Sermon: An Example of Godliness 1 Timothy 4:11-16

An Example of Godliness

1 Timothy 4:11-16

Primary Truth Taught- Show others by example how they should conduct themselves as you continue to live out Gospel truth in your life.

Introduction

As we begin today, I want to help you understand the flow of Paul’s logic as he writes to his young disciple Timothy who is the pastor of the Church in Ephesus. Paul has spent the better part of three chapters warning Timothy of the deadly effects of false teaching. He speaks of demonic spirits, myths, lies, seducing spirits and the like. He then presents the effects of truth on the sinner. He uses himself as an example of what the true Gospel does when the Holy Spirit applies it to the sinner. He then writes to Timothy that he must be very vigilant in his ministry teaching the truth of God because only with the truth will the Church be what God intends. It is here I want to help us see together the flow of truth in this letter.

Step One…Reading with understanding

First, if we are to be what God desires for us we must be taking in God’s Word. We must be on a daily quest to read and then understand God’s Word as found strictly in the Bible. If you desire to be a good servant of Jesus Christ you must be reading God’s Word every day. We read and we understand. Now, that may look different for different people. Some like to read large sections and others would rather read shorter sections. The bottom line is not how much you read but how much you understand. That’s one reason, as a church, we read through God’s Word together every day using the daily reading schedule. Step one is reading the Bible with understanding. Perhaps this means that you need to switch translations to one more readily readable and understandable. Perhaps you ask me or one of the elders for a general commentary recommendation. There are many good tools out there to help you understand the Bible.

That’s step one…reading the Bible with understanding…

Acts 8:30–31 (ESV)

30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

We see here, that like the man reading Isaiah, we all need some guidance when seeking understanding. My first recommendation is the ESV Study Bible.

Step Two…Bible training is character training  

Last week we saw together that we must be submitting to the truths we discover in the Bible and changing as a result. Biblical change is what God desires for every believer. More and more we should be becoming like Jesus. So, the second step after reading the Bible is to allow the Bible to shape us and change us. Being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ is the purpose of our salvation, we learned from Romans 8:28-31. Last week we learned that Paul called this training. He said that physical training is good but training in righteousness is the ultimate good because it affects us here and now and then goes with us into eternity.

Step Three…Be an example for others…

So, we’ve taken in God’s Word and allowed it to mold us into what God wants us to be so, the third step which is the emphasis of today’s text is living out biblical truth.

When we consider the context of life in the local church, Paul’s main emphasis is in the context of ministry in the local church. As we read today, in keeping with Paul’s emphasis we must ask ourselves the question, what ministry or what service am I engaged in here at GCC?

Human Need Met

Today, our passage takes to the final step of truth. It shows us our need to be what we read so that others will come to Christ and grow as well.

1 Timothy 4:11–16 (ESV)

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.

  1. Am I a Godly Example for Others to Follow?

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.

What Paul tells Timothy to do, namely, command and teach these things is specific to him in the realm of his calling as a pastor/teacher. So, again we start with accurate truth being dispensed to the congregation. Then he issues a command for Timothy…

12 Let no one despise you for your youth,… What would cause someone to despise Timothy because he is young? The main thing would be that he had to tell those in the church that they couldn’t continue being an Elder or Deacon to others that they couldn’t continue teaching. No doubt many were older than him. If Timothy had an attitude of superiority or if he was puffed up and bossy and especially if he wasn’t living out Christian truth in front of them, they would begin to despise him.

In every believer there is at least one excuse as to why they may not be active in ministry. Timothy’s was that he was too young to pastor and lead. Most scholars see Timothy as being in his thirties. They reach this conclusion based on other uses of the word in the NT. He was probably early to mid thirties.

For Timothy it was his age. For others it’s no doubt something else. Let me just say this. Everyone can come up with an excuse not to serve in the Church.

For Timothy, his age was a hindrance. How would he be able to lead those who may be twice his age? The Apostles tells Timothy how to overcome this so that he can have a full and rich ministry within the local Church.

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.

There’s the antidote for hindrances to ministry. Rather than Timothy raising his voice or trying to manipulate or being a good strategist, or any other man-centered thing that might motivate others to listen and follow, Paul tells him to set an example.

Men, if you desire to lead your families, this is a wonderful list of qualities that equate to godliness. Women, if you desire to lead your children the same goes for you. If you desire to serve in the local church then these are the qualities you should also desire to exhibit.

Speech-

How is your speech? What do the things you say show about who you are? James 3 tells us that the tongue is a member that can do great damage or work great good.

Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)

29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

There is no place for name-calling, sarcasm, profanity, ridicule, gossip, blaming, destructive criticism, angry words of threat and revenge, griping, complaining, lying, filthy talk, or dirty jokes.
Instead a godly person will use words to build up others and show them grace: encouragement, praise, appreciation, gratefulness, cheerfulness, understanding, sympathy, testimony, truth, caring correction and warning, and helpful counsel.[1]

Conduct-

How is your behavior? Do you exhibit Christlikeness in your life? Are you honest? Do you show good character? Do you treat others kindly?

Love-

How are you showing love for others, especially within the local church? Love is truly caring for and meeting the needs of others. It is sacrificial and purposeful. It is seeking the best for others.

Faith-

Here is a wonderful way you can be an example for others. When you endure trials, how do you react? Are you grumbling and complaining or are you an example of faith to others within the congregation? It’s important that others see how you respond to struggles. Is your faith growing for others to see?

