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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
1 Timothy 4

 

 


Verse 1

‘But the Spirit says expressly, that in latter days some will fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons,’

Paul tells us that the Spirit has spoken ‘expressly, in specific terms’. This may have been through the Scriptures, or through the teaching of Jesus, or it may have been through prophecy (Acts 11:28; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Revelation 2:7 and often) or some other method (Acts 8:29; Acts 11:12; Acts 16:7).

Being seduced by spirits and doctrines of demons was in mind in Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 32:16-17, when he spoke of Israel sacrificing to false gods and ‘to demons’, compare also ‘they mingled themselves with the nations, and learned their works -- they sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons’ (Psalms 106:35; Psalms 106:37). It was not therefore a totally new idea, and may suggest a return to idolatrous ideas. Furthermore Micaiah in 1 Kings 22:22-23 speaks of ‘lying spirits’ who ‘speak through the mouth of prophets’ (compare Deuteronomy 13:1-3; Judges 9:23; Jeremiah 5:31; Jeremiah 14:14; Jeremiah 23:16; Ezekiel 14:9). And this idea of a lying spirit is connected with ‘that Day’ in Zechariah 13:2-3. Paul may well have connected these ideas with Jesus’ teaching about false prophets (Matthew 7:15; Matthew 24:11; Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22 compare also 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 4:1). ‘The Spirit says expressly’ may therefore mean through Jesus with the Old Testament background in mind.

‘In latter days.’ Paul is clearly indicating here that they are already in the latter days, otherwise he would not have spoken of it here when speaking about the false prophets. ‘This was spoken of as to happen in the latter days, and here it is happening’. It was in fact the combined opinion of the early church that they were ‘in the last days (Acts 2:17), and ‘at the end of the ages’. Thus Peter tells us that ‘He was revealedat the end of the timesfor your sake’ (1 Peter 1:20), so that he can then warn his readers ‘the end of all thingsis at hand’ (1 Peter 4:7). In the same way Paul says to his contemporaries that what he describes is ‘for our admonition, on whomthe end of the ageshas come’ (1 Corinthians 10:11). So the first coming of Christ is seen by both as ‘the end of the ages’, not the beginning of a new age. Similarly the writer to the Hebrews tells us ‘He hasin these last daysspoken to us by His Son’ (Hebrews 1:1-2), and adds ‘once inthe end of the ageshas He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself’ (Hebrews 9:26-28). Thus all these early writers see their own days as being ‘the last days’, for as far as they were concerned this present time is the culmination of all that has gone before and leads up to the end.

‘Seducing spirits and doctrines of demons.’ Notice the emphasis on ‘seducing’. There are forces at work that seek to seduce men and lead them into false ideas and thus into receiving what can only be described as ‘doctrines of demons’ which as we have seen includes idolatry, although not necessarily so here. These are in contrast with the Holy Spirit and sound doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6; 1 Timothy 4:16; Acts 2:42; Romans 6:17; Titus 1:9; Titus 2:1; Titus 2:7; Titus 2:10; 2 John 1:9; consider also Hebrews 13:9; Ephesians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:3).

Note the emphasis on falling away from faith (or the faith). They are in contrast with those who are holding to faith. Compare for this 1 Timothy 1:4-6; 1 Timothy 1:14; 1 Timothy 1:19; 1 Timothy 2:15; 1 Timothy 3:9; 1 Timothy 3:13.


Verses 1-7

Warning Against False Teachers Who Seek To Enforce Asceticism, Rather Men Should Receive What Is Good From The Hand of God With Thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:1-7).

Having been exalted into Heaven we are now brought down to earth with a bump. In contrast with the church of the living God which is upholding the truth (1 Timothy 3:15), are those who are influenced by the powers of evil, who come speaking lies. These may be the false teachers already referred to in 1 Timothy 1:19-20, and may even be connected with those described in 1 Timothy 1:3-4, although not necessarily so. For these ban marriage and the eating of what God had created in order that it might be ‘received with thanksgiving’ and prayer, while those mentioned previously gave heed to fables and endless genealogies. The ones in mind now are ascetics, the previously mentioned ones fantasists (but see 1 Timothy 4:7 a).

