1 Timothy 4:6-16
Life in the Local Church
What a Good Servant Looks Like
Good morning. Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to 1 Timothy chapter 4.
The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, after leaving and placing Timothy in Ephesus as the Pastor, the head elder. So, not wanting to get too far off track, a quick look at the timeline of the church of Ephesus. The church was founded by Paul, likely in the early 50’s AD. Timothy arrived to be their pastor in the early 60’s. Tradition holds that the Apostle John made the Ephesian church his home in the mid to late 60s. We also know that Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians and that was likely right before Timothy arrived. So, the Ephesians had a pretty standout group of teachers and pastors and influences. And yet, by the mid 90’s, Jesus tells them, relayed through John, that while they did good works, while had the right actions, and even right doctrine, they no longer had a love for Christ, and they were told to repent in Revelation 2:1-7.
Paul wrote to Timothy in order to encourage Timothy, to build him up and to challenge him.
Timothy was placed in Ephesus in order to deal with the issues that the church was dealing with, most notably, but not limited to false teaching and the false teachers who teach them. One of the ways that Timothy should be counteracting these issues is by knowing and applying how to act in the local church.
Paul, already in this letter, has dealt with proper prayer, with worship, with church offices and the authority of those who hold leadership positions, and more. Now, Paul turns his attention to encouraging Timothy, teaching him, encouraging him and reminding him that his focus, and ours should be on building, training and growing ourselves, first, as a good servant of Christ.
Let’s go ahead and read this week’s text, 1 Timothy chapter 4, verses 6 through 16. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your own preferred translation. Once again, 1 Timothy 4:6-16. Paul, under the inspiration of God, the Holy Spirit, bring forth the very inerrant, infallible, immutable Words of God, writes to Timothy:
If you put these things before the brothers,[a] you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and strive,[b] because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
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,[c] 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.
May God Bless the reading of his word.
Now, we know that the Bible is a unique book. Paul is very specifically writing here to Timothy. But we also know that Timothy is not the only person being written to and being instructed here. Like ripples emanating from a rock thrown in a pool, the ripples going out, there are many separate people groups being spoken to. First, of course, like we said, Timothy. Second, pastors, elders, church leaders are being taught through this letter how to lead Gods people. Third, as with all the Bible, all Gods people are being instructed, on “Life in the local church.”
Paul starts here, saying to put these things before the brothers. These things being the culmination of everything that we have looked at in the first 4 chapters. All the things that Paul has shared and taught Timothy up to this point. Bring all those things and put them before the brethren, the brothers and sisters, the body of Christ in the local church. Paul essentially telling Timothy, “Do the things that I am teaching you and you will serve the LORD well.”
Paul tells Timothy to be trained in the Words of the Faith. Paul gets more into what that means to Timothy specifically in his second letter to Timothy, but for here, we have one of the biggest points to take away from today; Read Yo Bible!
Be trained in what the Bible says. Above all else, above whoever else you are allowing to teach you, even above anyone else that is speaking into your life, Read Yo Bible. And then Read it again! And then again. Continue to read your Bible. Be trained by it and by the words of God in it. And then put it into action!
And we know that to put the Bible in to action correctly, we need to read it in the proper context (Ding!) Paul emphasizes this when he says that not only are we to be trained in the words of the faith, but in good Doctrine as well. Right understanding of the Word of God is so very vital and important. Context is everything! If our heart is truly Gods, then we should have a driving desire, a need to get it right!
None of the words of God are accidental or incidental. He gave us these words for very specific reasons. His words mean one thing and one thing only. And in order to know that one thing, we must study and be trained by it. In order to act on it, we must be trained by his words, fully and completely.
But we need to remember that, when you remove yourself from the Word and when you remove yourself from sound, good doctrine, you will struggle, and you will trip over the world’s and/or false teachers world views. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
What is and who are around us will influence us. What we watch, what we listen to, what we read, who we spend time with, all those things will affect us. The enemy and false teachers, they want to separate us and isolate us from God, his word and his people.
You know, I was also reading Psalm 1 and some amazing parallels jumped out at me. Psalm 1 is a short one, but a powerful one, let’s read it really quick. Psalm 1, the Psalmist writes:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
In that, we see that those who are righteous, those who belong to the LORD, who know Jesus Christ, they are like trees planted next to streams. Of Course, we will see fruit that comes to bear on those trees. But what else we see is that the trees that are planted need a steady stream and they need to be planted in a single location.
