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1 Timothy 4:1-15

Author: Dr. George M. Flattery

1 Timothy 4:1-15

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More Thoughts about 1 Timothy: 4:1-5

As Paul writes to Timothy, he declares: “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (verse 1). Here, Paul tells us what will happen in “later times.” There were false teachings even in Paul’s time, but in later times, the problem will intensify (verse 1).

Paul tells Timothy that there will be people who will “fall away from the faith.” They will pay attention to “deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” Writing to the Ephesians, Paul said: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

The forces of evil used evil men to proclaim their messages. Concerning these evil men, Paul says “by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron” (verse 2). These men taught an ascetic approach to life. They were men who “forbid marriage and advocated abstaining from foods” (verse 3). Paul does not say here just what foods he had in mind. Very likely, he had in mind some of the Jewish food regulations.

Concerning the food, Paul says it was food “3 which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; 5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (verses 3-4).

At the heart of the false teaching was the idea that the material things that God created were evil. Material things, including human flesh, can be put to evil purposes, but when used properly, it is not evil. Obeying certain ascetic rules about marriage and food will not save us. Our salvation comes through Christ and the grace of God.

More Thoughts about 1 Timothy 4:6-10

In this passage, Paul writes: “6 In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. 7 But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; 8 for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. 10 For it is for this we labor and strive because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers (verses 6-10).

William Barclay has an excellent analysis of these verses. He states, “This passage is close-packed with practical advice, not only for Timothy but for any servant of the Church who is charged with the duty of work and leadership.” Following is a paraphrased summary of what he says.

(1) It tells us how to instruct others. We should advise and suggest, but not make bullying instructions. (2) It tells us how to face the task of teaching. Timothy should feed his life on the words of faith. (3) It tells us what to avoid. Timothy should avoid profitless tales like those those old women tell children. A teacher should nourish his faith in the great central truths.

(4) It tells us what to seek. As an athlete trains his body, the Christian must train his soul. Physical training is good, even essential. However, its use is limited. Training in godliness develops the whole person. (5) It shows us the basis of the whole matter. The life of the believer is lived in the presence of God and ends in his being still nearer to God.

The role of the teacher in the kingdom of God is essential. Our task is to win people to God and to help them become strong disciples. Doing this is an educational task. We thank God for all who have the gift of teaching.

More Thoughts about 1 Timothy 4:11-15

Paul tells Timothy to “prescribe and teach these things.” These things refer to all that Paul has mentioned in his letter to Timothy. Apparently, Paul anticipated that teaching these things might result in some opposition and that opponents might raise the issue of Timothy’s age. Many scholars estimate that Timothy might have been in his thirties when Paul wrote.

Given the opposition, Paul wrote: “12 Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. 13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress may be evident to all” (verses 12-13).

Next, Paul reminds Timothy about the spiritual gift that was his and encourages him to use it. Paul says: “Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed upon you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery” (verse 14).

Paul makes similar comments in two other verses: In 1 Timothy 1:18 he writes 18This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight.” Then, in 2 Timothy 1:6-7, Paul states: “6For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7For God has not given us a spirit of timidity but of power and love and discipline.

The gift that Timothy received, the way he received it, and Paul’s urging that he use it to make an interesting case study. In my next posts, over several days, I will comment on the case of Timothy and his gift. His case is instructive for us.

More Thoughts about 1 Timothy 4:11-15

For several days, my posts will be about Timothy and his spiritual gift. This will be a short case study of a spiritually gifted servant of God. Our study will focus on five major points.

First, it was at Lystra that Timothy was selected by Paul to travel with him (Acts 16:1–3). No doubt, Paul based his decision in part on the fact that Timothy “was well spoken of by the brethren” (v. 2). Later, at Ephesus (2 Timothy 1:3), Paul left Timothy in charge of the extensive Asian field (Lenski 1946c, 645). The question arises as to when Timothy was set apart for service. According to Robertson, “There is no way to tell when and where it was done, whether at Lystra when Timothy joined Paul’s party or at Ephesus just before Paul left Timothy there” (1930, 581–582). However, it seems likely that Timothy was appointed at Lystra, at the beginning of his travels with Paul. The fact that Timothy “was well spoken of by the brethren” at Lystra fits with the prophetic words spoken and the laying on of hands.

