Rev. Lubbers is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity (love), in spirit, in faith, in purity.

I Timothy 4:12, 13

To be sure, Timothy is placed here under a very weighty injunction, as a God-appointed officebearer in the church of the living God. As were the Nazarites in the Old Testament, so must Timothy be a good example of all godliness. He must not fail in this pursuit of godliness as did Samson, but he must be a shining light as were such worthies as Samuel and John the Baptist. And, as the Nazaritic vow of Samuel and John the Baptist was for life, so it must be with Timothy.

Timothy was an outstanding young man. He was a real “find.” Notice that Luke writes in Acts 16:1, “And behold a certain young man was there, named Timothy.” He was, then and there, set aside to be a lifelong officer in the church, which office proved to be the exalted office of an Evangelist, the highest in rank under that of the apostles of Jesus’ Christ. For the latter see Acts 1:15-26. Paul boasts of this exalted office in Galatians 1:1I Corinthians 15:9-11.

The office of an Evangelist follows in dignity and magnitude after that of the apostleship. See Ephesians 4:11ff. As Paul received his instruction from the exalted Christ face to face, so Timothy received this knowledge of the gospel from the lips of Paul (I Tim. 4:6;II Tim. 4:10-17).

O, Timothy, let no man despise thy youth as a God-determined and God-given officebearer in the house of God, in the church of the living God. My son Timothy, remember this: you were not elected by the vote of the people to this office of evangelist; on the contrary, you were made an evangelist in all churches by God Himself! God made you a minister in His church by the laying on of hands in the presence of all the presbytery ( I Tim. 4:14). No man can, may, or shall annul this great sovereign work of God. And now Paul most solemnly bids Timothy that he stand unmoved in his office. Let no man despise him in his office because of his age, his youthfulness.

That Timothy was prepared for this office in a very providential way was God’s work in Jesus Christ. He is to be Christ’s soldier, and must keep the deposit which had been entrusted to his care. Such a keeping of the trust means a life wholly consecrated to Jesus Christ. (The Greek verb pulassaein means to guard, to watch.) He is to have the great and precious pearl of the gospel in sacred custody.

Timothy is not to allow the critics to fabricate a fabulous Achilles’ heel; Timothy must clothe himself in the firm and unmovable assurance that his calling of an evangelist is not of men but of God. Hence, let no man despise thy youth.

“But be thou an example of the believers.”

Timothy is not merely to be this as a believer in the midst of all the body of Christ, the saints in the church of the living God. He must be an example of the very “godliness” which is the sanctified life, which is really Christ in us. Meanwhile, we should not overlook the very fine nuance of the Greek. Timothy is to be an example, not to the believers, but of the believers. Also in his office the man of God works out his salvation with fear and trembling, whereas it is God who energizes us both to will and to do after His good-pleasure (Phil. 2:12, 13).

Timothy is here exhorted to work out his salvation as officebearer in the following Christian virtues.

First, he is exhorted in both “word” and “walk.” This is a very beautiful twofold description. The term “word” refers to what comes forth from the heart. Timothy’s speech must be a sanctified offering on the altar of God. How mindful the psalmist is of this in Psalm 19:13, 14. Must not the words which we use as children of God, as well as the officebearers. in the church of the living God, be ever, as it were, seasoned with salt? (See Matt. 5:13-16Mark 9:49Luke 14:35Col. 4:6James 3:12.) Notice too that the Old Testament speaker of the “Covenant of Salt” (Lev. 2:13Num. 18:19II Chron. 13:5). It must be with sanctified lips that the sacrifice of praise be brought (Heb. 13:15).

Next, we consider the term and concept “walk.” This word is always used to designate the spiritual deportment of a man. It is never used to designate mere human discourse. It is a word which is ever used to designate the moral and spiritual behavior either of an individual in the church or of the church as a whole. When Paul refers to his walk of life prior to the great grace when Christ dwelt in him, he calls it his former conversation in Jewry. (See the following passages:Gal. 1:13Eph. 4:22. For the conversation according to the new man in Christ, see Heb. 13:7James 3:13I Pet. 1:15I Peter 2:12.)

Timothy must also be an example in that he walks in “love” (charity). Closely connected with such love is that we walk in faith. It has been stated by one able commentator that “love” is the horizontal relationship with our neighbors, while faith is the vertical relationship with God. We walk in our new relationship of faith in the living God and thus walk in true faith in the loving of our neighbor.

Perhaps we could look at the implication of these terms a bit more in depth. Paul, speaking of our hope of righteousness and of the liberty which is ours in Christ, writes a very brief statement in Galatians 5:5, 6: “For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.”

Such is the deep biblical principle of the holy calling to walk in all purity as a servant in the house of God. Whereas the question is not one of being youthful rather than elderly, Timothy is to walk as a veritable spiritual example of the brotherhood of Christ in the world. In such purity of a good conscience he can stand in his office in the boldness of his holy calling. And the mouths of the critics are stopped.