Purity-

This is who we really are… This means moral purity, not just outwardly, but in the thought life. Sexual immorality always begins in the mind. Walking with Christ means taking “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). As soon as a wrong thought pops into your mind, you confess it and turn from it. You “put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Rom. 13:14).[2]

  1. Am I Currently Engaged in Ministry?

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.

Timothy was instructed by Paul to make sure that his Church was continually exposed to the Bible. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.

He was to be hard at work in the Church reading, teaching, and exhorting others with the Word of God. As the pastor, his main task was to be the one who maintained a godly life for others to see and then show them the truth of God’s Word.

This is a good example for everyone to follow. Realize that if you are not being an example of what God’s word has done in your own life, not too many people will be interested in what you have to say about the Bible. Is the Word changing you? If so then others will be interested in hearing about it.

14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.

Like Timothy, we must not neglect our own spiritual gifts. Some are called and gifted to preach and teach. Others are gifted in various other ways. The important point is, however God has gifted you, do not neglect that gift but use it for the good of the church. The language here is slightly confusing. Timothy did not receive his calling when the Elders laid their hands on him. It was the practice of the early church to officially recognize someone’s gift and then lay hands on him, pray and send them off to do the very ministry they had been seeing in the person’s life. For example if someone comes to me and says I think God has called me to be a missionary then immediately I look to see what types of mission work have they already been doing in the Church setting. Are they engaged in evangelism already? Are they continually in prayer for those they know that they would be saved…those types of things, the Elders can then lay hands on a person and send them off as a missionary. In other words, the Elders recognize the person’s gifts and then set them apart for their calling.

We should pause here for a second and say that many Christians have taken one of the many “Spiritual Gift Inventories” that have made there way into the Church. The problem with these is that a lost person can take the inventory and it will indicate a spiritual gift even for them. The biblical way is for the Elders to notice your gifts as you seek to use them in a natural way of service within the body of Christ. Lost people will not be continually serving Christ.

In this section, I think we can see just how differently God views the church than how most people do. In our modern Americanized way of thinking most are looking for what the church can give them. The church, in many people’s minds, is the institution set in place to meet their needs. “Do you have classes for my children?” Do you have single adult ministry? Do you offer this or that? Can you give me some money because I need to get to Columbus? What’s in it for me is the attitude of the day. This is the reason that most churches lack godly workers is because most think the church is to cater to them. God teaches that His community is to be one that gets busy and works and serves each other not a community of welfare recipients.

They attend church because it meets some of their personal needs. If it fails to meet their needs, they either shop around for another church that does meet their needs or they stop going altogether. They are living for self and using God and the church to help self be more fulfilled. Sometimes volunteering to serve in the church helps meet a need to feel useful, so they sign up. But even their service has a self-focus. They do it because it meets their needs.
If I have just described you, I say to you in love, you are not living the Christian life. The Christian life is not living for self and using God and the church to meet your needs. The Christian life involves denying yourself daily and living under the lordship of Christ. We are no longer our own; we have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus. We no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose again on our behalf (
2 Cor. 5:15). As we live each day with our hope fixed on the living God, He shapes our character in conformity to Christ and then uses our changed lives as a witness of His saving grace so that others come to know Him and grow in Him.
So ministry is not volunteering for Jesus, or doing a job because the pastor or the church needs your help. Ministry is based on dying to self and living to please Jesus. God never calls us primarily to a task. Rather, He calls us to Himself. Before I can do something for God I must be something in relationship with God. I can only impart to others in ministry what I possess from my walk. Therefore, the primary responsibility of every believer is to develop godliness through the daily discipline of a walk with the Lord Jesus.[3]

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.

God has a ministry in the local Church for every Christian. Our Lord’s command to Timothy is also the same for us, 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.

The thing about the calling each of us have is that when God calls us for a specific ministry or when He equips us with a certain gift it doesn’t mean we are going to just be able to go right out and use it as well as someone who has been serving Christ for decades. There is a part of our giftedness that gets better the more we practice it. That’s why Paul even told Timothy that his calling to be a pastor would only be fully realized the more he practiced it.

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.

Timothy is reminded that it is in the exercising of his gifts, namely, preaching and teaching, in Timothy’s case, that he will grow into godliness and as he takes care and persistently practices his gifts those who hear will also grow in godliness.

I really like the comment from the ESV Study Bible on this verse…

Timothy’s perseverance in sound doctrine and practice will save him, ie., it will lead him to persevere in the faith, confirming his salvation. This type of ministry will be effective in persevering his hearers as well.[4]

Application

Has this passage affected your view of Christian ministry in the local church? I pray we begin to see that the Church is not a place to come to in order to have everyone serve you. It’s not even a place to strictly speaking come to in order to be fed spiritually. It’s the body of Christ where every member has a ministry of service to Christ and to one another.

Focusing on the last verse specifically, part of your persevering in the faith comes as you use your gifts for God’s kingdom. As you serve Christ by serving others, your faith increases. You become a stronger believer the more you use your gifts…for Timothy with the gift of pastoring and preaching Paul could say you will save both yourself and your hearers but depending on how God has gifted you the same could be said, as you persist in your gift you will save yourself and those you serve.

Based on this passage, I believe we can equate Spiritual maturity with Christian service. A mature believer will be a serving believer or maybe we should best say it this way, a serving believer is a growing believer. So, if you feel your Christian walk is somewhat stagnant ask yourself am I serving Christ by serving His Church?

Declaration of Grace

 

[1] Your Walk And Your Work For Christ (1 Timothy 4:11-16) by Steven Cole

[2] ibid

[3] ibid

[4] ESV Study Bible pg. 2332 notes on verse 16

%d bloggers like this: