I Timothy 4 Part 3
New King James Version 12. Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
The Resultant Version 12. Let no one despise your youth, but you become an example of the believers in word, in manner of life, in love, in spirit, in faith, in pureness.
God urges Timothy to not let anyone despise his youth. Timothy by this time was much older than he was when he first started representing Paul. The fact is that he may have been no more than a middle teenager, somewhere between sixteen and eighteen, when Paul first sent him to strengthen and establish the Thessalonian believers in the faith, as Paul records he did in I Thessalonians 3. Imagine old men being taught how to stand strong by one so young! Timothy must have been quite an amazing young man indeed. Compared to that, Timothy is now around 30 years old, and so must have been much more acceptable as a leader based on age. Yet even so, there were men in Ephesus much older than he was. Remember that the Jews despised the Lord Jesus when He was about Timothy’s age (after His birth in Bethlehem) in John 8:57 because He was “not yet fifty years old,” which was perhaps what they considered the age of respectability for a teacher. Therefore, there may have been those among the older people in Ephesus who would have despised Timothy for his youth.
Yet we might wonder how Timothy could stop anyone from despising his youth? When someone has a prejudice against you, how do you not let him have it? Can you walk up to someone and say, “Stop having a prejudice against me right now, because I will not allow it!” This simply cannot be done. People will have their prejudices against us whether we like it or not. We cannot reach into their minds and hearts and stop them. This is true regarding our age, or regarding any number of things. So what does he mean by commanding Timothy to not allow this? How can one not allow anyone to have an opinion?
The answer to this is made clear in the next phrase, wherein Paul tells Timothy how he should not allow anyone to do this. That is, he is to not allow anyone to do this by living an exemplary life. While it is clear that no one can force anyone else to change his mind, what we can do is not act in a way that would confirm and reinforce their negative opinions and stereotypes. If we confirm their negative opinions by acting in blameworthy ways, then we have allowed them to have those negative opinions and stereotypes by backing them up by our behavior. If, on the other hand, we refuse to act down to their expectations, but instead act and conduct ourselves in exemplary ways, then our very actions condemn them for their prejudices and do not allow them to reasonably and honestly continue to hold them. If they do continue to think that way, they do so against the evidence and against reality. There is nothing we can do about irrationality and stubborn refusal to accept the facts. But at least we have not confirmed their negative opinions. This is what Paul is telling Timothy to do about those who despise his youth, and really it is all anyone can do to dispel negative opinions and stereotypes against him.
Then God sets forth to Timothy the kinds of ways that he can be an example to the believers, and thus discredit those who would despise him for his youth. He is first of all to be an example in word. This is the Greek word logos, and means that Timothy should be an example to the believers in expression or the way he expresses himself. There are many ways that people, whether young or otherwise, can express themselves that are not exemplary. One way is by a lot of swearing, dirty language, or crude jokes. Another is with a lot of complaining or whining. One could express himself careless of the feelings of others, or in a self-centered way. Yet the conduct Timothy is to model by the way he expresses himself is as an example of what a believer should be and how he should live. He should act in all ways as Christ would have him to act and to express himself. This is an excellent way for all of us to live!
Then, he is to be an example to the believers in conduct or in manner of life. The way he lives should not be with the immoral or selfish tendencies of many young people, but rather with Godliness and a concern and dedication to righteousness.
Then he should be an example in love. This is the Greek word agape, which speaks of God’s kind of self-sacrificing love. Timothy should model being willing to sacrifice yourself for others. This is the way Christ is, and this is the way His servants should be in the way they love others as well.
Next, he should be an example in spirit. As we have discussed before, the “spirit” has to do with the mind, the thoughts, the opinions, the values, and the character. The way he thinks and acts should reflect an honest spirit dedicated to loving service to God.
Timothy is to be an example in faith. The word for “faith,” the Greek pistis, is also often translated “belief,” and Timothy is to display true belief in all the truths of God for today. Even those who believe the Scriptures in regards to salvation and Jesus Christ will often have trouble believing other things in the Bible. Sometimes they do not suit them, and sometimes they do not understand what they mean. Sometimes they simply would rather believe something else. Yet the man of God should always be ready to believe the Bible, whether or not he likes what it says, and whether or not it costs him. This is how Timothy is to be: as an example of faith.
Finally, he is to be an example in purity. Young people are often not known for their purity of life, but this is how the believer should be. We might immediately think of sexual purity, and this is certainly something a believer should live in. Sexual purity involves a believer abstaining from sexual activity prior to marriage. After marriage it involves engaging in sexual activity only with one’s spouse. Yet purity goes far beyond this. It involves purity of thought, purity of actions, and purity of motivation. A true believer in Christ should seek a purified heart, a purified inner being, and this should be reflected in a pure lifestyle in every aspect and activity of life. Timothy is to model this, and certainly no one would have any reason to despise him if he does so!
New King James Version 13. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
The Resultant Version 13. Until I come, be giving heed to the reading, to the entreating, to the teaching.
Interestingly, we can see here that Paul expects to come to Timothy at some point in Ephesus. This would be contrary to Acts 20:25, wherein he assured the Ephesian elders that “I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more.” Of course, he might have gone there and yet for some reason not have seen these elders. Yet the reality is that it does not appear that Paul ever made it to Ephesus, though it is clear he did see Timothy again. The idea of his coming to Ephesus was dispelled, as we can see in II Timothy 1:15, wherein Paul declares, “This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.” The reason Paul never went there is that he was entirely rejected by the Ephesians. Since Timothy was Paul’s representative, and Paul had been rejected, it is clear that Timothy too had been rejected, which is why Paul says he knows this. He must have well known it, having been there when it happened! II Timothy was written as Timothy was about to leave the city. Therefore, Paul’s words by the Spirit in Acts 20:25 proved true. Paul may have come to Timothy eventually (though he was expecting Timothy to come to him in II Timothy,) yet it clearly was not in Ephesus.
Until he comes, Paul wants Timothy to give his attention to certain things while among the Ephesians. First, he urges him to give attention to reading. Of course, by this he would mean the most important reading of all: the reading of the Scriptures. This is an interesting passage in Scripture, being one of few wherein the Bible Itself instructs the reader to regularly read It. The reading Paul had in mind was probably oral and public. Most reading was public at the time, for few people could read, and so for most to know the Scriptures, someone else had to read it to them. Actual copies of the Scripture were also few, since all had to be made by hand. Only the wealthy could afford to own any copies of any books of the Bible, not to mention a collection of many or all of them. Most collections of books would have been owned by the city or synagogue. This reading was therefore very important for all believers, and so Paul instructs Timothy to give due attention to it.
Yet this reading would be for Timothy’s benefit as well. Timothy apparently was well educated, for he could not only read, but also write, and we know he was the scribe who wrote down many of Paul’s letters. He certainly would have had the qualifications to privately read the Bible as well. As Paul’s representative, he might have been one of the few who did have access to the Scriptures for private reading, and he may have done this as well. In our day, when Bibles are plentiful and most in our society can read, we are greatly privileged. Let us all take advantage of this privilege and read the precious book God has given to us. It truly is worthy of our attention, far more worthy than most things we give our attention to!
Next, Timothy is to give his attention to exhortation. “Exhortation” here is the Greek word paraklesei, related to the word for the paraclete, parakletos. The paraclete was one who came alongside to help, much like a defense lawyer comes alongside the accused to help him. Peraklesis can speak of comfort, exhortation, encouragement, consolation, persuasion, or supplication. In this context, it probably combines many of these. Timothy is to act as a comforter, helper, and supporter to these Ephesians.
Finally, Timothy is to give his attention to teaching. Teaching was a very necessary thing in Ephesus now that the work of God had changed. There were new truths to understand and new ways of living rather than law to be instructed in. These changes necessitated teaching if people were to understand them and to live according to them. Therefore Timothy must prioritize teaching, for without it none of them would know what God wanted of them in the dispensation of grace. Indeed, this is a major reason why the book of I Timothy was written: so we would know how to behave in this time in which we live. Paul instructs Timothy in these things, and he is to pass this knowledge on by teaching.
New King James Version 14. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership.
The Resultant Version 14. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, the gift that was given you by prophecy, which was by the laying on of the hands of the elders.
