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Timothy Series
Chapter 4

 

John Baugh
November 10, 2008

 

Guidance To a Young Pastor Concerning Faith,

Discipline and Ministry

1 Timothy Chapter 4: 1-16

 

Apostasy

 

1But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 2by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 3men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 4For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; 5for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

 

A Good Minister's Discipline

 

6In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. 7But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; 8for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

 

9It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. 10For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.

 

11Prescribe and teach these things. 12Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. 13Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. 14Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.

 

15Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. 16Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you

 

Are we in the “Later Times” Paul writes about?

 

If we look at the state of Christianity in the eyes of the world during these days, such a question seems reasonable for us to consider. Many believe that in the time immediately preceding the Lord's return; what scriptures and “end times evangelists” refer to as in the last days, there is to be a departure from the faith, a great apostasy within the church.

 

So what is our condition? These days, constant criticism of the church seems to be the norm. For anyone to proclaim Christ’s presence in their life is to open them up to a constant challenge by an increasingly more secular world to defend the faith. These attacks range from claims of irrelevancy of the church in today’s world or a preference by unbelievers for all manner of humanistic philosophies over God’s laws to outright rejection of God and his son.

 

If we look at the growth in paganism, wiccan beliefs and other religions that deny God over the past ten to twenty years, it is easy to place Paul’s statements to Timothy about those who are

 

paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons”.

 

The truth is that the conditions that Paul references have occurred in the past. They are occurring at this time, and if Christ lingers before his return, they will likely occur (again) at some future time. However, it is interesting how closely Paul’s words fit into today’s world (just as they did in Timothy’s ministry at Ephesus). It remains important that we understand one thing. Throughout the history of Christianity there have been many times of deceit as Paul indicates. 

 

A few examples from Pastor Ray Stedman:

 

“In the last part of the 19th century, there was a pronounced season of deceit, when new cults that have occupied the scene ever since emerged here in America. Mormonism was born then; Jehovah's Witnesses came into being during that latter part of the 19th century; Christian Science emerged. All of these claimed to be Christian, yet they distorted biblical Christianity. That period in the 19th century was followed by a period of quiet, when no new cults emerged. Error was being taught but no new organizations were formed.

 

Suddenly, in the mid-60's, it all broke loose again. A torrent of error began to flood our churches and the media. The Moonies came into existence under the Korean leader, Sun Myung Moon; the Hare Krishna, those young people in saffron robes with shaved heads, started appearing in airports, passing out literature and pinning flowers to lapels; Scientology, with its strange and cruel doctrines, was born; Transcendental Meditation came into popularity then.

 

Here the apostle is explaining that strange phenomenon to us. He says these things will occur in successive seasons of time. During those times, Paul says, many will depart from the truth or from the faith as it is presented in the apostolic Scriptures.

 

These groups make their appeal in various ways: some appeal to the emotions, some to the intellect, some appeal to the will - to the pride of mankind. But they all have one common characteristic. This characteristic is indicated in this passage by the way the apostle moves from the central truth of Christianity, "the mystery of wholeness" (the person of our Lord and his work) expressed in Chapter 3, Verse 16, to the sharp and stark contrast of this "departure from the faith." In this Paul seems strongly to suggest that the central focus of all error is to present a different Jesus; that is the key mark of deceit.

 

If you want to know whether a group you are listening to, or are in touch with, is preaching and teaching true Christianity, ask yourself: "What do they say about Jesus? Who is he? Is he God appearing as man? Did he come in the flesh? Is he the Savior who has in himself accomplished all that God requires for the redemption of humanity?" Ask yourself, "What part does the blood of Jesus play in this teaching? What is said about his Person?"

 

The central deviation of all religious error is a negative testimony to the centrality of Christ in the universe. Even the unseen forces of life know that Jesus is central. Jesus is truly Lord, so the thrust of error is to attack him.

 

This is why in a university like Stanford it is possible to teach Buddhism, or some other teaching, and find it widely approved and supported by the faculty and the administration. Someone told me this morning that he took a course at Stanford University on Druids and Druidism and the religion of King Arthur. It became evident through the course that the teacher believed these things and was actively propagating a belief in Druidism -- and nobody objected. But when Jesus, when true Christianity, is presented, there immediately is sharp and subtle opposition against it. This is what the apostle is pointing out.