Unable to appreciate the fullness of the Gospel, these present false teachers seek by following the pathway of asceticism to attain the necessary purity that will make them acceptable to God. Such ideas are to be ‘refused’ (1 Timothy 4:7 a), and Timothy, like all God’s people, must rather be nourished in the words of faith and of good doctrine.

Analysis.

a But the Spirit says expressly, that in latter days some will fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, through the hypocrisy of men who speak lies (1 Timothy 4:1-2 a).

b Branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:2 b).

c Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from certain types of food (1 Timothy 4:3 a).

d Which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth (1 Timothy 4:3 b).

c For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it be received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:4).

b For it is sanctified through the word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4:5).

a If you put the brothers (and sisters) in mind of these things, you will be a good minister (diakonos) of Christ Jesus, nourished in the words of the faith, and of the good doctrine which you have followed until now, but refuse profane and old wives’ fables (1 Timothy 4:6-7 a).

Note that in ‘a’ reference is made to falling away from the faith and to doctrines of demons, and the hypocrisy of men who speak lies, while in the parallel Timothy is to be nourished in the words of the faith, and in good doctrine, and is to refuse profane and old wives fables. In ‘b’ the false teachers are branded in their own conscience with a hot iron, while in the parallel creatures received with thanksgiving are sanctified through the word of God and through prayer. In ‘c’ there is a commanding to abstain from certain types of food, while in the parallel ever creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if received with thanksgiving and prayer. Centrally we learn that God created things to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.


Verses 1-10

Paul Now Gives A More Detailed Account of What Timothy’s Ministry Will Involve (1 Timothy 4:1 to 1 Timothy 6:10).

It is interesting how much the second half of this letter is patterned on the first. Both sections commence with an account of false teachers (1 Timothy 1:3-11; 1 Timothy 4:1-5). This is followed by a requirement for faithful service (Paul in 1 Timothy 1:12-15; Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:6-11) and for an example to be given to others (by Paul in 1 Timothy 1:16; by Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12-16). Then follows a reference to the particular responsibilities of those in the church (men, women, responsibility of women of child-bearing age, overseers, servant (deacons) in 1 Timothy 2:1 to 1 Timothy 3:13; elder and younger men, older women, responsibility of women of child-bearing age, elders, bondservants in 1 Timothy 4:1 to 1 Timothy 6:2). It is a practical application to the individual church of the principles already enunciated.

Yet at the same time this next section is again in the form of a chiasmus, as follows:

Analysis.

a Warning against false teachers who seek to enforce asceticism. Rather men should receive what is good from the hand of God with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:1-7).

b Timothy has to exercise himself towards godliness and set his hope on the living God Who is the Protector/Saviour of all men and especially the Saviour of believers (1 Timothy 4:7 b-11).

c Timothy is to work out this salvation that God has given him by being an example to others and fully utilising in faithful teaching his God-given Gift, which was given by the laying on of hands (1 Timothy 4:12-16).

d Older Christian men and younger Christian men are to be seen as family and treated accordingly (1 Timothy 5:1).

e Older Christian women and younger Christian women are to be treated similarly (1 Timothy 5:2)

f The church is to ‘adopt’ older Christian widows who have no family expressing God’s care for the most helpless and the most needy (1 Timothy 5:3-8).

e A contrasting approach towards older and younger Christian widows. (1 Timothy 5:9-16).

d Timothy’s and the church’s responsibility towards the older men and Elders (1 Timothy 5:17-21).

c Paul gives instructions to Timothy about the importance of being discerning in the laying on of hands, pointing out that he himself must be pure in every way and must ensure that his appointees will be so also (1 Timothy 5:22-25).

b Christian slaves must be faithful to all their masters as though to God, and especially to those who believe (1 Timothy 6:1-2).

a Teachers who fail to teach these things and the doctrines which contribute to genuine godliness are false teachers, and are puffed up and led astray into false ideas, while those who follow godliness will be content and enjoy food and clothing from God in contrast with those whom riches destroy (1 Timothy 6:3-10).

