This is hardly an example of theological excellence, but I feel led to share my views of 1 Timothy 4:12-16. It is important to realize what these verses teach and how to apply them. The message I feel these verses portray is that we should be:
(Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)
(Cross-references listed at bottom.)
This title is derived with an idea of support behind it. We are Christ's messengers. In His divine plan, He could have seen fit to spread the Gospel by way of angelic messengers, yet He chose us to spread His word! This is very uplifting to me, knowing this. This is not meant to give anyone an heir of superiority or the like, but it is meant to encourage Christians to be witnesses for Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. A subsequent title could be Imitators of Christ. This title has the implications of what we are to do. We are to imitators of Christ. The ideas portrayed in these 5 short verses should be examined in light of the context-Timothy, a young pastor, being the recipient of Paul's letter. It is also important to probe each verse and extract every bit of information from it. Finally, one should contemplate the true meaning of these verses and review some questions that may help in one's search for truth in (the book of) Timothy.
The Context of Paul's Letter to Timothy
Paul had written to Timothy, obviously, being Paul's "true son in the faith" [1 Timothy 1:2]. Evidently Paul had left Timothy behind in Ephesus in order to exhort some to "teach no other doctrine" [1 Tim. 1:3b]. Dr. John MacArthur asserts that "Timothy was in his thirties, still young by the standards of that culture...". So, this letter was written for 3 reasons, quite possibly:
1. To instruct Timothy concerning doctrine and behavior. (This is seen in Paul's dissertation on prayer [1 Tim. 2:1-5], the roles of men and women [2:8-12], qualifications for elders/overseers and deacons [3:1-13], the treatment of widows and elders [5:1-19], the role of masters [6:1-2], etc.
2. To exhort Timothy to live righteously (The idea is taken from chapter 1, verse 18, and chapter 6, verses 20 and 21).
3. To urge Timothy to provide clarity from false teachings. (As seen in chapter 1, verses 3-11).
Although the message was written for a preacher, the teachings of the 5 verses can apply to all of Christendom, especially younger people (particularly the first point). Try to answer the questions that are proposed as you read, and see if they are answered affirmatively.
Does One Have Reason to Despise Your Youth? [V. 12]
It is interesting to not that Paul does not stop with "Let no one despise your youth" [v. 12], but continues on to say "be an example...in word...in conduct...love...spirit...faith [and] in purity." It is a necessity not to give people a reason to despise your youthfulness. Adolescents that are out-of-control are deserving of someone despising their behavior, but a consistently faithful young person should not let someone look down upon their youth. There are 6 areas listed here that can be expounded on. As you read ask yourself this question: Is my (speech, conduct, self-sacrifice, spiritual condition, faithfulness, purity), worthy of imitation? Paul is worthy of imitation, for in Philippians 3:17, Paul encourages Philippian Christians in "following [his] example...[as] a pattern." Paul tried very hard to imitate Christ, so much in that he tells the Corinthian Christians to "[i]mitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" [1 Corinthians 11:1]. Previously in 4:16 he had urged them to imitate him. Consider the question above as you examine Paul's 6 areas of spiritual conduct worth imitating:
1. In Word--Obviously this is the hardest to overcome. It is quite possibly this reason as to why it is listed first in Paul's 6 exhortations of righteous conduct. James 3:2 sheds some light on the difficult aspect of controlling the tongue, for it says that "we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body." Paul is using a hyperbole here in saying, through exaggeration, that if one is able to control the tongue, he or she is a perfect human being. We know he cannot mean sinless perfection, because the Word of God states that "[i]f we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" [1 John 1:8]. So, the obvious conclusion is that no one is able to control the tongue, because no one is perfect.
2. In Conduct--Almost as hard as the taming of the tongue. Romans 7:19-20 tells us how hard it is to control what we do while in these fleshly bodies. It is of utmost importance, for a Christian witness through model behavior is just as effective as a spoken witness. 1 Peter 3:16 tells us that those who say evil things about our conduct will be ashamed of themselves and what they have spoken if we are truly display typical Christian behavior. Good conduct is how we show the world just who we are...we are Christians!
3. In Love--Particularly, this area speaks of humility and servitude. This form of love serves. 1 Corinthians 13, obviously, is a good chapter to read, if one is interested in learning what this kind of love is. It is an "agape" love, in the Greek, meaning an unconditional love. This kind of love is the kind the world longs for, while it is also the kind the world will never see displayed in its fullness apart from Christ. A basic commandment from Christ's own lips tells us to "love one another" [John 5:12].
4. In Spirit--The side note to the NKJV text mentions the doubtfulness of this phrase's genuineness, so information on it is scarce. It probably carries the idea of being an example of a spirit-filled Christian. The world must see what it is that has empowered the life of a believer. A preacher, layperson, etc. must not be propelled by a desire for money, fame, or out of pride. What drives a person towards being a good example should be the Holy Spirit.
