Exercise of Gift in the House of God: 1 Timothy 4

1 Timothy 4  •  25 min. read  •  grade level: 9
(Chapter 4)
So far in this epistle, Paul has addressed the subject of proper conduct in the house of God in the sphere of priesthood and in the sphere of office. He now moves on to give some guiding principles for those who labour in a third sphere in God's house—the sphere of gift.
In speaking of exercising one's spiritual gift, we are referring particularly to the public ministry of God's Word in preaching, teaching, and exhorting. Many of the gifts that Christ has given to the members of His body are not for public ministry of the Word, so they are not in view in this chapter. Also, let us remember that ministering the truth of the Word of God is not confined to those who serve full-time in ministry, but to all who preach and teach the Word publicly.
Hence, the subject before us in this chapter is the labourer in the house of God. In keeping with the theme of the epistle, Paul sets before Timothy the right conduct and behaviour of those who would serve the Lord in this capacity.
An Understanding of the Times
Vs. 1—If the servant of the Lord is to labour effectively in His service, he first needs to have an understanding of the times. The words, "The Spirit speaks expressly..." signify the importance of this. Paul, therefore, begins with this point. We need to know where we are in the history of the Christian testimony in order to serve the Lord accordingly in our day. It should be clear to all that we are not living in apostolic times, nor are we living in days of great revival. Rather, we are at the end of the Church's history on earth—at a time when there is much departure, confusion, and indifference to the claims of Christ in Christendom. Sad to say, much of what passes as Christianity today is barely recognizable to what we read of in the Scriptures.
The Current of Apostasy
This departure from God's order in God's house is a result of apostasy. Apostasy is the formal renouncing of the cardinal truths of the faith, once held and professed. Only a merely professing Christian would "fall away" from the faith in this way (Heb. 6:66If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. (Hebrews 6:6); 2 Thess. 2:33Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; (2 Thessalonians 2:3)). Real believers, however, can be affected by the current of apostasy and give up certain Biblical principles and practices. They may backslide and "fall" from grace (Gal. 5:44Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. (Galatians 5:4)) and from their steadfastness in the Lord (2 Peter 3:1717Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. (2 Peter 3:17)), but they do not apostatize (2 Thess. 2:33Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; (2 Thessalonians 2:3)"falling away;" Heb. 6:66If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. (Hebrews 6:6)"fall away"). Hence, they may "fall," but they do not "fall away."
The apostasy in Christendom began very early in the Church's history, and it has steadily gathered momentum. It will reach its culmination after the Church is called to heaven in the revealing of the Antichrist ("the man of sin") who will lead Christendom away from Christ in a wholesale falling away (2 Thess. 2:33Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; (2 Thessalonians 2:3)). A progression in this downward trend toward the end can be traced in the epistles in the following expressions:
Seducing Spirits and Doctrines of Devils
Apostasy involves not only the giving up of the truth, but also the adopting of error. Thus, Paul goes on to say: "Giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils [demons]." This shows that there is no such thing as a vacuum in the things of God; if the truth does not fill our hearts, other things will take up that void. In this case, it is the doctrines of demons. Note how it starts: first, there is "giving their mind" to these errors (vs. 1), and then it comes out of their mouths by "speaking lies in hypocrisy" (vs. 2). This shows that evil doctrines held in the mind will eventually become evil doctrines propounded. It is the difference between spiritual leprosy in "the head" and spiritual leprosy in "the beard." It is significant that it is mentioned as being in the head first, and then in the beard (Lev. 13:2929If a man or woman have a plague upon the head or the beard; (Leviticus 13:29)).
These doctrines, taught by demons, are voiced through human agents. "Seducing spirits" influence men's minds and they entertain corrupt and divergent ideas. These men then formulate them into a system of teaching and present them to their unwary audiences who swallow them. Thus, apostasy is working its way through Christendom until the whole will be leavened with error (Matt. 13:3333Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. (Matthew 13:33)). That demons would be found in the house of God and influencing the minds of men is quite alarming, but such a thing testifies to the greatness of the ruin.
It is significant that, in Scripture, when erroneous teaching is mentioned, it is usually in the plural ("doctrines"). And conversely, when the truth is mentioned, it is in the singular ("doctrine" chap. 4:6, 13, 16; 5:17; 6:3, etc.). This shows that bad doctrines rarely travel alone; they have bedfellows. One bad doctrine will breed another until it becomes an elaborate system of error. This means that if we get some aspect of the truth wrong, it will affect some other part of our understanding, and the error will compound. The truth, on the other hand, is mentioned in the singular because it is to be taken as one harmonious whole that flows together. Hence, we are to interpret each particular passage of Scripture in the light of all other passages of Scripture.