Note that in ‘a’ false teachers are duly described and are to be rejected, while the godly give thanks because they receive their food from God and in the parallel the same applies. In ‘b’ Timothy has to be a faithful servant to God Who is the Protector Saviour of all men and especially Saviour towards those who believe, while in the parallel slaves are to be faithful towards all their masters, and especially towards those who believe. In ‘c’ Timothy is to full use the gift he received by the laying on of hands, and in the parallel is to be discerning on whom he lays hands. In ‘d’ older men and younger men are to be treated as family, and in the parallel the church’s responsibility towards older men and Elders is revealed. In ‘e’ older women and younger women are to be treated as family and in the parallel instructions are given concerning both. Centrally in ‘e’ (God puts in the centre what we pass over quickly as almost irrelevant) the helpless and needy widows are especially to be catered for. It is they who represent those whom God has always especially cared for, the ‘widows and fatherless’ (Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 10:18; Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 16:14; Deuteronomy 24:17-21; Deuteronomy 26:12-13; Deuteronomy 27:19; Job 22:9; Job 24:3; Psalms 68:5; Psalms 94:6; Psalms 146:9; Isaiah 1:17; Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 10:2; Jeremiah 7:6; Jeremiah 22:3; Ezekiel 22:7; Zechariah 7:10; Malachi 3:5). They should therefore be a central concern of the church.


Verse 2

‘Through the hypocrisy of men who speak lies, branded (or ‘seared’) in their own conscience as with a hot iron,’

The ‘seducing spirits and doctrines of demons’ come through the hypocrisy of men who speak lies. The reason that they have believed lies is because they are hypocrites, that is because their hearts are not genuine. Paul is not pulling his punches. It is as though their consciences have been cauterised from truth with a hot iron. Or alternatively the idea may be that because of their lying words their conscience has been branded with the word ‘Liar’. They have been branded as slaves of sin because of their spiritual dishonesty.


Verse 3

‘Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from certain types of food, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.’

Here we get to the heart of their false teaching. They forbid marriage and command men to abstain from certain foods. This may well be connected with Judaisers. The abstention from certain foods, in accordance with Leviticus 11 was important to them, while the forbidding of marriage was certainly known among the Essenes, the aim in both cases being to maintain ritual purity. In the Old Testament sexual relations were often seen as causing ‘uncleanness’ (Exodus 19:15; Leviticus 15:16-18; 1 Samuel 21:4-5).

The majority, however, relate these abstentions to an early form of Gnosticism where the purpose of the abstention was to avoid fleshly things so as not to tarnish the new ‘spiritual’ experience that had been enjoyed through gaining certain kinds of religious ‘knowledge’ that in their view had brought them nearer to God as pure spirit. This would tie in with the emphasis on the positive participation by Christians in eating earthly creatures, and possibly the teaching prevalent at Colossae (see Colossians 2:16-18 which also, however, suggests Jewish connections). By partaking in fleshly things with gratitude to God they are thereby demonstrating the falseness of this incipient, possibly Jewish, Gnosticism. However, we could equally say that he was demonstrating the falseness of a certain kind of Judaism. Whichever way it is Paul decries it. He declares that God provided these physical things to be received with thanksgiving. There is nothing wrong in them, or even slightly shady. Rather they are good and to be received with gratitude from God. Any idea that flesh in itself is bad and spirit is good is therefore rejected. Compare how in 1 Timothy 3:16 Jesus came in flesh and was justified in spirit. Spirit and natural flesh are both therefore to be seen as parts of the Christian experience.

