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What does Paul mean when he says "be ready whether it is convenient or not" or "Be ready in season and out of season" according to the translation in 2 Timothy 4:2?

2 Timothy 4:2 (NET)
Preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction.

2 Timothy 4:2 (NKJV)
Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

What is Paul talking about? How does this affect the preaching?

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This text consists of five imperatives:

  1. κήρυξον τὸν λόγον, | kēryxon ton logon | (Preach the Word)
  2. ἐπίστηθι εὐκαίρως ἀκαίρως, | epistēthi eukairōs akairōs | (be ready in season [and] out of season)
  3. ἔλεγξον, | elenxon | (reprove)
  4. ἐπιτίμησον, | epitimēson | (rebuke)
  5. παρακάλεσον, | parakaleson | (exhort)

ἐν πάσῃ μακροθυμίᾳ καὶ διδαχῇ. | en pasē makrothymia kai didachē | (in all patience and teaching).

The first imperative guides the others. The primary misunderstanding is with the second imperative clause. To better understand it, two questions must be raised:

  • How is the 2nd-person-singular aorist-active-imperative verb ἐπίστηθι best translated?
  • Are the double adverbs (εὐκαίρως ἀκαίρως) subjective (concerning Timothy) or objective (concerning his hearers)?

Literally, ἐπίστηθι (from ἐφίστημι) can be translated "stand by [it]", which carries the sense of "keep at it." BDAG (2000) agrees that the use in this passage is literally to "stand by", and suggests that this conveys the idea "be ready, be on hand, be persistent", giving an overarching definition for this use (#5) of "to be present in readiness to discharge a task, fix one’s mind on, be attentive to."

Chrysostom understood the double adverbs (εὐκαίρως ἀκαίρως) in this passage to be subjective (relating to Timothy), meaning that Timothy should stand by (persist) in the task whether or not it is convenient, which is the sense brought out in the NET translation cited. From Chrysostom's Ninth Homily on 2 Timothy:

What means “in season, out of season”? That is, have not any limited season: let it always be thy season, not only in peace and security, and when sitting in the Church. Whether thou be in danger, in prison, in chains, or going to thy death, at that very time reprove. Withhold not rebuke, for reproof is then most seasonable, when thy rebuke will be most successful, when the reality is proved. “Exhort,” he says. After the manner of physicians, having shown the wound, he gives the incision, he applies the plaster. For if you omit either of these, the other becomes useless. If you rebuke without convicting, you will seem to be rash, and no one will tolerate it, but after the matter is proved, he will submit to rebuke: before, he will be headstrong. And if you convict and rebuke, but vehemently, and do not apply exhortation, all your labor will be lost. For conviction is intolerable in itself if consolation be not mingled with it. As if incision, though salutary in itself, have not plenty of lenitives to assuage the pain, the patient cannot endure cutting and hacking, so it is in this matter.

Gordon Fee argues for an objective reading of the double adverbs (pertaining to his hearers) in 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (Understanding the Bible Commentary Series, 2011), meaning that Timothy should stand by the task "whether or not the preaching comes at a convenient time for the hearers." Fee finds support for the objective reading in both "Timothy's reticence" (inferred from 2 Timothy 1:6-7) and because of the context immediately following (linked to this idea by the post-positive conjunction γὰρ in verse 3).

So the answer depends on whether you understand "εὐκαίρως ἀκαίρως" as subjective or objective. Here is a proposed (dynamic-equivalent/amplified) translation for each:

  • Subjective: "Preach the Word: be ready whether or not it is convenient [for you], reprove, rebuke, [and] exhort, with complete patience and instruction."
  • Objective: "Preach the Word: be ready whether or not [the preaching comes] at a convenient time [for them], reprove, rebuke, [and] exhort, with complete patience and instruction."
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Paul seems to be saying that unlike natural sowing and reaping, which must regard the seasons, the sowing of the gospel should continue even out of season:

Ecclesiastes 3: 1There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven— 2A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.

He refers to being ready "out of season" which seems to suggest that Tim must not wait for the "climate" to be right to begin sowing. Paul models this on several occasions, such as this one:

NIV Acts 21: 10After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’ ”

12When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”

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2 Timothy 4:2 (NKJV)

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

What is Paul talking about? How does this affect the preaching?

What does Paul mean when he says "be ready whether it is convenient or not" or "Be ready in season and out of season" according to the translation in 2 Timothy 4:2?

ANSWER.

Paul wrote his second and last epistle to Timothy about 64-65 A.D.while suffering as a chained prisoner in Rome , and perhaps became aware that his death was eminent, wrote this pastoral letter to Timothy , a congregation overseer or elder to equip him, to fulfill his ministry . Hence he wrote:

2 Timothy 4:2-5 (NASB)

"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: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction."

3" For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."

But where was Timothy to "preach the word ?" and what did it mean to him "in season and out of season" This should be read in context of the epistle, in which earlier (2 Tim.2:14-18, 23-25 read below) Paul warned Timothy that apostasy was evident and alluded to Hymenaeus and Philetus that have turned away from the truth and that apostasy: "will go from bad to worse."

2 Timothy 2:14-18, 23-25 (NRSV)

14" Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.

16" Avoid profane chatter, for it will lead people into more and more impiety, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth by claiming that the resurrection has already taken place. They are upsetting the faith of some."

23" But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. 24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth."

Conclusion

Hence from the above to "preach the word " and "in season and out of season" referred to the teachings within congregation and not to outsiders.

It is apparent that Timothy had to put up with persons within the congregation, that wrangle about words, ask foolish and ignorant questions that led to quarrels within the congregation, and apostates like ,Hymenaeus and Philetus, who falsely preached that resurrection has already taken place and opposition within the congregation that tried to water down the truth.

Thus the presence of such people in the congregation would create an "out of season"

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