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Bible Commentaries

Dunagan's Commentary on the Bible

1 Timothy 4

Verse 1

4:1 “But the Spirit explicitly says”: This is in contrast to the truth presented in 3:16. “With such wonderful truths to occupy their minds and fill their hearts, one would think that men would not busy themselves with other and very different things” (Reese p. 161). Note what the Spirit says. The Holy Spirit is speaking through Paul, so this is the equivalent of the expression, “Thus saith the Lord”. All revelation, whether Old Testament or New Testament is the product of the Holy Spirit ( 2Ti_3:16 ; Joh_16:13 ; 2Pe_1:21 ).

4:1 “Explicitly”: “In express words” (Thayer p. 563). That is, clearly stated, leaving nothing implied, definite, saying what is meant without reservation. ”The Holy Spirit was not using symbols, or shadowy images of the future” (Reese p. 161).

In spite of this discouraging news, Timothy must continue to preach the truth in the face of such an apostasy ( 2Ti_4:2-4 ). “Timothy must work under the realization of the fact that along with the believing reception being accorded to the preaching of the Gospel in many quarters there will come a definite falling away from the faith” (Hiebert p. 75).

4:1 “That in the latter times”: This is not talking about some time right before the end of the world. The term simply denotes time in the future. The plural “times” may indicate that such seasons of apostasy come and go and will be many.

4:1 “Some”: Not all, but some.

4:1 “Fall away”: To apostatize ( Luk_8:13 ; Heb_3:12 ). To move away from one’s original position. This clearly teaches that these people who fall away were Christians, for a person cannot fall away from a position they never occupied. “Denotes a standing away from original position” (Kent p. 148).

4:1 “From the faith”: “Objectively, the substance of Christian faith or what is believed by Christians” (Thayer p. 513). “That which is believed, body of faith or belief, doctrine” (Arndt p. 664). That is, such people have fallen away from what the Bible teaches ( 1Ti_1:19 ; 1Ti_3:9 ; 1Ti_4:6 ; 1Ti_5:8 ; 1Ti_6:10 ; 1Ti_6:21 ).

4:1 “Paying attention to”: To attach oneself to, hold, follow ( Tit_1:14 ). This means not merely listening to, but yielding to. People fall away because to whom and what they are giving their attention.

4:1 “Deceitful”: Misleading, any kind of deceiver or corrupter ( 2Jn_1:7 ).

4:1 “Spirits”: That this, those who claim to be inspired ( 2Th_2:2 ; 1Jn_4:1-3 ). “Every pretender of inspiration” (Macknight p. 225). These men are not revealing God’s truth, but rather are preaching the devil’s lies.

4:1 “And doctrines of demons”: “Teaching suggested by devils” (P.P. Comm. p. 68). This expression does not mean that these men are possessed by demons, but rather the ultimate source of their false doctrine is Satan, for he is the father of all lies ( Joh_8:44 ; Jam_3:15 ). Note carefully that if one is not listening to God, the only alternative is listening to evil.

Verse 2

The human agents who spread such errors

4:2 “By means of the hypocrisy of liars”: “Pretense, outward show, by the hypocritical preaching of liars” (Arndt p. 845). “Certainly these false teachers must make themselves appear different from what they really are. Some have gone so far that lying becomes second nature to them, because the standard of truth in God’s Word has been abandoned. They feel no qualms because their conscience has been seared” (Kent p. 150). Note that hypocrisy lays one open to temptation and evil. “These men pretended to spiritually inspired lives but were dominated by a false spiritualism” (Hiebert p. 77).

4:2 “Seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron”: Paul pointed out that the conscience would become callous or past feeling from constant violation ( Eph_4:19 ). “Such a burn (see the old west when bullet wounds were cauterized with a hot poker) would leave the person with no feeling in the burned spot” (Reese p. 163). “These men’s consciences are become as insensible to the touch as the skin that has been cauterized” (P.P. Comm. p. 69). The statement “their own conscience” also implies that they were not merely deceiving others, rather they were also deceiving themselves.