If I plant a tree up by the house, then after a short time, I see no growth, and I dig it up, plant it somewhere else and continue this for a while, there will be no growth of that tree, it will wither. The same as if the water source dries up. We see that every summer here back where we were in California, and I would imagine here as well? No water, for an extended period of time and the tree will die.
We need the Word of God to teach us truth, good doctrine and right application. We need each other to help us to stay on track, to grow and to have right knowledge and right doctrine.
Paul reminds us, having mentioned this in the beginning of chapter 1 as well, that we are to have nothing to do with silly, irrelevant myths. This includes getting into conversations about just ridiculous stuff. Supposed genealogies and the “ancestry” & “descendants” of Jesus. This is making parables out of the Gospel stories. This is putting any credence into the “lost” Gospels and into secret knowledge.
You ever have a conversation with someone, and they say something, and it’s so absurd, so out of the realm of possibility, and its everything you can do to not respond, to just let it go? That’s one of the things this is talking about. If you respond and get into this conversation, you will have wasted your time and nothing you say will have an affect on them. It is similar to casting your pearls before swine, though that is specifically talking about the Gospel.
Silly, irreverent myths are spiritually immature. They take the focus off of God the Father, His son, Jesus Christ and the Word of God itself. It places the focus on anything and everything else; trivia, minutia, unknowable speculation, the other person, and ourselves.
Paul says that instead, we should train ourselves in Godliness. The habits that we develop, the spiritual disciplines that we practice, these are the things that train us in Godliness. This is not easy. Distractions, laziness, other good but not God things, friends, family, sleep, phone calls, our favorite show, all these things will try to get in our way of practicing spiritual discipline. These and much more will attempt to stop us from practicing and training and spending the needed and necessary time in Gods Word.
Paul contrasts this with bodily training, with taking care of ourselves physically. He shows us that this is a good thing. Watching what we eat, keeping in good physical shape, taking care of the bodies that God has given us, these are good things. These are very good ideas, and they are incredibly important. They have some value. But they are not as important as spiritual training.
Spiritual training, which leads to Godliness, is everything. It is completely valuable. It is eternally valuable. It has promise and value in this life for sure. But more importantly, it has more promise and more value in the next life.
When Paul wants to really and truly emphasize a point, he says, as he does in verse 9 here, some variation of: The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. And so, we need to pay extra attention to what Paul says here. V 10: For to this end we toil and strive,[b] because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
We work because of our hope and our faith. We work because of what God has done for us. We work because of the living God, Jesus Christ. We work because of the work that he did on the cross, accomplishing our salvation, rising from the dead and, once and for all, defeating death and sin.
The invitation to salvation, sent out to all, extended to all. As Paul writes elsewhere, there is no Jew, no Greek, no male or female when it comes to who is able to be saved or our standing before God. And it is those who believe that accept the invitation. It is solely by the grace of God, only through the faith that he has given us, in the only way to salvation, his Son Jesus Christ that we are saved.
It is because of this that we work. It is not that we work for this, but because of this. Sometimes those small, semantic differences can make all the difference. Scripture shows us this time and time again.
Verse 11, Paul tells Timothy, Command and teach these things. Teach these things that I just shared and reminded you. First and foremost, of course, the Gospel that he just shared. Teach and share spiritual disciplines. Teach and share the importance of Godliness. Teach the focus that needs to be on God and his Word above all else.
Paul starts this last section of our passage as an encouragement and a challenge. Timothy is a timid man, quiet, maybe shy. That’s the personality that God gave him. Timothy speaks to me in that way. I see a lot of myself in him. God gives us our personalities and he uses them for his purposes. We will get back to that in a moment.
Paul addresses one of the obstacles that Timothy is dealing with in Ephesus. Paul says, let no one look down upon you, reject you or not listen to you because of your age. Age isn’t, or shouldn’t, be an issue. What is an issue is your call, your qualifications, your godliness.
I look around and I realize that, in every church that I have served, I am the youngest adult in this church. I was the youngest adult in my previous church as well. Without getting into it, we see two different ways of looking at my situation. I have served, pastored and taught some who have been Christians for longer than I have been alive. But you know what? Many would never say that. They don’t use that as a reason to not listen to me or to reject what I am saying or teaching. Others, unfortunately, would and did.
