Be an Example to Believers

Intro: As most of you know, we have been studying through the Epistles Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus (1 & 2 Timothy & Titus) under the general heading of godliness. The apostle’s purpose in these letters focuses on the responsibilities and godly character of the evangelist, or preacher.

Timothy – Timothy was one of the best known of Paul’s companions and fellow-laborers. He was evidently one of Paul’s own converts, as the apostle describes him as my own son in the faith 1 Tim. 1:2.

  • He was a resident of either of Lystra or Derbe, and evangelized by Paul on his 1st missionary journey (Acts 14:6).
  • Timothy was taught the scriptures by his Jewish mother and grandmother, but father was a Greek. (2 Tim. 1:5) He was well spoken of by the brethren at Lystra and Iconium. Paul chose Timothy to be his missionary companion and he was circumcised to accommodate Jews they would seek to evangelize (Acts 16:3). He is named in the introduction of several epistles written by Paul (2 Corinthians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1). From such letters we learn that Timothy had been with Paul during his confinement at Rome. He was faithful to the task Paul and the Lord placed upon him.
  • As his protégé, so to speak, Paul wanted Timothy to know how to do the work of an evangelist and fulfill his ministry (2 Tim. 4:5). Paul told Timothy in the first letter that he was writing him so he would know “how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God” (1 Tim. 3:15). We have already noticed his admonitions concerning men’s posture in prayer, women’s adornment, and the character of the elders and deacons in their positions of leadership.
  • Even in view of this specific context, it would be amiss for us to assume that the admonitions of these letters are not applicable to those who are not preachers or church leaders. That is certainly the case in our study this morning. Read with me Paul’s words to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

I. “Let no one despise your youth…” How old was Timothy when he received this letter from Paul? Probably not a teenager. The Greek word for youth or youthfulness (neotes) was also used by the rich young ruler who claimed to have kept all of the commandments “from my youth up” (Mark 10:20). According to the Jewish culture, a man was considered a youth until the age of forty. Most estimate that Timothy was 35-40 years old. Could Timothy’s age get in the way of his work as an evangelist?

A. Despise – Paul told Timothy to not allow anyone to despise him because of his age. The original word for despise is kataphroneo. It is a combination of down (kata) and mind (phroneo) and means to look down on someone or something. It is translated “think lightly” in Romans 2:4: “or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” Paul also warned the Corinthians to not allow anyone to despise (look down) on Timothy in his work as a preacher of the truth (1 Cor. 16:10-11).

1. Gray hair has its perks. People tend to take you more seriously if you are older. This is especially true in regard to leadership or instruction. A younger person may be viewed as inexperienced, and many times those who are older are unwilling to be instructed or corrected by a younger person. (ex. Older umpires and young instructors) Timothy was tasked with an enormously important job. He was commanded to teach others on some very personal subjects (money, submission, discipline); he was to be involved in the appointment of elders and deacons, and give instructions concerning the role of men and women in the church.

a. There is a point to be made about God’s willingness to use a young person to fill a significant role in spiritual work. Joseph, as a teenager, is presented as a powerful example of faith and loyalty. When David met Goliath, the giant disdained him because he was but a youth”1 Sam. 17:42); Daniel, and his three friends, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, made difficult decisions of faith and were true beacons of godliness in the dark pagan world around them. God can and does use young people for His work. We need to make sure we are not despising what God can use.

2. Was Paul concerned about what other Christians would think of Timothy? Was Timothy to be concerned about what others thought or said about him? Did it matter? Consider this from both sides:

a. Paul was concerned enough about how Timothy would be received among the Jews that he was willing to circumcise Timothy to offset the stigma of his father being a Greek. Since circumcision had nothing to do with his salvation, Paul was displaying some pragmatism in regard to Timothy’s evangelistic efforts. No compromise of the truth. Here Paul is concerned that Timothy’s age might present an obstacle that needed to be addressed.

b. And yet Paul tells Timothy to not allow the opinions or assessments of others to get in the way of preaching the truth. Paul instructs him later to reproverebuke… preach the word …in season, out of season – when they want to hear it and when they don’t. (2 Tim 4:2) So there is a sense in which Paul is telling Timothy, don’t be concerned about what others think of you – preach the word.

3. So how could Timothy obey Paul’s command here? His age was something that he could not control or change. And the solution was not for Timothy to acquiesce to the detractors or to accommodate the message so as avoid being despised.

II. But be an example to the believers… Paul’s solution for Timothy focused on something he could control. He could live as a mature person and exemplify the character of God’s words. He could be an example to other believers. Paul’s answer for Timothy was rooted in his relationship to Jesus. It was not about Timothy or Paul (“You should listen to me, I am Paul’s right hand man”) Paul was saying to Timothy, “Here is how you get the respect you need – live before other Christians like Christ lived.”

A. The Greek word tupos (example) means a die cast, stamp or a model after which something is to be patterned. Timothy was to become a pattern for others to follow. Do you strive to be an example to others?The Puritan Thomas Brooks said, “Example is the most powerful rhetoric”.The practical element of personal obedience makes or breaks the work of preaching. If the example is not there, the words lose their force. If it is there, the words carry the weight of authenticity and convey a powerful message – even from a too young, wet-behind-the- ears preacher!

1. The New Testament speaks often about the imperative role of an example.

a. To the Corinthians Paul wrote, “I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me” (1 Cor 4:16)

b. In Phil 3:17 he said, “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us,” while Phil 4:9 says, “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.”

c. The writer of Hebrews exhorted his readers to “remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith” (Heb 13:7).

d. All Christians are to follow the pattern set by the life of Jesus, who left “an example” that we might “follow in His steps” (1 Pet. 2:21). We are called to follow a pattern and be a pattern for others.

2. Timothy’s life was to be a pattern for all believers. There are two lines of thinking here. Some translations say “TO the believer,” others say “OF the believer.” Both thoughts may be included. Timothy was to exemplify the life of a believers to all other believers. Preach it and practice it. What was he to show others?

B. An example in his speech. A preacher needs to know how to say the right words, right? But I am convinced that Paul is referring to the words of Timothy’s private conversations. Nothing reveals us quicker or more decisively as our speech. Why would people open their ears to our preaching and teaching if the words we speak at other times is ungodly?

1. Eph 4:28 –Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. Through carefully chosen words, the young preacher would appear even more mature. Jesus teaches that the mouth reveals the contents of the heart. What proceeds from the lips is a direct result of what has been planted in the mind.

C. An example in his conduct. Conduct (anastrophe – an-as-trof-ay’) means behavior or manner of life. Timothy needed to exhibit his faith in every area of his life.

1. James 3:13 – Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom”

2. Peter often spoke of the place of personal conduct in evangelism – 1 Peter 2:12“Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation 1 Peter 3:16 – “Keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame”

3. Phil. 1:27 – “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ”.What if others never heard your words, but simply did what you did? Where would it lead them? Would that be enough to show them Christ? Our conduct is not just a reflection on us, or the church, but on Christ whose name we wear.

D. An example in his love. Paul told Timothy earlier that “the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5). The message was to be motivated by a genuine love for others and a concern for their spiritual welfare. That love needed to be integrated into Timothy’s words so that others could see it. Others can tell when we are approaching them out of love or from some ulterior motive. Others can see if we are teaching and preaching because we love God, or the praise of men. Jesus didn’t seek to impress people with his knowledge or berate them with the truth. “He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). No one can preach like the good shepherd if they don’t love his sheep.

1. Paul told the Thessalonians that there was an affection in his preaching, and that they could see it. 1 Thess 2:4- – But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. 5 For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness — God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. 8 So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.

E. An example in his spirit. (some newer translations omit the word spirit from this verse) .Some see this as a reference to a person’s passions or emotions. A preacher or teacher must always have his emotions under control. But the word spirit often refers to the inner disposition of a person. One writer describes it use here as the disposition of heart that causes the servant to want to serve. This again seems to point to motivation. Timothy was to be an example of a proper motivation for serving God. An example of a spirit that does not give up in adversity; a spirit that perseveres to the end.

F. An example in his faith. The faith here is not simple belief, but faithfulness or trust in God. There were troublesome times ahead for the early church and Timothy was to lead the way through by being an example of unswerving commitment. Unlike Hymenaeus and Alexander who “suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith” (1 Tim. 1:19), Timothy was to continue fighting the good fight, thus encouraging his troops to fall in line and follow.

G. An example in his purity. This Greek word for purity (hagneia) means moral cleanness or moral virtue. Paul later uses this word to describe Timothy’s relationship with the women of the congregation.

1. “Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Tim. 5:1-2). This can be challenging for young preachers and teachers in today’s world of easily accessible sexual images and encounters. Purity begins in the heart, one that seeks to prevent evil from even finding an opportunity.

The value of a godly life must not be underestimated. A preacher’s worth ought to be considered not only in the light of what he says and how he says it, but how he lives it.

Conclusion: In the words that follow Paul provides more counsel for Timothy towards his goal – to teach others the gospel successfully. (give attention to reading, meditation, exhortation, doctrine, use what God has given you, And commit yourself wholly to it. Simple. There are no bold campaigns or market strategies here. Preach and live it. That is how Jesus fulfilled His ministry. He preached meekness, love, obedience, sacrifice, and then he lived it right before our eyes. Satan has no answer for that. Are you a living example of Christ before other Christians?

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