Instructions to a Young Pastor

Posted: November 4, 2008 in 1 Timothy

1 Timothy 4:1-16, “Instructions to a Young Pastor”

Since the 1990’s, one of the buzzwords among those working with youth has been “mentoring.” Obviously the concept is ancient – in trades, it used to be called “apprenticeship.” It’s invaluable to form a relationship with someone who can bring you along & teach you things never found in a classroom…. The pastorate is no different – we learn not only from books, but from the examples set before us.

Timothy was blessed to have the mentor of mentors – the apostle Paul. Obviously Paul didn’t want to leave Timothy in Ephesus unequipped & unprepared, thus he’s been taking the time throughout this letter to prepare Timothy for the ministry that awaits him. He’s written about setting up leadership, the roles for men & women, the importance of prayer – and in Ch 4, he seems to come back to the subject of Ch 1, where he exhorts Timothy to teach no other doctrine than the doctrine Paul had previously taught him.

In Ch 4, he takes things a little deeper. (1) Teaches Timothy how to avoid error in his doctrine. (2) The importance of backing up true teaching with Godly living. (3) Using the teaching in the ministry.

1 Timothy 4 (NKJV)
– How to avoid error (vs 1-5)
1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,
A. Make no mistake…there WILL be a great apostasy. Many teach a ‘latter-rain revival’…the NT teaches the opposite. There definitely will be people getting saved by Jesus until the very moment He calls us home through the rapture – but by & large this time is marked by people getting their ears tickled & even denying their former faith rather than people gladly receiving the truth of the gospel.
B. This is to happen in the “latter times” – are we there now? Without a doubt, yes. The phrase doesn’t necessarily mean the same as the “last days” (specific reference to a specific timeframe) – but when looking at time from an eternal perspective, we have been in the latter times since the resurrection of Christ. More so now than at any point in history, we are in the “latter times.” We ought to expect to see people who call themselves ‘Christian’ but who do not hold to the true faith…and lo & behold, that’s exactly what we find.
__a. ‘Surely Paul’s not talking about apostasizing from Christ as a whole? Surely he’s just talking about minor points of doctrine.’ Wrong – look at the context. He just came out of this incredibly hymn & creed about Jesus (the Christological Confession) – and then immediately in the next verse writes that the Spirit expressly says that people will depart from the faith. What other faith would Paul be referring to? Whether this is played out in whole segments of ‘Christianity’ or of individuals walking away, it matters little – the apostasy has the same result.
__b. Here’s the point: when people depart from the truth about the Lord Jesus, they are beginning to deny the Lord Jesus. We learn of Him through the Scriptures (John 5:39) & by the Spirit (John 15:26) – if we ignore what the Bible says about Christ, then we’re not following the Christ of the Bible. Doctrine is important!
C. What happens when people fall away from the faith (the truth – the gospel)? They start being deceived by demons…they’re being lied to by the minions of the ‘Father of Lies’ (the Devil).
__a. Sound familiar? This is the same thing that happened to Adam & Eve! They departed from the truth of God’s Word (Gen 3:3), and listened to the lies of Satan…
__b. Make no mistake we are in a spiritual battle! Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. [] What makes us believe that the enemy wouldn’t attack us at the core of our faith? If that is shaken, everything else follows. (Again, doctrine is important!)
D. What are some of the doctrines of demons from false teachers? See vs. 2-3…
2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.
A. False doctrines are hypocritical lies – and the teachers know that they are, they just no longer care. The overall context here is one of legalism & the great thing about legalism is that it always works out for the one who’s teaching it. It’s the people that are expected to follow it that suffer… … Thus it’s hypocritical! Because they wouldn’t be able to follow the legalism that they place on other people (not unlike the Prosperity Gospel movement…)
__a. This is one of the things the Lord Jesus condemned the Pharisees for in Matt 23. They were hypocrites! They bound people up with heavy burdens, but they themselves didn’t do anything to follow the same laws (Matt 23:4).
__b. How can these false teachers put up with the hypocrisy? Because they’ve grown numb to it – their conscience has been cauterized.
B. Example #1: The Ascetics (perhaps Gnosticism) & celibacy. To these people, anything dealing with pleasure (material things) were evil & thus marriage must be bad. The problem is that God created marriage; it was His perfect will for Adam & Eve. No different in the NT – the Lord Jesus affirms marriage (Matt 19) & even when Paul is arguing against it for those who are able, he heartily recommends it for those who are not. (Better to marry than to burn with passion – 1 Cor 7:9)
C. Example #2: The Judaizers…diet. Ascetics might also pick this up as well (material pleasure from food), but this obviously has more of a Jewish ‘flavor’ to it. 🙂 Leviticus & Deuteronomy have whole chapters dedicated to diet & it would be easy for Christians to pick up on these things & apply them to the church. The issue here is three-fold.
__a. God gave many of these dietary laws as a means of protection; not legalism. Today we know how to avoid the dangers of undercooked meat & we know how to properly guard against disease – Ancient Israel didn’t have access to some of this while wandering in the wilderness.
__b. God gave many of these dietary laws as a means of sanctification. It wasn’t that there was necessarily anything wrong with some of the meat; only that God used it to set the Hebrews apart from the other nations of the earth – making them a peculiar people that the Gentiles would look to for God. (Today, we are the peculiar people set apart by the Spirit & the Word)
c. Nowhere in the early church do the apostles pick up on the idea of diet for Gentile believers. They would have had a perfect opportunity in Acts 15, but understood that putting this yoke on the Gentiles would be putting them under the yoke of the law & God has shown us His grace.
