6 If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.
What “things” is Paul talking about? There are no chapter divisions in the originals so it would seem that Paul is referring to all the instructions he’s given to this point.
Paul’s instructions here are so that Timothy will be a good minister of Christ Jesus. And what is he to do? Expose error and false teaching [4:1-5; 1:3-11]. Many Christians feel uncomfortable when their leaders preach against error. In fact, many church leaders shy away from it as well. It’s seen as divisive and intolerant. Yet in this letter Paul is very firm that Timothy ought to expose false teaching. Why? Because it can be a matter of life and death. If the gospel is true and that the death and resurrection of Jesus is the only way to the Kingdom of God, then anyone who teaches something different is encouraging people to put their trust in something that will not save them.
Notice too that Timothy will be nourished on the truths of the faith and the good teaching he’d received, notably from Paul himself. Paul leaves no doubt as to the absolute truth of the things he taught. If Timothy wants to grow in faith and his pastoring, he must nourish himself on the word of God. Much is being written and spoken about how clergy are to strengthen themselves to stay the course in ministry by taking time to reflect, to rest, to learn, to get input into their ministry, to set boundaries, to use their diaries but get mentors but we need to keep encouraging our leaders, and all our Christian brothers and sisters, to nourish themselves on the word. There is a great temptation with the growing burdens of modern-day church leadership to leave aside reading of the word and prayer, and yet these were the key features of the leadership of the apostles [Acts 6:4]. Furthermore, it is not enough just to read the word for it can go in one eye out the other. We need to study it. We need to search the word to find out what it says about our present-day controversies. Do you know what the word says about gender? Do you know what it says about being born a certain way and whether or not that is an excuse for our behaviours? Do you understand that God can love and hate at the same time? Do you know what the Bible says about tolerance and judging? Do you know what it says about free will? We need to keep asking ourselves what the word is saying about us right now.
Read the word with questions in your mind. Why did God record this for us? What was the author saying to the original readers? What would he say to me today? Is there something here I can give God thanks and praise for?
Father I pray for our church leaders that they will be people who love your word and are nourished by it, and Lord, I want that for me too. Amen
7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance.
Train yourself to be godly. This is the key message of this section. 1:4 V1,
The false teachers devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies in 1:4, and to following deceiving spirits and things taught by demons in 4:1. Timothy is to devote himself to godliness. The word “train” is taken from the world of the ancient gymnasium. Hughes and Chapell say, “Run until your feet are like lead, and then choose to sprint. Pump iron until your muscles burn, until another rep is impossible, then do more.” [1-2 Timothy and Titus pg.116] We read that we ought to train in godliness and don’t take it to the next decision – what does a godliness training programme look like. In the context it looks like devoting ourselves to the word of God. “Our diet is to be the scriptures.”
Research in 2012 found that for people engaging with the Bible 4 times or more a week they are:
- 231% more likely to be involved with discipling others
- 228% more likely to share their faith
- 416% more likely to be giving to the ministry of the church
- 62% less likely to drink to excess
- 59% less likely to be unfaithful to their spouse
- 31% less likely to lash out in anger
[Centre for Biblical Engagement (C4be.org) August 2012, n= 108,196]
Of course, there is the chicken or the egg question, did the Bible reading lead to godliness, or did godliness lead to Bible reading? Nevertheless, the results are still staggering.
Kent and Chapell go on, we to tend hesitate when we think about discipline because “Discipline sounds so much like legalism. But such thinking is mistaken. Legalism is self-centred, but discipline is God-centred. The legalistic heart says, “I will do this thing to gain merit with God.” The disciplined heart says, “I will do this thing because I love God and want to please him.”
We know that we won’t lose weight without a plan. We know that we’ll never run a marathon without a plan. In fact, we rarely achieve anything without a plan. Why do we think that growing in godliness is any different? And godliness is far more important that losing weight or planning for a holiday.
If you don’t have plan, why not form one this week? Plan to read the Bible and pray regularly. Setting aside the same time and place each day is helpful. Why not get a prayer partner or even a mentor? Why not turn your growth group into a real discipleship group instead of it being, like so many Bible study groups, a book club? What would that look like?
A Christian brother recently asked me, in my newly retired situation, if I was keeping up my physical exercise. He didn’t ask about my godliness regime. If he was concerned enough to ask about my exercise maybe he should have asked about my godliness.
Holy God, by your Spirit give me a heart that longs to grow in godliness. Amen
10 That is why we labour and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, and especially of those who believe.
11 Command and teach these things. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
Paul was the champion of grace – salvation free and unearned – yet he worked with all that was in him for the sake of the gospel. He did it because he had put his hope in the living God. He was sure of his salvation [2 Cor 1:22], and in response to God’s goodness and Paul’s own concern for the lost, he labours and strives.