Vs. 2—Paul speaks of these erroneous teachings as "lies in hypocrisy." This shows us that those who promote a system of error usually don't practise what they teach. He adds, "Having their conscience seared with a hot iron." This means that they have not gone to this end without warning. The Spirit of God will always raise up a voice against the tide of evil teaching as it comes in, and some of God's people will speak out against it. But when such remonstrances are rejected, the conscience becomes hardened ("seared").
Vss. 3-5—Paul does not elaborate on the doctrinal errors but points to their effect of leading people to deny the claims of the Saviour-God and the Creator-God. He didn't want Timothy wasting his time trying to figure out the details of those doctrinal errors, but to counteract those false things by teaching the truth (vs. 6). This is instructive for us, because some think that it is necessary to delve into the various errors in Christendom in order to be able to refute them. But this is not wise. There is a danger of getting ensnared in those errors (Deut. 12:29-3229When the Lord thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land; 30Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. 31Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God: for every abomination to the Lord, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. 32What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it. (Deuteronomy 12:29‑32)). Being occupied with error can lead a person into error.
The Semblance of Super-Godliness
There is one feature that is often linked with these false systems of teaching—they attach ascetic principles to them to give the system a semblance of super-godliness. Asceticism is the denying of certain natural things that God has given to man as a mercy in an effort to reach some imagined higher holiness. It is an attempt to restrain the flesh through fighting the flesh, but it never delivers what it promises. It often results in an outbreak of the flesh in a way that is worse than ever; it is not God's way of holiness. "Simple [unsuspecting]" individuals, with little understanding in divine things, are often impressed by the appearance of super-holiness and take up with these evil doctrines and practices, thinking that they will reach some higher experience with God (Rom. 16:1818For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. (Romans 16:18)).
As Paul notes, these restraints are usually in the realm of marriage and food, which "God hath created to be received with thanksgiving." The Roman Catholic system, for example, has denied its followers both of these things, by imposing an abstinence of meat on Fridays and celibacy on its clergy and their nuns. However, to forbid these God-given things is to deny the Creator-God His rights to dispense these mercies to His creatures.
While false godliness denies people natural things, true godliness avails itself of the mercies that God has provided in the path of faith, knowing that such things are "sanctified by the Word of God and prayer [freely addressing Him]." This does not mean that our prayers before meals mystically "bless" the food we are about to eat, but that these creature mercies are set apart (the meaning of sanctification) by God in His "Word" for us to enjoy. The Word of God sanctifies them for our use (Gen. 9:33Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. (Genesis 9:3); 1 Cor. 7:2-42Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. 3Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. 4The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. (1 Corinthians 7:2‑4); Heb. 13:44Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. (Hebrews 13:4)). That "prayer" is also mentioned, shows that we are to partake of those natural things in the spirit of dependence. The Word of God regulates the use of these natural things, as to where, when, and how. Partaking of these mercies outside of the parameters of Scripture and dependence upon God can lead to sin. Hence, "the Word of God and prayer" are a guard against extremes to which some Christians have gone in their liberty with these natural things.
Sound in Doctrine
Vs. 6—Timothy was to inform the brethren of the great impending apostasy by "laying these things" before them. He was to make them aware of it, but not to occupy them with it. His work was to present the truth, not the error, to his brethren; the truth is the only thing that could strengthen them against the tide of incoming evil. In doing this, Timothy would be "a good minister of Christ Jesus." Again, ministry is the discharge of one's service for the Lord; it may not be public preaching and teaching, for such is only one part of service for the Lord. Knowing the truth and holding it in communion are the greatest defenses that we can have against the evil doctrines that are rising in the Christian profession. Having an understanding and appreciation of the truth helps us to identify the error; if someone puts forth something that doesn't coincide with the truth, we will immediately know that it is false and refuse it.
Timothy, therefore, was to point the saints to Christ and to the truth that he had received from Paul. It was to be "nourished with the words of the faith and of good teaching [doctrine]." "Nourished," implies that the soul has been spiritually fed by the truth. This shows that communicating the truth to the brethren is not to be a mere intellectual exercise; it should be the dispensing of things that we have taken in and have enjoyed in our own souls. Note: Paul does not say, "Nourished up in the words of the Old Testament Scriptures," because the present dispensation of Christian truth is not found in the Old Testament Scriptures. Christian truth is a special revelation that was "hid in God" and not revealed until redemption had been accomplished and the Spirit of God was given. It was first revealed to "the holy apostles and prophets" of the Lord Jesus Christ "by the Spirit" (Eph. 3:5, 95Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; (Ephesians 3:5)
9And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: (Ephesians 3:9)
; Col. 1:25-2625Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; 26Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: (Colossians 1:25‑26)).