‘By those who believe and know the truth.’ He is not by this excluding unbelievers from partaking of what God has provided, but simply bringing out the right attitude and therefore subsequent blessing of the true people of God. The difference being that the unbelievers do not genuinely receive it from God with thanksgiving, because their attitudes of heart are wrong, while those who believe do. They recognise that it is the provision of their Heavenly Father (Matthew 6:32).

We learn elsewhere that some were teaching that the resurrection was past already (2 Timothy 2:18). Thus they probably considered that some kind of mystical experience, possibly as resulting from esoteric knowledge, had made them spiritually out of this world (misinterpreting Paul’s teaching in Ephesians). Thus like the angels they now neither married nor gave in marriage, and only ate angel food, whatever they considered that to be.


Verse 4

‘For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it be received with thanksgiving,’

For the truth is that every creature of God is good. When God created the world He had declared it ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31). So as long as it is received with thanksgiving as a gift from God, therefore, no creature of God is to be rejected. This certainly does demonstrate that the distinction between flesh as bad and spirit as good is not valid (for all are declared good), but the suggestion that ‘every creature is good’ fits better the idea that distinctions are being made between different types of animals, and that fits better the concept of Levitical distinctions (Leviticua 11). This serves to confirm that what is in mind here is a Jewish kind of heresy.


Verse 5

‘For it is sanctified through the word of God and prayer.’

And the reason that all are good without distinction is that they have been ‘sanctified/made holy/separated to God’ through the word of God and prayer. ‘Through the word of God’ may be seen as indicating that the word of God has declared that these things come from God (Genesis 1:26-30; Psalms 104:14-15; Psalms 145:15-16), or that Jesus has declared all things ‘clean’ (Mark 7:19), although it could indicate a reading or reciting of the word of God over the meal. ‘Through prayer’ would indicate that because all that they received was accompanied by prayer as they dedicated both their food and themselves to Him it therefore made them ‘pure’. Compare Acts 10:15; Mark 7:19. This clearly refers to the prayer of thanksgiving. It is probably safe to say that in most cases our modern way of somewhat hastily ‘saying grace’ comes somewhat short of this.

The word 'sanctify, make holy', indicates ‘separation to God for His own purposes’. What is sanctified is then seen as God's, and because it is God's it must only be used for God's purposes. The object itself does not change, what changes is its status. As a consequence we can set things apart to God by prayer and thereby 'sanctify' them. And once we have done so they become God's and must be used only according to His will and instruction., for once we have 'sanctified' them God sees them as His and as sanctified.

As we have seen the point that Paul is making in 1 Timoithy 1 Timothy 4:5 probably has in mind 'unclean' foods (Leviticus 11). Such foods are the opposite of sanctified. They are 'unclean' (not acceptable to God as food for His hly people). They were not to be eaten by God's people because God's people were holy. But Paul is now saying that through the word of God (what God has spoken concerning the matter, especially through Jesus Christ - Mark 7:19) and through prayer (setting them apart to God) these unclean foods can be 'made holy', that is, able to be eaten by God's holy people withut contaminating them. No change takes place in the food. It is its status that changes. Sanctifying a food does not guarantee that it is edible or not poisonous. What it guarantees is that it will not ritually defile because it is set apart to God.


Verse 6

‘If you put the brothers (and sisters) in mind of these things, you will be a good minister (diakonos) of Christ Jesus, nourished in the words of the faith, and of the good doctrine which you have followed until now.’

So if Timothy keeps these things continually in the minds of ‘the brothers and sisters’ (adelphoi usually includes both brothers and sisters. It is an overall term), then he will be demonstrating that he is a good servant of Christ Jesus. Diakonos might have in mind that it was the diakonos who supplied material things to the people of God, so that Timothy was acting as a diakonos here. On the other hand it may just be a general word for servant. It certainly counts against any idea that Timothy had an exalted official status. Rather he was to be seen as a servant of Christ Jesus. And as he reminds the people of God that because all God’s provision is good they can marry and eat extensively of all God’s creation without exception, while at the same time offering their genuine thanksgiving, thus keeping them from heresy, he himself will be nourished (or ‘trained’), in his case in the words of faith and in good doctrine, the good doctrine that he has followed up to now, and must, of course, go on following. (Again we note the typically Pauline reference to ‘Christ Jesus’.)