5. In Faith--It is important to be an example of faithfulness. Much like self-serving love, the secular scene needs to see a genuine faith and trust in God from a Christian. Not only that the world may see our faithfulness and come to know Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior, we must be examples of faithfulness because that is what God requires [1 Cor. 4:1-2]. Although God's Kingdom is not a business, the same analogy applies to a business as it does God's Kingdom. If employees do a poor job at what they do, the business will probably be unsuccessful, so to promote the Kingdom, we must be working our best...others are looking at how faithful we are. Consider this, would you want others to be as faithful as yourself in the areas of church attendance, Bible study, prayer, witnessing, etc.?
6. In Purity--Most commentators recognize this as meaning sexual purity. Even so, is your whole life generally pure. Slip-ups do occur, but is your life characterized by purity? Just as in chapter 3, when discussing bishops/elders, he mentions them as being "blameless" [v. 2]. Possibly just meaning, not to be held accountable of any blatant or punishable crime.
In these 6 areas are contained powerful life-changing pieces of advice. One commentator says that they "are all vital constituents of Christian living. Carelessness in any one of these areas can spell failure and even disaster" . Another states that "[t]hose who teach by their doctrine must teach by their life, else they pull down with one hand what they build up with the other" . These areas are seen to be of great importance of Paul in instructing Timothy, and we should heed this God-inspired advice.
What Should We Practice to Help Us Become Worthy of Imitation? [V. 13]
1. Bible reading-This refers mainly to the public reading of the Word by Timothy to his congregation, but this can apply to us all. Bible reading is very important at church. There are some churches in the world that pay little attention to the reading of the Word. Some items exist that I think are over-emphasized above the Scriptures in today's churches (as for personal advice in the area of Bible-reading, avoid churches that over-emphasize these qualities):
1. Popularity--Some churches will have way too many church "socials/functions" to draw in people, while sacrificing the reading of the Scriptures in the meantime. There are churches out there that draw in influential families in the city, or teens, and give them reason to use the church as a social event or a gainer of personal status, because the preacher doesn't use the Bible enough.
2. Music--Yes, music is sometimes portrayed as more important than the Word of God. I've been to churches where they might have 30 minutes of singing, than a 5 minute sermonette. There's nothing wrong with getting together to sing on special occasions, but the regular mode of the church should not have more singing than preaching. It is of far more importance that the Word of God be applied to the hearts and minds for the Sanctification of the Saints of God.
3. Entertainment--Still yet we have the group of "preachers" who are nothing but comedians. They provide maybe an ounce of milk, and then entertain the congregation the rest of the "sermon." I have little respect for these kind of "sermons." Grant it, there is such a thing as guest speakers like Mike Lowry, for example, but again, the usual mode should contain the diligent reading of the Scriptures.
4. Emotions--Sometimes, feelings play too big a role in today's churches, especially of the Pentecostal branch. Many times, people have emotional "experiences," and claim they are manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, preachers will use the Word of God burdensomely, as John Scotland shows when he sarcastically remarks, "We will get to the reading for those that like the reading" , at the "Toronto blessing" as some call it. Many will have very little reading of God's Word while they roll around in the floor. Now, I know a few Pentecostals that are not like that, and I'm being very broad when I use the term Pentecostal. Another Pentecostal is quoted as saying, "In these latter days preaching and simply teaching the word is no longer sufficient." Another article addressing a Pentecostal preacher's sermon says that "[i]n [his] entire sermon not a single Scripture was referenced, the Gospel was not preached" .
Avoid churches that are portrayed by having these characteristics! As for personal Bible-reading though, that is important as well. Matthew 4:4 tells us that "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Evidently, God's Word is more important for spiritual growth, as food is for sustaining physical growth. That's pretty important!
2. Exhortation--MacArthur mentions that exhortation may involve rebuking, warning, encouraging, and comforting others ; even if we're not all preachers, every person can do this in their own time. We all know of some sins that need rebuke. We all know friends that might need a heartfelt warning in moments of sinfulness. This aspect tells us what to DO after we have examined and hear the Word of God, we should apply it to our lives, and then use it to exhort others. The words exhort (and its variations) are found 34 times in New Testament. Eighteen, possibly 21 if placing Paul as the author of Hebrews, times in Paul's epistles alone. Obviously, Paul thought it was important.
