Paul’s words to Timothy in the opening verse of our text carry a tone of seriousness that cannot be dismissed lightly. Five words in the first verse: Command and teach these things. Five simple words that carry serious meaning. We all have a serious responsibility to command obedience to the teaching of God’s Word. This is a serious matter because men and women who teach with their words what their lives don’t support are dangerous teachers to follow.
Look at 1 Timothy 4:11 – 16: 11 Command and teach these things. 12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
So when was the last time you surveyed the seriousness of your responsibility to command and to teach the things of the Lord to others? What things are you tempted to dismiss from the teaching of God’s Word? In what ways do you reframe God’s commands into God’s suggestions? These questions are important because they’re discipleship questions.
There is a very natural form of discipleship in the Scriptures that carries a sense of seriousness with it. Paul’s words to Timothy in his second pastoral letter describe the discipleship process as taking “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses (and) entrusting (it) to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
In other words, the calling, not only on the life of ministers young or old, but also on every Christian who has ever consumed the teaching of the things of the Lord, is that we would all command and teach these things to other faithful followers of Jesus who will in turn do the same with others. This is the natural relational process of discipleship.
It’s a serious thing to look at someone and say to them: Come and follow me as I follow Christ and mimic my lifestyle. The thing that we must all remember, regardless of whether we are parents, spouses, friends, coworkers or relatives is that we have a great privilege and great responsibility to pass along what has been freely given to us.
But we must first receive something freely to pass something along freely. You cannot give what you do not have. No relationship with Christ means no sharing of the things of Christ with others. So Paul’s instruction to Timothy and I believe to any other true believer is to keep a close watch on how you live and what you teach.
If we are going to command and teach the things of the Lord to one another then we must begin with keeping a close watch on ourselves. You and I must be in the serious business of watching not only what we teach with our lips but also what we teach with our lives. So what do I mean when I say that we must watch what we teach with our lips and our lives?
#1: Watch Your Example (12)
Paul says: Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. We oftentimes look to someone older than us to be our example. And that’s not a bad thing to do so long as the person that we look to is actually a good example. But I think we often miss the power of younger examples around us. And Paul is quick here to dispel any insecurity Timothy may have had about his young age when he says “don’t let someone look down on you or despise you for your young age.”
But regardless of age we all need others to be examples for us and we all need to be in the business of being good examples for others. So how do we measure whether or not we are being a good example? What do we look for when we are watching our example? Paul lays it out neatly when he says: “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” As you examine yourself, as you keep a close watch on your example, take a cold hard look at your speech, your conduct, your love, your faith and your purity.
Your words, your behavior, your affections, your relationship with Jesus and your purity all act like tiny little indicators of your example. What kinds of words come out of your mouth on a daily basis? What behavioral habits have you formed? What or whom do you love or hate? What kind of a relationship with Jesus do you have? Are you willing to do anything to protect your purity before the Lord?
The world around us is watching. So watch your example by watching your words, your behavior, your affections, your relationship with Jesus and your purity. Watch your example.
#2: Watch Your Devotion (13)
Paul says: Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. He’s instructing Timothy to be a devoted young man. Devotion is in the same category of words like: commitment and ownership. Paul is basically telling Timothy that he needs to keep a close watch on what he devotes himself to. He needs to watch what he is committed to. He needs to watch what owns him.
And the sense here is not just an inward belly gazing contest. The sense explicitly here is that as Timothy keeps a close watch on his devotion he will know when he’s devoted to the right things, committed to the right things, owned by the right things if he is devoted to the public reading of Scriptures, exhortation and teaching.
In other words, watch your life and make sure you are devoted to, committed to or owned by the regular reading of the Scriptures publicly. Do this by yourself, with your friends, with your relatives, with your spouse, with your coworkers, with other church members, with anyone you can read them with. Read them all the time publicly.
Be devoted to, committed to or owned by the calling to encourage everyone you know or meet. The word “exhortation” means to encourage. The kind of encouragement that the Bible talks about is not just the kind of atta-boys and pats on the back that we all want. It means that we encourage one another in the gospel. We turn one another’s attention to the work of Jesus at the cross and the empty tomb.
We are also called to be devoted to, committed to or owned by the teaching of God’s Word to one another. Our noses should be stained in the ink of the Scriptures. Our hearts should be overflowing with the words of the Bible. Our minds should be full of the instructions of God’s Word. When our noses are stained and our hearts are overflowing and our minds are full of God’s Word then our teaching will be full of devotion and commitment to God’s Word because God’s Word will own our hearts, minds and words. Are you owned by God’s Word?
The world around us is watching. So watch your devotion. Keep a close eye on your commitments. Watch what owns you. And do not be owned by anything less than the public reading of Scriptures, encouraging one another in the gospel and teaching the Word of God. Watch your devotion.