 

The true origin of Deceit:

 

It is interesting to read that Paul says this deceit does not come from men. Men bring the deceit to humanity, but it actually comes from “deceitful spirits and demons”. The work of these movements comes from Satan, as a part of his battle against God and his son, Christ Jesus (See also John 8:44). That is why the Church needs to be especially careful in how it deals with what scripture calls Apostasy.

 

How does Paul say these deceits will be delivered?

 

2by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 3men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.

 

Paul tells Timothy that the doctrines of demons were being delivered by means of the hypocrisy of liars, who have had these beliefs seared into their conscience. We must remember that we are not attending a weekend patio party. The Christian life is a battle against forces of darkness who would destroy all of God’s creation.

 

Paul writes that there are distinguishing characteristics about these men who have been deceived into promoting these apostasies against the church.

 

1 – They are hypocrites. The Revised Standard Version of the Bible says they are pretentious. They claim special knowledge of the Lord or Spirit world that has been denied the rest of us. In their minds, knowledge is given only to them.

 

2 – They have a seared conscience. Nothing will deny their belief. No action is out of reason for accomplishing their end.

 

3 - One common characteristic of cultism is self denial (marriage and food), as if God demands that we deny what he has given to us in order to please him. Asceticism (denial for God) can be very sincere and earnest. Fasting, hours of prayer, days on the scripture are not bad in any way, unless we believe that if we practice self denial, that God is somehow pleased. Acts of worship or praise of God are not necessarily bad. However the motives behind the acts may not please God.

 

There is a difference between self-denial and denying self. Jesus said, "If anyone will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me," {Luke 9:23}. That is denying self. But that is easily confused with self-denial, which says, "I will give up this thing or that thing." "I will not do this or stay out of that, because I want to reveal my dedication." "I want to be admired for my zeal." "I want to gain a special mark of favor before God." "I want to influence God to do something for me in return." That motivation renders it no longer denying self, but self-denial.

 

Paul states the teaching regarding marriage and food in a beautiful way.

 

3men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 4For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; 5for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

 

God created marriage and it is to be gratefully shared. God created food and everything created by God is good. Nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude. God has sanctified these things through his holy word and we accept (sanctify) these things as good through prayer of acceptance and gratitude.

 

The Discipline of a Good Minister

 

6In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. 7But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; 8for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

 

Paul writes here that the good servant of Christ Jesus (the good minister) will point out these things to the brethren. So how will the good minster accomplish these things?

 

1 – Through constant nourishment of the words of the faith – Scripture study.

 

Someone said “You are what you eat.” Paul says pretty much the same thing. To be a good servant one needs good nourishment, and to Paul spiritual nourishment could come from only one source and that was the scripture, the sound doctrine, the words of faith that Timothy had been following. We need to ask ourselves what we choose to feed on daily. Do we consume sports pages, news commentary, TV dramas, soap operas, the Dow Jones Averages, Pulp Fiction? Or do we feed on nourishment of substance – God’s Holy Word?  None of the first things mentioned are necessarily bad, but if we allow then to dominate our time and take the place of time in God’s word, we bring on spiritual malnourishment. Like the pitiful children shown in famine struck third world countries, we will lack the strength to fight the good fight if we miss out on good nourishment, which Paul says comes from God’s words of faith.

 

Once again, from Ray Stedman:

 

“You hold in your hands the greatest book ever written, the most amazing book in all the world, the only place in all humanity, in all human history, where you are given the bedrock, undiluted truth about life. The Word of God gives you the insights of God into life, the explanation of who you are, what God intended you to be and what will fulfill you. No book is more important to learn, to feed upon, than the Word of God. It is a big book; it takes a lot of reading, a lot of studying, a lot of thinking and meditating to grasp what it says, but when you do, it will change your life; it will lead you into fullness, freedom, liberty and beauty. That is what the Bible is for. So to feed upon this word is tremendously significant and important. That is why Paul stresses this with Timothy, reminding him of it.“

 

2 – By following the doctrine of Scripture.

