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First Timothy

Pastoral Advice

1 Timothy 4:11 - 5:4

Lesson audioThere is little hope of that man’s being useful to save others, that minds not his own salvation; and therefore the apostle puts them in this order, "thyself," and then, "them that hear thee."  - Robert Traill, 1642-1716

The matter is a difficult one: a young man, appointed in authority over those much older.  How does the Christian conduct himself in such circumstance?  Paul takes pains to reveal that to Timothy, in advice which has remained pertinent ever since.

Let no one look down…

Prescribe and teach these things. Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.

(1Ti 4:11-13 NASB)

Command and teach

(Most translations have the 11th verse read “Command and Teach.”)  Let us begin by recognizing an important fact:  “command” and “teach” are simply examples of the use of authority.  To command is to use the moral authority of God;  the wise minister does not use his own opinions for command; rather, he uses the Word of God as his basis.  As such, when it is necessary to command, the glory goes to God – and so should the words of complaint.  Therefore it is necessary that the one in command be thoroughly prepared to show that what the Scripture commands is what he is repeating.

Teaching, on the other hand, involves the use of true knowledge as authority.  We take our doctor’s prescriptions seriously because we presume he knows which medication to prescribe.  But there is one thing we may notice about teaching the Word – if you don’t practice what you preach, no one listens.  Physician, heal thyself.

So it is that Paul now tells Timothy to both know the word and be known for walking in it.

The Devotional Life

The interior of the matter is simply this.  If you live the devotional life – the life of prayer, reading the Scriptures and meditating upon them – you will find it to be thus:

  • It is exemplary – you become the example of what you want your followers to be.
  • It is profitable – for the Lord rewards those who take him seriously.
  • It is also necessary, as you will not fool many for very long.

Let’s take a look at the “for instance” items given us here:

  • There is your speech.  Nothing is so telling as what a man says when he is upset.  People listen very carefully to a preacher’s temper.  The word Paul uses here is logos.
  • Conduct, or behavior – people will watch a preacher’s actions.  Often this is to the point of being on public display.  How many eyes would be interested in where Billy Graham is right now?
  • Love – the word is agape – is expected of the leaders of the church. 
  • Faith:  if the preacher isn’t sure, how can he expect his listeners to be?
  • Purity:  this word is often translated “chastity” as well.  Any preacher who has a sweet young thing on the side (and that is easy to do, these days) is not going to be effective in pronouncing right and wrong.

These are the internal signs of a practicing Christian.  But there are external ones as well.

External signs

All this will lead to the external signs of one who carries the authority of God.

  • Scripture reading.  Most translators make this public Scripture reading, given the context.  It certainly would not be meant to deny private reading as well.  Public reading makes sense;  if your authority is based upon what God says, you should honor His Word in public.
  • If you’re going to read it, you should preach and teach it too.  The verb used here for this is paraklesis, meaning to come along side, as is spoken of the Holy Spirit.
  • And there is teaching – we are to command and teach.

The Spiritual Gift

Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.

(1Ti 4:14-16 NASB)

Much commentary has been written about this passage, most of which depends upon your view of spiritual gifts.  In what follows, we attempt to give the most general of meaning to it.  This should not be interpreted as affirming or denying any particular view.  The Spirit goes where He wills, and seeks no permission from me.

Spiritual Gifts

First, let us begin by acknowledging what such gifts are:  they are gifts from God.  As such, they carry with them the responsibility of using them; otherwise, they will be considered rejected and then withdrawn. These gifts are given by the Holy Spirit, which often (as here) involves the miraculous – in Paul’s case, prophecy.  We are not sure what this particular gift was, but do recall that teaching is one such.

One other thing:  this gift was transmitted by the laying on of hands.  The Spirit works through the church.  It is a symbolic confirmation that the church and the Spirit agree in giving this gift.  (This is the source of the idea of Apostolic Succession).  The use of such a method is very old; we remember that the High Priest laid his hands on the scapegoat so as to lay the sins of the people upon it.