Timothy was encountering this. I’ve encountered this before. The truth is that God has called me. He has called me to be a Pastor, a shepherd, a teacher and as a protector of the flock. I have a lot to teach and a lot to share. Age is not an issue with who God chooses to call to certain positions.
Now, I mentioned our personalities before, and I want to touch on those now as well. God has created each and everyone of us personally and with our unique traits and personalities. Some of us are louder, some quieter, some more outgoing, some quitter, some more cautious, some impulsive. Each given to us by God the Father himself. These are gifts and good things.
But each of these also has the potential to be a pitfall as well. The person who is quiet and timid might avoid confronting sin in others or avoid confronting false teachers and their false teachings. The person who is louder and outgoing, might offend, they might confront sin where there isn’t any, or put themselves and their thoughts, teachings above Gods.
The point that Paul was making was this, to Timothy, to me, to you, to all of us. Don’t use your personality as an excuse to sin. It’s way too easy, it takes an incredible amount of self-reflection, and it takes walking a very thin line sometimes. But do not use your personality as an excuse to sin!
We are called to deny ourselves. How often do you hear, as an excuse for sin, “I was born this way.” In a sense, that’s true. We all are born sinners.
But we are called to put that old self aside, and to repent of our sins. Paul tells us elsewhere that when we are in Christ, our old self has died, and we are now new creations. We have a new heart, we have new desires, we have a new nature when we are in Christ. We are not to stay the way we were born, but instead, we are called to be born again.
And so, Paul says to set the believers an example. An example of Godly living. How we live and how we act. Our faithfulness to God. These are but some of the ways that we can show those around us and those who watch us the work that God has down for us all and what he expects in holiness and godliness.
In verse 13, we see again, in Paul’s exhortation to Timothy, the purpose of the local church. We see the reason that Paul (more specifically God) placed Timothy in Ephesus, and that is to combat false teaching. And we will see how. By the public reading of scripture, by exhortation and by teaching. Especially and specifically the teaching of that public reading of scripture. This even goes back to Old Testament times. Nehemiah 8:8 says:
They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
In Verse 14, Paul points out that Timothy was given a spiritual gift from God. It is an unknown gift, though presumably teaching or preaching, something for sure along those lines of pastoring in Ephesus to combat false teachings.
And in verse 15 & 16, Paul emphasis self-inspection and spiritual growth. He says, practice your gifts. Do your duties, whether they are your gifts or not. Practice and grow your devotion to God and what he has called you to do.
As the fruit on your tree grows, as you develop your spiritual disciplines, as we grow in sanctification and maturity in Christ, People will see, and they will notice.
Verse 16, Paul tells Timothy to keep a close watch on himself and his teachings. Let me say it this way. It does no good for you to call out false teaching if you just replace it with other false teaching. The point is to replace it with the truth. Keeping a close watch on ourselves and our teachings is what will keep us from falling into false teaching or from becoming false teachers.
The single easiest way for one to start false teaching is to stop paying too close attention to what you are teaching or sharing. Often this will happen without noticing. Kind of mentally shifting into cruise control. This will have the thoughts of thinking we know it all, or that we have no need to study Gods Word or to get deeper into it.
By keeping a close watch on ourselves and our teaching, we will not only prevent ourselves from falling and failing, but because of the community we are called to, as the body of the local church, we will help others from falling into these false teachings as well, thereby saving them from, to use some language we used last week, walking out from under the umbrella of orthodoxy and into the rain of heresy.
I think that there really are three points I want you to walk away from this morning remembering. The first one, remember, was READ YO BIBLE! And make sure that you are desiring and focusing on the right and true word of God and right doctrine in how to apply it.
Second, your personality is a gift from God but don’t let it be an excuse to sin. Use your personality to share and show the Word of God, and Jesus Christ and his work on the Cross.
Lastly, keep a close watch on yourself and your teachings. Recognize and combat false teachings and make sure that you are keeping yourself in the truth and speaking the truth, no matter what else.
These things are the basis and foundation for us building up the local church and for us and the church to fulfill its purpose.
Let’s Pray on these things and remember the grace of God that we are saved despite all that is stacked against us because of sin.