This verse raises a difficulty, for what Paul is talking about here, “the gift that is in you,” sounds like something we would only expect to hear about in the Acts period, yet as we have already demonstrated clearly from many statements Paul makes, this is not an Acts period letter. How then can Paul mention gifts in the dispensation of grace, when we believe that all miraculous, evident, God-given gifts have come to an end? Would this not seem to contradict the idea that gifts have ceased and that God is silent in the dispensation of grace? Some would insist that it does, and so would relegate I Timothy to an earlier dispensation, insisting that the true dispensational dividing line must be after Acts 28:28. This view is called post-Acts dispensationalism. Yet with this view we disagree. What then would we say about this mention of gifts in a book written to our dispensation?
When reading Timothy, we must ever keep in mind that the man Timothy himself was one who came to faith in Christ in Acts 16, which was squarely during the Acts period. As an Acts period believer, he would have received at least one miraculous gift. As an apostle and one of Paul’s company, he probably would have received multiple other gifts to aid him in his ministry. Not all these gifts need necessarily have abandoned him when the dispensation changed.
To understand what I mean, consider that some gifts by their very nature required constant power from God to maintain them. One example we could consider is the gift of healing. When God gave this gift, He did not give the recipient a superior knowledge of the healing arts, as if He made a person into an instant doctor. No, this gift usually involved speaking a word and the person in question would be healed. This gift therefore required a fresh infusion of the power of the Spirit of God every time it was utilized. Therefore the moment the miraculous power of the Acts period was removed, this gift came immediately to an end. Those who had the gift in Acts no longer had it as soon as Acts was over. The same would go for a gift like miraculous signs.
Yet some gifts, like the gift of a tongue, involved giving the person with the gift a native-speaker-level knowledge of a language he had never learned nor spoken before. This involved a gift of knowledge implanted into one’s mind. I do not believe that God would have gone back into the person’s mind and snatched the knowledge back out the moment the Acts period was over. That knowledge remained. Now in Acts, if one did not speak that language for many years, God could have instantly refreshed the knowledge of it the moment one needed it again. We all are perhaps aware of how the knowledge of a language can decrease when it is not used. Once the dispensation changed, God would have done no refreshing, and it would have been up to the person who received the language to keep himself current in it. Yet he would still have the language, and only lack of use and failing memory could deprive him of it. Therefore, the gift of a tongue could and did continue even after the power source was cut off.
This same idea would have been true of the gift of wisdom, the gift of knowledge, and other such gifts that involved acquiring knowledge. For example, consider how many of the gifts listed in Romans 12 could have been retained by the person receiving them even after the Holy Spirit stopped empowering them at the end of Acts.
New King James Version Romans 12:6. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7. or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8. he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
Of the gifts mentioned, the gift of prophecy would not have continued, for this involved the word of God being given to you directly from Him, something that did not continue after Paul laid down his pen from writing II Timothy. Yet ministry, the gift of serving, could have taught the person using it enough to easily continue ministering in the same manner after the power of the gift was taken away. The gift of teaching would result in much knowledge of the subject matter being taught, so that the same things could be taught after the power of the Holy Spirit was no longer applied to the gift. The gift of exhortation would teach the person much that could be retained after the power source was removed. The gift of giving is one that one could learn from and continue after the power was gone. The gift of leadership would teach one many things that could be utilized after the power of the Acts period stopped. The gift of mercy would also teach truths that would not instantly disappear from the one displaying them when the power source no longer operated. Therefore, most of these gifts might have had at least some aspect of them that could have continued into the dispensation of grace.
Therefore, we would be led to believe that this gift of Timothy’s that Paul mentions was a gift that did continue to affect Timothy even after the dispensational change. We read of something very similar in II Timothy as well.
New King James Version II Timothy 1:6. Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Paul here urges Timothy to stir up the gift of God which was in him through the laying on of Paul’s hands. Many of even the post-Acts dispensationalists will admit that II Timothy is written to us today, and yet how is this statement any different from that of I Timothy? The statement here in II Timothy would seem to indicate that the gift in question might have been the gift of courage. There is some indication that Timothy might have been a naturally timid person, as we discussed in our introduction to I Timothy. Therefore, Paul had given him the gift of courage in power, love, and a sound mind through the laying on of his hands. This might not be the same gift as the one in I Timothy, since this gift was given by the laying on of Paul’s hands, whereas the gift he mentions in I Timothy was given by the laying on of the hands of the eldership. This might be the same gift if Paul was joined in this giving by elders, yet there could certainly be two different gifts in mind in the two books.