In verses 11 & 12 Paul addresses the young pastor’s insecurities. Timothy was probably in his early to mid-thirties, not so young in our culture but in his day, where elderships was greatly valued, and as a leader in a church he had not been called to but placed in by the apostle, he was in a rather difficult situation, especially when he is to give commands [v11] and stop false teaching [1:3 & 4]. Paul encourages his protégé not to let anyone look down on his youth. How is he to do that? By setting an example; by modelling godliness and thereby building trust in his leadership.
It’s tempting when you’re not being taken seriously to come out fighting: to use put-downs, to fight fire with fire, to pull rank, to stay aloof and above it all, or even to withdraw into a shell and give up. That is not the way Timothy is to lead.
He is to guard his tongue. Elsewhere Paul talks of the need to use only words that build up [Eph 4:29]. What a great challenge for all of us. Proverbs talks about words of life and words of death [Prov 18:21].
He is act only in godly ways. Who you are reveals itself in how you act. He will not lord it over those he leads [1 Peter 5:1]. He will not give way to anger.
He will love those who look down on him. Those who teach against him, even as he commands them to stop their teaching, he will love.
He will hold fast to good news in faith. He will put his trust in the Lord Jesus for his vindication.
He will be pure. He won’t let his frustrations lead to his giving in to temptation, hiding his pain in avoidance.
Timothy is to set an example to the flock. Is his life to be any different from how we live? Are we modelling Christlikeness? How do you react when you are mistreated?
Glorious God, give me a heart that is like yours. Give me only life words to speak, Christlike actions, and a heart full of love. Amen
13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
We get here the foundations of Christian ministry – the public reading of scripture, preaching and teaching. It is Word based. It doesn’t mean that pastors shouldn’t do other things, but that these things are non-negotiable and foundational. Everything else should be based on the Word. We seem to keep covering the same old ground – preach the Word, teach the Word, grow in the Word. Sometimes evangelicals are accused of bibliolatry because of our focus on the Word, but you cannot divorce a person from their words. We have access to a person, what they think and feel and who they are, through their words. Certainly, in this letter it is Paul’s focus for Timothy and his ministry. To honour the words of God given to us in the Word is to honour the God who uttered them.
The public reading of Scripture, the unadulterated Word of God, should form the very heart of our times of worship and yet it has fallen out of many Christian church services and is substituted by the sermon. Sermons and good and necessary, as seen in this letter, but the sermon is to unpack and apply the word. It’s all about the Word. The reading of the Bible should be treated with great care; it should be prepared well and read well so that the meaning is not obscured. The preaching should help us to understand the Word and ideally should follow the train of thought and the logic of the passage being preached so that the congregation understand how to read and handle the Word of God.
“Do not neglect your gift”. We can’t be certain what actual gift is but it is clear that it facilitates the role description he’s been given by Paul. Some members of the church were looking down on him because of his youth but Paul here reminds him that he has been equipped for this role by the lord himself. It’s helpful to note the role the church played in Timothy’s appointment to leadership in the church, something Paul goes back to in 1:18 and again in 2 Timothy 1:6. People should not just take it upon themselves to be church leaders, rather it should be part of the role of the church leadership to set aside certain people to lead.
This letter is written to Timothy as the Minister of the church at Ephesus but there are lessons for all of us to learn. Firstly, of course, there are guidelines for us to pray for and encourage our leaders in their role. In this difficult role 79% of clergy are either in burnout or borderline [Source: Burnout in Church Leaders].
Secondly, the biblical exhortations for leaders are relevant to all believers. They are meant to be models for all of us. [v 12]
What in today’s passage speaks to you?
Lord God of heaven and earth, keep me safe in your arms a growing in my faith and godliness. Amen
15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Timothy is to be diligent in these things, to give himself wholly to them, so that everyone can see his progress. Godliness is not a once for all done-and-dusted sort of thing, and neither is church leadership. It is a journey. Do people see your progress in the faith? Can you point areas in your life where there is discernible growth? Is the fruit of the Spirit evident in a growing measure? A friend asks me every time we meet “What is God teaching you at the moment.” For me it’s often the same old thing again and again – I’m a slow learner – but even that is progress!
“Watch your life and doctrine closely.” That’s an interesting combination, life and doctrine. Both are important for the Christian. Someone once told me that they weren’t really interested in theology, they just loved Jesus. The truth is that we are all theologians, that is, we all have things we think are true about God and salvation, so we are either good theologians or poor theologians. We cannot afford to be poor theologians because our eternity hinges on our beliefs. In Romans 10 Paul points out that zeal for God is not enough if it’s zeal based on things that aren’t true [Romans 10:1-4]. That is why Paul reminds Timothy that if he perseveres, he will save both himself and his hearers. He must persevere in both his modelling of the faith and his teaching good doctrine. It is so important that our church leaders are people who have been taught the word well.
What does it mean to watch your life and doctrine closely – not just watch it but watch it closely? What does it look like in your life? Are there things you believe that are more influenced by the culture than by the scriptures? What could you do to make sure that your beliefs are biblical? How can we encourage our leaders to be doing this?
Lord give your church leaders who love you, love your people and love your Word. Help me to live a life worthy of the gift of life you’ve given me. Amen