Second, by “spiritual gift” (1 Timothy 4:14), was Paul referring to office or function? In my view, Paul’s primary emphasis is on function rather than an office. Although Paul uses the singular “gift,” we are not obliged to think only in terms of office. We should follow Paul in stressing function. If gifted men are elected or appointed, there need be no tension between office and ministry. The problem arises when men are selected who have no gift for the office.

Nevertheless, the view that an “office” is a gift cannot be ruled out either here or in Paul’s earlier epistles. According to Palma, “Paul stresses function rather than an office, even though the latter concept is not entirely absent in his major epistles. Spirit and office are not necessarily antithetical either in Paul or in the rest of the New Testament” (1974, 46).

In my post tomorrow, I will continue this discussion. Regarding how Timothy received his gift, we will discuss the role of prophecy and the laying on of hands. Also, we will consider how this applies to us today.

More Thoughts about 1 Timothy 4:11-15

In my posts about the case of Timothy and his gift, we have noted, first, that Timothy was likely chosen for his ministry at Lystra and that, second, his gift had more to do with function than with an office. Today, we will consider our third point.

Third, given the emphasis on function, what was Timothy’s gift? On this point, Rea writes: “We are not told what Timothy’s charismatic gift was . . . Here the charisma was probably a spiritual endowment to enable him to perform his special work as an evangelist (II Tim. 4:5) and oversee the churches. It has also been suggested that it was a gift of teaching (I Cor. 12:28; Rom. 12:7), or of “government” or administration (I Cor. 12:28; Rom. 12:8; I Tim. 5:17) to guide the churches in Asia, or a special ability to discern the spirits of error that were motivating the false teachers (I Tim. 4:1–3; I Cor. 12:10; I John 4:1–6)” (1972, 91).

Although Paul probably had a specific gift in mind, he did not limit Timothy to one gift. Given the context of Paul’s remarks (1 Timothy 1:19–20; 4:13; 2 Timothy 1:7), it appears that teaching was Timothy’s primary gift. The Spirit enabled him to teach and distinguish the truth from false ideas. Other gifts, such as administration, harmonized with his teaching gift and helped him be effective as a teacher and leader.

It is important that Paul recognized Timothy’s gift and, therefore, chose him to be the lead pastor in Ephesus. Very often it takes some time and experience for young leaders to really know what their gifts are. However, God in His time and way makes us effective. The Holy Spirit is the one who distributes the gifts.

More Thoughts about 1 Timothy 4:11-15

Today, we will take up a discussion on the fourth issue concerning Timothy and his gift. This issue has to do with how he received his gift. We will consider these questions. Did Timothy receive his gift by means of prophecy? Was it by the laying on of hands? Was the gift given by the Spirit?

There are three passages in Paul’s letters to Timothy that bear on these questions. One, in 1 Timothy 1:18 he writes 18This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight.” Nothing is said in this verse about a gift being imparted to Timothy by means of prophecy. However, the verse does refer to prophecies about him and his ministry. That Timothy’s ministry would be effective is implied.

Two, in 1 Timothy 4:14, Paul says: “Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed upon you through (dia) prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery” (1 Timothy 4:14 NAS). According to Robertson, the dia phrase means, “Accompanied by prophecy (1:18), not bestowed by prophecy” (1930, 581).

In Pauline’s thinking, God (Romans 12:3), Christ (Ephesians 4:7, 11), and the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:11) are the direct bestowers of gifts. In 2 Timothy 1:6, Timothy’s gift is specifically called the “gift of God.” Thus, it is not probable that Paul meant to say that prophecy bestowed the gift.

The evidence does not support the conclusion that Timothy’s gift was directly bestowed by prophecy. Rather, the gift was divinely bestowed. However, God may certainly use means, such as prophecy, to predict the bestowal of a gift, to inspire faith, to encourage reception, and endorse the recipient’s ministry. Thus, in an indirect way, one can say that the bestowal of the gift came as a result of the prophecy. In the case of Timothy, it appears that God used prophecy in this way.

In my next post, we will consider whether laying on of hands had anything to do with the bestowal of Timothy’s gift. Most of us have attended many services when ministers were ordained for the ministry. The laying on of hands at the conclusion of the message is common practice. Sometimes prophetic words are uttered as well.

