If you put these things before the brothers, 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. (1 Timothy 4:6 ESV)
So what's the purpose of Paul's letter to Timothy? It is a letter encouraging Timothy (a young elder of the church in Ephesus) to teach sound doctrine, and to guard the flock from false teachers who would want to distort the Gospel of grace to a works-righteousness religion. So, after having denounced the teachings that were going around the early church (that weren't sound), as demonic; (1 Timothy 4:1-5) Paul goes on to further breakdown the importance of the Gospel, and the keeping of proper doctrine.
"If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus"
The "these things" that Paul is pointing to are the proper teachings about our faith in Christ. You see him, and other New Testament authors, speaking about these topics all throughout the New Testament:
Teachings about God and His nature (Ephesians 1:3-4, 1 Peter 1:3-5, Romans 1:18-20, Romans 2:1-6), our fallen nature as men (Romans 3: 9-20, Ephesians 2:1-3), the deity of Christ (Colossians 1:15-17, Hebrews 1, 1 John 1:1-4), the necessity of his dying and resurrecting (Romans 5:6-11, Romans 3:24-26), our being saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:4-10, Romans 5:1-11), Our freedom in Christ (Galatians 5:1-15, Colossians 2:16-23)
Presenting these things to our brothers, to the saints, makes us faithful servants of Christ Jesus. We should take heed of this point; Being faithful to the teachings of scripture, to the truth of God's word, is of vital importance as servants of the most high God. If teaching these things makes you a good servant, not teaching these things, or rather, teaching anything different, makes you an unfaithful servant (Galatians 1:6-10).
Now, why does teaching sound doctrine make you a faithful servant of Jesus? There is always a tendency to believe that faithful service to Christ only comes in the form of acts of kindness and charity, dedication to the mission field, helping the poor and broken of the world, or evangelizing and bringing people to faith. To say that, teaching and preaching proper doctrine to the flock is part of being a good servant, can be taken too lightly. When people hear the word "doctrine", they think of divisive teachings that only cause arguments and create snobby and puffed up Christians. But in reality, we all believe certain doctrines. It is the job of the elders of the church to ensure that the flock is being fed proper food. Food that can help them in their walk with Christ, and enable them to withstand the attacks of the devil, of the world, and of the flesh. By not teaching proper doctrine, or guiding the flock properly, elders and pastors are doing a disservice to the flock; allowing false teachers and wolves to enter in and lure believers into deceitful paths that lead to death.
"...being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed..."
Being TRAINED in the words of the faith and good doctrine. The Word of God trains us. Biblical teachings and sound doctrine trains us. So, not only do we indulge in these things as a way of being well prepared to defend the faith and hope we hold on to- but the teachings themselves train us to live Godly lives in accordance to the will of our Father. Holding fast to sound teaching does not mean memorizing the Westminster confession, or knowing a systematic theology textbook by heart. It means that, when we are hit with the crashing waves of false teachings, doubt, sin, and tragedy- we stand firm because our house is built on the Rock of our salvation (Christ), and His words keep us grounded.
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; (1 Timothy 4:7 ESV)
In the previous verses, Paul speaks against false teachings that promoted the abstinence of marriage and of certain foods. These are the silly myths being referred to here. He tells Timothy to have NOTHING to do with these things. What does that mean?
It means stay away from legalistic, self-righteous teachings. Don't apply them to your life, don't try to find some "good" in them. Don't try and justify them. They are foolish and not true- Don't waste time on these things.
But rather... Train yourself in godliness. What is godliness?
When you look at your life, and the people in it, who are people you consider to be a godly? If you look at their lives, you will soon realize that the main characteristic, the greatest common factor, is complete and utter devotion to The Lord. Godliness can be best described as "devotion in action". An understanding that, we are completely and utterly dependent on God for all of our needs. That our salvation was given to us by grace through faith alone, it was not merited by our works. That because of the grandeur of the Gospel, of what Jesus Christ did on the cross, we now belong to The Lord, and every single fiber of our being should reflect our eternal gratitude and praise toward Him whom had mercy on us. These people wake up early in the morning to pray, read scripture fervently, love on you in ways that you've never felt love before, and endure and suffer for the sake of the gospel – all because they are devoted to Christ their Savior.
