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Be An Example

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Be An Example: 1 Timothy 4:1-16


Good morning. Todays message continues our series from 1st Timothy. We started off in Chapter 1 by discovering that God is a God of Grace. He has demonstrated his grace to us by giving us his own son Jesus Christ to save us from sin. Paul recognized this and described himself as the Chief of sinners, but still a recipient of God’s grace (Chapter 1:12-17). We then focused on one aspect of truth and sound doctrine, and that is teaching about the gospel, the good news of God reaching out to us, rescuing us from our sin and clarifying the way we think and behave rather than being tied up in knots about myths, false doctrines and genealogies. We discovered how the gospel of God inspires us to faith to love and to purity of heart and mind (Chapter 1:3-11). We then were instructed in how we are to conduct ourselves in the church. Ross took us through some important pointers about prayer and worship and then last week I explained what are the qualifications and duties of elders and deacons and also some pointers about the relationships that should exist between leaders and church members.

This mornings message is from 1 Timothy chapter 4. This chapter is primarily a direct piece of advice to Timothy. In addition to this there is weaved into this chapter a couple of themes that continue to recur throughout this whole book. One theme is that of Truth or Sound Doctrine and the other theme is that of Godliness. So, lets now read this chapter together but I would like to start at 1Tim 3: 14.

14 Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that,  15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.  16 Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:

He appeared in a body,

was vindicated by the Spirit,

was seen by angels,

was preached among the nations,

was believed on in the world,

was taken up in glory.

Instructions to Timothy

Chapter 4. The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.  2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.  3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.  4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,  5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.


6 If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.  7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.  8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance  10 (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.

11 Command and teach these things.  12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.  13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.  14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.  16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Advice About Widows, Elders and Slaves

5          Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers,  2 older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.


One of the big themes that Paul is concerned about throughout the Pastoral letters (that is 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus) is the concept of truth. In Paul’s day as in ours there was all sorts of philosophies floating around. Here is a quote from John Stott in his commentary on the Pastoral epistles  in the series “the Bible Speaks Today”.

“Contemporary culture is being overtaken and submerged by the spirit of postmodernism… The postmodern mind…declares that there is no such thing as objective or universal truth; that all so-called ‘truth’ is purely subjective, being culturally conditioned; and therefore we all have our own truth, which has as much right to respect as anybody else’s. Pluralism is an offspring of postmodernism; it affirms the independent validity of every faith and ideology, and demands in shrill tones that we abandon as impossibly arrogant any attempt to convert somebody (let alone everybody) to our opinion.”

Paul is wanting to make sure that Timothy and the believers were absolutely confident in the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Chapter 1 Paul urged Timothy to stand up against those that taught false doctrines. He wanted everyone to recognize clearly the truth that was consistent with “the glorious gospel of the blessed God”. This is the gospel of the grace of God; the good news that our sin can be forgiven; the gospel brings life and love and peace, it has the potential to restore fractured relationships, to bring emotional healing and to bring hope and joy and certainty to our disordered world. The gospel has nothing in common with myths and fables. The gospel tells it like it is. God has spoken truth into our world and offers a way back to himself through Jesus his son.

Where are we to learn all of this?  Paul sees the church as the pillar and foundation of truth, the primary organization to bring this message of good news to the world. That is why there is the emphasis in chapter 3 on what elders and deacons are to be like. They are to be people who know the truth, especially the truth about the gospel. That is why Paul breaks out into a little song of praise at the end of Chapter 3. Hey, this is the mystery – the truth that is now made plain is the gospel.  It’s all about God. He has made himself known to us through Jesus Christ:

“He appeared in a body,

was vindicated by the Spirit,

was seen by angels,

was preached among the nations,

was believed on in the world,

was taken up in glory. “

I believe that we should all have a high opinion on the church of God. We need to emphasise the clear teaching of the Word of God and in particular the teaching and proclamation of the gospel of God, about Jesus coming into this world to bring us back into a right relationship with God.

Now in contrast Paul tells Timothy to watch out for false teachings. In later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Paul writes as if the later times had come and most of us would now consider the later times to equate to the entire time between Christ’s ascension to glory until he comes again. We are in the later times.  I read these words with enormous sadness because it reminds me of several of my close friends who also have abandoned the faith. What causes people to be deceived in this way?