Paul adds, "Which thou hast fully followed up [being thoroughly acquainted with]" (J. N. Darby Translation footnote). Paul wanted Timothy to be well versed in his presentation of the truth. This would require fully following up on his subjects with diligent study. Timothy could easily embarrass himself by misstating some point of the truth through ignorance, and thus, bring a mark against the Christian testimony. Therefore, it was important that he knew his subjects well. In Paul's second epistle to Timothy, he commends him for having done this; Timothy had become "thoroughly acquainted with" his doctrine (2 Tim. 3:1010But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, (2 Timothy 3:10)).
Fully following up on divine subjects takes time and energy; we don't learn the truth overnight. Paul's doctrine has been given to us in our Bibles, and we can readily refer to it in the epistles that he has written. This is a benefit the early Church did not have—until, at least, they were written. However, even with this great advantage, learning the truth of Paul's doctrine still requires diligent Bible study. The Christian who neglects the study of his Bible—especially Paul's epistles—is not likely to become grounded in the doctrines of the Christian faith.
Vs. 7a—Note: Paul didn't tell Timothy to fully follow up on the evil doctrines that were coming in, but on the truth. He was not to combat the "doctrines of demons" by delving into them, nor was he to give his time to exposing the "profane and old wives fables" that were coming in. These heathen superstitions and customs were being carried into Christianity by Gentile converts, but they were worthless nonsense. "Profane," means something that is secular, rather than what is sacred. Such things, apparently, had their origin in human emotion and imagination, of which women are often characterized. Hence, he calls them, "Old wives fables." Here again we have another testimony to the fact that the teaching of women (directly or indirectly) should not be found in the house of God. Timothy was to use his energy to set forth the truth as he had received it from Paul.
Thus, in these first two points of chapter 4, Paul teaches us that to be useful to the Master in His service, the labourer must not only know the times in which he lives (vs. 1), but he must also know the truth in its special application to those times (vs. 6).
Godly in Walk
Vss. 7b-8—Further, Paul tells Timothy that the labourer also needs to know how to walk as a servant of the Lord. Paul, therefore, follows up his remarks to Timothy concerning teaching by saying, "Exercise thyself rather unto godliness." If the servant does not take care to be personally godly, he will have no real communion with God, and his ministry will lack the Spirit's power as a result.
Godly Christian living is of great importance for all believers, but it is especially so with those who labour in God's house. In the presence of apostasy, it is certainly no time to be careless in our personal lives. By saying: "Exercise thyself...," Paul shows that godliness comes through exercise of soul. There is no such thing as drifting into godliness; a person doesn't stumble onto it by accident. We can drift backward in our souls through the influence of apostasy (though not being apostates ourselves) and be led to give up certain doctrines and practices, but we don’t drift into godliness; it comes through exercise of soul. If a person is truly godly, it has been the result of serious exercise in regard to his or her walk and ways. Such individuals have passed through some real convictions about aligning their life with the holiness of God.
To illustrate this principle, Paul draws a comparison for Timothy between what is physical and what is spiritual: As physical exercise promotes the health and vigour of the body, so spiritual exercise is necessary for the spiritual health of the soul. His point is that the benefits of spiritual exercise far outweigh the benefits of physical exercise. Physical exercise "profiteth little [for a little]"—that is, it profits for the little time that we are here on earth. But spiritual exercise has a "promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." It profits the believer now in this world in the present enjoyment of eternal life with the Father and the Son (John 17:33And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3); 1 Tim. 6:1919Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (1 Timothy 6:19)), and it has a positive gain for our life to come in the next world, because what we gain now in fellowship with the Lord will not be taken away from us (Luke 10:4242But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:42)).
Paul is not decrying physical exercise. He is not saying that when a person is spiritually minded and godly in walk, he no longer goes in for natural things and physical exercise. Nor is he suggesting the disregard of our personal health and physical well-being; he is showing the relative little profit there is in physical exercise in comparison to spiritual exercise. The logical conclusion is that we should put our energies into spiritual exercise, which profits the most, but not to neglect the physical.
Hence, Paul has touched on a third thing that the labourer needs to be concerned about—the need for godliness. He must not only know the times, and know the truth, but he also needs to know how to walk in the day in which he is called to serve.