Verse 7

‘And exercise yourself towards godliness,’

Taking a metaphor from athletics, Paul applies it to the spiritual life (compare 1 Corinthians 9:25-27). Timothy must exercise himself towards godliness, which Paul defines as our fulfilling our responsibility towards God by setting our hope on the living God (1 Timothy 4:10). That is, all his efforts must be put into pleasing the living God and proclaiming and establishing the truth (1 Timothy 3:15).


Verses 7-11

Timothy Has Rather To Exercise Himself Towards Godliness And Set His Hope On The Living God (1 Timothy 4:7 b-11).

Rather than being an ascetic Timothy is to ‘exercise’ himself towards godliness, which signifies having his heart set on the living God (1 Timothy 4:10). This reference to the living God takes us back to 1 Timothy 3:15. His responsibility is to be to the church of the living God, which is the mainstay of the truth. Paul does not want him simply to exchange one set of rules for another, for as he has demonstrated in 1 Timothy 3:16, his eyes are to be set on higher things which he has to support and sustain. It is significant that in combating a similar false teaching at Colossae Paul similarly also directed the Colossians to set their minds on higher things (Colossians 3:1-3). While Christians can enjoy the good things that this world offers, their eyes must remain on God, which was why in fact Paul has emphasised thanksgiving. For what is godliness? It is to have our hope set on the living God Who is the Saviour of all men, and especially of those who believe (1 Timothy 4:10).

Analysis.

a And exercise yourself towards godliness (1 Timothy 4:7 b).

b For bodily exercise is profitable for a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come (1 Timothy 4:8).

c Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptance (1 Timothy 4:9).

b For to this end we labour and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of those who believe (1 Timothy 4:10).

a These things command and teach (1 Timothy 4:11).

Note that in ‘a’ he is to exercise himself towards piety, and in the parallel he is to command and teach piety. In ‘b’ bodily exercise profits little while true religious worship is profitable for all things, benefiting both this life and the coming one, while in the parallel we labour and strive for true religious worship, because our hope is set on the living God. Centrally in ‘c’ what he is saying is faithful and worthy of acceptance.


Verse 8

‘For bodily exercise is profitable for a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come.’

For while bodily exercise is profitable, it is only so for a little while, but godliness is profitable in every way. And what is godliness? It is fulfil his responsibility towards God by revealing love out of a pure heart, a good conscience and faith unfeigned (1 Timothy 1:5). And it gives promise of life now and in the age to come (1 Timothy 1:16). The idea here is that those who believe in Him receive eternal life which they can enjoy in the present day (John 5:24; John 10:10; 1 John 5:13), before they move on to enjoy the fullness of eternal life in the age to come.


Verse 9

‘Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptance,’

Paul now comes to his third ‘faithful saying’, and the second that is worthy of all acceptance. The first pointed to the fact that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, which was worthy of all acceptance (1 Timothy 1:15). The second declared that he who sought to be an overseer over the church of God sought a good work (1 Timothy 3:1). The third declares that we must labour and strive after godliness because we have our heart set on the living God, so that we might enjoy His full salvation. And this too is worthy of all acceptance.

The phrase has previously always preceded the saying referred to, and we must therefore assume that it is the same here. Note the change in 1 Timothy 4:10 from ‘you’ to ‘we’ which may be seen as serving to confirm this, although it is not precisely so for here the saying in 1 Timothy 4:10 leans on what is said in 1 Timothy 4:8. The ‘end’ described is the same as that already mentioned in 1 Timothy 4:8.


Verse 10

‘For to this end we labour and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of those who believe.’

And what is the saying that is faithful? It is that with our hope set on the living God we labour and strive in His service, and put great effort into the things that He has commanded us to do, such as studying to show ourselves approved to God and praying without ceasing. And we do this because we want Him to work His ‘salvation’ in us, that is we want Him to work within us ‘love out of a pure heart, a good conscience and faith unfeigned’ (1 Timothy 1:5), because we know that our Saviour, the living God has this in store for us. It is that we set our heart on enjoying life, and indeed life more abundantly (1 Timothy 4:8; John 10:10). This was ‘the end’ of Paul’s ‘charge’ right from the start (1 Timothy 1:5). And this is what we must set our hope on.

For this is the purpose of the God Who is ‘the Saviour/Preserver (a regular meaning of the word in secular literature) of all men’, that is, Whose activity of preservation is going on in the world on behalf of all men (Matthew 5:45; Acts 17:26-29; Psalms 104:13-15; Psalms 145:9-10 a, 15-16), and Who is the general Preserver of men (Psalms 36:6). It was because He is ‘the Saviour/Preserver of all men’ that He first arranged for Adam and his family to escape from the full consequences of Adam’s sin. It was because He is the Saviour/Preserver of all men that He made His covenant with Noah for the preservation of the human race from flooding. It was because He is the Saviour and Preserver of all men that He has watched over history. And it is because He is the Saviour/Preserver of all men that He send His rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:45)

But He is ‘especially’ so for those who believe, for those who believe are entering into the enjoyment of His present salvation in its fullness. For this contrast between God’s goodness revealed towards the whole world, in contrast with His special goodness revealed towards His people who recognise His Kingly Rule and testify of it to others, see Psalms 145:9-16. The point is that we cannot have our hearts set on God the Saviour, and fully benefit from the fact, unless we want Him to save us fully, and desire it with all our hearts. For His salvation does not just consist in ‘being saved’ so that we can have the confidence that we have been forgiven and are going to Heaven, it also consists of our being changed from glory into glory, even by the Lord, the Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:18). It is so that we might be ‘made like Him, for we will see Him as He is’ (1 John 3:2). It is so that He might ‘work in us to will and to do of His good pleasure’ (Philippians 2:13), a salvation that we have to work out with greatest care (Philippians 2:12). But we must notice that we do not labour and strive for this salvation, we rather labour and strive (as Paul did) on Christ’s behalf because this salvation is ours, a gift from the living God our Saviour (compare Ephesians 2:8-9). The salvation itself is God’s gift to us as, having been crucified with Christ, we allow Him to live out His life through us (Galatians 2:20). Its consequence is that we begin to live as the people of God because we are His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10).

The idea behind the word 'especially' is that towards His people He acts in an especial way. It no longer simply has in mind His general benevolence towards mankind, but has in mind His individual and personal activity on behalf those who are His.


Verse 11

‘These things command and teach.’

And these are the things that Timothy must command and teach


Verse 12

‘Let no man despise your youth, but you be an example to those who believe, in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity.’

Paul was probably aware how sensitive Timothy was about being so comparatively young, being only in his thirties. But he has the solution. What he must do is outweigh his youth by being a good example in all aspects of his life. Nothing is more convincing to others than a genuine life. ‘Let no man despise your youth.’ Yes, but how? Why by being an example to those who believe. If they see that his manner of life, his love, his faith and his purity is superior to theirs they will soon despise him no longer. Then they will fall in line behind him. Note what is required in our manner of life, ‘love, faith and purity’. All are requirements.


Verses 12-16

Timothy Is To Work Out This Salvation That God Has Given Him By Being An Example To Others And Utilising His God Given Gift Fully In Faithful Teaching (1 Timothy 4:12-16).

Just as the salvation of a Christian woman is to come to full fruition in childbearing and rearing (1 Timothy 2:15), so Timothy’s salvation is to come to full fruition by continuing to live and teach in the power that God has given him, so that all may see how he advances spiritually, as a result of which he will make salvation effective both in himself and in all who hear him.