4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; 5 for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
A. It’s not what goes into our mouths that defile us; it’s what comes out of our hearts (Matt 15:11). Our cursing & lusting & sin should be far more abhorrent to us then bacon. When we ignore the former & dwell on the latter, our priorities are all messed up.
B. To take it a step further, when the food has been sanctified by God, it IS good. And that should be enough. This was the object lesson God used with Peter prior to preaching the gospel at the Roman Centurion (Cornelius’) house (Acts 10)…
C. Bottom line on diet: if you can receive it with thanksgiving in faith (Rom 14:3), then praise God. Neither feel guilty for someone else’s conviction, nor condemn them in your liberty.
__a. BTW, this is probably one of the best biblical foundations for the practice of “giving thanks” in prayer before eating. The early church probably just adapted the Hebrew custom, but many think Paul’s affirming exactly that custom here.
– How to live for God (vs 6-11)
6 If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.
A. Which things are “these things”? The previous errors Paul just detailed. Whereas we don’t want to spend all of our time looking at false teaching, we definitely need to address it as it comes up. Preaching the truth & warning believers away from error pleases God…
B. What is far more important than the nourishment of food is the nourishment we receive from God’s Word. It’s no wonder Jesus quoted Deuteronomy in His temptation – man truly does NOT live by bread alone! (Matt 4:4)
7 But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness.
A. What kind of “old wives’ fables” is Paul referring to? Some think this is another reference to the false teaching already listed; could be a related subject – warning Timothy away from what we’d call ‘urban legends’ today. With the internet, some of these myths & rumors fly around faster today than ever before. We’re to reject that stuff…it’s a distraction from being built up on the Scriptures. After all, why gossip about a brother’s co-worker’s friend who was there in Siberia when they drilled a oil well that broke through to Hell, when we *could* be talking about the gospel?
__i. We don’t need urban legends & myths to ‘prove’ our faith. The Holy Spirit does a good enough job on His own convicting people of sin, judgment & righteousness – we ought to simply bring them Jesus rather than stories.
B. Instead of fictitious and faddish legalism, we should instead seek after holiness & godliness. See vs. 8…
8 For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. 9 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance.
A. No one denies the benefit of exercise (we might debate whether or not we want to do it, but we can’t debate the value. :))…it takes discipline & dedication to condition your body to get it in shape. How much more value is our soul & service to Christ Jesus? Bodily exercise lasts for this life only; godliness is profitable in eternity.
B. It’s interesting that there are so many debates about holiness & living rightly for God; according to the NT “this is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance.” … Whereas we need to be careful not to fall into a legalistic mindset (which is a doctrine of demons – vs. 1), we also need to be careful not to be so licentious that we abuse the grace that we’ve been given…
__a. Christians should neither be legalistic, nor licentious. Instead, we should rejoice in the liberty we have in Christ to live for Him in the power of the Holy Spirit…
10 For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. 11 These things command and teach.
A. Which “end”? Godliness. Paul wasn’t exempt from holy living simply because he was an apostle. He also exercised & labored towards it.
B. Depending on your translation – Paul either “suffers reproach” or “strives” for godliness as well. Different manuscripts use a different word in Greek. “Strive” makes a lot of sense for the immediate context, but introducing the idea of “suffering reproach” is not out of place. The apostles did suffer reproach for the sake of the gospel! (People still suffer reproach…)
C. How does Paul endure the reproaches – how is he strengthened in his labor? Through trusting in the Living God & Savior of all men! Imaginary fables don’t help during times of suffering; we don’t put our lives on the line for legalism…we serve, trust, and hope in the One True God!
__a. Is Paul teaching universalism here? … No. God is our Savior & He has made provision for the salvation of every single human being on the planet. But only “those who believe” will be born again… Shorthand: Jesus’ death on the cross is sufficient for the entire world; it’s efficient for those who believe.
D. This was to be what Timothy’s teaching should be about: the gospel & right doctrine. Too many times in too many churches, pastors preach everything BUT the gospel! They talk about how to have a better life/job/kids/marriage/attitude, etc… But we don’t come together as a body of believers to make ourselves feel good; we come because the Living God has saved us! We come to worship Him – to glorify Him – to rejoice in Him – to be reminded of His grace & be built up by His word.
__a. Does that mean the Bible has nothing to say about our marriages, etc? Of course not – but it’s not the primary reason we gather together. Paul hits it on the head with this young minister, saying “There are all sorts of teachers teaching all sorts of things. Don’t get pulled down by that stuff! To be a good minister of Jesus Christ, teach the gospel & word of Jesus Christ.”
– How to serve in ministry (vs. 12-16)
12 Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
