Sunday, 7 January 2018
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. 1 Timothy 4:12
Here we see a truth that youth does not preclude being a preacher, or teacher of the law. Nor does it exclude being an overseer. Paul’s words of Chapter 3, which say that he is not to be a novice, are speaking of maturity in Christ, not physical age. Understanding this, Paul say, “Let no one despise your youth.” The age of Timothy is unknown, but he was obviously so young that some may have thought him unfit to be an overseer of the church. Some scholars have identified him in his 20s. Others figure him between 38 and 40 years old at this time. Where this is derived from is not stated, and such ages can only be mere conjecture.
Regardless of his age, because of his youth, Timothy’s actions may cause some to despise him. When we see someone younger than ourselves acting in an inappropriate manner, we will often make a judgment on their actions because of their age. This is the intent of Paul’s words here. Paul wanted Timothy to avoid this pitfall, and to be held in esteem despite his age among those in the congregation. In order for this to be realized, he continues with, “but be an example to the believers.”
Timothy’s life was to be dedicated to right and proper living in the presence of all, but Paul specifically mentions “believers.” They would have their eyes on him, and if his actions were not proper, the congregation would follow suit. This truth is seen throughout the books of Kings and Chronicles where the leader of Israel set the example. As the king pursued holiness, so did the people. As he pursued wickedness, the people followed suit. The same thing is seen in any leader. The people will follow the example of the leader, and their habits will emulate his.
In order to ensure then that those in the church would pursue godliness, he tells Timothy to be a proper example in six specific ways, beginning with “in word.” This signifies his speech and conversation concerning Scripture. It then includes preaching and teaching others in proper doctrine. The word used specifically signifies the expression of a thought, and so it can also include his normal conversation with those whom he associates.
Next, Paul says, “in conduct.” The word signifies the manner of life displayed to others. It is the “the outward behavior from an ‘up-turn’ of inner beliefs” (HELPS Word Studies). This is followed with, “in love.” This signifies that Timothy is to have a truly loving attitude towards those of the faith. Whether one likes the person or not is not considered. He is to love them nonetheless, and his attitude is to be reflective of this.
Paul then says, “in spirit.” These are the external attributes which are directed towards others, such as being meek, forgiving, helpful, patient, kind, and the like. He then notes, “in faith.” There are always times when people will be disheartened or anxious. But Paul admonishes Timothy to never let down his unshakable, complete, and wholehearted confidence in God, and in His promises. A leader who demonstrates such confidence is truly necessary when the congregation faces immense challenges.
Finally, Paul notes, “in purity.” It is a word used only here and in 1 Timothy 5:2. It signifies the quality of cleanliness, but especially in chastity. Thus it is a word concerning morality. Timothy was being implored to always reflect an attitude of the purest moral conduct, never allowing there to be a hint of impropriety in his actions.
Life application: Leaders in a church are people, just like all others, but they are expected to live their lives in a state of constant wholesome conduct before those they minister to. As this is a difficult thing for humans to do, it is appropriate that congregants help the leader along by not bringing him into a tempting or difficult situation. When all are cautious concerning wholesome character, it will be an easier thing for the leader to not get drawn into temptation himself.
Gracious heavenly Father, we pray that you will help us to live as Your word calls for us to live. You ask us to be holy, faithful, pure, loving, and sound believers who will bring You glory. Give us leaders who will meet these precepts, give us hearts to pursue righteousness, and give us the desire to glorify You at all times. As a people, help us in this Lord. Be glorified in us, O God. Amen.