Analysis.

a Let no man despise your youth, but you be an example to those who believe, in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity (1 Timothy 4:12).

b Until I come, give heed to reading, to exhortation, to teaching (1 Timothy 4:13).

c Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery (1 Timothy 4:14).

b Be diligent in these things; give yourself wholly to them; that your progress may be openly revealed to all. Take heed to yourself, and to your teaching (1 Timothy 4:15-16 a)

a Continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you (1 Timothy 4:16 b).

Note how in ‘a’ he is to be an example to those who believe in every way, and in the parallel he is to continue in these things so that salvation might be effective in them all. In ‘b’ he is to give heed to reading, exhortation and teaching, and in the parallel he is to be diligent and take heed to himself and his teaching. Centrally in ‘c’ he must not neglect the gift that has been given to him.


Verse 13

‘Until I come, give heed to reading, to exhortation, to teaching.’

Meanwhile he has a task to do before Paul arrives. And that is to read, exhort and teach. In the light of the whole emphasis in these verses on addressing others we must probably see ‘reading’ as referring to reading aloud in the public meeting, from the Scriptures, and probably also from letters of Paul (compare Colossians 4:16) and written tradition about Jesus (the Testimony of Jesus - Revelation 1:2; Revelation 1:9). Such public reading, especially of the Law, was considered very important (compare Exodus 24:7; Deuteronomy 31:11; 2 Kings 23:2; Nehemiah 8:7-8; Luke 4:16; Acts 15:21; 2 Corinthians 3:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:27) Exhortation and teaching would then follow, as in the synagogue (see Luke 4:16-21).


Verse 14

Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.’

He wants Timothy to recognise his great responsibility. His calling had been recognised publicly through prophecy, and the eldership had laid hands on him (a sign of identification with him). And as a result he had received a gift, presumably of teaching (Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:28-29). It was thus incumbent on him not to neglect that gift. He had received a demanding responsibility (James 3:1-2). He must utilise it to the full.

The laying on of hands for identification was prominent in the Old Testament with respect to offerings and sacrifices. It was also used to designate men who had been set apart by God for a particular task. Sometimes it is connected with the coming of the Spirit, but not necessarily so. The two must not be directly equated. In each case whether the Spirit comes in abundance is dependent both on the task in hand and on God.


Verse 15

‘Be diligent in these things; give yourself wholly to them; that your progress may be openly revealed to all.’

He must be diligent in these things of which Paul has spoken, that is, reading, exhortation and teaching. Many of the local groups would welcome such a teacher with open arms. Thus he must give himself wholly to the task so as to ensure that all benefited, and so that all might see his progress. This might mean his literal progress as he went from assembly to assembly (with Paul wanting the assemblies to know that Timothy was fulfilling his responsibilities in full), or alternatively his progress as a teacher as he gained experience.

‘Diligent.’ The word can refer to either being studious or to following a certain practise assiduously.


Verse 16

‘Take heed to yourself, and to your teaching. Continue in these things; for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.’

So he must take heed to himself, ensuring that he is always a good example (1 Timothy 4:12), and to his teaching so that it continues to improve. And as he continues in these things God’s salvation will be effective within him, so that by his actions he will ‘save’ himself (compare Matthew 16:25) and save others also by ‘working out’ his salvation as God works it within him (Philippians 2:12-13).

If we imagine a man standing hesitantly on a sinking ship looking at the boiling waves and hearing the sailors in the rescue vessel shouting, ‘save yourself. Jump!’ we will get the idea. They do not really mean that he must save himself. That is what they are there for. They simply want him to cooperate with them in saving him by responding. In the same way God sometimes says to us as He goes about His saving work ‘save yourself’ (‘work out your own salvation with greatest care’ - Philippians 2:12). He wants us to cooperate with Him so that He can save us.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 4:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/1-timothy-4.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 24th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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