain future—you’re one with God in Christ. It teaches you what is objectively right; morally with rebuke and correction: that to speak ill of your friend is wrong and god-displeasing, that that is guilt you stay away from; and it shows you the punishment for sin so that you turn away from it. It trains—like the trainer at the gym who reworks your broken leg, or sets you on a good exercise regimen —God’s Word shows what right life is like: you how to father or play or work in ways that make God smile ear to ear. All of it in righteousness—that’s the system in which God is and under which his Word works on you. So that, as you continue in what you know, thoroughly equipped God-persons are what you’ll be: ready for all the good things God has prepared for you to know and to do.
The message is what makes you who you are. And that means, what we find in the gospel today and the first reading is true: God doesn’t use any other message to win souls; life with God stems from this gospel message alone. Which draws us evermore hopefully to realize that what Paul charged Timothy is exactly the mission. Paul charged Timothy to be prepared to preach.
So, I want you to do my work. I know that the context of the Word of God for our sermon this morning is a letter from a pastor to a pastor. I know that Paul the pastor is telling Timothy the pastor to do the work God had called him to do – to be a pastor in a place and to preach. I must do that; it is my calling – the others here with me as well. I know that…but I also know what Jesus said to all of us just before he ascended into heaven. He said, “[G]o and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” There was quite a crowd there at his Ascension; like the crowd here. Jesus wants us, you and me, to do the work of an evangelist.
Every pastor is an evangelist but not every evangelist is a pastor. Some evangelists are moms and some are lawyers and some are students and some drive trucks. What Paul says to Timothy, we could just as well say to you: Be prepared to preach. That’s the mission; your job. But not in the same way as it is mine or Pastor Free’s. We’re called to serve this church publicly and to preach. You have variously different callings in life, but you’re also ones who shine the light of his good news out into the world; you’re called to preach.
If that’s worrisome to you—perhaps as it was with the prophet Jeremiah who said, “Ah, Lord…but I don’t know how to speak. I’m not trained for that…” That’s okay. This Word from Paul, this Word from God is what Paul said: profitable and equips people of God, generally. And the Greek word that Paul uses for “to preach” simply means “to proclaim a message” – to be a herald. Heralds would bring a significant message from the king himself for the public to hear – usually of victory in battle. They weren’t called to argue the message. They weren’t called to make people believe it. They were called to proclaim it. God’s Word makes you ready for what you have to do. And gives you your message: Jesus Christ lived and died like nobody else has ever or will ever—he was tirelessly about the business of preaching the good news of rescue from sin and death in himself—which he accomplished in his death and when he rose from death to life again—he promises salvation to all who believe. I proclaim that from a pulpit as a pastor; you do it around the kitchen table and at work or in the mall and on the playground as moms and kids and friends. You too preach the Word.
God-persons are prepared to do that all the time. Paul said “in season and out of season.” Well, that doesn’t mean that now we’re into winter and ice makes it a little hard to preach the gospel, so we’re in the off-season. No – we might better say it, “whether the time is favorable or not.” Sometimes it’s not convenient for you to preach – because you’re getting your hair cut or you’re shopping or you’re tired. Honestly, when is it convenient for you to tell someone they’re lost in sin and need a Savior? Probably not very often. But you and I are called to do it – to preach the Word in all kinds of situations because it is the only message that wins souls for heaven. The world will want to hear instead how to live their best life now or something that makes them feel good about themselves. And your sinful brain will fight to cloud your vision with fear and confusion. “Keep your head in all situations” and preach. For me – hold on to the gospel, pastor, and know that though it seems like so many other things could bring in so many more people, this message of forgiveness is the only thing that empowers free life and actually joy in the righteousness of God – that’s what I need to proclaim with authority. You – tell your neighbor whose wife has died about the peace Jesus brings, in a friendly way. Correct your children when they sin and forgive them and show them what’s right. Or put your arm around your friend who is depressed and encourage them with Jesus’ love in your own quiet way. That’s what being prepared to preach the Word requires – all kinds of words at all kinds of times from all kinds of people – people like me and people like you.
Paul urged all that to Timothy, but he started like this: “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge…” Another potentially daunting thought: the bright and shining Lord Jesus will come again as judge of the living and the dead. As bright, fiery, and scary as that image might sound, it’s not scary for you. It’s encouraging – that’s what’s coming. And you want nothing more than to face that judgment, living or dead. You want nothing more than to see Jesus appear in glory and to see his kingdom – because you know all about it. It’s a judgment and a kingdom that will benefit people of God – and you know from God’s Word that that’s what you are. But many others are not. So…Be what you are and show what you know.