A good minister is a rare thing under the sun; it requires that one be thoroughly nourished in the Word. He must do and teach the things which pertain to godliness, the Mystery of godliness which is great. Besides, he must be a man who does not look for simply an earthly reward; he must look for the reward both for this life and the life to come.
It is looked for in a steward of the Word that he be found faithful. And faithfulness is only nurtured in such who believe the very faithful Word of God concerning the promise for this life and for that which is to come.
Timothy belongs to that class of ministers. He is a true son, in the faith, of Paul. This does not preclude the necessity of admonitions to Timothy. God works grace through admonitions; and much grace of godliness and faithfulness must be conferred upon Timothy, a youthful preacher.
In I Timothy 4:11-16 we read: “These things command and teach. Let no man despise thy youth: but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in faith, in purity. Till I come give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrines; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself; and them that hear them.”
In all preaching of the gospel there are two elements. There are the factors of exhortation and teaching. Timothy is enjoined by Paul to do both of these. Exhortation too is a form of teaching; it is really, at bottom, the transmitting of a message from one to another. The Greek term “paraggele” means: to pass the message along. Thus it comes to mean: to declare, to announce, to command, to charge. It means in this case to do this in an official capacity in name of Christ; to do so authoritatively. And Timothy is also instructed to “teach.” And what must be passed along is the truth of the Mystery of godliness, and that, too, with all of its implications. Teaching does not consist in a mere relating of many facts in unrelated order; a certain “concordance” type of teaching, the mere quoting of many texts and passages of Scripture apart from sound exegesis, ascertaining its meaning; but teaching is showing the meaning of the Mystery of godliness in its entirety. The latter Timothy is instructed to perform in the church at Ephesus.
Shall a minister do this then he must not be a hireling; he must be wholly and entirely devoted to the task of teaching in the Church of the living God. That Timothy may thus indeed teach, Paul exhorts him to do two things:
1. He must take heed unto himself. Writes Paul: “Take heed unto thyself.” Verse 16.
2. He must take heed unto the doctrine. Writes he: “take heed . . . unto the doctrine.” Verse 16. Both of these are indispensable for any minister of the Gospel in the Church of Jesus Christ.
One hears here in effect the Words of Proverbs 1:7-9: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; but the foolish despise wisdom and instruction. My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: for they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.” Or again, what we read in Proverbs 4:9: “She (wisdom) shall give thine head an ornament of grace; a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.” Or as we read in Proverbs 4:13, 15: “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding . . . She is more precious than rubies and all the things, thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.”
Such is, in effect, the exhortation of Paul here to his youthful and true son, Timothy.
Timothy must be an example of the believers! It is conjectured that at this time he was about thirty years old. Surely a young man compared with older members, grandfathers and grandmothers, widowers and widows. Yet as a young man he must be an example for others to imitate. He must be able to say: walk as I do. He must not simply be a walking exegete; he must be an example of godliness! It must be seen that Christ dwells in his heart by faith, and that the love of God has been shed abroad in his heart. “A youthful overseer of the flock must see that he be in advance of his years” writes a certain expositor of this passage from Paul’s pen. What a wise young man a youthful preacher must be! What a wise man an older preacher too must be!
An example of the believers!
Maybe Paul means with the phrase, “example of the believers” that the minister must be in the eyes of the world what they expect to see in the best of those who profess Christ as their Savior and Redeemer; he must be such as a part of the whole!
Paul mentions certain particulars in connection with Timothy’s giving heed to self. He mentions five things according to the reading of Tischendorf. They are: “in words, in behavior (conversation), in love, in faith, in purity.” The Textus Receptus, followed by the King James Version, adds: “in spirit.” What Paul here enumerates is not such that there is no inner spiritual-psychological connection between these concepts.
We would remark the following concerning these particulars:
1. That we believe that the term “purity” (agneia in Greek) is placed last with a certain emphasis: It sums up all the other factors here enumerated, such as,words, conversation, love and faith, This purity is not to be taken in the sense that moralism would teach purity, leaving God out of the picture, but it must most emphatically refer to the spiritual ethical purity of the sanctification which is ours through the Spirit of Christ. It is the purity of heaven, of the spiritual man, of the new man in Christ, in true knowledge, righteousness and holiness. It is the purity of godliness, which is not merely a matter of form and convention, but a life which has the power of godliness. A minister must be a truly godly man.