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. (1 Timothy 4:8 ESV)
Here Paul equates godliness to bodily training. This gives us a good picture as to what exactly godliness is. Godliness is something that, like bodily training, develops over time and takes years to see maturity and growth. And, just like bodily training or physical exercise, godliness is something that we must discipline ourselves to strive for. See how it says that godliness holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come? This means that striving for godliness isn't something that is only attainable after we've died and been glorified with Christ, but rather, it is something we can see today. It is also of more value than bodily training. Paul says this because in the culture they were dealing with, the human body was adored and physical strength was something that people idolized. We can parallel this to the gym culture of today. We need to understand that our bodies will grow old, decay, wrinkle up, and we won't be as strong 30 to 40 years from now. But, the value of us growing in the love that we have for Christ, and devoting ourselves to the gospel, is infinite and eternal.
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. (1 Timothy 4:9 ESV)
Here Paul is telling Timothy that everything that he has said so far should be accepted by him. That he should apply this to his life, and to expound this and teach this to his congregation.
For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:10 ESV)
"For to this end we toil and strive"
Those who believe that the Christian walk is easy are in for a rude, rude awakening. Godliness is something that we toil and strive towards. It is not easy. It takes sacrifice, patience, endurance, and long-suffering. But we do not endure with no purpose...
"because we have our hope set on the living God"
Because we have our hope on the living God. Because we have our hope in the God who took on flesh, lived the life we couldn't live, died the death we should have died but couldn't, and rose from the grave because death could not hold him down. Since we have our hope in the God who could relate to us, to our suffering, and had victory over sin and death – we can suffer well because we know that he is faithful and all of his promises will be kept.
"who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe"
Jesus Christ was sent to be the Savior of mankind. He is the only way to God, He is salvation. God calls all men to repent and believe, but not all men listen. The reason there is an "especially" in this sentence, directed towards believers, is because believers get saved. By God's infinite mercy and grace, some people are born again- their hearts are changed from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. Their eyes are opened, and they are able to look at God, to look at Jesus Christ and believe in him. Now, there can definitely be some pushback to this. How can Jesus be the savior of all mankind and only save those who believe in him? The real question is, why does God save anyone? If it is true that no one is good (Roman 3:9-20), and God is holy (Isaiah 6:3), then no one deserves- salvation, including believers. Again, it is by grace that anyone is saved. God sent Christ to save those who believe in him, but also as a way of showing how much those who don't believe, love the darkness they are in (John 3:18-21).
Command and teach these things. (1 Timothy 4:11 ESV)
Paul tells Timothy to command and to teach these things. Let us be reminded that this is Paul speaking to an elder, a pastor of the church in Ephesus. Paul emphasizes that these are the teachings to be taught in the church.
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12 ESV)
"Let no one despise you for your youth"
Being young is a hindrance. In that day, and also ours, youth is equal to inexperience or foolishness. So when an older person sees a younger person leading, there is bound to be some mixed feelings. Paul here is encouraging Timothy to not let anyone look down on him, or make him feel inadequate due to his young age.
"but set the believers an example"
How do you gain the confidence of people who are older than you? You set an example. It does not say convince them with your superior intellect, manipulate them, or shy away into a corner. Show them what you got, or rather, WHOM you got.
