The passage assigned for today’s Scripture reading is prophetic (4:1-5), convicting (4:6-16), and voluminous in practical instruction for the daily life of the church, its leadership, and members (5:1-25). Understanding Paul was writing to Timothy, who was not only his spiritual son in the faith, but a young pastor, we find instructions that are powerful and pointed. Unfortunately, I must limit today’s devotion to 1 Timothy 4.
Warning Concerning False Teachers (4:1-5)
On numerous occasions our study of the New Testament has evidenced a concern regarding false teachers and their teachings. Timothy was no stranger to the enemies of the Gospel, and their presence without and within the church. Paul was aware of the challenges facing Timothy as a pastor, and he warned him concerning the presence and growing influence evil men would have “in the latter times” (4:1).
Apostasy has plagued believers from the fall of man, and the influence of evil men has shadowed God’s people throughout the ages. Moses contended with wicked men in the midst of Israel’s sojourn through the wilderness. Isaiah prophesied against the people of his day, saying, “this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men” (Isaiah 29:13).
Paul warned Timothy to be vigilant, for the Holy Spirit had revealed to him, the time would come when men would abandon the truth, and “depart from the faith” (4:1). Believers would follow deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (4:1c). False teachers would perpetuate lies, and their consciences would be insensitive, as though “seared (and hardened) with a hot iron” (branding iron, 4:2). Reminiscent of the false doctrines of Roman Catholicism, false teachers would teach abstinence and forbid marriage (4:3a), and commend denying oneself food as though it merited God’s favor (4:3b).
After warning Timothy of the encroachment of false teachers and their doctrine (4:1-5), Paul gave him practical instructions concerning the character and godly virtues of those who aspire to preach and teach God’s Word.
Four Essential Traits of Spiritual Leaders (4:6-11)
1) The minister must seek his spiritual nourishment in the Scriptures (4:6). To “be a good minister of Jesus Christ” to his congregation, a pastor must feed himself daily in the Word of God (4:6; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15).
2) A pastor must not entertain false teachings, nor get entangled in foolish speculations (4:7a).
3) He will discipline and exercise himself in godliness and spiritual disciplines (4:7b). Perhaps having in mind, the physical disciplines of Olympic athletes, Paul reminded Timothy physical exercise profits a man only for a brief time (4:9a). However, spiritual disciplines in God’s Word, prayer, and in pursuit of godly virtues, profits a man in this life and eternally (4:8). Paul asserted, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation” (4:9). In other words—the preeminence of spiritual disciplines is without question.
4) A faithful minister must be committed to work hard, willing to “suffer reproach” and rejection, because his faith and hope is “in the living God” who would “have all men to be saved” (4:10-11; 1 Timothy 2:4).
With the challenge, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers” (4:12a), Paul recorded six virtues that should be true of all in positions of spiritual leadership (4:12-16).
Six Godly Virtues of Spiritual Leadership (4:12)
1) “Word” (4:12b) – Ministers must be examples in speech and conversation. They are to guard their speech from sin, and speak that which edifies, and encourages others to Christlikeness (Ephesians 4:29).
2) “Conversation” (4:12c)” The pastor’s manner of life and conduct is to serve as an example to others. He is to be a model of righteous living, and “holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:15).
3) “Love” (4:12d) Sacrificial love motivates the minister’s work, as he dedicates and gives his life in serving the Lord and others (John 15:13).
4) “Spirit” (4:12e) A pastor’s spirit is passionate regarding the work of the ministry to which the Lord has called him.
5) “Faith” (4:12f) – A good minister must be mature in his faith, and unwavering in his obedience to the Word of God.
6) “Purity” (4:12g) – The sixth virtue speaks of the minister’s moral character, and is to be characterized by purity in heart, mind, and body.
Closing thoughts (4:13-16) – In conclusion, Paul exhorted Timothy: “13Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (4:12). The old apostle challenged the young pastor to keep his passion and focus on ministering to believers. Timothy, as with all ministers, was to focus on three spiritual disciplines: “Reading”(4:13a) – the private and public readings of God’s Word. “Exhortation” (4:13b) — Encouraging believers could take on the form of reproving, rebuking, or patient exhortation (2 Timothy 4:2). Lastly, Timothy was to teach and instruct believers in “Doctrine” (4:13c).
An observation – There was a time when a pastor’s ministry was measured in decades, as he faithfully poured his life into reading God’s Word, exhorting believers, and teaching doctrine. Tragically, the average stay of today’s pastor in between 3-5 years.
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