John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

12 (1 Timothy 4:12)

Verse 12

12Let no man despise thy youth He says this, both in regard to others, and to Timothy himself. As to others, he does not wish that the age of Timothy should prevent him from obtaining that reverence which he deserves, provided that, in other respects, he conduct himself as becomes a minister of Christ. And, at the same time, he instructs Timothy to supply by gravity of demeanor what is wanting in his age. As if he had said, “Take care that, by gravity of demeanor, thou procure for thyself so great reverence, that thy youthful age, which, in other respects lays one open to contempt, may take nothing from thy authority.” Hence we learn that Timothy was still young, though he held a place of distinguished excellence among many pastors; and that it is a grievous mistake to estimate by the number of years how much is due to a person.

But be an example of the believers (78) He next informs him what are the true ornaments; not external marks, such as the crosier, the ring, the cloak, and such like trifles, or children’s rattles; but soundness of doctrine and holiness of life. When he says, by speech and conversation, the meaning is the same as if he had said, “by words and actions,” and therefore by the whole life.

Those which follow are parts of a godly conversation — charity, spirit faith, chastity. By the word spirit, I understand ardor of zeal for God, if it be not thought better to interpret it more generally, to which I have no objection. Chastity is not merely contrasted with uncleanness, but denotes purity of the whole life. Hence we learn, that they act a foolish and absurd part, who complain that no honor is paid to them, while they have nothing about them that is worthy of applause, but, on the contrary, expose themselves to contempt, both by their ignorance, and by a detestable example of life, or by levity or other abominations. The only way of procuring reverence is, by excellent virtues, to guard ourselves against contempt.

- John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible