ANSWER: Your desire to become a preacher is commendable. Preachers of God’s Word are much needed in the days in which we live. But desire is not enough. In the Old Testament times of 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17, king David desired to build a gorgeous temple for God. The prophet Nathan commended his desire and encouraged him to go ahead with his plan. But the next day God sent Nathan to tell David that he was not to build this temple – his son Solomon was to do it instead. God used this occasion to encourage David by not only speaking of Solomon, but also by pointing forward to the Lord, saying of Him, “I will establish Him in My house and in My kingdom forever” (1 Chr. 17:14).
Without protest or argument, David accepted God’s decision about his plan that had been so dear to him. Without bitterness he devoted himself to laying up material for the temple that was to be built, training his son Solomon for this glorious task the Lord had for him to do, and making arrangements for the worship that would be carried on in the temple once it was erected.
After Paul shows the necessity of the gospel being preached, in Romans 10 he raises several important questions, the final ones in 10:14-15 being these: “And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” In Isaiah 6, the prophet Isaiah “heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’” Isaiah’s answer is instructive. He doesn’t say, “I’ll go!” Rather, he says, “Here am I! Send me.” He makes himself available to God, but does not take on the task of being a preacher on his own initiative. He waits for God to send him. And this we see God doing in the next verse: “And He said, ‘Go, and tell this people…’” (6:8-9). God still desires willing volunteers, but from among them He will select those He wants to use. In the story of Gideon 10,000 men were willing and ready to fight the Midianites after those who were afraid were dismissed, but of them God chose only 300 whom He would use to gain an immense victory (Jud. 7:1-8).
Getting back to your question, 2 Timothy 2:15 is applicable to every Christian, not only to aspiring preachers. Every one of us should be diligent to present himself or herself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed. The word “study” in the KJV, while a good word, has given many Christians a somewhat distorted idea of what is necessary to win God’s approval. Paul was telling Timothy to be personally diligent in studying God’s Word so as to rightly understand it, and of course, then present it to others.
It is not right to infer from this that a believer must pursue a course of studies at a seminary or Bible school in order to gain the credentials needed to become a preacher of God’s Word. Timothy had already been a very useful servant of the Lord for some years when Paul wrote to him. Paul commends him highly in Philippians 2, 1 Corinthians 4 and 16, and in the two epistles he writes to him. It is Timothy’s personal life and ongoing study of the Word that fits him for God’s approval. Timothy seems to have become discouraged by what was happening all around him, and Paul reminded him to stir up the gift that was in him. Man’s approval in these perilous times might be of questionable value and even wrong, as we see in 2 Timothy 4:3-4. God’s approval is vital.
The expression “rightly dividing the word of truth” at the end of verse 15 has also been translated “cutting in a straight line the word of truth.” The New International Version renders it “correctly handles the word of truth.” Your desire to become “a preacher of God’s Word” is excellent. In the context of verse 15, verse 14 tells us of those who needed to be told “not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers.” And verses 16-18 mention “profane and idle babblings” increasing to more ungodliness. We are told that such messages will spread like cancer, and two men are mentioned who had strayed concerning the truth and who were overthrowing the faith of some with their erroneous teaching that the resurrection was already past.
Today too, many preachers take a verse and from it proceed to do harm in ways similar to these. It is most important that a preacher of God’s Word have a sound understanding of the basic truths of Scripture. He must correctly handle the Word. Personal prayerful study of God’s Word and meditation on it is important. Certainly we can and should learn from godly men whom God has gifted to teach, whether by listening to them or by reading their writings. May we make good use of the resources God gives us.
Being a preacher of God’s Word requires more than what we have mentioned above. God must give you a gift to use for His glory and the benefit of your hearers. He will do so if He is calling you to this ministry. Evangelism, exposition and encouragement are prime areas of service for a preacher of the Word, and these overlap rather than being distinctly separate one from the other.
Finally, even though you didn’t ask, let me say that being a preacher of God’s Word is not meant to be a pathway to earthly riches or fame. A true preacher of God’s Word realizes that his is a GPA job. He willGet Paid Above, hopefully with his Master’s praise, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” May this ever be your sincere desire! And God bless you.
Answered by Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org