 

"If you continue in My word, then you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."(John 8:31-33)

 

Any disciple of Christ Jesus is by definition a follower. The original disciples had the privilege of following the man. They walked with him, listened to the master as he talked and taught the doctrine of his father. We (disciples of this age) also follow the master. We do not have the benefit of physically walking and eating and listening to his teachings, but we do have the gospel accounts of what he did and said and taught. Our doctrine comes through the God directed words recorded by the Gospel writers. Our guide is the doctrine of words from the Master and the teaching he shared with the disciples, as recorded in the Gospel accounts.

 

Notice that Paul writes that we are to feed properly and then make good decisions – Obtain Nourishment from words of Faith and then follow Doctrine (Teaching) of the scripture.

 

3 – By avoiding worldly fables – Non-scriptural teachings (humanism and other). Paul wants Timothy to stay with the word and avoid non-scriptural teaching.

 

Paul faced these false teachings throughout his ministry and we have similar problems that we must content with today. Whether philosophy or cult, our world is filled with equally spirit killing teachings that have no basis in either the Father or his son.

 

There are many silly and destructive things to which we can devote our time and thoughts. To say that they are a waste of good time is an understatement. They are wasteful and destructive in that the longer we spend with such things; the more chance there is that they will begin to influence our lives and actions. There is so little time in any day as it is. To waste time pursuing false or foolish spiritual things is something most of us can not afford to do. They are an absolute waste of a busy minister’s time.

 

It seems reasonable to ask ourselves what we will choose to do with our time. In Paul’s opinion, since there is so little time anyway he questioned why Timothy would not choose to find nourishment in the sound words of the faith; build ourselves up in the sound doctrine of the Scriptures; understand the truth as it is in Jesus. Our goal in doing this is to become nourished, strong, well-fed, capable, efficient Christians.

 

4 – Self discipline for the purpose of Godliness – the practice of following what the scriptures say.

 

Discipline is defined as: Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties, or moral character. - A control gained by enforcing obedience or order. - Orderly or prescribed conduct or behavior. – Self-control, commitment to consistency, practice of consistency, uniformity, sameness.

 

Hudson Taylor, the founder of China Inland Mission and one of the greatest missionary-statesmen who has ever lived said,

 

"One may be consecrated, dedicated, and devoted, but of little value if undisciplined."

 

5 – A striving for Godliness:

 

To Timothy, Paul said, “godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

 

How do these things profit us?

 

8for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

 

Much has been written about Paul’s many references to physical activity. This is one of the great verses he wrote for those who practice physical exercise. Time after time, Paul references physical training and the benefits of such activity. In more than one instance, he wrote about the athletic events of that time, running, boxing and gladiator fights. Here, he admits, physical training has a certain value about it, it is not where the drive of your life ought to be put. Paul writes here that the effort should be invested in learning how to be a godly man or woman; a man or woman who walks with God in the midst of this life. Paul says that this godliness is the profit we should seek. The word Paul uses for godliness (in the Greek) is eusebeia, which also means "wholeness," "balanced," with the spirit being nourished and fed, the soul in order, and the body kept healthy and strong. Paul says that this is the profit we should seek.

 

9It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance.

 

Paul uses this statement five times in this letter to Timothy. It is his way of saying, “Read Carefully, what I am about to state (or just stated) is very important.”

 

10For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.

 

This is Paul’s motivation. He does what he does on the basis - in response to his concern for serving God – and his concern for all men (and women), especially those who believe. For this cause, Paul labors and strives. Laboring requires effort. Laboring is not easy. As Paul writes, labor is work of a strenuous nature. However, one does not stroll into Godliness. To achieve Godliness, one must labor and strive. To achieve Godliness requires commitment and daily effort. Like the athlete, one must set themselves to this labor. They get up in the morning with the intent to grow and nourish themselves on the sound words of the faith. They set their desires to such activity. They choose times, make times, and commit themselves to quiet times of study, reading, meditation, and prayer.

 

These are the daily disciplines of those who seek out Godliness. 

 

Why would you want to do this? Paul says it is:

 

“…because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.”

