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A Biblical Model (1 Timothy 4:11-16) – Mark Ottaway

A Biblical Model

1 Timothy 4:11-16

Turn to 1 Timothy 4. What is becoming an old art in our culture is the thought that I need to be an example to others. And there are a few reasons for this. Our culture is struggling to know the definition of a good example. In other words, how do I be a good example of character or principles when the principles are ever-changing? I mean the music culture, or the TV culture, or the government have sort of defined the standards, yet the standards are really all-over-the-map. So, I suppose that if we asked our society, what is a good example? That would be so hard to define. And this is a plight for our young people growing up and living under adults that cannot define for them what a good example is. For even if we started to talk about faithfulness or love or care, which the world would like to think they hold to dearly, as terms such as faithfulness, love, and care are nice terms that the culture wishes to embrace; but they no longer define certain actions, but have become somewhat obscure terms. We could say at work that it is good to be faithful and loving, and most would applaud that, until we started to apply it to life choices.


So, in many ways we must feel for the world today, for those who are growing up our culture, grow up with no certainties of what strong character words such as love and faithfulness really mean, as they are all culturally dependent upon subjective thinking. So, to be a model or an example today for others is someone that must tiptoe around to accommodate so many sensitive areas. For when you strip Christian principles from society you are unable to determine if what anyone did was right or wrong. Yet, Paul is going to direct young Timothy of the importance of being a good example. And I don’t believe that this would have been any easier in Timothy’s day as it would be for us today, likely harder.

“Command and teach these things. Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but show yourself as a model to those who believe in word, conduct, love, faith, and purity.”

1 Tim 4:11-12 (LSB)


Here is my question: How can I be an example to others in my words, conduct, love, faith, and purity? Paul gives these five words that need to be modelled by the Christian. In other words, this is our calling, this is part of what a Christian does. And so, to dismiss this as something that is not our personality, or that it is something beyond me, is actually a judgment on God, on His calling to you and me; as we are the vessels that God has called to be the light. Our fallback today as Christians is to sort of throw our hands up in the air and say, if only things were different or if only government was different. But that does not seem to be the focus here. The focus is that the Christian is to be light within the world and as that world becomes a darker place our light becomes even more evident. Truth that may have been proclaimed thirty years ago would be seen as some light, but the same truth today from the Christian is like a blazing light, isn’t it? Because it is far more revealing, far more glaring, and much different from the world’s view. So, here is Paul’s instruction to us regarding how to be an example to others in my words, conduct, love, faith, and purity. First one, be an example to others in my words.


  1. Model Biblical Words (vs 13)


“Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.”

  • Tim 4:13 (LSB)


Now it would be easy to dismiss this challenge to Timothy from the get-go here for two reasons as we might say, one, I am not a pastor; and two, I am not young. True, we do not all have the role of pastor/elder, but we do all have a role of influence, and we all have the capacity to teach. Now it may not be in the formal role that Timothy has, but it would be foolish to dismiss this wisdom in our own lives as all Scripture is profitable. So, there is much here for all of us, whether we are older/younger, whether we are a pastor or layperson. And Paul places three words around the word Scripture: reading, exhortation, and teaching. Reading (anagnōsis), a deep reading, literally “owning,” reading the Bible like you own the words, that they were written to you directly to address your soul, God’s Word written to you. Exhortation (paraklēsis), a calling near, a summons, that every story, every encouragement, every instruction is heeded, and that we are alerted to what God has said, that God is calling us to His truth. Teaching (didaskalia), as we said last week, this can be translated as teaching or doctrine (singular). As all of the Bible is harmonious, as opposed to the teachings of the world or the “doctrines of demons” which collide everywhere, yet we can be completely confident in God’s wisdom, as its truth has a united message.


So, Moms and Dads, Sunday school teachers, sharing with someone at work, speaking with a friend, that our understanding of the Bible is clear to people. It is something that we ourselves own personally, that this is what the Bible is teaching me. Our young people must see that the Word is teaching us, that its words penetrate to the core of our soul. Its instruction is heeded, that my life is changed by it. And to explain the Bible clearly, don’t confuse the Bible, as confusion only teaches confusion of action. This is much of the goal I have as a teaching elder, to take this passage this morning and give clarity to its direction. And don’t miss (vs 11) command and teach. Don’t waffle, don’t hum and haw, but command and teach God’s truth.