  1. Firstly consciences are seared. Paul’s words are a warning to us that to retain our faith, to retain our knowledge of the truth of the gospel of God, we must foster a sensitive conscience to God, to his Word – The Bible and to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We ignore these stimuli in our lives at our gravest peril. Here is a challenge for you. In what areas of your life are you conscious of God speaking to you? What is your response to this prompting? And here is another question: What areas of your life do you think you need to open up to God’s prompting?
  2. Secondly, hypocrisy and lies become normal. This stage is a more active rebellion against God. Ignoring our consciences is one thing and can often be a passive almost seductive change in thinking. However we are on a very slippery slope where we become frankly hypocritical in our thoughts and actions. Life becomes lived out as a lie. It is an uncomfortable way to be. There are two options at this stage. A. We can repent and turn back to God, allow our lives to become consistent and congruent with our belief in the gospel of God – or we can continue in sin and progress to the third level of falsehood.
  3. Abandon faith and teach falsehood. Such a life comes about by a deceived logic and may also be subject to a demonic influence. I met such a person in my early years at medical school. He had given his life to the Lord as a teenager and seemed at that stage to apparently have a robust faith. However he gradually got sucked into a deceptive philosophy of his own competence and the validity of his own thinking. He abandoned the truth of the gospel. His conscience was seared and eventually he succumbed to a philosophy of life that did not match with God’s word or his revelation in Jesus Christ and eventually to a point where he abandoned the faith. He then became incredibly embittered towards the Christian faith, almost an exaggerated antagonism to Christianity and to Christians. You will no doubt come across similar people.

What were these people teaching in Paul’s day? It seems that they had all sorts of rules and regulations about marriage and eating certain types of food. I find that astonishing. People often comment that the Bible is full of do’s and don’ts. In fact the gospel brings freedom. Paul emphasizes that all of God’s creation is good. Certainly God gave us marriage and he gave us food. We can be thankful for these and other gifts from our Creator God. We are invited to be thankful. I would be suspicious of unusual proscriptions of behaviour that are not specifically identified in Scripture.

Well what is the antidote to all of this false teaching.  Quite simply – it is the truth of the gospel. Have a look at verse 9:

9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance  10 (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.

11 Command and teach these things.

Paul has turned again right to the crux of the matter. The core truth of the gospel is this, that God himself is our hope, our saviour and we must believe in Him to be saved. There is no other option, there is no other valid philosophy in life. There is no other truth without this core aspect of life. The question I have to ask is simply this: Are you following the truth? Have you put your hope in the living God?

Paul now has a specific project for Timothy. In verse 7 he says: train yourself to be godly.

How was he to do this, and can we learn from Timothy? Here are 3 pointers to training in godliness.

1. Timothy had already made a good start. For instance he had been brought up in the truths of the faith. You have to know the truth about the gospel and about the nature of God to follow after God. He had an ideal upbringing, nurtured in the faith by his mother and grandmother – godly women in their own right (2 Tim 1). The opportunity for learning was clearly taken up. As followers of Jesus Christ we too are to know the truth. We can only do this by maximizing every opportunity to extend our knowledge of God and in knowledge of the Word of God and in our faith.

2. The second thing that Timothy clearly did was follow good teaching. He put into practice what he had learned. There is no better place to put our faith to work than in the family of God.  We must learn to put into practice what we learn. Part of the process of maintaining a sensitive conscience is to constantly ask the Lord to search our lives and address the stuff there that needs work! Another way of progressing in our faith is simply to be put into the position of  doing something for God that we are unfamiliar and that needs dependence on God to learn. Well done, all you people that help out in Kzone, in Girls Rally, in Youth Group, in leading bible studies, in participating in evangelistic outreaches. This is a learning ground. God himself is your teacher. Be mindful of good teaching as you go along and try to put into practice what you have read and learned. Learning and following take humility. We all learn off each other.

3. Thirdly, teach others also. The sign of a mature believer is one who competently passes on what he has learned in his own life of faith. This is a plea to the older and more senior members of our congregation to continue to play your part in passing on your wisdom and experience in the things of God. You can do this in many ways particularly one to one with younger believers, or in small groups. But teaching is not the preserve of just the older person. Timothy was quite a young man who was given the task of guiding the Ephesian church in Paul’s absence. Younger people also have a role in teaching and indeed if we do so, bear in mind the attitude that Paul advised Timothy in Chapter 5:1-2.

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers,  2 older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.

If we teach, let us teach graciously and with humility. After all we are all learning – still. Each of us as we learn more about God will deepen our own faith and that of others by sharing what we know. In doing so we may even save lives (see 4:16!)

We must all take responsibility for the pursuit of Godliness. No-one can do this for us and Paul encouraged Timothy to pursue Godliness.

Finally Paul encouraged Timothy to be an example. He was to lead an exemplary life. He had to examine and be careful in his speech. He was to exhibit godly love. He had to have a mature faith, one that was confident in the knowledge of the gospel, living a life consistent with the teachings of the gospel and willing to share what and to do so with purity of heart and mind.

You want to be a man or woman of God? Pursue Godliness like Paul and Timothy did.

Paul wanted Timothy to devote himself to preaching and teaching. He was to encourage his own spiritual gifts. He was to be diligent in these things and to persevere. He was there for the long haul.

Are you saying SNAP to any of this? Are you willing to put yourself on the line like this to be a man or woman of God? In doing this you may save yourself and others!!

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