Verse 3

Specific Doctrines

4:3 “Men who forbid marriage”: “A false asceticism is the key emphasis of their teaching. How often has this sort of ascetic teaching, under the guise of a more spiritual religion, arisen to plague mankind! The Essenses and Therapeutae in the days before the church, the Gnostics during the early centuries, Roman Catholicism with its celibacy for priests down to the present hour all are examples of this practice” (Kent p. 152). In the centuries to come, Augustine (354-430) A.D.), would advocate celibacy and argued that even sexual relations in marriage is evil. “When Gnosticism had finally flowered into its completed form, that religion too forbade marriage as one of the necessities for the person who would be holy” (Reese p. 165). A more recent example of forbidding marriage would be the Shakers in the 18 th and 19 th centuries.

During the fourth century A.D., most of the “bishops” in Greece, Egypt, and Western Europe were unmarried or left their wives after consecration. In the East, the sixth and seventh centuries saw laws enacted which forbade the marriage of bishops. If he were already married before consecration he had to put his wife away in a distant monastery. Celibacy in the western church became a canonical obligation for the clergy through the combined efforts of the popes and regional church councils.

In contrast, Jesus endorsed the marriage relationship ( Mat_19:3-9 ), and the Hebrew writer noted that marriage is honorable in all ( Heb_13:4 ).

Modern Application:

Some have tried to argue that any attempt to forbid any marriage is a mark of apostasy. Jesus noted that certain “marriages” are sinful ( Mat_19:9 ; Mat_5:32 ) and so did Paul ( Rom_7:2-3 ; 1Co_7:10-11 ). John the Baptist told Herod that it was unlawful for him to have a certain wife ( Mat_14:4 ). In the above passage Paul is taking about forbidding people from marrying who have the Scriptural right to marry.

4:3 “Advocate abstaining from foods”: The term “foods” here (“meats” in some translations) means foods of any kind. Broma means solid food in general, not merely animal meat. “Judaizers, Gnostics, Catholics (Fridays, Lent), Seventh-day Adventists, and all types of ascetics have promoted this error. Paul faced it squarely in his Epistle to the Colossians ( Col_2:21-23 ). The error arises from a false conception that our physical bodies are evil just because they are physical, and therefore to deny their normal appetites is thought to be praiseworthy” (Kent p. 152). See Mat_15:11 . “Consequently, vegetarianism is not a means of sanctification. On the contrary, if it is observed on religious grounds, it is a disrespect of God” (Kent p. 152).

4:3 “Which”: That is, both marriage and foods. The term “which” in the Greek text is plural.

4:3 “God has created”: God created food ( Gen_1:29 ; Gen_9:3 ) as well as marriage (1:28; 2:24). The fact that God created them was proof that they were not to be regarded as evil. Gnostic teachers argued that some sort of lesser aeons, that is lesser gods, generations removed from God, did the creating. In their view this is how a good God could have created a material world that is evil. Paul notes that God Himself did all the creating and what He created was good!

4:3 “To be gratefully shared in”: That is to be received and participated in with gratitude. “The participation is to be ‘with thanksgiving’ in due recognition of them as God’s good gifts” (Hiebert p. 79).

4:3 “By those who believe and know the truth”: People who truly believe God and accept His truth will realize that marriage is honorable in all ( Heb_13:4 ). Notice that one cannot truly appreciate to the full all of God’s blessings in this world without being a Christian. Some unbelievers ignorantly deprive themselves of God’s blessings, other unbelievers pervert God’s blessings, and others have no one to thank for such blessings. In addition, such a statement is an attack upon false teachers who might argue that the “truth” could only be known by the elite, or through some sort of extreme self-denial. In contrast, every Christian can know the truth. Note that the word “know” means to know thoroughly, accurately, and to know well (Thayer p. 237).