A. Sometimes we get the idea that Timothy was a teenager and newly saved. Definitely not the case. Timothy had been a faithful travel companion of Paul & had assisted him in much ministry (he was Paul’s “son in the faith”)…some scholars think he was between 35-40 at the time of this writing. Besides, if he was too immature or inexperienced, Paul would never have sent him to give guidance to the leadership in Ephesus, as he wouldn’t have even fit the basic requirements for an overseer laid out in Ch 3… In the grand scheme of things, 35 is still young – and he likely encountered some issues with elder who were more ‘elder’ than himself. [I’m gradually losing that problem. :)]
__a. It’s no secret that sometimes people major on the minors…don’t let it get in the way of what God has told you to do.
B. How was Timothy to overcome this? By being an example to the congregation in the faith. Note this includes what people could see & what people couldn’t see. They could see his conduct (whether or not it reflected the fruit of the Spirit), but they wouldn’t necessarily know his faith or his purity – but God would. This goes back to the idea of being blameless (Ch 3:2, 10). Those in leadership ought to live their lives in such a way where they are an example on Sunday morning, but also on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc…even when people can’t see them.
13 Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
A. Like Ch 3:14, Paul gives the impression he had every intention of coming to Ephesus – we just don’t know that he ever got there. But in the meantime, he laid out some very specific tasks for Timothy:
__a. Read: the Jewish Synagogues had a tradition of publicly reading the Scripture – Timothy was to carry on the same tradition in the church.
____i. Some congregations accomplish this through responsive readings – others read the text aloud… regardless HOW it’s done, it needs to BE done. Both publicly & privately. (If you’re waiting until Sunday morning to read the Bible, you’re waiting too long & starving yourself spiritually!) The word of God is living & powerful & sharper than any 2-edged sword (Heb 4:12) – and just its simple proclamation alone is powerful. It keeps us from sin (Ps 199:11) – sanctifies us (John 17:17) – equips us (2 Tim 3:17) – washes us (Eph 5:26)!
__b. Exhort: Some translations say “preaching” – either is good. The idea is that once the Word has been presented, the people need to be exhorted to put it into action…
__c. Teach doctrine: This goes hand-in-hand with exhortation. Some ministers say, “I’m a preacher; not a teacher”…if so, then they are not fulfilling the whole duty God has called them to. We need to be exhorted, true – but we also need to be taught in order that we understand the exhortation.
B. This is what he was to spend the most attention on…for good reason. This is how we’re built up in the faith! A common criticism of evangelicalism is that so much priority is put on the teaching…but that’s what the NT tells us to do! Pastors are to preach the Word (2 Tim 4:2) & what we find is that when we learn, understand, and grow in the word of God, we are changed…which is exactly what we’re told will happen. Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. []
14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership.
A. What was the gift? We don’t know…it’s mentioned again in 2 Tim 1. Whatever it was, Timothy was supposed to use it & stir it up. In Timothy’s situation, the gift was given in a worship service of sorts (like our 3rd Wed service) where the elders (presbyters) laid hands on him & prophesied over him.
__a. We may not have elders lay hands on us to receive them, but we’ve all been given gifts…(1 Cor 12:11) We’re supposed to use them according to the grace that’s been given us (Rom 12:6). Whether it’s public like prophesy or exhortation, or private like giving or service – God gave it to us for His glory & His purpose. If you’re not using it, the Body of Christ is missing out on something important.
15 Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. 16 Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
A. Two-fold exhortation somewhat saying the same thing. Meditate (ponder/think about) the doctrine & teaching Paul had passed on, so that Timothy could be the example he needed to be.
B. It’s not enough to start in the doctrine/gospel; we’ve got to continue in them. This isn’t ‘salvation by works’ – it’s definitely salvation by the grace of God (Eph 2:8-9). But there is a battle to take us away from His truth (vs 1), so BY His grace we need to continue to stay IN His grace.
__a. There are a ton of people who start, but never finish. They repeat a prayer after someone & feel pretty emotional afterwards, so they think they’re saved. 2 weeks later, they’re living like they’ve always lived & figured Christianity didn’t work for them. The Calvinist would say they were never saved; the Arminian would say they apostasized from the faith – whatever the position you take in the debate, one fact is true: the person is not saved right now. In the end, that’s the only thing that matters.
__b. It’s interesting that the Bible rarely addresses someone’s salvation from the past tense – it’s almost always where they are at that moment. Thus Paul asks a church he personally helped found to examine themselves to see if they were in the faith (2 Cor 13:5). Even Jesus said the same thing to the 12 disciples: John 15:5-6 (5) “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (6) If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. []
____i. Where do you stand right now? Are you trusting in a past ‘decision’? Or are you trusting in Christ? We must continue in the gospel, thus we must continue to abide in Christ Jesus!

Out of all the things Paul could pass on to a young pastor, what’s the one thing he hits over & over? The importance of preaching & teaching the Word of God! …

Keep in mind these are instructions not just for pastors, but for ministers () – and we’re ALL ministers in the Body. We ALL serve the Lord Jesus in some way, this these are instructions for all of us. Beware of false teaching… Pursue godliness… Stay in the Word…


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