In a backward glance at this spiritual anthology we see the wisdom of God in choosing Timothy for this great and spiritually delicate task of being a good minister of Jesus Christ. Thus he will work the work of God, and the sure foundation will stand, having this seal, “the Lord knoweth them that are his; and, let everyone that nameth the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness.”

And the church, the temple of the living God, is truly a holy catholic church. She shall be a people who are spiritual Nazarites. The term used here by the Holy Spirit is worthy of special notice. F. Hauch, in the Theological Dictiona y of the New Testament, Vol. I, page 123, writes: “In the few O.T. and apocryphal passages the reference (of the term agneia) is to ‘culticpurity.'”) It refers to the special vows and the life-time dedicated state of the Nazarites in the old dispensation (Samson, Samuel, John the Baptist). In II Chronicles 30:19 the word refers to the holiness required of those who labored in the sanctuary of Jehovah.

Here in I Timothy 4:12 the term refers to the holy personal walk required of Timothy as a useful vessel in the great house of God. (See II Tim. 2:20-26.) Let all who labor in God’s spiritual temple take this exhortation to heart!

Paul writes, “Till I come, give heed to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (v. 13).

Let us notice the following.

It should be evident after a bit of careful reflection that Paul is referring not to personal reading of doctrine, but to the reading of the words of the covenant by Timothy in the public gathering in the worship service -be it in a synagogue, a house, or elsewhere, on the Day of the Lord or in a midweek gathering. This is suggested by the implication of the term “reading” both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. The term for reading in the Hebrew language is a verb, chara, which means to call, to call clearly. This is translated in the Septuagint Greek by the term epignooskoo, to know well, to know accurately. Such reading is quite different from what is known as “sight-reading.” There was always the element of a comparative study of the Scriptures. We see this in Luke 4:17-22. Already at Mount Sinai Moses read the word of the Decalogue to all Israel (see Ex. 20:1Ex. 24:17Heb. 9:11-22). That which was read in the gatherings of the congregation was always the words of the Covenant of God. These were very accurate words, the very oracles of God entrusted to Israel (Rom. 3:1, 2). These words were fulfilled in the death and resurrection and ascension of Christ. (See Heb. 9:23-28.) Now these words were entrusted to Timothy in the laying on of hands by Christ Himself. (See I Tim. 1:11, as well as I Tim. 6:20, 21.)

Of course, this did not eliminate the need for private study by Timothy (I Tim. 4:15). Surely he needed to be well-prepared to fulfill his mandate from Paul as written in II Timothy 2:1, 2, etc.

Therefore, we may safely say that the reading here was the accurate, knowledgeable, Spirit-led reading of a man who from his childhood had known the theopneutic Scriptures (II Tim. 3:15). A man who had attained, a qualified reader who increased in knowledge, was acknowledged by all who heard him “read.” It was no mere reading of “words” but an unfolding of the mystery of godliness which was great (I Tim. 3:16). It was a reading which must, even today, be emulated by qualified preachers of the Word.

Always the burning question on the lips of Jesus to the readers of whom Paul speaks in Acts 13 was, “‘How readest thou?? (Take a little time and study Matthew 12:3, 5Matt. 19:4Matt. 21:16, 42Matt. 22:31Matt. 24:15!)

Some Questions and Suggestions:

Does it not follow from the rich significance of the reading of the words of the covenant both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament that every Scripture is full of exhortation and doctrine? Is it possible to teach the Bible without at once also exhorting the hearers unto salvation? Believe these covenant words from the heart, whether you be Jew or Greek and be saved. (Read Romans 10:1-21.)

What does it mean that Timothy saves himself and his hearers if and when he diligently gives heed to himself and to the doctrine? Is it possible for elect sinners to become partakers subjectively without having heard Christ in the preaching! (Read Romans 10:13-15.) Is private reading really sufficient for the individual elect sinner, or are we all in need of God ordained preachers? Did Philip simply read to the Ethiopian eunuch, or did the eunuch need the official reading and preaching of the word? (See Acts 8:35.) Do we not read that “Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture (Isaiah 53:7), and preached unto him Jesus”?

May we from this biblical perspective not conclude that the preaching of Timothy was divinely indispensable for the salvation both of Timothy and of his hearers? Is it not a mortal danger to deny the need of the means of grace, particularly the official preaching in the church? Must a minister carefully preach the Word, if he is to say, “By this Word that I have preached unto you thou shalt be saved”?

May we say that only if the entire sermon swears by the Name of God will the minister dare to say: “Amen” -i.e., God will more surely save both you and me, congregation, than what I can assure you with my weak affirmation as a mere man”? Amen. Yes, Amen. (SeeIsaiah 65:16II Corinthians 1:20, 21.)