 

The Ministry:

 

11Prescribe and teach these things. 12Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. 13Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. 14Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.

 

15Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. 16Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you

 

When reading these last words of Chapter 4 of Paul’s letter to Timothy, we need to remember that Paul had brought Timothy to Ephesus to minister to the congregation there – a church with many problems. He presented Timothy with a tough task and then he left him to accomplish it alone.

 

(I wonder how many times Timothy wondered why Paul did this to him)

 

Paul uses these next five verses to offer support to his disciple during tough times.

 

11Prescribe and teach these things.

 

Timothy had probably been with Paul for about 15 years by this time. He most likely knew what he needed to do to lead the church ion Ephesus. Here, Paul reminds him what to do to help the church. He is to provide instructions and teaching for the Christians in Ephesus.

 

12Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.

 

At this time, Timothy may have been as old as 30. However there would have been members of the church who were older than that and those who would have looked on the young pastor as not much more than a youngster. However, Paul knew Timothy was no lightweight contender and he tells him as much here. Paul knew that Timothy was worthy of serving as an example to the church and stated this in his letter. Actually he writes that Timothy would be exemplary as a model for speech, conduct, love, faith and purity for the believers.

 

What a recommendation!

 

It is interesting that Paul gives Timothy advice on how to minister as a young man (to those older than he is). This certainly applies to the young who seek to minister to the older. However, it also points toward the truth to all in the ministry. Based on age, experience or whatever, everyone may have problems relating to some of those that they encounter. How does an old man overcome problems relating to the young? Most likely the same as the young man has relating to those who are older.

 

“in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.”

 

Paul tells Timothy that he is to set an example through his speech and how he conducts his ministry. Paul then indicates that three qualities of speech and conduct are important (love, faith and purity).

 

What higher qualities could a young minister possess than loving, faithful and pure speech and loving faithful and pure behavior? 

 

A young preacher must, first of all (and perhaps most of all), be loving. To be arrogant, rude, critical, cruel or sharp in either word or deed only hurts his relationship with others and his work for his Lord. He must also be faithful to his commitments, avoiding insincere words, irresponsibility and breaking promises.

 

The third quality is purity. Perhaps nothing has destroyed more young ministers than impurity.

 

It would be easy to say that Timothy lived in a city, where living a pure life would be difficult. Ephesus was a city given over to sexual immorality and in the middle of that immorality, Paul expected Timothy to maintain a pure standard. A pure life is the foundation that an effective ministry must be built upon.

 

Paul expected this faith, love and purity in Timothy to be the example for the other believers to follow.

 

Paul then continues:

 

13Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.

 

These are the teachings and the life to be placed as an example until such time as Paul returns from Macedonia. Timothy is to serve the church in Ephesus through public reading if the Scripture, exhortation and teaching. These are not small responsibilities, but they certainly are important parts of the ministry of preaching.

 

We all know what Public reading of the Scripture is, but what does it accomplish? Paul knew that simply putting the word of God before people accomplishes incredible things.

 

It instructs us.
It convicts us.
It strengthens us.
It provides comfort and peace.
It will guide us in determining the correct path for our lives, our relationships with others and with the LORD.

 

It is interesting to see Paul’s deep understanding of the ministry here in what he urges Timothy to keep at the forefront of his ministry. What is this very important thing? It is the scriptures, in fact it is what Bible scholars call “the centrality of the Scriptures”. First of all, Timothy is to read the Scriptures to the other believers (or have someone else read it).

 

Then he is to exhort, to urge, to proclaim, to open up and make clear what the Scriptures say. And then he is to teach or explain the Scriptures (what the scriptures say, how we can apply the scriptures {of that time} to our condition {today}). Paul knew that all of these activities would focus both Timothy and the other believers on the Word of God. A congregation meets so that they might hear the Word of God, taught by a man of God, led by the Spirit of God, implanting that Word into every individual life and heart. That is what a Sunday morning service is supposed to consist of, and that is what Paul urges upon Timothy as the proper activities for a minister in Ephesus.

 

Next Paul concerns himself with Exhortation. Exhortation is defined as verbal communication intended to urge or persuade the recipient to take some action. What actions was Timothy to stress?