#3: Watch Your Gift (14)
Paul says: Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Every believer has been given spiritual gifts to use for the work of the ministry. The church is a family of uniquely gifted individuals. In our day, and possibly in Timothy’s day, it would be easy to settle into a consumerist mindset whereby the church exists to serve me as I consume the products and services the church offers.
And while there is an element of every one of us being needy consumers we are also at the same time called to be faithful and joyful contributors. In other words we have been spiritual gifts so that we can be a gift to others. And Paul is concerned that we should not be negligent with the gifts we have been given. We should not be negligent in our contributions.
It’s important to note here too that Timothy received his spiritual gift when the council of elders laid their hands on him and spoke prophetically over him. This simply means that Timothy’s leaders verbally identified and encouraged young Timothy to use the spiritual gifts that God had given him. This is an image of what we should all be doing. We should all watch ourselves when it comes to the faithful contribution and use of our gifts.
We should not be neglectful in the use of our gifts like the unfaithful servant who buried his talents in the dirt. We should also be in the business of verbally encouraging the members of our church family to do the hard work of utilizing our gifts on a regular basis. The world around us is watching. So keep a close eye on your gifts and keep a close watch over the faithful use of your gifts. Watch your gift.
#4: Watch Your Progress (15)
Paul says: Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Practice makes perfect and saturation makes maturation. In other words, you get better with practice and you mature as you dive into the deep waters of practicing what you preach.
Practicing saturation is important because people are watching you. Your friends, your coworkers, your relatives, the bank lady, the gas station attendant, other students in your school, everyone you come into contact with will be left with an impression of the visible you that they see because they are watching you. So watch yourself!
Oftentimes it’s easy to get hard on ourselves because we don’t see as much growth or progress, as we would like to see. The result of this is that we leave others with an impression that says we are stuck in a rut. On the other hand, sometimes it’s easy to see ourselves as progressing at a faster rate than we really are. The result of this of course is that we leave others with an impression that we think too highly of ourselves. The problem here obviously is an overly developed infatuation with ourselves.
If we practice and devote and immerse ourselves in being a good example with our words, our behavior, our affections, our relationship with Jesus and our purity then we will make visible progress. If we are devoted to, committed to and owned by nothing less than the public reading of Scriptures, encouraging one another in the gospel and teaching the Word of God to each other then we will make visible progress. If we are not negligent with the use of our gifts or negligent with the encouragement of others in the use of their gifts then we will make visible progress.
The bottom line here is that we make visible progress by watching our example, watching our devotion and watching our gifts. The world around us is watching. So keep a close watch on your progress by practicing and immersing yourself in the things your are learning here. Watch your progress.
#5: Watch Your Life Teaching (16)
Paul says: Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. This final verse is basically a summary of everything Paul has just said. He’s simply saying that we need to keep a close watch on our life teaching. We need to be persistent not inconstant with this. Why? Why should we be so persistent? Why is it so important that we not be inconsistent with these things? The answer is that salvation is at stake.
Now we know that we cannot save ourselves and we cannot save anyone else. Only Jesus can do the work of salvation through his work at the cross and the empty tomb. But as believers, we are in the saving business. It’s a serious business as I stated at the beginning of this message because eternity hangs in the balance. The world around us is watching. So keep a close watch on your life teaching because salvation is at stake.
We are called to command and teach the things of the Lord to one another. If we are going to command and teach the things of the Lord to others then we must begin with keeping a close watch on our lips and our lives. You and I must be in the serious business of watching our example, watching our devotion, watching our gifts, watching our progress and watching our life teaching because the world around us is watching.
Salvation is stake here because you and I as believers are the visible representation of Jesus to the on looking world. And the best way to keep a close watch on yourself here is to keep a close watch on Jesus. Jesus’ example was perfect. Jesus’ devotion was immaculate. Jesus’ gifts were perfectly executed. Jesus’ progress had absolutely zero flaws. Jesus’ life teaching was unparalleled.
I say this not just because Jesus is a good model to follow, because he is, I say this because when you and I mess this up, where do we look to be made right again? We obviously don’t look to our own getting it right to get right with God. Imperfect people cannot attain perfection through imperfect works. You don’t get fixed by looking at something that is broken. Jesus paid the penalty for our sin in all of these areas and more so that we could be set free from the bondage of that sin and walk in humble obedience to the commands and the teachings of God’s Word by the power of the Spirit inside of us.
So keep a close watch on yourself by keeping a close watch on Jesus and all that he has accomplished for you in his sinless life, substitutionary death and victorious resurrection. And as you do this, as you keep your eyes on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, you will notice that you are becoming more and more like Jesus in your example, your devotion, your gifts, your progress and your life teaching. Watch your life by watching Jesus!