Yet as for a gift of courage, such a gift could certainly be lost once the power to maintain it was taken away. All Timothy would have to do would be to start giving in to fear, and he would have started to revert to his characteristic timidity that marked him before he was invested with God-given courage. Yet Paul urges him in II Timothy not to do this, but to stir up the gift God had given him through the laying on of Paul’s hands, so that he could again act in a courageous manner and not with a spirit of fear.
So then whatever this gift was mentioned by Paul in I Timothy 4:13, it must have been a similar gift. In the Acts period, he had been given this gift by prophecy. Prophecy means that the word of God was spoken directly to Timothy when he received this gift. This word probably had to do with the gift he was receiving, why he was receiving it, and how he was to use it. Then, the elders laid their hands on him, and he received the gift. Yet now the Acts period was over, and so the Holy Spirit was not miraculously renewing the power of this gift. Yet it was still an important gift for Timothy’s use, and so he is urged not to neglect it. Indeed, the gifts of God are precious, and it would be good for any Acts period believer who retained part of his gift to hold on to that gift and not neglect it.
New King James Version 15. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.
The Resultant Version 15. Continue to care for these things; be occupied in them, in order that your advancement may be manifest to all.
Now Paul urges Timothy to meditate or to think carefully on these things. The things he refers to are the instructions he has been giving him, regarding being an example to the believers; giving attention to reading, exhortation, and teaching; and not neglecting the gift that was given him. Paul did not expect Timothy to just read these instructions and simply pass them by because he was busy with other things. He expected him to think carefully on these instructions, considering what they mean and what he will have to do to follow them.
Then, he is to give himself entirely to them. Paul wants no half-hearted obedience out of Timothy. Rather, he wants him to throw himself into these things, and to follow these instructions no matter what the cost. This is what God always desires out of His children: that we would obey His word to us from the heart.
If Timothy will think carefully on these instructions and then give himself entirely to them, then his progress will be evidence to all. The same is true when we act according to the pattern laid down for us in God’s Word. None of us is going to do this perfectly from the start. We may start out trying to please God in all we do, but we will inevitably fall short. Yet if we really, honestly intend to serve Him and do so from the heart, if we think carefully over what He has instructed us in His Word and then give ourselves entirely to following it, then our progress will be evident to all. We will not long stay in the same place in our walks with Christ if we will honestly do this!
New King James Version 16. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
The Resultant Version 16. Be giving heed to yourself and to your teaching. Keep persisting in them, for doing this you shall save both yourself and those hearing you.
He urges Timothy to take heed. The first thing to pay attention to is himself. This in many ways should be of great concern to all of us. Often when we would start out to serve God, the one person we would like to think we can totally count on in fulfilling our mission is ourselves, and yet this is not always the case. I like to remind people that if you ever turn away from God, you are the one who is going to do that. While someone else might encourage you in that direction, ultimately you are the one who is going to make that decision. Therefore, we should first take heed to ourselves.
Secondly, he urges Timothy to take heed to the doctrine, that is, the teaching. This, of course, is the true teaching of God such as we have been reading in the book of I Timothy. This chapter started out warning Timothy against giving heed to deceiving spirits and the teaching of demons. It also warned against profane and old womanish fables. Instead of these, Timothy should give heed to God’s true teaching such as Paul has been giving him through the Holy Spirit in this book.
Moreover, Timothy is to continue in these teachings, for in doing this he will save both himself and those who hear him. This is not speaking of salvation from sin and death, as many would assume who take the word “saved” as always referring to a certain doctrinal concept in the Bible. Yet “to save” can simply mean to preserve or rescue from some danger. The danger in this passage clearly arises from false and misleading teaching such as that promoted by demons and by old women. These teachings might appear wise, but will ultimately have bad results in the life of one who lives according to them. How does one guard himself against such deception? By continuing in the true teachings of God as found in His Word. That Word can save both yourself and those who listen to you as you teach Its truth. Thus Paul urges Timothy to take heed to these things so that both he and those who hear him may be delivered and rescued from those false teachings and their consequences.