4:11-16 Make it your business to hand on and to teach these commandments. Do not give anyone a chance to despise you because you are young; but in your words and in your conduct, in love, in loyalty and in purity, show yourself an example of what believing people should be. Until I come, devote your attention to the public reading of the scriptures, to exhortation and to teaching. Do not neglect the special gift which was given to you, when the voices of the prophets picked you out for the charge which has been given to you, when the body of the elders laid their hands upon you. Think about these things; find your whole life in them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; stick to them; for if you do, you will save yourself and those who hear you.
One of the difficulties Timothy had to overcome was that he was young. We are not to think of him as a mere stripling. After all, it was fifteen years since he had first become Paul's helper. The word used for youth (neotes, Greek #3503 ) can in Greek describe anyone of military age, that is up to the age of forty. But the Church has generally liked its office-bearers to be men of maturity. The Apostolic Canons laid it down that a man was not to become a bishop until he was over fifty, for by then "he will be past youthful disorders." Timothy was young in comparison with Paul, and there would be many who would watch him with a critical eye. When the elder William Pitt was making a speech in the House of Commons at the age of thirty-three, he said: "The atrocious crime of being a young man...I will neither attempt to palliate or deny." The Church has always regarded youth with a certain suspicion, and under that suspicion Timothy inevitably fell.
The advice given to Timothy is the hardest of all to follow, and yet it was the only possible advice. It was that he must silence criticism by conduct. Plato was once falsely accused of dishonourable conduct. "Well," he said, "we must live in such a way that all men will see that the charge is false." Verbal defences may not silence criticism; conduct will. What then were to be the marks of Timothy's conduct?
(i) First, there was to be love. Agape ( Greek #26 ), the Greek word for the greatest of the Christian virtues, is largely untranslatable. Its real meaning is unconquerable benevolence. If a man has agape ( Greek #26 ), no matter what other people do to him or say of him, he will seek nothing but their good. He will never be bitter, never resentful, never vengeful; he will never allow himself to hate; he will never refuse to forgive. Clearly this is the kind of love which takes the whole of a man's personality to achieve. Ordinarily love is something which we cannot help. Love of our nearest and dearest is an instinctive thing. The love of a man for a maid is an experience unsought. Ordinarily love is a thing of the heart; but clearly this Christian love is a thing of the will. It is that conquest of self whereby we develop an unconquerable caring for other people. So then the first authenticating mark of the Christian leader is that he cares for others, no matter what they do to him. That is something of which any Christian leader quick to take offence and prone to bear grudges should constantly think.
(ii) Second, there was to be loyalty. Loyalty is an unconquerable fidelity to Christ, no matter what it may cost. It is not difficult to be a good soldier when things are going well. But the really valuable soldier is he who can fight well when his body is weary and his stomach empty, when the situation seems hopeless and he is in the midst of a campaign the movements of which he cannot understand. The second authenticating mark of the Christian leader is a loyalty to Christ which defies circumstances.
(iii) Third, there was to be purity. Purity is unconquerable allegiance to the standards of Christ. When Pliny was reporting back to Trajan about the Christians in Bithynia, where he was governor, he wrote: "They are accustomed to bind themselves by an oath to commit neither theft, nor robbery, nor adultery; never to break their word; never to deny a pledge that has been made when summoned to answer for it." The Christian pledge is to a life of purity. The Christian ought to have a standard of honour and honesty, of self-control and chastity, of discipline and consideration, far above the standards of the world. The simple fact is that the world will never have any use for Christianity, unless it can prove that it produces the best men and women. The third authenticating mark of the Christian leader is a life lived on the standards of Jesus Christ.
Certain duties are laid upon Timothy, the young leader designate of the Church. He is to devote himself to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation and to teaching. Here we have the pattern of the Christian Church service.
The very first description of a church service which we possess is in the works of Justin Martyr. About the year A.D. 170 he wrote a defence of Christianity to the Roman government, and in it (Justin Martyr: First Apology, 1: 67) he says: "On the day called the day of the Sun a gathering takes place of all who live in the towns or in the country in one place. The Memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time permits. Then the reader stops, and the leader by word of mouth impresses and urges to the imitation of these good things. Then we all stand together and send forth prayers." So then in the pattern of any Christian service there should be four things.
(i) There should be the reading and exposition of scripture. Men ultimately do not gather together to hear the opinions of a preacher; they gather together to hear the word of God. The Christian service is Bible-centred.
(ii) There should be teaching. The Bible is a difficult book, and therefore it has to be explained. Christian doctrine is not easy to understand, but a man must be able to give a reason for the hope that is in him. There is little use in exhorting a man to be a Christian, if he does not know what being a Christian is. The Christian preacher has given many years of his life to gain the necessary equipment to explain the faith to others. He has been set free from the ordinary duties of life in order to think, to study and to pray that he may better expound the word of God. There can be no lasting Christian faith in any Church without a teaching ministry.
(iii) There should be exhortation. The Christian message must always end in Christian action. Someone has said that every sermon should end with the challenge: "What about it, chum?" It is not enough to present the Christian message as something to be studied and understood; it has to be presented as something to be done. Christianity is truth, but it is truth in action.
(iv) There should be prayer. The gathering meets in the presence of God; it thinks in the Spirit of God; it goes out in the strength of God. Neither the preaching nor the listening during the service, nor the consequent action in the world, is possible without the help of the Spirit of God.
It would do us no harm sometimes to test our modern services against the pattern of the first services of the Christian Church.
Here in this passage is set out in the most vivid way the personal duty of the Christian leader.
(i) He must remember that he is a man set apart for a special task by the Church. The Christian leader does not make sense apart from the Church. His commission came from it; his work is within its fellowship; his duty is to build others into it. That is why the really important work of the Christian Church is never done by any itinerant evangelist but always by its settled ministry.
(ii) He must remember the duty to think about these things. His great danger is intellectual sloth and the shut mind, neglecting, to study and allowing his thoughts to continue in well-worn grooves. The danger is that new truths, new methods and the attempt to restate the faith in contemporary terms may merely annoy him. The Christian leader must be a Christian thinker or he fails in his task; and to be a Christian thinker is to be an adventurous thinker so long as life lasts.
(iii) He must remember the duty of concentration. The danger is that he may dissipate his energies on many things which are not central to the Christian faith. He is presented with the invitation to many duties and confronted with the claims of many spheres of service. There was a prophet who confronted Ahab with a kind of parable. He said that in a battle a man brought him a prisoner to guard, telling him that if the prisoner escaped his own life would be forfeit; but he allowed his attention to wander, and "as your servant was busy here and there he was gone" ( 1 Kings 20:35-43 ). It is easy for the Christian leader to be busy here and there, and to let the central things go. Concentration is a prime duty of the Christian leader.
(iv) He must remember the duty of progress. His progress must be evident to all men. It is all too true of most of us that the same things conquer us year in and year out; that as year succeeds year, we are no further on. The Christian leader pleads with others to become more like Christ. How can he do so with honesty unless he himself from day to day becomes more like the Master whose he is and whom he seeks to serve? When Kagawa decided to become a Christian, his first prayer was: "God, make me like Christ." The Christian leader's prayer must first be that he may grow more like Christ, for only thus will he be able to lead others to him.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)