Being an example in the way you talk, the way you express yourself – is a perfect way of defending your calling as a leader in a church. Things like crude joking, immature talk, rude sarcasm, and gossip- should be replaced with gracious speaking,encouraging words, stern but necessary rebukes, and constant praises to God. (Ephesians 5:4)
Our witness as Christians, and especially as elders or leaders in a church, is of vital importance to the church; the way you behave speaks louder than the words you say. How we conduct ourselves in public, how we conduct ourselves in private, how we conduct ourselves with our families, with our friends, with strangers and nonbelievers, and with the church family – all lead up to our perception by those around us (1 Peter 2:12). We must strive to live righteous and blameless lives, in light of what Christ did for us, so that his people can look to us as we look to Christ.
Being an example of what love looks like is probably one of the most necessary things a church needs to see. To be blunt, if you are not loving or demonstrating love – you should not even be in leadership. To be an example of love means to show the flock how to properly serve others, how to count others as more than yourself, to sacrifice, to make the concerns of the church of more value than your own desires. To show the love that you have for God, by loving others.(John 13:35)
To be an example of faith is to trust God more than anything and anyone else in your life. To be an example of faith is to believe and trust in the word of God, in His gospel, in Jesus Christ and his redeeming work on the cross – more then your circumstances, the power of sin, the trials of life, or the fear of death. Your faith in Christ will kindle and ignite the faith of others.
Being above reproach. Purity, is one of the most necessary and lacking of characteristics in Christianity today. To be pure in mind, and pure in actions. In a society, a culture, where we are flooded with impure Images and thoughts- purity can seem almost impossible. But, God has given us the victory through Christ, to be able to withstand the attacks of the flesh and the temptations of the enemy – through the help of the Holy Spirit who comforts us and enables us to be able to fight sin. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7)
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. (1 Timothy 4:13 ESV)
Paul tells Timothy to devote himself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and to teaching. Now, why does he do this? Why do elders and pastors need to devote themselves to the preaching of God's word? It is because this is what they are called to do. An Elder, is called to teach and preach God's word to his flock. God has given us pastors so that we can constantly hear his word being expounded, reminding us of the faith and hope we have in Christ. God puts in place someone who can help guide us to Christ both in word and in example. This is why it is important for our leaders to study scripture. To drown in God's word. We also should be as devoted to reading scripture for ourselves, so that we may be able to better witness to those outside of the faith, and defend the hope we believe in (1 Peter 3:15-16).
Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. (1 Timothy 4:14 ESV)
Here Paul speaks directly to an event in Timothy's pastoral ministry. The council of elders had laid their hands on him, and prophesied this gift of teaching and preaching onto him. He tells Timothy not to neglect this gift, which comes from God, that was given to Him for the purpose of glorifying God and pointing His people to Him.
Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. (1 Timothy 4:15 ESV)
Devote yourself to these things. That's the main message Paul wants Timothy to understand. He wants to encourage this young pastor to be dedicated to his calling, so that all those in his congregation- those who support him, and those who doubt his calling- may see his growth and maturity in the faith.
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. (1 Timothy 4:16 ESV)
"Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching,"
Paul concludes this message by warning Timothy to keep a close watch on himself, his walk, and his doctrine. To constantly be mindful of the things he preaches and his conduct. We are all human and prone to fall, that does not exclude our leaders. Just like every other believer, Elders and church leaders must constantly check themselves and be ready to receive rebuke, correction, or even step down if they are not being faithful to their calling, and more importantly- to Christ.
"Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers"
Now, here is what Paul is not saying. Paul isn't saying that Timothy is the source of ultimate salvation. He is not Jesus, he is not God. What he is saying, however, is that by devoting himself to the truth of God's word- to sound doctrine, and sound practice- he will save himself and his hearers from the deceptions of false teachers and the allure of the world. This can be concluded in light of his overall message to Timothy in this chapter. He says that by persisting in seeking to make the Gospel known to the Church at Ephesus and to himself, he will be better equipped to distinguish the truth from falsehood- and so will his congregation. In the same way, we as believers can save ourselves from falling into the snare of false teachings and ideologies, by building consistency in our study of God's word and in devoting our time to submerging ourselves in the riches of His gospel.