Paul’s Charge to Timothy
“I 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, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:1-5
As Paul sat in his cold, damp prison cell, he understood there was a spiritual reality present that went beyond the walls of his cell. Paul knew what Timothy was facing and would face because he had experienced it already. Paul knew that his earthly life was nearing its end. “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day.” 2 Timothy 4:6-8
Paul’s commission to Timothy applies to every minister of the gospel, in every age, every place, and every circumstance. Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit knew what was to follow. In Acts 20:29-35 in speaking to the Ephesian elders he warned them “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Paul in 2 Timothy 4 is not only exhorting Timothy to preach the Word of God, he is also warning him to watch out for those within the congregation: those with itching ears who will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. Today’s Prosperity “Gospel” has both components. It has priests that teach for a price; and prophets that practice divination for money and congregations that needs their ears tickled.
Charles Spurgeon was spot on when he preached in 1867 to the largest congregation in Christendom: “I look forward, if God should ever send a revival of religion in England, not only to the time when the poor and the middle-classes shall find in their midst consecrated ministers, but when, from the very highest spheres of society, there will come to us men who might have worn the coronet, but who would rather proclaim the Gospel! Men who might have piled up their wealth until it became like Babel’s tower, but who would rather become poor, that in their poverty they may make many rich! It is not given unto all thus to do, but this is the dictate of Christianity—and where it can be done absolutely and be carried out to the fullest extent, it brings much Glory to God!”
“Well, but the principle seems to me to be binding upon us all. I will venture to say—and I should not wonder that some of you will not like it to be said, that I believe it is anti-Christian and unholy for any Christian to live with the objective of accumulating wealth. You will say, ‘Are we not to strive all we can and to get all the money we can?’ You may do so. You should do so. I cannot doubt but what, in so doing, you may do good service to the cause of God. But what I said was this, that to live with the objective of accumulating wealth is anti-Christian. There are thousands of men and women with whom that is the only thing they are living for—to save, save, save—and make a fortune! And when they die, what then?”
Spurgeon continued: “Jesus was rich in possession. As God over all, having made all things, all things were His. He could have said, “The cattle on a thousand hills are Mine. Mine, the mines of gold and the secret treasuries of silver. Mine, the places where the diamonds sparkle and where the pearl emits its gentle ray. All things are Mine! A thousand stars glisten as My lamps and all the width of space, so full of the wonders of creation—all this is Mine!” He was rich in service. A thousand angels waited at His gates. He had but to will it and the strong-winged messengers flew upon His errands! They adored Him ceaselessly. Day without night they circled His Throne, rejoicing. Even when on earth, He said He could pray to His Father and He would send Him twelve legions of angels. How much more was this the case when He sat in the state of Heaven—and all these were the courtiers that waited before His Throne? He was rich in honor No pompous courts of Solomon could ever compare with the courts of the Son of God! All glory centered in Him. He was “God over all blessed forever,” co-equal and co-eternal with the Father. To Him the perpetual song. To Him the never ceasing incense. To Him the golden harps, to Him the swell of Heaven’s highest symphonies, for He was adored of all and exalted high above principalities and powers, and every name that is named! And He was rich in love, which is the best of all wealth! His Father loved Him.”
“He had lost all, or rather had given up all, laid aside everything—His crown of Glory exchanged for the thorns of shame. The imperial mantle of dominion cast aside that He might wear His own blood! No more adored, but spit upon! No longer reverenced, but despised and made the offscouring of men! No Throne, but a Cross! No golden cup, but a draught of wormwood and of gall! No light and brightness of excessive Glory, but the blackness of mid-day—midnight! No life and immortality, but, “It i s finished,” and the giving up of the Ghost! “Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor.”
“I wish it were in my power to go farther into this depth tonight, but neither my ability nor my time will serve me just now. Let your own meditations assist you to peer into the poverty of the Savior—such poverty, indeed, as you and I can never know, but, prompted by His example, let us not be ashamed to be poor! No, let us not, at the thought of being poor, feel any kind of fear about it! Let us rather rejoice that in this we shall have fellowship with our Lord and if we serve Him we must be poor. If we are obedient to His will, we must make a sacrifice of worldly goods and prosperity. Let us take joyfully the spoiling of our goods. Let us, like the Master, count it all joy when we are thus stripped, for so shall we have fellowship with Him “who, though He was rich, yet for your sakes became poor.”
Spurgeon pastored the largest Church of his day so let’s contrast him with the “pastor” of the largest congregation in America today, Joel Osteen. Here’s a quote one of his most recent books:
“It’s Your Time: Activate Your Faith, Achieve Your Dreams, and Increase in God’s Favor: When you say of the Lord you are healthy, you are whole, you are free, you are blessed, you are prosperous — when you say it, God has promised He will do it… If you are not sharing in His favor, you might want to watch your words. Here’s the key: If you don’t unleash your words in the right direction, if you don’t call in favor, you will not experience those blessings. Nothing happens unless we speak. Release your faith with your words.”
The contrast couldn’t be more startling. The message could not be more contrary to God’s Word. Whether it is referred to as the Prosperity “gospel, the Name-it and Claim-it “gospel”, or the health and wealth “gospel” the essence of his message is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Listen to the words of Robert Tilton, one of its best-known spokesmen: “I believe that it is the will of God for all to prosper because I see it in the Word, not because it has worked mightily for someone else. I do not put my eyes on men, but on God who gives me the power to get wealth.” Teachers of the prosperity gospel encourage their followers to pray for and even demand material flourishing from God.
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Matthew 8:20
And Joel Osteen said to us, “It’s God’s will for you to live in prosperity instead of poverty.”