by Sam E. Stone
The apostle Paul gave special directions to two of his young assistants (Timothy and Titus) in the books that are often called the Pastoral Epistles. His counsel for these first-century leaders is essential today as well. By studying them, church leaders can establish their priorities today.
Paul begins 1 Timothy 4 with a warning. “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (v. 1). He then gives two examples of this false teaching (celibacy and dietary restrictions). The “later times” had already begun. From the Day of Pentecost when the church began (Acts 2) until now, people have been living in “the last days” (Hebrews 1:2).
Warn the People/1 Timothy 4:6-8
If you point these things out. William Barclay calls this “a gentle, a humble, and a modest word.” It is speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). A good minister of Christ Jesus is one who serves him faithfully. The truths of the faith and . . . the good teaching that you have followed. Timothy had been trained in the Old Testament by his godly mother and grandmother, as well as by Paul himself (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15-17).
Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales. Earlier Paul had warned about such dubious material (1 Timothy 1:4). Rather, train yourself to be godly. Self-discipline is required in the Christian life, just as in an athletic contest.
The Christian’s body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Physical training is commendable, but spiritual training has eternal value.
Live the Life/1 Timothy 4:9-13
This is a trustworthy saying. Paul uses this expression to underline important truths (see 1:15; 3:1). Bible students debate whether the saying here refers to the previous verse or the one that follows. Both are true and valid, of course. The Savior of all men. God offers salvation to all, even though not all will accept it. He is the only one who can save anyone. Command and teach these things. Timothy’s message had apostolic authority behind it. These were God’s commands, not his. Note how often teaching is emphasized throughout the Pastoral Epistles.
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young. Timothy may have been between 35-40 years of age. He was young in comparison to the Jewish elders who led the synagogue, but likely not a teenager! Set an example. He was to model how a Christian should live. Five aspects of life are listed: Speech. What you say both in public and in private. Life. Your daily behavior. Love. What you love shows where your heart is. Faith. Trusting God fully. Purity. Uncorrupted behavior. Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture. While private Bible study is important, it is also valuable to read Scripture aloud when believers assemble (see Acts 13:15; 2 Corinthians 3:14).
Do Your Best/1 Timothy 4:14-16
Do not neglect your gift. The Holy Spirit gives gifts to God’s people (Ephesians 4:8) and Timothy was no exception (1 Timothy 4:14). His abilities were to be developed, not neglected. This gift may refer to the gift of the office of evangelist or it could be speaking of a miraculous gift (see 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; Acts 19:6; 2 Timothy 1:6). Through a prophetic message. See 1 Timothy 1:18. When the body of elders laid their hands on you. This was the usual way one was set apart in apostolic days.
Be diligent in these matters . . . so that everyone may see your progress. Paul sought to set a worthy example, and he expected no less from Timothy. Each person influences others. Christian leaders are responsible to be examples for the flock. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Some advocate “pure doctrine,” but their lives do not match their beliefs. Others live exemplary lives, but fail to teach what the Bible says. Neither alternative is right. Christian leaders should teach the right message and live it. You will save both yourself and your hearers. We can’t save ourselves by our good works, of course. No one can. God offers us eternal life if we accept the gracious gift of his Son through obedient faith and live for him (Acts 2:40; Revelation 2:10). Salvation is not something we accept, then forget about and live as we please. Not only would that harm our witness to others, it would place our relationship to God in jeopardy.
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.