And here in this passage is also the direction to Timothy to teach and preach the Bible, and to read it publicly, as when we read it publicly, this gives us the idea of clarity and clear content. This is not about human thoughts or man’s opinion. No, the WOG is read clearly in church, so that we can understand what it says. And this is the benefit of expository preaching. This is not topics that I just want to emphasize. No, it is teaching God’s Word week-by-week and verse-by-verse, so that we understand here the need for the whole Bible, that everything in our lives is always in line with the complete Word of God. that we do not direct our lives, but God’s Word directs our lives. Clearly, we are followers of Jesus Christ and His Word, and the more we make this the focus and purpose of our lives, the better Christians we become, the more we can be used by God, and the greater we bring Him glory through our lives. To give attention (prosechō), verse 13, to the Scriptures. Meaning to bring near, to bring it in close. And this has so much to do with our unity as a church, that we together are working to bring God’s Word close to our hearts, modelling the words of the Bible. Secondly, Paul says (vs 12) be an example to others in conduct.


  1. Model Biblical Conduct (vs 14)


“Do not neglect the gift within you, which was given to you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the council of elders.”

1 Tim 4:14 (LSB)


When I think of age regarding conduct we can see the benefits of growing older. For age and experience are great helps to us in all the responsibilities which the Lord sets before us. But that does not mean that someone younger cannot be further along in their spiritual growth than someone older. And though “age” may or even “should” be a benefit to us, it may not always be the case. This word translated “conduct” (anastrophe) is speaking of our behaviour or manner of life, that is to be an example to others. In John 13:15 Jesus said to His disciples, I have given you an example. Peter taught in 1 Peter 2:21 that Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example. In James 5:10, James says that the suffering and the patience of the prophets were to be an example for us. Paul himself said to the Corinthians believers (1 Cor 1:11), be imitators of me, in other words, I am your example. And we can read such statements and think that’s great to have Christ as our example or to have the example set before us of the holy prophets, to have the great apostle Paul as our example. But things start to become a little more personal when Paul says to Timothy, now you Timothy be an example.


Now we know from the Scriptures that Timothy struggled somewhat with boldness, as Paul challenged Timothy (2 Tim 1:7) do not be ashamed Timothy regarding the witness of our Lord. And here in this passage, Paul says, I want you Timothy to be an example, I want you to be someone that other believers can look to. I think that all of us at some time or another have to come to understand our influence on others. For some, it might be that you are the older sibling, or for some, you are the more experienced person at the workplace, or for the first time, you realized this when you became a Mom and Dad, and you swallowed deeply and thought, this new life brings with it much responsibility. And here Paul is reminding Timothy that his position within the body brings with it the great responsibility to be an example to the other believers.


Now we could sort of pass this off, and think, well this is Timothy’s job, or this is Timothy’s responsibility, but not so. All of us as believers in Jesus Christ, each have a grave responsibility to lead, model, authenticate, and be an example of who we are in Christ. When Paul had taught the Ephesians in chapters 1-3, all that they had in Christ, that they had been called, chosen, and justified; he then quickly transitioned his letter in chapter 4, by saying, therefore fellow believers, “walk worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” In other words, if you call yourself a Christian, there comes with it a great responsibility now in the way that you live, it’s a no-brainer. And part of that is how you influence those around you. And we can take the tone of sort of this superficial humbleness, well, I am just a humble follower of Christ, so I am not a big deal. Does that make any sense at all? That you have been chosen before the foundation of the world to not make an impact? It would be a terrible thing to call oneself a believer or a follower of Jesus, and not learn to be an example for others to follow, as the assumption of the Scriptures is that those who follow Christ will themselves be those whom others can follow.


The word used here (vs 12) translated example is the Greek word tupos. Our word example can have both a positive and negative meaning, but the Greek word gives a much more positive meaning, as well as a deeper meaning. It literally means “a print, image” of the original, something that others must conform to, those worthy of imitation. So, the teaching here is that those who have received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour must become worthy of imitation before others. So, when Paul says to Timothy that he is to be an example, it means in the very positive sense that he is to live in such a way that others must conform to him, that his life is worthy of imitation. This is the message which is directed to us as believers, imitators of Christ. That our lives are to be worthy of imitation, that others can conform to us in the very highest sense. Are you living in such a way as to imitate Christ? This is an outstanding privilege which we have, to live with this kind of responsibility and understanding.

I would suggest that example is going to be one of the greatest weapons that our Lord will use in the days to come, as Christianity will likely not grow because of world influence unless the Lord chooses to do mass revival, nor are there churches popping up everywhere. No, the climate for Christian growth is waning on many fronts. No longer will the school teacher back up your instruction, and the voices for Christianity out in the world are growing quieter.


