These verses build on those we looked at last week. They’re part of the same section written to Timothy, highlighting what must be the focus of his own life and ministry. It’s important to note they would have been addressed to him publically, since the whole letter would have been read to the church family. Paul wanted Timothy and the church to know what the priority of their young minister’s life and work must be. In summery Timothy is called first to godliness and then to reading, preaching and teaching Scripture. More than anything else this is what he is called to give his life to as we shall see.
Paul continues his letter to Timothy with the following words; V11; “Command and teach these things.” Paul is talking about all he has written in this letter. Timothy is not told to present these things as mere suggestions to the church; he is to authoritatively teach them. The Greek word for “command” means to direct or give orders. It teaches us that a minister has true spiritual authority as long as he submits to the authority of Scripture. It is his responsibility to teach—even to command, in God’s name—his church to obey the teaching of the NT apostles which is in fact the teaching of Christ. This means there should be an evident authoritative tone in his teaching. Paul wrote to Titus in 2:15; “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” Paul also wrote to Timothy in 2 Tim 4:1-2; “I charge you in the presence of God & of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living & the dead, & by his appearing & his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season & out of season; reprove, rebuke, & exhort, with complete patience & teaching.”
So it’s very important for the minister and his congregation to understand his authority. When a minister stands up to teach he is not meant to be making suggestions, sharing his opinions or giving a nice little motivational talk, he is there as one called, commissioned and ordained by God to preach God’s Word... And even if he is on the younger side, as Timothy was, he still needs to have confidence in his role & respect from his church family. Although at the same time it equally needs to be pointed out that he also needs to work at earning this respect. This is why Paul writes in the next verse; “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”
A YOUNG MINISTER SHOULD BE SECURE IN HIS ROLE
These words speak firstly to young pastors & secondly they have something to say to young people... This is one of those verses that often get’s ripped from its context, but it’s important we first understand them in context before rightly applying them to other areas. They are written firstly to a young pastor. When these verses were written there was considered to be two classes of grown men: young men and elder men. In Ephesus, each group had its own social association, with its own funds, officers, events and athletic facilities. Timothy belonged in the younger category, which included men up to the age of forty... Given the date when Timothy first joined Paul (AD 49-50; cf. Acts 16:1-3) & the date of this letter (AD 62-64), Timothy would have been in his thirties when these words were written to him. This was considered a young age to be in an important leadership role!
The command not to let anyone look down on him then was intended for the church family’s ears as well as his own. Paul wanted to make sure that no one discriminated against Timothy on the basis of his age. None of us should let anyone discriminate against us on the basis of age... Phillip Ryken says; “Despite the young man’s inexperience, they needed to treat him like a “Timothy”, not like a “Timmy”, which makes the point well. In fact Timothy was not to let anyone patronise his youthfulness, for if Christ’s apostle thought he was ready then he was ready...
This highlights something that is extremely important for survival, sanity & progress in ministry—security in ones role. A minister of the gospel needs to be secure in himself and in his role (in his identity in Christ). Such security is not rooted in his age, training, theological education, popularity or position. It is rooted in knowing the call of God. We will only ever be secure in ourselves when we are secure in Christ, when our roots go down deep into him! This is true for all of us. You will never be completely secure in yourself until you are secure in Christ alone. Secure in his love for you and secure in his call on your life. You’re value to the kingdom of God is not based on age or any of the other things I mentioned. It is based on your identity & call in Christ, which no one (not even Satan) can snatch from the true Christian (Rom 11:29)! Ironically when we try to find security in anything else, or when we try to be someone other than who God has called us to be, it leads to insecurity. Let your security be found in what you cannot lose—the call and gifting of God rooted in your identity in him!
Knowing who he was in Christ and being confident and secure in his gifting & calling was important for Timothy’s survival & progress as a young minister. This is true for every minister; in fact it’s true for every Christian since we are all ministers of some kind. Listen to something that may change your life: You do not have to fill anybody else’s shoes but your own... Whatever our God-given role we need confidence & security in it.
Paul opened this letter with the words “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God”. He opened most of his letters with something very similar. He was confident in his role; he wasn’t timid or sheepish about it. Paul wanted Timothy to have the same confidence in his God-given role. We are who we are by the grace of God, nothing more, nothing less! Knowing this ought to liberate us from false humility or feeling awkward in the role God has given us. We are not called to hide our calling or gifting, or bury it in the ground (cf. Matt 25:14-30), but to exercise it. What God has called us to & gifted us for is for investing in the Kingdom of God. In verse 14 Paul tells Timothy “Do not neglect the gift you have.” In 2 Timothy 1:6 NIV he told him; “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”
It’s also important to point out that there is two parts to verse 14; “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.” Point being, if you are truly gifted for a particular role others—especially church leaders—will see it & release you at the right time. Part of being secure in your God-given identity & gifting is trusting that your gift will make room for you in God’s time. Insecurity tries to push itself to the front, insecurity tries to grab control... & can potentially damage the call of God on one’s life; security however rests in the timing of God. As Lloyd-Jones wrote; “the worst thing that can happen to a young man is that he becomes great before his time.”
It’s important to consider then that Timothy’s gift was not only something he recognised personally, it was also something which was confirmed publically by prophecy and prayer. What he saw in himself was confirmed by others... This is all part of God’s way of making sure we’re released at the right time, & of helping us stay secure in our call. There will be times when we need to strengthen ourselves with those God-given affirmations given through others, so we remain steadfast & secure in our calling.
