1 TIMOTHY – SERIES : NR 7
1 Timothy 4: 6 – 16
Theme : Total devotion
Timothy was a young minister in the church at Ephesus and the Apostle Paul is busy instructing him concerning his personal life before God and also his practical ministry in the church. Timothy was Paul’s spiritual child. As senior pastor, the Apostle is writing to his younger colleague with deep pastoral compassion. That is why 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus are the so-called “pastoral letters” in church language.
We dive in at verses 6-7…
There is a certain way in which Timothy had to deal with false doctrine and false preachers in Ephesus:
1 > He earnestly had to teach the truth, which the Apostle set out in the previous verses, to the believers in the church, and
2 > he must reject the false doctrine outright and clearly, and
3 > he had to set an example of a dedicated life full of passion for Christ and the truth of the Word.
The church is God’s household, and the members of the church are brothers and sisters of each other, and responsible for one another in love.
Timothy had to PREACH the pure doctrine of the Apostles to them, not force it down on them. That is what a good servant of Christ does. A good servant never rules over a church by dictating what must be done and what must not be done. A good servant points the church towards the Scriptures and says: “Come. Let us all set ourselves under this teaching”.
The church would very soon realize that Timothy is a good servant of Christ while he will grow spiritually because he is being strengthened by spiritual food. This food is of course everything that the Apostles taught, together with the Old Testament. The only true good doctrine – and nothing else.
False religion is possessed with food rules, but the true believers are nourished by the Truth of the Word.
Verse 6 is simply saying that, as people who want to live a life devoted to the Lord, they should delight themselves in His Word – eat it so to speak. And the leaders – like Timothy – must set the example in this. Good servants lead by setting an example. Timothy must do that. The elders should do that.
But, together with – alongside to the positive eating of the Word, is the action of the positive rejection of error and lies. MYTHS is what the Apostle calls it. Because it comes only out of the heart of MAN. It has to be radically dealt with. HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH IT says verse 7. In our idiom, it means: stay away from the radio where false preachers are speaking. Stay away from TV, online, YouTube. Use all means available to warn others.
But more important: Attend Gym often. The Lord’s gymnasium. Exercise yourself for a life of devotion. Exercise of course is time-consuming and needs discipline and prioritizing and effort. That is the typical way of someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit.
It is very interesting to note:
When a person gives himself/herself over to reach a certain goal, he is cheered from all sides. I think for example of the man who rowed a boat singlehandedly from Cape to Rio at the beginning of the year.
People DEVOTE their time, energy, discipline to so many things. They are prepared to prioritize certain things. And they are admired for it.
But just let someone plow discipline, exercise, time, energy into the Kingdom of God – pursue a disciplined prayer life. Make a disciplined study of the Scriptures. Become devoted to the preaching of the Gospel. Then it is said: “Oh no, has he lost his mind? TOO MUCH of anything is not a good thing. He must be a fanatic!”
Allow me to remind you of the opinion of the Holy Spirit about this – as it is written in 1 John 2:15 – “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has or does – comes not from the Father but the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”
Does one want to give your all for that which will pass away – that you are soon going to lose in any case – or for that which lasts forever?
We now move down to verses 8-9…
In verse 7 the Apostle referred to the gymnasium where Timothy (in fact all Christians) must exercise daily. Exercise devotion and dedication to the Lord.
But what about physical exercise? Is that not also important? Yes, it is very important, but in comparison with faith exercise, it is of little value.
Paul compares the two. It does not help if you can run a marathon successfully, but you are poor in devotion, prayer, Word study, and holy life. Devotion to the Lord has great value in many ways because it contains LIFE – not only life referring to this brief life on earth but also life hereafter.
Some people spend hours every day with physical exercise, but almost nothing in devotion. It is only the Holy Spirit who can open one’s eyes to these things.
The Apostle’s eye is always turned to THAT which weighs the most, which is the most important, and particularly THAT which is of value for eternity. And we know it is the Lord who is speaking and arguing through Paul because he is an apostle.
People who do not have this Spirit-filled perspective will always be inclined to absolutize the TEMPORAL and momentary and for example, attach great value to something such as sport.
No, a true Christian – a follower of Christ – must not be indifferent towards his body and fitness and health – indeed the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, says 1 Cor 6:19 – and according to Romans 12:1, we should offer our BODIES as living sacrifices.
Physical exercise is however not useful for EVERYTHING. It has very little meaning for our relationship with God and eternity.
Someone in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, always has their sights set on eternity. But someone in whom the Spirit does not dwell always gets stuck on the here and now and the temporal and visible and touchable. His life revolves 99% around that.
This is a trustworthy saying says verse 9, and deserves full acceptance.
