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John Piper: Preach the Word

What Is the Word?

We can see two clues in the immediate context.

The God-Inspired Scripture

First, in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” This is immediately followed by the command, “I charge you to preach the Word.” So it is fitting to say that the Word to be preached is first the Scriptures that Timothy grew up on, the Old Testament. When you preach, preach the inspired Scriptures. The “Word” of 4:2 is the “God-inspired Scripture” of 3:16.

Don’t miss the simple fact that the word “Scripture” means simply “writing” or “letter.” This means that the Word of God has come to us in a written form — in a book. Which means that your preparation for preaching will be in large measure book work. You must find your preaching in a book. It must not be dead. It must not be bookish. But it must be book-derived. Book-faithful. Book-saturated. Book-balanced. It must be Spirit-given, Spirit-shaped, Spirit-carried, and Spirit-delivered. But the Spirit inspired the book and broods over the book and lives to exalt the Christ of the book. So preach the Word, [pastor], that is, preach the book.

The Standard of Sound Doctrine

The second clue that we can see about “the Word” in these verses is in 2 Timothy 4:3, which gives the reason for preaching the Word: Preach the Word, “FOR the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” So the Word to be preached is “sound doctrine.”

Now what does this “sound doctrine” refer to? 2 Timothy 1:13 refers to a “standard of sound words” transmitted to Timothy by the apostle Paul. “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me.”

Notice two things: the word “standard” or “pattern,” and the phrase “from me.”

There is a “standard” or a “pattern” of sound teaching. This means that in the early church, there was developing a body of fixed doctrine (or teaching) under the care of the apostles that was being faithfully passed on from church to church. That’s what “from me” indicates in 1:13. Paul delivered his authoritative “standard” of truth.

To put it most simply and relevantly, this “pattern of sound words” or “sound doctrine” is what came to be recorded in the New Testament. Just as with the Old Testament, we needed to have the apostles’ doctrine written down to preserve it from corruption — that is, to keep it “sound,” to keep it healthy.

So the answer to our question is that the Word is the writings of the Old Testament and the writings of the New Testament. God’s word to you this afternoon is to “Preach the Word.” That is, preach the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Know this book. Make this book the main dwelling place of your mind. On every question, ask, what does the Bible say? Meditate on this book day and night. Take the word given to Joshua (1:8) for yourself: “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”

Why Does Paul Say to Preach This Word?

Now we ask, Why does Paul say to PREACH this Word? Not just teach it. Not just read it. Not just share it. Not just memorize it. But preach it. What does that mean? And why is this so important that there should be five intensifying phrases leading up to this command?

Preaching Is Not Just Explaining or Teaching

Preaching (kerussõn) is different from teaching. In 2 Timothy 1:10-11, Paul says, “[Christ] abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.” That is, I was appointed for three tasks: heralding or announcing the Truth as a preacher; composing, preserving, and transmitting the authoritative pattern of Truth as an apostle; and explaining and applying the Truth as a teacher.

So preaching is not just explaining or teaching. Preaching is heralding. Preaching is what a town crier does when there is a message from the king.

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John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. John is the author of more than 30 books and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at DesiringGod.org. © Desiring God.