A YOUNG MINISTER SHOULD BE AN EXAMPLE TO BELIEVERS
Clearly Paul wanted Timothy to feel secure in his role despite his young age. However Paul equally challenged him to be an example to everyone by how he lived his whole life. In short Timothy was not to give his seniors any reason to look down on his youth. The best way to stop people looking down on you is to give them reason to look up to you! The godliness Timothy was to train himself for needed to be something that permeated every area of his life. When Paul tells Timothy to set an example “in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity”; he is basically telling him to set the believers an example in every aspect of his life. He was to be God’s man not just in the pulpit but in all of life. If he was to have his people’s respect he had to be worthy of respect.
Timothy’s teaching ministry and life is mingled very closely together throughout these verses. It’s clear that Paul doesn’t see life and ministry as being separate in anyway. For the pastor ministry is life and life is ministry, they cannot be separated. In verse 11 Paul mentions how Timothy should teach, then in verse 12 Paul talks of how he should live. In verse 13-14 Paul again talks of Timothy’s teaching ministry, then in verse 15 he addresses his life. In verse 16 Paul tells him to keep close watch on himself and the teaching and then in 5:1-2 he talks of his conduct towards others in the church family.
So it’s important to note that a minister cannot separate his teaching from the rest of his life. He is called to be God’s man in the pulpit and out of it. In fact none of us can disconnect what we profess with our mouths with how we live our lives; if we do we simply contradict ourselves and the gospel. We are called to demonstrate what we declare, and as we have seen the gospel we declare produces godliness in our lives. The minister is simply called to be an example of this, by teaching the church by his life and doctrine. Matthew Henry wrote; “Those who teach by their doctrine must teach by their life, else they pull down with one hand what they build up with the other.” Puritan writer Richard Baxter wrote; “There are too many men who are ministers before they know how to be Christians.” Baxter also warned ministers to watch how they live their lives, “lest you may unsay with your lives that which you say with your tongues.” Actions do not always speak louder than words, but they do have a way of turning up the volume...
As well as being an example in the five areas mentioned in verse 12 (which summarise the Christian life) in 5:1-2 Paul also instructs Timothy regarding his relationship with people in the church. Paul doesn’t only teach that the pastor should have people’s respect, but also that he should show people respect. Listen to what he says; “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father. Treat younger men like brothers, older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity.” Timothy was told to show individuals the same respect he would show his own family. He was by no means to be cold, hard or domineering towards his congregation but relational, respectful & gentle, treating them like family. It’s also important to highlight Paul added the words “in all purity” after talking about how to treat younger women. Purity was also one of the five words Paul used in verse 14... The Greek word for purity can mean general moral conduct, but more often it was used to refer to sexual behaviour. It should go without saying that a minister is called to set the example in sexual purity. Timothy had to lead by example; for this reason he had to carefully watch his behaviour with young women...
A YOUNG MINISTER SHOULD BE IMMERSED IN WHAT GOD HAS CALLED HIM TO
After being called to be an example to the believers in all of his life, Timothy may have been tempted to ask, in the words of Ps. 119:9, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” The answer the psalmist gives is, “By guarding it according to your word.” In a sense Paul gave Timothy a similar answer;
V13-15; “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all many see your progress.”
Teaching the Bible begins with reading the Bible. It shouldn’t start as an idea in the preacher’s head; it should start with the Text! The truth is the text of Scripture will often mess up the ideas in our heads. Therefore if a preacher is seeking a word from God he should go to the word of God, then he should simply pray, study, teach and apply what that text says in context. When Paul tells Timothy to devote himself to “the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” this is exactly what he means. The preacher stands up and reads the text then he exhorts and teaches from it just like I am doing today.
Literally the Greek text says; “devote yourself to reading, to exhortation, to teaching”... However the word translated “reading” is almost always used to refer to public reading. But at the same time the verb implies previous preparation in private. Therefore it encompasses not just the act of teaching, but all the commitment, study & preparation associated with it. This is why Paul says to Timothy; “Do not neglect the gift you have... Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” Paul was obviously disciplined in study since he said to Timothy in 2 Tim 4:13; “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.”
This brings us back to this whole idea of being nourished in the word of God. How can a preacher constantly nourish others if he does not constantly nourish himself? This is what the young minister is to do more than anything else. He is to immerse himself in reading, studying, preaching & teaching Scripture. This is to be his life. He is not meant to be busy doing everything else, but immersed in these things. Paul does not call Timothy to immerse himself in anything else but these things To neglect it is to neglect what his people need most. Hence Paul says V16; “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by doing so you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Listen to Paul’s language again; “devote yourself to” (13); “do not neglect” (14); “practice these things” (15); “immerse yourself in” (15); “keep a close watch on” (16); “persist in this” (16). This is to be the minister’s priority! Nothing else should distract him from it; his own soul, as well as the souls of his hearers, depends on it!
With souls depending on your ministry & having to set an example to all—including people more mature than you—this passage could potentially discourage Timothy (& all young pastors) as much as it could affirm them. It almost seems Paul is telling Timothy he needs to be perfect. However this can’t be the case otherwise he wouldn't have written the words; “that all may see your progress” (15). These words bring the needed hope! Paul is not telling Timothy he has to be perfect, otherwise he wouldn’t need to make progress. He was calling him to aspire something in the gospel. Apparently Paul didn't think ‘set an example’ meant get everything right the first time. There is room to grow, room to become a better minister. Progress is not only what God expects from us but what he allows. This helps us finish on an important note about godliness. It is a process! It’s more important where you are going than where you are today. Direction matters more than current position. Your future speaks louder than your present. So cheer up: if you aren't what you know you should be; God is still smiling because by grace you are heading in the right direction!