Series on I Timothy, IV Witness B Apostasy Addressed, Text: 4:6-16, Title: Striving for Excellence


Paul's instructions to Timothy in Chapter 4 began with a warning of false teaching and doctrines of demons now and in the future. How shall Timothy address this problem? What is he to do in the face of this threat? The rest of the chapter is concerned with the answers to that question in verses 6-16. This is advice to a pastor-teacher, but we each have a part in this ministry. What Paul tells Timothy is in many respects applicable to each one of us. We could sum up the advice in this way. Pursue godliness, pursue it with all your heart, pursue it through the means God has given you and pursue it to the end. That sounds to me like good advice for all. Timothy is to oppose the myths and falsehoods, the vain and foolish speculations, with the gospel backed up by a good example. There are four things mentioned by the apostle Paul here which are fundamental: training, toiling, teaching and tenacity.

I Training

The contrast here in verses 6-8 is between idle useless speculation and training which promotes godliness, 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. Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 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. We study theology, we study about God so that we can be like Him. Do you remember the film “Chariots of Fire?” It was the story of Eric Liddell, the flying Scotsman who won the hundred meter dash at the Olympics. He was a Christian who refused to run on the sabbath. He epitomizes verse 8 because he trained to be godly as he trained to run. He wrote a book on discipline in the Christian life because he understood it. He died a martyr serving the Lord in China. We need to train for godliness. If we do not, we cannot combat falsehood. My own library and the libraries of our theological seminaries like Biblical and Westminster contain many good books that promote godliness. In Dallas i was given a book by two Westminster professors (Sinclair Ferguson and Scott Oliphant) that answers many Biblical and theological questions but it is extremely practical. Yet in many libraries there are collections of books, which if they had never been written, the world would be exactly the same, because they are idle speculation. We need to train by learning for godliness.

II Toiling

in verses 9 and 10 we have one of Paul's five trustworthy sayings, This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (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. These verses are a problem for some people because of the statement that God is the Savior of all men. Is Paul teaching that everyone will be saved? Is he contradicting himself right here in this verse because he adds, especially of those that believe? It is important to understand this passage correctly because it is vital to Paul's point here. This verse provides the motivation, the power the punch to all that Paul is saying here. i won't waste our time with a long list of different explanations, because the right one is too important. When Paul says that God is the savior of all men he is saying that for all men there is only one savior. This is why Timothy's work is so important and our work too. This is why we must toil and labor for the gospel because it contains the only hope of mankind. This is a theme Paul touches on again and again in the pastoral letters. Remember he said in chapter one that God wanted all men to be saved, that is, the gospel is for all humanity. And he says in that same place there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. This is why Paul solemnly charges Timothy often in these letters. Jesus is the only name given under heaven whereby we must be saved. Therefore God is the savior of all men because he is the only savior, but he is the personal savior and actually saves only those who believe. Let us then labor and strive because there is only one hope and we have it in the gospel.

III Teaching

Timothy is to teach the truth the gospel verses 11-14, Command and teach these things. 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. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Timothy is to back up the teaching with his life which is being trained in godliness. The sins which are common to youth must not be seen in Timothy. The folly of youth is to be abandoned in favor of serious speech, a prudent life, consideration for others, trustworthiness and mastery over the youthful passions. He must grow up quickly. and he must recognize according to verse 13 that teaching is the divinely appointed way to combat error. Furthermore, he has been given this gift by God so that he can use it. Falsehood is so prevalent we must all be diligent in teaching our children and families, and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Those that have the gift must not neglect it. Too much is at stake. There is here a formal recognition of the teaching office in the church. The presbytery has laid their hands on Timothy, and he is ordained to this purpose. Even today when the presbytery lays hands on a man it is a divine confirmation of the gifts which he has received through the Holy Spirit. This is true of our elders and deacons in their capacities as well. In a less formal way it is true of our Sunday school teachers and of each one of us who is a member. We need to think not only of the possibility of neglecting our own gifts by not teaching, but also  of the possibility of neglecting the gifts of others by not listening and hearing the Word of God. So we have seen the importance of training for godliness, of toiling for the gospel, of teaching and being taught, but Paul has one last piece of advice. Keep on doing it.

IV Tenacity

This is where we often fail and we need to heed Paul's words to Timothy in verses 15 and 16, Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. He reminds us again of the theme that lingers throughout this passage , doctrine and life go together. Watch them both. You need correct teaching to produce holy living. You will only be successful if you persevere. Many have begun well only to falter and fail. Renew your covenant obligations with God now! Paul says be diligent and give yourself wholly to this task. A.W.Tozer said "Personally i am of the opinion that we who call ourselves apostolic Christians do not have the privilege of ignoring apostolic injunctions. Holiness is not an option. Granted that pastor teachers can give themselves wholly to the work of the Lord in a unique way, this does not mean that the rest of us can give ourselves partially. There is an outward difference in the amount of time we can devote to the work of the Lord. There ought not to be any inward difference in the heart. the heart should be wholly given to this great task of promoting the truth. We are not forced to obey in the Christian life but we are forced to make a choice at many points in our spiritual maturity. Sinners are careless, disorganized and indifferent, but here Paul calls us to training in god-likeness through the teaching of the truth and he reminds us that we must strive for this because Jesus is the only hope.”