Andy Hynes is a PhD candidate at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Follow him @ABHYNES on Twitter.
During some of the most contentious times in SBC life, there is one plea that keeps coming to my mind: that my generation of young men in ministry would grasp and instill Paul’s encouragement from 1 Tim. 4:12 for themselves. These words are not inconsequential to older men, but challenged to younger. Nevertheless, they were written to a young man who had great potential. Paul recognized distinct virtues in Timothy. After investing in him he sent him out to Ephesus to lead.
Greg Couser wrote, “The one who is living a ‘godly’ life is living in a manner consistent with what is entailed in God’s saving acts in Christ . . . thus Paul exhorts Timothy to ‘command these truths and teach them’ (v. 11) both by proclaiming and embodying them (vv. 12-15). It is this manner of life that promotes the fullest realization of God’s saving work in Timothy’s life.” (Entrusted With the Gospel: Paul’s Theology in the Pastoral Epistles)
Timothy traveled with Paul for quite some time and was probably in his late 20’s or early 30’s. That demographic today is strongly pushing for reform within the church. There is an overwhelming desire to see the church get back to Sola Scriptura as its authority in all things. We want to see the Bible be the determining factor for all the things we do and how we do them.
When Timothy arrived in Ephesus, he would have immediately encountered teachers that might have been two to three times his age. They may have had more education and been more eloquent. They might have had more authority or influence on the community. Our generation is facing similar situations. As we graduate and are sent out to minister, we will encounter communities comparable to Ephesus. But we cannot get bogged down with these things, rather intentionally make a decision to follow the inspired and infallible words penned by Paul.
How can we do that?
True spiritual progress is more than exegetical expertise; it is marked by an accurate example. Age does not make the person exemplary. This is a fallacy in modern thought, that age equals wisdom and quality leadership. Since age is not the qualifier, Paul gives Timothy five areas in which to be an example, even in his young age.
Speech (Matthew 12:34, Eph. 4:29)
We must watch what we say. We have to guard our tongues and be sure to strain everything through the Scripture. After all James tells us the tongue is a powerful weapon.
Conduct (Phil. 1:27)
Our daily conduct needs to be worthy of the Gospel. We must remain upright and full of integrity.
- Speech and conduct are observable aspects of life.
Love (1 Cor. 14:1)
Express love toward those who love you and hate you. Love must be genuine and Christ centered.
Faith (Romans 8:28)
Trusting in the inexhaustible mercies of Christ.
- Love and faith are the essence of the Christian life.
Purity (Eph. 5:3-4)
Immorality and sexual impurity cannot be named among us. We must live above reproach.
- Purity in respect to sexual purity and integrity.
Two Pieces of Advice
Charles Erdman gives two pieces of advice concerning this passage in The Pastoral Epistles of Paul,
- He must be careful as to his life and service
- He must remember his divine commission
The Responsibility of the Privilege
We have the wonderful opportunity, and yet obligation, as young men to be an example. We can be an example to those who are out in front of us and those who are coming behind us. Our verbal and written speech is a direct indication of the intimacy of our life in Christ. Do we continue to look for theological battles and axes to grind, or to edify one another? There are men looking for the opportunity to pounce on another in a negative way. Do we live with compassion and love toward our brothers? Do we seek to be divisive or constructive in our writing? Finally young men, what in the world is going on in the sexual lives of our generation? We must take a strangle hold upon the temptations the enemy is throwing our way.
How we are viewed in the public eye and the eyes of the older generation in ministry will be a direct result of the example we live. If we want to be respected and allowed to come to the table to provide ideas and thoughts on spreading the Kingdom, then let’s be the example that Paul was urging Timothy to be!
I wonder what the results would be if we yielded to Erdman’s advice and focused more on being an example instead of arguing with those who disagree with us? I think I am quite ready to give it a shot!