2. Shall Timothy be such then he must walk in faith. That is the next term here mentioned before “purity.” “Faith” here refers to justifying faith in Christ Jesus, but also to sanctifying faith from which proceed “good works.” Such faith takes all its “purity” out of Christ; it eats and drinks the holiness of God in Christ, and reveals itself in the keeping of the commandments.
3. True faith is faith which is energized by “love.” Faith has no power, it is dead unless it is motivated by the love of God. If a minister spoke with the tongues of men and angels, and had not love he is altogether nothing more than a noisy, clanging brass and cymbal. Only where such love is which is longsuffering, kind, rejoicing in the truth, and which love will endure eternity, is there true faith and real purity of God through the Holy Ghost.
4. This will then in turn be reflected in one’s “words” and “conversation.” These two concepts are related aswords and deeds. In our words the heart expresses itself. What proceeds from the mouth is that which defileth a man. And words proceed from the heart through the mouth, whether this be in confession of Christ or otherwise. Certainly a minister’s words must be seasoned with salt, whether these are spoken or whether they are written words. Now a man’s words ought to be few; every man should be swift to hear, slow to wrath and slow to speech. This is most emphatically true of a minister, and this must be true of Timothy a youthful minister. Besides, his entire behavior, his rubbing elbows with the congregation and with his fellow men must be such that it bespeaks a purity rooted in love and manifested in faith.
Now why did Paul admonish Timothy thus?
Timothy must so conduct himself that he is not despised because of his youth. I will quote the following gem from Anton: “Disciplined feelings are found in ripe Christians, old in gifts, wisdom and strength, not in years (Proverbs 4 9). Samuel, the youthful, was a faithful prophet before Eli the aged (I Sam. 3:10).” Or to quote Lange: “Nothing brings a young man, especially in his official intercourse with others, more respect, than wise, prudent, exemplary action.” Paul in writing “Let none despise thy youth” is not directing an admonition to the congregation at Ephesus, but he is directing his exhortation solely to Timothy. Timothy must so conduct himself as a young man that no one will despise him because he is young, unwise, inexperienced. When a young man is pure, loving, careful in his words and walk, he may lack experience, but he will not lack respect!
Timothy must also give heed to the doctrine.
Paul gives some rather general instructions to Timothy concerning his teaching in the congregation. If any changes are to be made in the congregation they must wait till he arrives. Meanwhile Timothy must give attention to the following:
1. He must give attention to reading. It seems to me that Paul refers to the public reading of the Old Testament Scriptures, as well as to the reading of those New Testament writings which were already in existence. Thus in Rev. 1:3 we read: “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep the things which are written therein . . .” There must be no lack of knowledge of the Scriptures as they are fulfilled in Jesus Christ, our Lord.
2. Then too there must be on the part of Timothy “exhortation” and “teaching.” The Scriptures which are read must also be interpreted and applied to the lives of the believers.
3. Besides, it must not be simply a task which Timothy performs as a matter of routine. It must be evident that the charismatic gift of prophecy which was in Timothy is used by Timothy. Paul emphasizes that Timothy is to be diligent in these labors of teaching and exhorting, based upon “reading.” It must be a constant care to him; the best is not too good for the church. Hence, he must “give himself wholly to this work.” He must be “in the work.” He must be, so to speak, “up to his ears in it,” and sticking to his task. He must be willing to go forward in all understanding of the word. His progress must be “manifest to all.”
This is a good sign in a minister. When he is young it must become very evident that there is a marked improvement in the minister since he was a “candidate”; when he grows old it must be evident that he is ever fresh, fresh thoughts based upon “reading” the Scriptures. There should not be such a thing as “preached out.” One who is “preached out” has stopped reading, exegeting, studying!! A diligent minister tells the old, old story ever in a new and fresh way.
Thus the minister Timothy saves himself and those who hear him.
He does not really save himself; not in the sense that Jesus saves his people from their sins. That is a divine work. However, since God works the grace of faith and godliness through the preaching, a minister is saved, receives grace through his own preaching, and those who hear him too receive grace by the preaching through the operation of the Holy Ghost.
Thus Timothy will, by giving heed to himself and to the preaching, save himself and those who hear him!