Side Note

One way in which Christians inherit the earth ( Mat_5:5 ) is that they make the best use of their time here and of the blessings that God has given them. Of all people, Christians should enjoy and appreciate marriage more than all others, for they truly understand the meaning, depth, and length of marriage. The above verse also infers that apart from gratitude to God, a person will simply and completely miss how good God has been to them. How many times do you see unbelievers who are completely unappreciative of their mates or who gobble down their food without any acknowledgement or gratitude for what was just given to them?

Verse 4

4:4 “For everything created by God is good”: Gen_1:31 ; Mar_7:19 ; Act_10:15 . “Good” in the sense of being excellent in its nature.

The above statement does not mean that the Christian can partake of Cocaine or Marijuana. There are things that God created as good, but which have been perverted by man or perverted in their use. Drugs have a use, but not for recreational purposes.

4:4 “And nothing is to be rejected: That is despised, cast away, or counted as unclean. “When men reject that which is God’s creation, and intended for their own, they only reveal their ignorance and willfulness” (Hiebert p. 79).

4:4 “If it is received with gratitude”: Consider the example of Jesus on this point ( Luk_9:16 ; Luk_22:17 ), as well as Paul ( Act_27:35 ). “In everything give thanks” ( 1Th_5:18 ).

Verse 5

4:5 “For it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer”: First, it is the word of God that has declared such things to be good. “Thanksgiving is not a magical formula which changes the nature of these things but it gives a sacred value to them as gifts whose source might otherwise be overlooked…Paul may mean that the Scriptures justify our use of these things by direct sanction…The reference is not to any specific prayer formula but rather to that constant habit of referring everything to God as the Giver of every good and perfect gift” (Hiebert p. 79). “Hence this is not indiscriminate license for the believer to use these privileges as he sees fit, but as God’s Word reveals” (Kent p. 154). “He is not advocating an autonomous attitude that thinks anything that satisfies or gives pleasure is perfectly acceptable behavior” (Reese p. 168). Such prayers also keep Christians from abusing and taking such blessings for granted.

Verse 6

The Good Servant

4:6 “In pointing out these things to the brethren”: The expression “these things” certainly includes what is mentioned in 4:1-4. What Paul is writing is not just for the personal benefit of Timothy but is also meant for the entire congregation as well. Part of the job of any preacher is to put the brethren in mind ( 2Ti_2:14 ; Tit_3:1 ; 2Pe_1:12-13 ), that is to continually remind them of God’s truths. The way to fortify God’s people against apostasy is to preach the truth and warn them concerning false doctrines. Notice that the subject matter for Timothy’s preaching was to be the Scriptures.

4:6 “You will be a good servant of Christ Jesus”: The term “servant” can mean, “minister”, but it does not mean “the” minister. Rather it simply means one who executes the commands of another. A “good” servant is submissive and obedient to the Master (Jesus), and faithfully proclaims what the Master wants taught. In addition, in being a servant, Timothy must be concerned about the welfare of others.

4:6 “Constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine”: The term “nourished” means “to educate, form the mind” (Thayer p. 219). “Bring up, rear, and then train in” (Arndt p. 269). The “words of the faith” and “of the sound doctrine” refer to the same material, that is, the word of God. These are the words that produce faith, and explain what a Christian is to believe. It is “sound” doctrine, because it is teaching that yields people who are spiritually healthy. “Every good minister must take care to nourish his own soul on the truths which he is supplying to others. It is quite possible for him to become so busy finding food for the flock that he fails to nourish his own soul with the food he prepares” (Hiebert p. 81).

Side Note

In contrast to some modern attitudes, sound doctrine is not restrictive and neither does sound doctrine prevent the growth of love or other virtues. In fact, true love can only grow in an environment of sound teaching.

4:6 “Which you have been following”: Literally, to follow close upon, side by side ( 2Ti_3:10 ). The perfect tense denotes that throughout Timothy has been faithfully adhering to the sound doctrine. “Implied is the idea that Timothy has wanted to know it perfectly so as to be able to teach it identically” (Reese p. 172).

Verse 7

4:7 “But have nothing to do with”: The sound doctrine will enable the preacher to know the difference between what he should teach and what should be rejected. “While he must meet demonic teaching head-on and refute it with Scripture, he must not fritter away his time with silly religious trivia” (Kent p. 156).

4:7 “Worldly fables”: Compare with 2Ti_2:23 ; 1Ti_6:20 ; 2Ti_2:16 . The fables or myths mentioned in 1:4 are here called “worldly”, that is profane. “The first adjective points out that there is nothing sacred in them” (Hiebert p. 81). These fables are not harmless, but rather they treat God and the things of God with contempt

4:7 “Fit only for old women”: This is not an attack on the wisdom of all old women, yet in many cultures old women in the community often performed the telling and retelling of such myths.

4:7 “On the other hand”: There is always “another hand”. When God tells us to avoid something, He always gives us a positive direction as well.

4:7 “Discipline yourself”: True and lasting discipline must come from “yourself”. The term “discipline” here means to exercise vigorously ( Heb_5:14 ; Heb_12:11 ). This is also in the present tense, “keep on exercising”.

4:7 “For the purpose of godliness”: Reverence and respect towards God, that is, an attitude of due respect towards God. “Timothy is charged to train himself towards a life-style that is characterized by godliness with the same intensity that a gymnast trains to physical perfection of his chosen exercise. Think of all those vigorous bodily things we do to build up muscles, endurance, and heart, for some worldly sport. Paul calls Timothy and all of us to make vigorous effort to build up our godliness” (Reese p. 174).

“Most of us are willing to admit that godliness is an excellent thing for attaining to a peaceful death, but we show little evidence that we are convinced of its being necessary for spending a happy life” (Plummer).

Verse 8

4:8 “For bodily exercise”: Some writers argue that “bodily exercise” in this context refers to the practices in 4:1-3, yet Paul does not argue that such practices are of a little profit, rather he argues that they are sinful and the doctrines of demons. The contrast is not between asceticism and godliness, but between physical exercise and spiritual exercise. Remember, Paul had just used the term “discipline” (a term that means to exercise vigorously, from which we derive the English term “gymnastic”) in 4:7.

4:8 “Is only of little profit”: The term “little” means that bodily exercise has definite limits as far as value and profit is concerned. Such exercise only benefits us in this life, and only benefits a small area of your life. “The ruins of a great stadium, scene of athletic contests at Ephesus when Timothy lived there, have remained until modern times. The Greeks gave a great emphasis to the attainment of physical strength, grace, and skill. Paul does not deny a certain value to physical development, but he insists that its worth is limited in time and nature” (Reese p. 174).

4:8 “But godliness is profitable for all things”: “By godliness Paul means that conduct of life which is according to the standard of the Word of God” ( 1Ti_3:16 )” (Kent p. 157). The statement “all things” is explained in the next line.

4:8 “Since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come”:

“For the entire well-being, physical and spiritual, temporal and eternal. There is no guarantee for the worldly prosperity of the godly. But it does make for ‘a true well-being in this life and obtains life’s real good, since it places man in right relations to God and the world, and fits him for the true enjoyment of all earthly good” (Hiebert p. 82). “Every worthwhile experience of this life is enriched by godliness. Infidelity makes no promise of future happiness. Vice promises pleasure for the present life, and disappoints both here and hereafter” (Reese p. 176). There are many blessings for being a faithful Christian in this life ( Mat_6:32-33 ; Mar_10:30 ; Luk_18:30 ; Eph_6:3 ; 1Pe_3:10 ). In contrast, the life here of the transgressor is hard ( Pro_13:15 ).

4:8 “For the life to come”: Mat_25:21 ; Mat_25:34 ; 2Ti_4:7-8 ; 2Pe_1:10-11 ; Rev_2:7 .

Verse 9

4:9 “It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance”:

The statement under consideration is the statement that godliness is profitable for all things. This is a true saying and one that can be trusted, and one which everyone needs to embrace with full acceptance. This also infers that there are sayings (in the world) that are not faithful, that should be rejected. “Those who have faith have found this saying trustworthy, and it is worth all men’s while to accept it” (Hiebert p. 83).

Verse 10

4:10 “For it is for this we labor and strive”: “The life of godliness, which is so profitable for time and eternity, is the apostle’s goal” (Kent p. 158). “We”: This would include Timothy and Paul and other workers as well. “Labor”: “Work that points to the weariness and exhaustion which results from strenuous toil. It takes work to become more godly in attitude, character, and life” (Reese p. 177). Life of faithful service to God takes work ( Rom_16:6 ; Rom_16:12 ; 1Co_16:16 ; Gal_4:11 ; 1Ti_5:17 ; Rev_2:3 ).

4:10 “And strive”: Denoting strenuous effort, to contend, struggle, from which we get our English word “agonize”. Godliness does not happen by accident and neither does God do all the work for us. Both of the above verbs are present tense. “The extent to which an athlete throws his whole being into striving for the prize in no way excels the extent to which Paul throws himself into the service of the Lord” (Reese pp. 177-178). Paul understands that salvation cannot be earned and yet he and Timothy continues to exert every effort in serving God. “Carries the picture of the athlete putting in the last ounce of his energy into the race in order victoriously to reach the goal. Paul and his companions had such a deep sense of the grandeur of the reward held out in the Gospel, that they counted no labor too heavy, no agony too severe, that led them gradually but surely to the expected goal” (Hiebert p. 83).

4:10 “Because we have fixed our hope on the living God”: This is why they work so hard. This verse “pictures the hope as resting on God as the only true foundation of hope. The perfect tense indicates that this hope has permanently been set on ‘the living God’” (p. 83). Paul’s confidence rests upon the right foundation! Since God is the source and giver of all life, God is also able to fulfill any promise He makes about “life”, either here or in the age to come.

4:10 “Who is the Savior of all men”: God is the Savior of all men in the sense that He desires all to be saved ( 1Ti_2:4 ), He patiently waits for all to come to repentance ( 2Pe_3:9 ), and He gave His Son as a sacrifice for the sins that all men have committed ( Joh_3:16 ). Other passages note that man must cooperate in this area to receive this salvation ( Mat_7:13-14 ; Mat_7:21-23 ).

4:10 “Especially of believers”: The term “especially” means, chiefly, most of all, or particularly. God has made it possible for all men to be saved ( Joh_3:16 ; 1Ti_1:15 ); yet this salvation is conditioned upon “faith” ( Heb_11:6 ; Mar_16:15-16 ). All men receive God’s offer of salvation ( Mat_28:19 ), but only believers will enjoy that salvation. Some seek to argue that the “saving” of the passage has to do with God preserving the physical life of an individual. While it is true that God sends the rain on the just and unjust, the context of this passage is eternal life (4:8 “for the life to come”). Others have argued that this passage is teaching that God will eventually save everyone. Such a claim not only violates so many other passages ( Mat_7:13-14 ; 2Th_1:8-9 ), fails to note that God is not going to save all who claim to profess to Christ ( Mat_7:21-23 ), but also fails to explain the question, “If God is going to give all eternal life, then how is God going to especially save believers?” With such an interpretation in the end, unbelievers are saved just like believers.

Verse 11

4:11 “Prescribe and teach these things”: The things just mentioned and what follows. The term “prescribe” means to order, command and charge and is in the present tense, to continual to do so. Compare with 1:3; 6:13 and 17. The preacher needs to preach the word of God with authority ( Tit_2:15 ).

Verse 12

4:12 “Let no one look down on your youthfulness”: The teaching and commanding in 4:11 may evoke resistance upon some members. By his example and speech, Timothy must remove any barrier to the message his youthfulness might cause. Timothy was probably around 35 when this letter was written. In the ancient world, a person was considered a “young” man until he reached age 40. Timothy cannot “command” people to listen to him or respect him, rather, he must live in such a way that their respect is earned. To look down on means to treat a person with contempt and scorn. Other passages indicate that Timothy was still a young man at this time (5:1; 2Ti_2:22 ). Timothy may have been converted around 48 A.D. (ages 15-22?), joined Paul in 51 A.D. ( Act_16:1-40 ), and this letter was written in 65-67 A.D. Paul knew that Timothy was a young man, but did not believe he was too young for the task at hand.

4:12 “But rather in speech”: This would refer to Timothy’s preaching and personal conversation ( 2Ti_1:13 ; Tit_2:1 ; Tit_2:7 “sound speech”). Certain forms of speech should not be used by Christians ( Eph_5:4 ; Eph_4:29 ), and speech does reveal the thoughts of the heart and one’s true character ( Pro_17:28 ; Mar_7:20-23 ).

4:12 “Conduct”: This term refers to “public life, general behavior, ways of dealing with people. The word covers a multitude of practical matters involving such things as work habits and business dealings as well as morals and leadership” (Reese pp. 182-183). This goes against the modern attitude of those in the public eye who claim, “I am not a role model”. Timothy is supposed to be a role model.

4:12 “Love”: This would include love for God as well as love for others. God expects Timothy to do more than simply preach about love, He expects him to love his enemies ( Mat_5:44 ); love his neighbor (22:39); love God with all his heart (22:37); and love his brethren ( Joh_13:34 ; 1Pe_1:22 ).

4:12 “Faith”: That is, dependability, one that God and man can count on, an example of true conviction and a sincere faith ( 1Ti_1:5 ; 2Ti_1:5 ), being a man of his word and a man who is faithful in his preaching of God’s truth.

4:12 “Purity”: God expects evangelists to practice what they preach. Timothy must be ethical, honest, and in conformity with God’s laws governing morality. “Purity is clean thinking and talking and living” (Reese p. 183). Timothy must be very careful in his interactions with the opposite sex, and do nothing that would give rise to scandal or the wrong impression.

4:12 “Show yourself an example”: God knows that Timothy can be a good example if he will continue to put forth the effort. In addition, this statement does not infer that Timothy has been less than a good example, the statement is not a rebuke but a call to continue being a good example. “Show yourself”, that is, keep on becoming an example.

4:12 “Of those who believe”: This statement can either mean, “Be an example to the world of what a Christian should be”, or “be an example to the believers”.

Verse 13

4:13 “Until I come”: Paul expected at this time to be able to return to Ephesus (3:14).

4:13 “Give attention to”: Meaning to Devote thought and effort.

4:13 “The public reading of Scripture”: The word “public” is added because the Greek word “reading” is the word used of reading out loud in public. Not only were the Old Testament Scriptures read, but by this time many of the New Testament letters (Matthew, Luke, Thessalonians, Corinthians, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, Philemon) were available as well. From other passages it is clear that the New Testament Scriptures were being read in the assemblies ( Col_4:16 ; 1Th_5:27 ; Eph_3:4 ).

“In the early church, when very few individuals owned private copies of the sacred writings, and all such material had to be copied by hand, one can imagine how important was the public reading of Scripture” (Reese p. 184).

4:13 “To exhortation”: Admonition, encouragement ( Act_4:36 ; Act_11:23 ; Rom_12:8 ). “Perhaps we should think of encouragement of the listeners to carry out the injunctions of the Scripture just read” (Reese p. 185).

4:13 “Teaching”: Or “doctrine”, refers to the instructional content of the message given. This is the type of instruction in which doctrine and truth are learned. It does make a difference what we believe ( 2Jn_1:9 )! Remember, Timothy had been specifically left in Ephesus to teach the truth and remove error (1:3).

Verse 14

4:14 “Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you”: Note that even spiritual gifts, and miraculous abilities could be misused ( 1Co_12:1-31 ; 1Co_13:1-13 ; 1Co_14:1-40 ) or neglected completely. This “gift” was not a natural talent, but a miraculous gift or ability ( 1Co_12:4 ; 1Co_12:9 ; 1Co_12:28 ; 1Co_12:30-31 ). Timothy was a faithful man, but he may not have been using this spiritual gift as much as was needed in Ephesus. The statement “do not neglect” is in the present imperative; this construction prohibits the continuance of an action already going on.

