Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. — 1 Timothy 4:12
Years ago, the communist government in China commissioned a biography of Hudson Taylor with the purpose of distorting the facts and presenting him in a bad light. They wanted to discredit the name of this consecrated missionary of the Gospel. However, as the author was doing his research, he was increasingly impressed by Taylor’s saintly character and godly life, and he found it extremely difficult to carry out his assigned task with a clear conscience. Eventually, at the risk of losing his life, he laid aside his pen, renounced atheism, and gave his heart to God.
Whether we realize it or not, our example leaves an impression on others! In today’s focus verse, the Apostle Paul encouraged young Timothy to be an “example of the believers,” so as to earn the respect of the elders in the congregation. Today, his admonition applies equally to all of us — we all have those who are watching our lives, potentially following the example we are setting before them.
Paul suggested specific areas where Timothy could serve as an example. The first two related to the younger man’s public life and interaction with others: Timothy’s “word” (what he said), and his “conversation” (what he did). The remaining areas were inner qualities. Timothy was to exemplify “charity,” a word translated from the term agape, which denotes God’s self-sacrificing love and is part of the fruit of the Spirit. He was also to model “faith,” in the sense of faithfulness or fidelity. Finally, his life was to portray “purity,” which meant not only sexual propriety, but also sincerity and blamelessness.
Paul was reminding Timothy that consistent, godly living was his best advocate. Through it, he could win over those who would observe his life — his example would speak on his behalf.
Young people can be examples, even to those who are older than them, by following and modeling the way of Christ. Godly living not only helps other believers, but it also has an influence on the spiritually lost. One of the greatest witnesses to non-believers is young Christians setting a godly example. They are powerful representations of God’s love.
Though our focus verse was directed to a young man, God can use us regardless of our age. Whether we are young or old, we must live so others can see Christ in us!
In verses 1-5 of today’s text, Paul warned Timothy about false teachings that would plague the church. Some had begun to adhere to the early teachings of a sect called the Gnostics, which considered everything pertaining to the human body to be evil. They encouraged very strict asceticism (rigorous self-denial), including abstention from marriage and certain foods. They were so absorbed in maintaining stringent rules and an outward show of piety that they overlooked sins of the heart and careful obedience to God’s instructions.
In verse 2, Paul warned that those who spread false teaching already had consciences that were “seared with a hot iron.” In other words, their consciences had been numbed through the presence of sin.
Paul addressed the character of a good minister of Christ in verses 6-10. He told Timothy to exercise himself in godliness (verse 7), which would bring great profit in this life and in the life to come. He listed ways to do this in the following verses.
In the final five verses of the chapter, Paul admonished Timothy regarding what to teach others about the role of a minister as an example for the saints. In order to teach effectively, Timothy was told to be an example in word (speech), conversation (conduct), charity, spirit, faith, and purity, and to “give attendance” to reading, exhortation, and doctrine. As he gave himself wholly to these things, everyone would see his spiritual profit and would respect him, despite his youth. (Timothy was probably between thirty and forty years of age, and thus would have been considered young by the elders at Ephesus.) The implication was that Timothy should exemplify a diligence comparable to that of an athlete in training — to make these matters his business and his absorbing interest. There was no place for half-heartedness or qualified devotion.
The chapter ends with Paul warning Timothy to continue in the doctrine, in order to save himself and those who would follow him.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
IV. Charge concerning the ministry of Timothy
A. Concerning doctrine (4:1-16)
1. The fact of false teachers (4:1-5)
a. The source of their teaching (4:1-2)
b. The content of their teaching (4:3)
c. The refutation of their teaching (4:4-5)
2. The responsibility of a good minister (4:6-15)
a. Teach sound doctrine (4:6)
b. Refuse fables and live a godly life (4:7-11)
c. Be an example (4:12)
d. Neglect not your gift (4:13-15)
3. The reward of a good minister (4:16)
Godly living is not only profitable for us, it is also profitable for others. When we are good examples, we encourage others to live in the same manner.