I picked up a copy of the Strathroy Age Dispatch, a weekly newspaper. And I could not help but notice that on the front page was a picture of a little girl in front of a booth called “Pride in the Park.” Now the whole pride agenda is not the only issue in our culture, it is just one of many. However, it is an issue that is gravely warned about in the Bible. In fact, it is regarded as a sin that comes when mankind wanders far from God, and it is a sin that the culture has chosen to celebrate, though the pornography industry was likely the beginning of it. And I thought it strange that our culture does not so overtly say this about other sins. It does not celebrate unfaithfulness in marriage. It promotes greatly, but does not celebrate gambling, as we would never read a sign at a booth that says celebrate gambling or drunkenness or pornography. And the sorrowful part of all this is that this action seems to be sort of the final straw for society, as Romans 1 speaks about God giving them over to such things. So, it is really scary where this will take our society as we are walking on thin ice.


So, how are we as Christians going to battle this great sadness? Example. By being strong, deep, biblical examples, of true Christianity, because this cannot be quieted. The strong example of a Dad can have a lifetime of influence. The deep character of a Mom can stay in the heart of a child. The example of those in church is so needed today than ever before as the cultural pull is becoming stronger and as churches grow weaker. It is the sincere example of godly conduct that must have a tremendous impact, and according to Paul, it will, as he says (vs 16) it will save others. So, this is an opportunity for all of us, if we desire to be such examples. Are you that kind of Christian to others? Modelling biblical conduct. Thirdly, Paul says (vs 12) to be an example in love.


  1. Model Biblical Love (vs 15a)


“Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them.”

1 Tim 4:15a (LSB)


This ties in with conduct. But if we could say that conduct is the outward action, then we could say that love is the driving force, as this has become so much our heart that we are absorbed with it. Stephen Lawson wrote this:

“Timothy was also to “be absorbed in” his ministry. The word ‘absorbed’ is not in the Greek text but is clearly implied. Literally the passage reads ‘be in them,’ which suggests ‘complete commitment’ to the ministry. Timothy was to be completely wrapped up in his ministry of preaching, totally immersed in it, burying himself in this sacred task.”

Stephen Lawson


How could we ever emphasize love enough in ministry? That the Sunday school teacher, the music team, the nursery worker, the sound guy, all who participate in ministry are motivated by love for Christ and His people. Love is powerful. Love speaks volumes when it cannot even be present. This is like a Dad who has to work late, yet whose children know that if Dad could be here, he would. It is like those who find themselves having to work on a Sunday or those who may be sick, that they cannot be here, but church and with God’s people is where their heart is. It is going to youth group on Wednesday night, and the teens leave thinking those leaders love us. And this cannot be superficial, it must be sincere. Or the young people who know that their Sunday school teacher loves them. This is a strong driving force in the church. Remember when Jesus was commissioning Peter for ministry, Jesus said, Peter, let me show what the latest is in church ministry, here is how to attract the crowds and wow them Peter! No, when Jesus was preparing Peter for ministry, the question was what? Peter, do you love Me? Because that had to be the priority. And if you do love Me, Peter, then feed my sheep. In other words, if you love Me Peter, care and love My precious sheep, be absorbed in them.


Now love does not mean that those who love do not discipline or confront. In fact, the more we love as parents the more we will discipline. That was our message in Hebrews 12 last Sunday night, that those the Lord loves, He disciplines. And we all may be grateful for those who have loved us in the past, those within this church body who we are certain of their love. But the charge here from Paul to Timothy is this, Timothy, you be a model of biblical love toward others, you be an example of love. Timothy, I want you to show love, and make sure Timothy, that your ministry is driven by love. Many of the faithful pastors I have heard interviewed over the years have been asked, what is one of the greatest pieces of advice you could give to a young pastor. And specifically, I have heard a few say, make sure they love their congregations, for without that their ministry will likely be short, superficial, and unfruitful.


I remember once when we had invited a pastor to speak at a youth retreat, and we had known him for many years, but the other couple leading with us did not know him. And I remember as we reviewed the weekend and it was such a fruitful weekend. And one of those other leaders said this, I believe one of the reasons our teens responded to the speaker was because they knew he loved them. That’s powerful isn’t it, Mom and Dads? Fruitful ministry at home, at church must be cultivated in a spirit of biblical love. “Be absorbed in them.” The example of love. Fourthly, Paul says to be an example in faith,


  1. Model Biblical Faith (vs 15b)


“[S]o that your progress will be evident to all.”

1 Tim 4:15b (LSB)


When I think of the influence of conduct and love, I think of a close relationship. For us to truly know the conduct and character of an individual, to truly experience the love of someone somewhat demands that I have some kind of personal relationship with them. But I would suggest that this encouragement by Paul to Timothy does not have to be as intimate, but that even from a distance we can see the spiritual growth in someone else, or what we have called here, modelling biblical faith. This is true of some of our long-distance preachers we may appreciate. We really do not know their conduct, though we may have learned to trust them over many years of ministry. But there are always some disappointments such as Ravi Zacharias, as it seemed to be a complete surprise to most in the evangelical world. And this does not mean that we are naïve, no, it just means we did not know.


