Christianity 201

March 24, 2015

Serving While You Are Young…and When You’re Older, Also

In I Timothy 4, Paul instructs his “son in the faith” (1:2) on the carrying out of his ministry. If you’ve ever had to write a word of encouragement to a younger Christian — especially a child or teen or twenty-something — chances are you might have quoted verse 12:

12a Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young…

But there is more to that particular verse:

12b Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 

Breaking it down, Paul gives “Tim” five areas in which he is to be an example:

  • words, teaching, speech
  • conduct, behavior, actions
  • love, charity, agape
  • belief, faith, faithfulness
  • purity, integrity, a pure life

But this verse also leads off a list of five things Timothy is encouraged to do:

12 Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 13 Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them. 14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. 15 Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.

The other four would be:

  • read the scriptures; preach the scriptures; exhort and encourage people from the scriptures
  • do not neglect (or be careless with) the gift that was given to you, referencing a gift specifically imparted when the elders laid hands on (i.e. set apart) Timothy for ministry service
  • serve this ministry with abandon; immerse yourself in all aspects of the work; be absorbed in it, devoted to it, and un-distracted from it.
  • while doing all this outward ministry, watch and be conscientious about your inner life; be self-critical with your own spiritual progress; and do this not for the sake of your own spiritual life, but that of those who are watching you and are under your spiritual care

The Asbury Bible Commentary notes,

Paul’s exhortation in v. 12 shows an obvious awareness that some may not respect Timothy’s youth and that Timothy might even use his youth as an excuse for immature belief. Example is a pattern or copy from which other patterns or copies are made. The trio of love, faith, and purity conforms nicely to the admonition of 1:5.

The verse mentioned at the end occurs just a few after Paul calls Timothy his “son.”

I Tim. 1:5 The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.

While some of you reading this may not be young — in years, or in your faith journey — I believe this passage can be used by all of us a type of “report card template” for us to examine ourselves to see how we’re doing.  Here are all nine of the above bullet points restated as a question:

  • What do people know about me by my speech?
  • What do people see through my actions?
  • Am I known as a giving person; a loving person; a person of charity?
  • What is the role of my beliefs in my life; how are they reflected?
  • Do I have a reputation for integrity; am I walking in purity?
  • Is my life scripture-rooted? Am I passionate about God’s Word?
  • Am I using my gifts in service or have I set some aside?
  • Would I be described as passionate in my devotion to Christ?
  • Is there a consistency between what people see and how things are internally?

You might even want to print these out, and keep them in a special place. You could check-mark things where you’re feeling no particular focus is needed right now, and underline things which need to be addressed. Then check back with the list in a month, in a new season, or in a new year.

Go Deeper: Here’s some teaching on Paul and Timothy relationships as part of a study on The Antioch Tradition. The graphic below is from that source.

Paul and Timothy




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