Prepared to Suffer Reproach for the Truth
Vss. 10-11—Living a godly life in this world will bring persecution (2 Tim. 3:1212Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12)); this is doubly so for those who serve the Lord in the ministry of His Word. Hence, Paul passes on to speak of God's providential care. This is another thing that the labourer needs to know and rely upon—the preserving care of the Saviour-God. It will enable him to go forth in service with courage and confidence in the Lord in the face of the dangers of persecution. He says, "Therefore, we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust [hope] in the living God who is the Saviour [Preserver] of all men, especially of those that believe." This remark had a special application to Timothy. He was naturally timid (1 Cor. 16:10-1110Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do. 11Let no man therefore despise him: but conduct him forth in peace, that he may come unto me: for I look for him with the brethren. (1 Corinthians 16:10‑11)) and needed to be reminded that God would preserve him in the face of opposition in his service for the Lord.
The aspect of salvation that Paul refers to here is that of practical deliverance from persecution in the path of faith. He assures Timothy that the Saviour-God, who works behind the scenes, is providentially preserving all His children in the various situations of life (Heb. 1:1414Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? (Hebrews 1:14)), and would preserve him. He is also preserving the lives of "all men" because He is the controller of everything in the creation (Dan. 5:2323But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified: (Daniel 5:23)). Since this is so, we might wonder why many of the Lord's people have had serious accidents or have been persecuted unto death. A closer look at this verse reveals that it is not a promise that God will preserve all men in every circumstance. It simply mentions that when men are preserved, it is due to Him who is the "Preserver" of all flesh. Under normal circumstances, He is carrying out this providential care for all of His creatures. However, on occasion, it may be that His perfect wisdom will allow some of His own to have a calamity befall them, or that they may die under persecution. If that is the case, we know that He has provided something better for them (Heb. 11:33Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. (Hebrews 11:3)5b-40).
Learning to "trust" the Saviour-God in these kinds of adverse situations only comes from experience—from being in circumstances where dangers and possible harm abound. Experiencing the providential care of God strengthens one's faith. Paul mentions this encouraging provision for the labourer in contrast to the "old wives fables," which were things that the heathen superstitiously trusted to protect them. Paul shows that those who labour for the Lord in His service have something far better and real to trust in than those false things—we have "the living God" as our great Protector.
Personal Character & Testimony
Vs. 12—Paul goes on to speak about the labourer's character—his outer life before men. If Timothy was to lead the saints in a line of conduct befitting the house of God, his life needed to be consistent with his ministry. Paul said, "Let no man despise thy youth." Timothy was responsible not to allow anyone to legitimately reject his ministry on account of him being characterized by the folly that usually marks youth. He was to behave wisely on all fronts. J. N. Darby said, "He was to gain by his conduct the weight that his years did not give him."
Timothy's life was to be "a model of the believers." If he was to teach the truth, he must also live the truth he taught. If the servant does not walk rightly, people will see him as a hypocrite and will not receive his ministry—especially if he is young. Hence, Timothy's life was to be a living demonstration of what he taught. Every questionable thing that would give someone a convenient opportunity to disregard his ministry was to be removed from his life. Paul touches on five areas where Timothy was to be careful.
In "word"—his speech.
In "conduct"—his behaviour.
In "love"—his affection for others.
In "faith"—his confidence in the Lord.
In "purity"—his personal life.
The result of being consistent in all of these areas of his life would give moral weight to Timothy's ministry. Similarly, if the truths we teach do not affect our own lives, we cannot expect our teaching to affect the lives of others.
The Use of Our Gift
Vss. 13-15—Paul goes on to encourage Timothy to use his gift in ministering the Word. If Timothy had spent time learning the truth by fully following up on the subjects of doctrine with diligent study (vs. 6), it was now time for him to help others in their understanding of those things. Hence, Paul says, "Till I come, give attendance to reading [out to others], to exhortation, to doctrine." The “reading” that Paul speaks of here is not personal and private reading of Scriptures (or written ministry), but the public reading of the Scriptures when the saints are gathered together (see J. N. Darby Translation footnote). It was the custom of the early Church to come together to hear the Scriptures read (Col. 4:1616And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. (Colossians 4:16); 1 Thess. 5:2727I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren. (1 Thessalonians 5:27)). The fact that Paul included “exhortation” and “teaching” indicates that after the Scriptures were read aloud, there was opportunity in those meetings for any who had a gift to exhort or expound the truth, to make comments on the passage that was read for the spiritual help and understanding of the saints. This kind of a meeting is something that Christian assemblies should have regularly. It was an excellent opportunity for Timothy to use his gift in teaching and exhortation.
