It is these things you should command and teach. Don't allow those who think lightly of you because of your youth get to you but become an example to be followed for believers in your speech, your conduct, in love, faith and purity. Until I come give attention to exposition, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, given to you with the prophetic laying on of the hands of [your] elders. Give earnest consideration to these things. Give yourself fully to them, that all may see your advance. Examine yourself and the teaching; continue to do so, for in the process of so doing you will be saving yourself and the ones attending to what you have to say. - I Timothy 4: 11-16/transliteration by Bruce C Wearne.

Young man

Timothy's relative youth may led some elders to dismiss him but despite this, Paul encourages him to "set an example" for all. PICTURE: Greyson Joralemon/Unsplash.

 

"Despite the fact that the elders with whom he has been working can attest to the value of his contribution, there are others who ignore this affirmation and resist his youthful and energetic ministry. Paul, on the other hand, commends Timothy for his example and encourages him to stick with it."

Paul has discussed aspects of the “pastoral” teaching Timothy is to deliver in the face of disruptive teaching that has the potential to promote significant departures from the faith. He encourages Timothy to affirm the goodness of God's creation that has been completely confirmed by the work of Jesus Christ. And so direct encouragement is given to his youthful co-worker. Paul knows there will be those who dismiss Timothy's contribution, or belittle it, because of his youth.

Despite the fact that the elders with whom he has been working can attest to the value of his contribution, there are others who ignore this affirmation and resist his youthful and energetic ministry. Paul, on the other hand, commends Timothy for his example and encourages him to stick with it. We are left to wonder whether those who dismiss Timothy because of his age have got themselves stuck in “tales of old wives”, blind to the gifts God bestows, and of the reciprocal need to encourage the next generation.

But Timothy is not to be dismayed or diverted whatever the source of this negativity and resistance. Paul has already framed the discussion by appeal to God's creation, His Word and the prayerfulness God draws forth from believing hearts. If anything, Paul counsels the young man in such a confrontation with such a dismissive attitude to use it as a spur to greater dedication.

Don't be diverted! Don’t be put off! Don’t let such uncaring opposition get to you! You can side-step such irritations; avoid such criticism by being the first one to examine yourself and your teaching. After all, do you not know that you are constantly in the watch of the Spirit of the Lord God Himself?

The divisions that have been made of chapter in our Bibles, and also to draw attention to important things that are deemed worthy of ongoing attention and discussion, also in this “reading”, should not blind us to the flow of Paul's narrative. We will now turn to Paul's advice to Timothy concerning those who are older than he is, the elders. As we have said, some elders have affirmed and commissioned him; some look down on him because of his age. Whatever their attitude may be, Paul insists, there is a way to give due respect and one should reckon with God-given requirements in dealing with all. This is a letter full of wise counsel - Timothy is encouraged to remind himself that he is a full member of the family of faith.