Even the Apostle Paul was somewhat shell-shocked by the departure of Demas. Paul said in Colossians 4:14 that Demas sends the church his greetings. In Philemon 24, Demas was listed as one of Paul’s fellow workers. Yet in 2 Timothy 4:10, Paul speaks of Demas deserting him, in other words, Paul did not seem to have any idea of Demas’ true character. This was a situation where it would seem that Demas was quite close to Paul, so yes, there are times when we may not know the true conduct of someone, nor do we know their love as we may have never met them. But I would suggest this, that we can get a good idea of their example of faith primarily from what they teach and the direction of their ministry. And this would be the same in the church, that someone does not need to be my best friend for me to admire their faith. And either up close or from a distance we can watch some of the decisions they make, and their reasons for why they do that they do. And if we are commanded to model faith, therefore, it would make sense to look up to those who are examples before us of great faith.


The Bible talks about “honouring elders,” so that there is permission in the Scriptures to look up to others. We are not idolizing them, we are not putting them up on a pedestal, but we can admire their strong faith, as the Bible is full of such examples: Paul rejoiced over the coming of certain folks because they supported him; Onesimus, Paul called a faithful and beloved brother; he said that Mark was so useful to him in service; and Peter said he regarded Silvanus as a faithful man. So yes, we too can admire those who are people of faith, and it does not mean that they will never disappoint, as even a strong Christian man or woman of faith can make a bad decision. And someone like Demas may completely take us off guard. Yet this does not change Christianity. This does not mean that everything they taught was wrong, as I am sure Demas taught the same message as Paul, because if he did not, he never would have been with Paul. Yet there are many who are strong in the faith, and we can regard them so, as they are valuable in ministry, as over time they prove to be the real deal. And this is what we need to be for others, that our progress will be evident to all. That our growing faith becomes known to others. That the security that we find in Christ is shown to others, as we model biblical faith. Lastly, Paul says to be (vs 12) an example of purity.


  1. Model Biblical Purity (vs 16a)


If conduct is the outward action and love is the driving force, then purity is the inward heart.

“Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching.”

1 Tim 4:16a (LSB)


This is where the rubber meets the road. And when we use the term “modelling biblical purity” we are not talking about a show of purity on the outside, because that is not what purity is. For purity means what it says. Purity is the real self, not the superficial self. It is truly who you are. This is why Paul said to Timothy, pay close attention to yourself and your teaching. Make sure they are in line with each other. Don’t be a phony Timothy, don’t be a hypocrite. Modelling anything as a Christian must always begin in the heart. It means paying close attention to your own life. Making sure that every part of your life fits with the truth of Christianity. And here, this is likely in direct relation with sexual purity. Because sexual thoughts and actions can destroy a ministry, and can contaminate everything about your witness, whether it is known or even times when it is hidden. Timothy, show yourself as a young man as a model of purity. We could say Christian, show yourself as a model of purity. Dad, show yourself as a model of purity. Young person, show yourself as a model of purity. In other words, when most of the culture is saying, go for it sexually, you determine that staying sexually pure is God’s desire for you and is what is right. And this is not asking others to follow your outward actions that are seen by them. This is asking others to follow your character. This is examining your own heart so that its purity is revealed. This is not desiring our children to follow our exterior way of acting, it is teaching our children what a pure heart really looks like.


I am convinced that this is the kind of serious, devoted life that will influence others in our day, as the culture continues to break down with less boundaries and no faith in God, the strong Christian of great character will stand out, those who model biblical words, conduct, love, faith, and purity. And the passage actually gives us a promise in this direction (vs 16) for as you do this you will save both yourself and those who hear you, the responsibility of all who claim Christ. And young people, this passage specifically calls out to those who are young, to know that much of the progress of the gospel is going to be done through you, if you are determined to be people of biblical words, conduct, love, faith, and purity.


Let’s pray, with heads bowed and eyes closed. I wonder if there are any here this morning that would say, Lord, would You help me to be this kind of sincere believer that Paul is speaking of. Would You help me to be a man or woman of biblical words, biblical conduct, biblical love, biblical faith, and biblical purity? Because this is what the Bible is talking about this morning, being a sincere model. Is there anyone here this morning who would want me to be praying for you this week, who would appreciate prayer to be this kind of Christian? Would you look at me this morning? Lord, may we take the words of Your truth seriously, because if we do personally, You will work among each of us. And if we take Your truth seriously as a church, You will work through this church. Our submission before You is powerful. Lord, grant to us sincere hearts. And all God’s people said, amen.