The human heart always wants to question and doubt and weigh up the Lord’s word. But it must not. It comes from Above and is therefore completely trustworthy and reliable. Whoever HEARS, can immediately BELIEVE! The life of whoever believes is immediately sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Verses 10-11 next…
A godly life holds a promise of LIFE – not in this life, but forever. That is what it says in verse 8.
And therefore – like an athlete who is striving towards the ribbon – Paul is striving with all his strength for the Gospel ministry and holy life. Because it is worth it! It is over and over worth it.
But it is not a worthless effort, because the Apostle’s assured hope for the future is anchored in the living God. And because HE lives, nothing is in vain. The fact that the Lord is the LIVING God, gives sense and meaning to everything. It makes the strenuous effort meaningful.
The living God is after all the Saviour of all men, he is saying. Everyone who is a believer in Christ.
The word ALL is once again – same as earlier in the letter – not meant universally as if every person on earth is included. It is ALL in a limited sense – everyone whose hope is in Christ. Jesus is the Saviour of all who hope in Him.
The word SAVIOUR is meant with a double meaning: Saviour from eternal condemnation and consequences of sin, yes, but also in the sense of maintainer/supporter. WHICH indeed Jesus is to all people (as Acts 17:25 confirms), but He is Saviour from sin/judgment/condemnation only of Christian believers. Christ cannot be the savior of all people IN THAT SENSE – every individual on earth – because it would conflict with the rest of Scripture who teaches that the majority of people will be lost. The Scriptures certainly do not teach universalism – namely that all people will eventually be saved. It is a false doctrine that is again raising its head in some churches – but it is heresy. That which we must preach, teach and instruct in our churches and wherein we must live, is what Paul is instructing in these verses. THAT and nothing else, says verse 10. With no deviation. More than ever it is imperative that we should pursue the pure doctrine, come what may.
Next verses 12-13
In this part of the letter, Paul is giving Timothy guidelines concerning the practical care of the church in Ephesus, where Timothy was the minister.
Timothy was no older than 35 years, and the possibility existed that particularly the elders could look down on him. He should however not allow such an attitude to discourage him, but employing his behavior and godliness show that he does have the capability to be the leader.
That is always how the fruit of the Holy Spirit works: A Christian does not prove him/herself by being defensive and aggressive, but by LIVING. That which is LIVED, is indisputable and is irrefutable proof of the reality of Christ in one’s life. An example of words, deeds, love, faith-confidence, purity – in contrast to the impurity of a world that does not know the Lord. That is how Timothy had to silence his critics. It is still the same today.
Timothy had to devote himself to two things at all times: 1> Be an example and 2> Preach the Word
These two walk hand-in-hand. The main thing for a preacher is to apply/devote himself to the reading, preaching and, teaching of the Word of God. The “Scripture” that the Apostle mentions here is in the first place the OT – because it was their Bible and the NT was naturally not yet completed – although part of it was already available.
Verse 13 is sheer proof of what the priority was in the earliest churches: The Scriptures and the preaching. Where that is replaced by 5-minute comfort messages and stories and fiction and quotes, one can rightly question whether it is still the church of Christ.
What Paul is clearly stating is that Timothy must devote himself to the public reading of Scripture – the true doctrine. THAT is how the Holy Spirit builds up the church – and in no other way. And all Christians must GIVE themselves devotedly to this teaching, and never neglect to take part in it.
In closing verses 14-16
It is an enormous responsibility which the Apostle placed in Timothy in the previous verses. Particularly that verse 13: the conscientious preaching of the Word. Timothy could perhaps become daunted. But, it must not, because he has been given a gift that must not fall into idleness.
Timothy was set aside for the ministry by the laying on of hands by the elders and through them, the Holy Spirit confirmed that Timothy indeed did receive the gift of preaching. That happened at Lystra. Almost the same way as Moses who laid his hands on Joshua (Numbers 27). There is nothing magical about laying on of hands, but it is how the Holy Spirit wills that Gospel-preachers must be set aside for their task. The Spirit works through that. And He gives the elders Scripture from the OT and from the apostolic preaching to speak prophetic words. In THAT way Timothy was assured of his calling. And now he had to use it with all dedication and discipline.
To DEVOTE YOURSELF and LIVE SOMETHING is strong language. It speaks of 24/7 dedication.
Important is that others must be able to see the progress in Timothy’s life and ministry! THERE IS A MAN who serves the Lord with heart and soul. And that gives them the confidence to listen to the content which he serves and preach.
In proportion to how one gives yourself over to the work of the Lord, unprecedented growth and deepening take place, and that again impacts others.
Both the DOCTRINE and LIFE of a Gospel preacher are very important. To keep on and on making sure of doctrine and life, and assuring that your theology remains healthy, not only confirms your salvation but also leads to other people’s salvation. Yes, the Lord uses it to speak to the hearts of others.
How we should not – in the light of this – diligently pray for our Gospel preachers to remain faithful for the welfare/salvation of others.
Translated by Marthie Wilson