 

To serve the Lord
To read and follow scripture
To seek Godliness
To labor and strive
To fix hope on the living God
To promote love faith purity
To serve the church of the living Christ

 

Teaching is of great importance for the newly converted, to help them establish a foundation upon which to grow. For all others, good teaching helps them to grow in knowledge.

 

Paul writes that teaching these things would require Timothy to labor and strive. Paul knew that the young disciple would do whatever was needed, “because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.”

 

Then Paul offers a reminder to Timothy:

 

14Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.

 

Paul offers a list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 12. Among them, he lists:

 

The word of wisdom through the spirit (verse 8)
The word of knowledge (verse 8)
Faith (verse 9)
Healing (verse 9)
Effecting of miracles (verse 10)
Prophesy (verse 10)
Distinguishing of spirits (verse 10)
Tongues (verse 10)
Interpretation of tongues (verse 10)

 

We do not know what prophetic statements were made concerning this young pastor when he was ordained, but evidently they were significant, since Paul states that Timothy has a spiritual gift within him that should not be neglected.   There has been debate over the years as to exactly what Timothy’s spiritual gift was. It may have been evangelism, because Paul, in his second letter to Timothy, says, "Do the work of an evangelist." It may have been the gift of a pastor teacher. It may have been one or both, since God may give one or more gifts to a person, depending on His will. Whatever the gift was, Paul urged Timothy to use it. What a shame to have a gift from God that is not used! Maybe that is what Paul intended to tell Timothy.

 

I read an interesting opinion on how specific spiritual gifts may impact a ministry:

 

A spiritual gift gives a personal flavor to a ministry because of the unique ability a man possesses by the use of his gift. This means that if a man is given the gift of an evangelist he will look at the Scriptures evangelistically; if he is given the gift of a pastor he will be looking at Scripture from the standpoint of feeding the sheep; if he is given the gift of a teacher he will look at Scripture with a view to instructing the mind.

 

Having covered the things of importance (scripture, exhortation, teaching), Paul offers additional advice on “keeping what is important, important”.

 

15Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. 16Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you

 

In the final verse of chapter 4, Paul urges Timothy to “Keep the important things important”, or to “Take pains with these things, be absorbed in them”. Paul knows what is important in the life of a minister (overseer). He knows what things will hurt the church in Ephesus and wants to make certain that Timothy keeps the important things prioritized as “most important” tasks to be addressed.

 

It is interesting that Paul tells Timothy the reason for taking pains is so that “your progress will be evident to all.” Evidently there were problems with the church in Ephesus that Paul knew were an open concern, and he wanted Timothy to show progress “evident to all” in addressing. Church politics is an interesting fact of life, which evidently was as much of a problem in those days as it is now. Sometimes, we assume these things fall under the heading of recent problems in church ministry. Evidently things were the same back then as they are now. 

 

A return to Chapter 1 of 1st Timothy and statements made earlier in this chapter details some of Paul’s concerns (the teaching of endless genealogy, introduction of fables into the teaching).Regardless, Paul wants Timothy to pay close attention to these things, and there is a good reason in Paul’s mind why Timothy needs to do this. This reason is covered in verse 16.

 

16Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.

 

Paul offers his reasoning as to why these things are important. As Timothy remains true to his ministerial calling and the guidelines that Paul has established, he will ensure salvation for both himself and for those to whom he ministers (those who hear him).

 

The word “salvation”, (or save in the KJV) that Paul uses here (sozo in Greek) is a translation of Greek to a word that Paul most likely did not intend to be used. I am certain that Paul knew – Timothy was already saved before Paul wrote this. Also, any believer in Ephesus who had prayed the sinner’s prayer and had asked Christ to enter their life as Lord was certainly already under the grace of salvation.

 

So, why would Paul have written these words? He could have meant that Timothy would ensure an ongoing close relationship; perhaps a growing maturing relationship with the Father if he did these things and the same would have been true for the other believers. He might also have intended to indicate that Timothy had been justified (had achieved salvation) through faith and belief and that he would move toward sanctification through these things, with the same being true for the other believers. Certainly there may have been other reasons for Paul to make this statement.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2008, by ToBeLikeHim Ministries

 

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