A Godly Example
Updated: Oct 13
12 Let no one look down on [you because of] your youth, but be an example and set a pattern for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in [moral] purity.
I Timothy 4:12 AMP
As a young child growing up, you've probably heard your parents or guardians tell you to follow the example of a particular individual. Ideally, when someone instructs you to follow the example of another individual, there are certain character traits, behaviors, and or patterns this particular individual exhibits that are worth being imitated. In the same breath, when someone instructs you not to follow the example of another individual, the latter evidently exhibits certain traits, behaviors and or patterns that should be avoided rather than imitated. One of the keys to being a "good" example, or at least being considered a good example, is consistency! If someone consistently demonstrates kindness to various people, that individual would be easily considered a good example of being kind to others. If someone consistently donates their time, money, and or other resources to other people, that individual would be easily considered a good example of being generous to others!
The book of I Timothy is the first letter of two that the apostle Paul wrote to his young protege and spiritual son in the Lord named Timothy (cf. I Timothy 1:2). In Acts 16, Paul meets Timothy in his hometown called Lystra while evangelizing during his second missionary journey. Having heard that the citizens of Lystra and Iconium all spoke very highly of Timothy, the apostle Paul engrafted Timothy into the missionary work alongside himself, Silas, and Luke (cf. I Timothy 1:2-3). Paul's love and deep appreciation for Timothy is evident across his other epistles: "But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare" (cf. Philippians 2:19-20); "But you know of his [Timothy's] proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father" (cf. Philippians 2:22); "...and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith" (cf. I Thessalonians 3:2).
Here in I Timothy, the apostle Paul is encouraging and affirming his young son in the Lord as he instructs him to remain in Ephesus and oversee the church that resides there in order to address the false teaching that was running rampantly throughout (cf. I Timothy 1:3-5). Although Timothy's exact age around the time of this letter is uncertain, scholars estimate that he was probably between his late 20's to mid-30's. In comparison to the elders that Timothy would be overseeing, he was certainly younger than most, which led the apostle Paul to charge Timothy with this command: "Let no one look down on [you because of] your youth, but be an example and set a pattern for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in [moral] purity." The saints in Ephesus would not only be looking to Timothy for sound teaching, but also to see whether he exemplified that teaching!
Speech. In Ephesians 4:29, the apostle Paul instructs the saints at Ephesus directly saying, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." We must be incredibly watchful and discerning as it pertains to the words that we release from our mouths! The word "unwholesome" in the Greek means "rotten, i.e. worthless". When speaking with others, we must be intent on speaking in such a way that edifies, or builds up other individuals in their mind, spirit, and most holy faith! Most importantly, we must be in tune with the Holy Spirit so that the words we release are according to the "need of the moment" to ultimately bless the hearers, not discourage them.
Conduct. The word "conduct" in the Greek means "behavior". While living a life of perfection is not the goal, living a life of holiness and righteousness is! The only way we can live a life of holiness is through the power of the Holy Spirit! In Galatians 5:16-17, the apostle Paul instructs the churches of Galatia saying, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things you please." Our flesh, as marred and wicked as it is, seeks to dominate and usurp control from the Holy Spirit so that we yield to ungodly behavior, such as sexual immorality, impurity, idolatry, envying, drunkenness, and many other forms (cf. Galatians 5:19-21). In order to be holy as the Lord is holy, we must yield to the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to walk in holiness in every aspect of our lives.
Love. The term "love" has so many different meanings in the Greek language. Here in verse 12, Paul instructs Timothy to be an example and to set a pattern for the believers in agape, the unselfish love that seeks the best for others and that is centered on doing things for the welfare of others before yourself. According to the apostle Paul, the entire Old Testament Law can be summed up in one command: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (cf. Galatians 5:14). Exemplifying this type of love requires endless self-sacrifice, patience, endurance, and perseverance. The focus cannot remain on self because if it does, self will soon enough grow weary and will no longer want to sacrifice, be patient, endure, or persevere. The key to exemplifying this type of love is constantly keeping in mind the other individual, or in Timothy's particular case, the individuals he was charged to oversee and lead back into the truth of the Word of God.
Faith. The beauty of Timothy's faith was that it was evident and highly esteemed among the brethren; it did not remain dormant! In faith, he submitted to the instruction of his grandmother Lois and mother Eunice as they taught him the Scriptures (cf. II Timothy 1:5). In faith, he joined the apostle Paul on his second missionary journey and preached the gospel of Jesus Christ in various regions. In faith, he visited many of the regions where the apostle Paul planted churches to encourage and minister to the inhabiting saints during severe times of persecution and poverty. James, the brother of Jesus, reminds us that our faith apart from any evidence of the saving, transformative work that is taking place on the inside us through good works, is ineffective (cf. James 2:14-17).
Purity. In I Thessalonians 4:3-4, the apostle Paul admonishes the church of the Thessalonians saying, "For this is the will of God, that you be sanctified [separated and set apart from sin]: that you abstain and back away from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor [being available for God's purpose and separated from things profane]." Surely, purity is an all-encompassing virtue, meaning that impurity is not only carried out through the body, but can also inhabit the mind and spirit. In light of this, we must remember that our individual bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit! If we remember He who permanently resides and dwells within us, we will think twice before we engage in acts that would defile His temple! In fact, self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:22-23). If we are walking by the Spirit, we will exercise control over our bodies, minds, and spirits, as well as feed our Spirit-man with that which nourishes the Spirit, primarily the Word of God, prayer, and Christ-exalting music!
Be the example and set the pattern for Godly living among your friends, family, and community, no matter what age you are! The goal is not perfection; the goal is consistency!