4:14 “Which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance”: How Timothy received this gift or what took place at the same time is now described. When Timothy received this spiritual gift, prophetic utterances were made (not by Timothy), but by others. Compare with 1:18. It could be that when the gift was given, a prophet revealed to Timothy the nature of the gift and or what Timothy would accomplish if he was faithful.

4:14 “With the laying on of hands by the presbytery”: The term “with” denotes association, accompaniment, and the attendant circumstances. The verse is not teaching that the elders (presbytery) gave him the gift, but rather when the gift was given at the same time the elders laid their hands upon him setting him apart for the work of an evangelist. The term “presbytery” means “body of elders”. There were elders in the region where Timothy was converted ( Act_14:21 ; Act_14:23 ; Act_16:1 ). From 2Ti_1:6 we learn that Timothy had received this gift “through” the laying on of Paul’s hands. Compare with Act_8:18 ; Act_19:6 ; Act_6:6 .

Verse 15

4:15 “Take pains”: Care for, attend to carefully, practice, cultivate, the very opposite of the term “neglect” in verse 14. “Paul is calling for careful thought in the practice of these things” (Hiebert p. 88).

4:15 “With these things”: That is, thee things just mentioned in this chapter. He must be continually in the realm of these matters. Over his life, Timothy must continue to fight false doctrine, exercise himself in godliness, be an active and industrious public teacher, and pay attention to his own spiritual life as to be an example.

4:15 “Be absorbed in them”: That is, he is to be up to his ears in these things (Robertson p. 582). “Literally, ‘go on being in them’. They are entirely to absorb and engross him. We might say, ‘Be wrapped up in them’” (Hiebert p. 88). “Have no other grand aim of living. Your times, attention, talents, are to be absorbed in the proper duties of the work. It is the evangelist’s ‘magnificent obsession’, the one thing he does” (Reese p. 188).

4:15 “So that your progress will be evident to all”: The term “progress” means “advancement” and was originally used for a pioneer cutting his way forward through obstacles, like a man blazing a trail in a tangled forest. Timothy is to work hard at being a preacher so that the people will clearly notice his improvement. No preacher should ever be satisfied with his present attainments. A young man who is making such progress will no longer be despised because of his youth (4:12). “The recognition on their part of this development in him would convince them that Paul had not made a mistake in selecting him for his responsible position” (Hiebert p. 88).

Verse 16

4:16 “Pay close attention to”: That is, keep on paying attention to.

4:16 “Yourself”: That is, everything about yourself, habits, speech, thoughts, attitude, and so on (4:12). “Preachers have even been known to develop mannerisms that reflect against their character and bring their message into disrepute” (Reese p. 189). Even though Timothy was an excellent example of a faithful Christian ( Php_2:19-23 ), he still has to examine himself closely and carefully.

4:16 “And to your teaching”: Timothy must make sure that he is teaching the faith (4:1), and the good or sound doctrine (4:6).

This verse does admit that:

1. Timothy can examine himself accurately and see his own failures, sins or faults ( 2Co_13:5 ).

2. Timothy can always know if he is teaching the truth accurately. Paul did not have the idea that all preachers are preaching error on something.

4:16 “Persevere in these things”: The above takes work! This is a daily and life long project.

4:16 “For as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself”: We do have a role to play in our own salvation ( 2Pe_1:10-11 ). If we are being faithful, we can have confidence in our standing before God. Those who believe that God does everything and that man is wholly passive in the salvation process have a major difficultly in interpreting the above verse, yet God has always required man to assume a role in his own salvation ( Rom_16:17 ; Heb_11:1-6 ).

Grace will not automatically cover the preacher who taught error. Through his preaching an evangelistic can greatly help people make it to heaven or greatly hinder them. Heaven does have doctrinal and moral conditions for entering. Timothy did not have an automatic and unconditional ticket to heaven, he needed to remain faithful in his teaching and personal life.

4:16 “And for those who hear you”: Even though other members must exert their own effort, a faithful preacher can greatly assist people in serving God and ending up saved in eternity.

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Bibliographical Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 4". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". 1999-2014.