More Thoughts about 1 Timothy 4:11-15

For several days we have been studying the case of Timothy and his gift. We have studied the role of prophecy in Timothy’s case. This case study gives an interesting example of how a servant of God could bless the body of Christ through a ministry gift. Today, we will focus on laying on of hands.

In 1 Timothy 4:14, Paul says that the gift to Timothy was bestowed “with (meta) the laying on of hands by the presbytery.” According to Robertson, meta (“with”) “does not express instrument or means, but merely accompaniment” (1930, 581). Here, Paul clearly and unambiguously indicates that the bestowal of Timothy’s gift was accompanied by the laying on of hands.

Then, in 2 Timothy 1:6-7. Here Paul states: “6For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through (dia) the laying on of my hands. 7For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” The dia (through) phrase may mean “accompanied by.”

Using this interpretation, the laying on of hands was accompanied by the bestowal of the gift. Timothy’s gift was not directly bestowed by the laying on of hands. We may not conclude that Timothy’s gift was directly bestowed by the laying on of hands. However, as with prophecy, we may say that God used the laying on of hands to inspire faith, encourage reception, and endorse Timothy’s ministry.

Paul l urges Timothy to kindle afresh the gift of God which was in him through the laying on of hands. He wanted Timothy to fan into flame the gifts that God had given to him. As we discussed earlier, it is likely that one of his gifts was teaching. Timothy can rekindle his gift because of the Spirit that God has given to him.

The word spirit can refer to the Spirit of God, to Timothy’s spirit, or to Timothy’s spirit inspired by the Holy Spirit. In 2 Timothy 1:7 (NAS) Paul says, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity but of power and love and discipline.” Or, as the KJV says,

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

More Thoughts From 1 Timothy 4:11-15

Today, we will consider the fifth point in our case study of Timothy and his gift. In 1 Timothy 4:14, Paul admonished Timothy, “Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you.” Then in 2 Timothy 1:5–6, he said, “5 For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. 6 And for this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”
With regard to verse 6, Gealy writes:

While the Greek verb may mean rekindle or “relight,” it also may mean “agitate,” stir up (KJV) or “fan into flame,” and should be so understood here. It is not a question of relighting a dead fire; it is a matter of agitating a slow flame to white and living heat. God’s gift at ordination is neither static nor automatic. It is a fire that may be allowed to burn low or die out, or which may be kept as a living flame (1955, 463–464).

As in most spiritual matters, God and man are involved in the operation of the gifts. We are exhorted to “desire” spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:31); the gifts are divinely bestowed, and we must be diligent to exercise them.

Today, perhaps, each of us could focus on the gift or gifts that God has given to us. The gifts that we have may be different at different life stages. Our prayer is that the Lord will help us, in our current life stage, use our gifts for the benefit of the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit will empower us to exercise the gifts.

More Thoughts about 1 Timothy Conclusion

Today, I will post a summary of the five points in our discussion of Timothy and his gift. First, we noted that Timothy was likely chosen for his ministry at Lystra. Second, his gift had more to do with function than with an office. Third, Timothy, no doubt had many gifts. Among his gifts, the gift of teaching seems to stand out. Timothy’s gift was divinely bestowed. In his case, the giving of the gift was accompanied by the laying on of hands of the presbytery. Fifth, Paul urged Timothy not to neglect his gift but to fan it into flames.

One other point that Paul mentions is sort of a tribute to Timothy’s grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. In 2 Timothy 1:5–6, he said, “5 For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. 6 And for this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. All grandmothers and mothers who have a strong faith and pray for their grandchildren and children should be encouraged by this.

As with all other aspects of the life of the church, the Holy Spirit is crucial to the ministry. The ministry, in Paul’s mind, is the ministry of the Spirit. The new covenant relates to the Spirit who applies all of God’s grace to the believers and to the church.

Given the importance of the Spirit, it is to be expected that God’s ministers will minister through spiritual gifts. These gifts are bestowed by God’s grace, by the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Holy Spirit. Servants of God are enabled to powerfully minister through these gifts.

Spiritual gifts are for all who believe. The apostle exhorts us to “desire” spiritual gifts and to use them. He exhorted Timothy to stir up the gift that was in him. We are not to let our gifts go unused, but we are to keep them actively functioning to bless the body of Christ.

George M. Flattery, Ph.D., is the founder of Global University and Network211.

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