Wednesday, January 06, 2010

1 Timothy 4:11-16

V11-16 – 11Command and teach these things. 12Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 13Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 15Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Sometimes gentleness is appropriate for a Pastor (v6; Jude 22), but other times demands must be made of a congregation (v11; Jude 23). The word used in v11, translated “command,” is more literally referring to the giving of strict military orders. Timothy needed to take charge, since, as one commentator claimed, “false teachers and their surrogates (possibly younger widows – 2 Timothy 3:6-7)” were disrupting this church. The way he could take charge was by teaching the sound doctrine, the truth of God’s word. He needed to probe the hearts of his congregation.

In v12 and v14, Paul issues a pair of negative commands (“do not let anyone look down on you because you are young” and “do not neglect your gift”), which may clue us in to the struggles that Timothy faced (youth and timidity). The verb tense (present active imperative along with a negative participle) implies that people were indeed looking down on him because of his youth and that he was neglecting his gift, perhaps because of the response or lack thereof. This needed to stop immediately. Timothy needed to become bolder (2 Timothy 1:6-7), and his own godly living (speech, life, love, faith, and purity) and devotion to teaching and preaching (v12-13) is the good example that he must cling to in order to take charge of the Ephesian congregation, until Paul joined him there in Ephesus.

Paul measures Timothy’s success by his diligence, or persistence, and in turn, his progress (v15). Timothy is to be absorbed in, consumed by, and strenuously exercising “the public reading of Scripture…preaching and…teaching,” and his progress refers to both his own spiritual life and his ministry. Though arguably faithful, he has not arrived at the goal yet; neither has he completed the task at hand. But progress is Paul’s goal for Timothy; when others see it, they will know and believe him. So progress is sought, not so others would see it in us, but so we might progress. And let us be encouraged that progress, not perfection, in this life, is God’s goal for us. That’s one reason I’ve titled my commentary A Work in Progress. It’ll never be completed, and I’ll always be working on; but the goal of my writing it is for personal progress in godliness. At the same time, we must not be satisfied with any perceived progress, but we ought to strive for faithfulness to Christ and be ever repentant, for we will fail, daily in most cases, to be faithful. Thankfully, as Paul will later say, Christ is faithful always. As we persevere, we can be sure that He is preserving us.

Finally, orthodoxy and orthopraxy are places false teachers went wrong. Thus Paul instructs Timothy to watch his life (orthopraxy) and his doctrine (orthodoxy) closely (v16), lest he fall into their errors. We must do the same. God saves by grace through faith, but our justification includes sanctification in the truth, which is seen in orthopraxy guided by orthodoxy, which is learned from others. In this sense, Timothy can save those who hear his message, by serving as God’s tool unto the sanctification of His church (Philippians 2:12-13). He’ll point people to Jesus and then believers to one another.

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