3. Doctrine--Commonly thought of as dry seminary talk, Doctrine is actually essential, and does not have to be a bunch of terms and arguable ideas and systems of theology. MacArthur mentions that this refers to "systematic instruction" from God's Word. Why Doctrine, though? The answer is found in Titus 1:9. When speaking of elders, he says that by sound doctrine, one can "exhort and convict those who contradict." Sound Doctrine and a solid understanding of the truths of Scripture can help you exhort or convict those who contradict your beliefs. According to Hiebert, "Christian truth needs not only defense against attacks, but also clear exposition. Effective presentation of the truth is a powerful antidote to error" . One commentary has it written that, "verse 9 suggests [that] doctrine has a double application: exhortation and conviction-to instruct believers, and to convict gainsayers" .
If one were to practice these 3 things consistently, a strong Christian will be formed!
How Can We Gain Spiritual Fulfillment? [V. 14]
Very briefly, I just feel that this has been one of the things that helps me to stay on track. Much like a business, an employee will consider the company when diligently involved in work. So it is in the Kingdom of God, you will find that the more work people do for Christ, the less important secular things may seem. While involved in working for Him, Satan has to try harder to get you discouraged, because your mind is focused directly on Him. Just as the more you focus on a target, the less likely things will distract you. "Do not neglect the gift that is in you..." [v. 14]. Pay attention to your duty, for we all have one. Whatever it is that you may be doing, make sure and do it for Him [Colossians 3:17 & 23]!
What Should We Do with this Knowledge and the Advice Given? [V. 15]
1. Meditate on it--It is vital that we ponder over Scripture, so that we may truly understand it. One pair of commentators state that, "As food would not nourish without digestion, which assimilates the food to the substance of the body, so spiritual food, in order to benefit us, needs to be appropriated by prayerful meditation" . The word implies the meaning of cultivation. Much similar to a garden, the more one plows and digs through the Scriptures, the fruits will be seen as well.
2. Devote your life to it--Why is devotion so important? Apparently, so "that your progress may be evident to all" [v.15]. You've all seen certain people; he or she has such a strong devotion that people respect and admire, whether they want to or not. Certain names spring to mind and you might not like them (maybe because of jealousy, at times), but you have to respect their devotion. Although incorrect in the majority of their doctrines, Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons are very devoted to their doctrine. Both groups, when examined show progress, because they are gaining numbers. Why are we not doing the same?
Have You Taken Heed to What You Believe? [V. 16]
As this last verse, verse 16, simply says, "Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine." Take a moment and consider these ideas. Are you really taking heed to what you believe? Could people imitate you? Could people follow your beliefs? Selah . Could you TRULY say "Imitate me, just as I...imitate Christ [1 Cor. 11:1]?"
Why Should We be Faithful?
We're Christians! We are the representatives of Christ. Non-believers are watching us EVERY DAY. It's true! There are younger Christians who may use are behavior as an example to go by as well. I just recently found a story that describes this behavior:
The story is told of an alcoholic father who stole out of the house one winter night to go to his favorite tavern. He had not gone far when he heard a soft crunching noise in the snow behind him. When he asked his son what he was doing, the boy replied, "I'm trying to follow in you footsteps, Dad." According to the story, the man never took another drink.
They're watching us! Let's give them something to look at! Let's give them Hope. Let's give them a pattern to follow!
I'm now reminded of a situation that occurred to me a while back, and showed me the importance of being an example. My cousins, teenagers, were watching a movie that had some foul language in it with my younger, 4 or 5 year old, cousin in the room. Someone in the movie called some one a nasty name, and everyone was in their laughing. My cousin then, after seeing their example, came into the room where I was, and uttered the words. I kindly corrected him, only after thinking that I would have been in there with them except I was busy on the computer. I would have been laughing along with them! What kind of example are we portraying? What would it be like if 5 year old children behaved exactly the way we did. We would have to correct them, right? What kind of example are we setting?
Can I truly say that I generally want everyone to imitate me? No! I have a few good points, but none that outweigh my faults. I can't say that I hope my children someday turn out just like me, but God will continue changing me, for "He's still working on me, to make me what I ought to be; it took Him just a week to make the Moon, and the stars, the Sun, and the Earth, and Jupiter, and Mars; how loving and patient He must be; He's still working on me!" I remember singing that before He even began changing me, and after I became a Christian, I can see how He's changed me still.
 MacArthur Study Bible
 Expositors' Bible Commentary (1 Tim.)
 Matthew Henry Commentary
 http://www.bible.ca (I disagree with A LOT of the material on this page, so if you choose to follow the link, be cautious...also, I didn't mention the names of the preachers mentioned on this page out of lack of assurance of the genuineness of this page's research, but I do know that what they said could very well be true based on what I've heard from the mouths of Pentecostal preachers in the past.)
 Word searches accomplished by Strong's Concordance
 Expositors' Bible Commentary (Titus)
 Hebrew word meaning to "pause." Taken from Strong's Concordance
 MacArthur NT Commentary Matt. 16-23
added December 13, 1998
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