Reading meetings
Reading meetings were needed in those early days because most people did not have a copy of the Scriptures. It was a way for all to hear the Word of God and to get some helpful ministry. Also, many were illiterate in those days, and could not read even if they had a copy of the Scriptures. The Bible reading meeting is still a wonderful means of learning the truth and it should be included in the schedule of meetings in every local assembly today. Those who are able to expound the Scriptures have the opportunity to instruct others in the truth at this kind of meeting.
Paul reminded Timothy that he definitely had a "gift" for this work, and that he was not to "neglect" the use of it. Timothy may have been hesitant because he was a young man (vs. 12), but Paul's encouragement to him shows that age should not preclude a person from using his gift and being a help in the meetings. There is also a tendency for a person not to use his gift in the face of opposition, but Paul had already encouraged Timothy in this regard, by reminding him that he could trust in the living God who is the Preserver of all who step forward in this ministry.
It is entirely possible for a person to have a gift but not to make use of it because of negligence and a lack of devotion (Col. 4:1717And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it. (Colossians 4:17); Prov. 11:25-2625The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself. 26He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it. (Proverbs 11:25‑26)). However, there is no place for laziness and inactivity in the service of the Lord. The prophet Jeremiah warned, "Cursed be he that doeth the work of Jehovah negligently" (Jer. 48:1010Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood. (Jeremiah 48:10)). It is unlikely that this was Timothy's reason for his hesitance; he was a devoted man of God (Phil. 2:19-2119But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. 20For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. 21For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's. (Philippians 2:19‑21)). His problem was that he was timid (1 Cor. 16:10; 210Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do. (1 Corinthians 16:10)
10But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:10)
Tim. 1:7). Regarding devotion and gift, J. N. Darby said, "If there was more devotion among us there would be more gift among us." He didn't mean that spiritual gifts come as a result of a person being devoted to the Lord, but that if we devoted ourselves more thoroughly, the gift latent in us would become more evident.
To further encourage Timothy, Paul reminded him that he had the support of his older brethren—“the elderhood [presbytery”]. They recognized that he had a gift and had laid their "hands" on him in recognition of that fact. This does not mean that they literally laid their hands on him in some ordination process, as some have imagined. Rather, it is a symbolic action of giving their support and encouragement to him. This is in keeping with the way hands are often used in the epistles—i.e. "the right hands of fellowship" (Gal. 2:99And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. (Galatians 2:9)). This kind of support is important; the labourer needs the fellowship of his brethren—especially the elders in the assembly. It could even have included helping him financially. Of course, discernment is needed in doing this. We shouldn't encourage a brother in this way if it is evident that he doesn't have a gift for ministering the Word. There would be little spiritual profit for the saints, and he could embarrass himself.
The reading meeting should be used primarily for teaching and for exhortation. If there are none present with a distinctive gift for teaching, the saints can still be fed by various brothers in a gathering expressing what they know in connection with the passage, though it may be limited. If they do this in dependence upon the Lord, God will give the saints something, because He always blesses the reading of His Word (Rev. 1:33Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. (Revelation 1:3)).
Four Things Necessary for Effective Ministry of the Word
There are perhaps four things necessary for a person to be effective in the ministry of the Word:
Vs. 15—"Occupy thyself with these things; be wholly in them." The KJV renders this, "Meditate on these things...." but this misses the point in the verse entirely and makes it seem to be an exhortation to spend time meditating in quietness on the Word. However, it is not an exhortation to private devotion—needful as that is—but an exhortation to teach the truth that he had taken in. Paul is speaking about output here, not intake. He wanted Timothy to give himself "wholly" to exercising his gift in ministry, and the Bible reading meetings that he refers to in verse 13 were an excellent opportunity to do so. Elsewhere, he says, "[Let us occupy ourselves] in service" (Rom. 12:77Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; (Romans 12:7) — J. N. Darby Trans.). If Timothy exercised his gift in this way, the "profiting" that he had gained through private study would "appear to all," and many would be helped. Therefore, Paul encouraged him in this good work.
The Need for Self-judgment
Vs. 16—Paul ends his comments in connection with the labourer in the house of God with a cautionary remark. He says, "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine." Timothy, exemplifying the ideal labourer, was not only to prepare his message so that there would be food for the flock, but he was also to prepare himself. He was to make "straight paths" for his own feet (Heb. 12:1313And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. (Hebrews 12:13)). If he allowed himself to become careless in his life in any little way, it could stumble someone and defeat the purpose of his call to this work. He was to be watchful over his own state of soul, and be quick to judge himself if and when he made any kind of a mistake.
By making sure that his practical life was in line with the truth that he taught, Timothy would "save" himself and those who heard and gave heed to his ministry. This would be a practical salvation from the doctrinal errors and spiritual corruptions that were coming into the Christian profession, as mentioned in verse 1.