Be devoted – and it will show.

It is a fact:  if you are devoted to the Lord, it will show in every aspect of your life.  But what does it mean to be “devoted?”  We might suggest these three items:

  • “Take pains” – go the extra mile.  As one co-worker put it to me once, “Ah, now this is your “10” subject.”  Devotion is seen in the extra mile.
  • “Be absorbed” – let the world know that your first priority is Jesus Christ.  (And the only way to let them know that is to make sure that He is your first priority).
  • Don’t show off about this.  You don’t need to.  It will show.
Ensuring salvation

To everyone but a Baptist, this passage is quite clear.  Doing such things ensures your own salvation and that of those who follow you.  The Baptist interpretation you must seek elsewhere. 

The matter is relatively simple.  Do you remember the parable of the sower and the soils?  The seed that fell on rocky grounds died for lack of persistence.  So – don’t rest on your laurels;  keep at it.  Pay close attention to what you are doing; don’t put it on autopilot.  Persevere – keep up the good work you’ve started.  If you do, Satan cannot shake you, for you will be about your Father’s business.  And those who are your listeners will know what a blessing you are.  Leadership is best done from in front.

Dealing with Young and Old

Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity. Honor widows who are widows indeed; but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God.

(1Ti 5:1-4 NASB)

The art of rebuke

The object of rebuke is a change in the rebuked.  Therefore, consider the wisdom of the approach Paul gives Timothy:

  • It is done in accordance with the customs of the times.  Older men were greatly honored then; therefore the rebuke continued that honor, treating him as a father.
  • It is done in the authority of Christ.  There are three people in that conversation.
  • It is done with absolute purity.  That way, no one second guesses your reason for speaking – nor fears abuse of your authority.
Man to Man

We might suspect that rebuke delivered “man to man” would be handled in a macho style.  There is no trace of that.  We are to rebuke the aged with respect (the word “appeal” in the Greek is paraklesis again).

And for the younger men?  We are treat them as if they were our brothers.  Make it clear that your concern is for the salvation and welfare of the one being rebuked.  Which, by the way, carries with it the idea that you may have to pay a price to do this.  The world may be crying for blood while you are speaking in the love of God.

Man to woman is similar, with one addition:  it must be absolutely clear that you have no hidden, romantic agenda.

Pass it on

If the preacher is a man of devotion it is to be expected that the congregation will follow that leadership.  We have here an example of such leadership.  It concerns the matter of widows (of which we will have more to say in the next lesson).

We begin with a couple of observations which are more relevant to their time than to ours.

  • This is an era where the church provides what we today would categorize as welfare.  When Julian the Apostate took power, he complained bitterly that the Christians not only took care of their own poor – but the rest of society as well.  Taking care of widows was a high duty of the church.
  • As a result, there were those who would take advantage of this duty.  There were women whose families should be taking care of them, so that the church might focus on those who were really in need.

Now, think of the problem this gives to Timothy.  These widows, and their families, are going to be older than Timothy.  Timothy needs to exhort their families to care for them – and that is going to cost them money.  That is a delicate task, given that the family could always argue that old Mrs. So-and-So is in the church’s care; why not our Aunt Priscilla?  But see how Paul would have Timothy handle it:

  • This exhortation comes from one who is known to be deeply knowledgeable in the Scriptures, a man of deep and frequent prayer.  You might get an argument from a lesser man.  Timothy needs only speak the truth to be believed.  They know he speaks what God commands.
  • This exhortation comes from one who speaks in meekness and gentleness.  Fire and brimstone have no use here;  it is the quiet counsel out of site of the world.  This makes it much easier to accept. 
  • This exhortation concerns what God has determined to be acceptable.  Those who are slack in this will have no problem dealing with Timothy – they will have a problem dealing with the Living God.
The man who brings God’s exhortation, in God’s method, will achieve God’s results.

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