1 Timothy

A minister's discipline, 4:6-16


While Timothy served as the minister in charge of the church in Ephesus, he struggled with a number of members who questioned his authority and the quality of his teaching. At this point in his letter to Timothy, Paul encourages him to develop the art of sound teaching and theological accuracy necessary to tackle those who question his teaching. To achieve this end, Timothy needs to be courageous, active and diligent in the task of teaching, ignoring the disadvantage of his youth and relying of the power of the Spirit.

The passage

v6. In the previous verses Paul has identified some of the failings evident in the opposition party in the church at Ephesus. What Timothy need to do is point out these failings to them, and do so in a way framed by the sound teaching which has nourished his ministry.

v7. What Timothy mustn't do is absorb their subversive doctrines, or as Paul calls them their "godless myths and old wives tales." Paul's advice to Timothy is that he stay on message.

v8-9. At this point Paul reminds Timothy of a trustworthy saying doing the rounds of the churches at this time. Physical training has some value, but training in sound doctrine pays assured and ample dividends for this life and the life to come. "This is a saying you can believe and trust absolutely."

v10. Paul goes on to comment on the saying, making the point that believers willingly push forward in the Christian life because of the hope of eternal life.

v11. Back to the instructions!

v12. In ancient society, age and maturity are valued, so Paul encourages Timothy to overcome the disadvantage of his youthful status by practicing what he preaches. Timothy must be an example to his congregation in the way he speaks, behaves, loves, believes and commits to his ministry.

v13. Timothy's ministry must, first and foremost, be word-focused through the public reading of the scriptures, preaching and teaching.

v14. Timothy's gifts have already been identified by the church leaders, and certainly by Paul himself, and now it is up to Timothy to exercise those gifts. The reference to laying on of hands probably refers to the way first century believers physically expressed an act of prayer for another believer.

v15-16. In conclusion, Paul encourages Timothy to be diligent in the application of these instructions. In the end, what matters is the character of the minister and the purity of their teaching.

A ministry of the Word

P.B. Brown, as he was affectionately known, was an elderly minister I trained under for a number of years. The P B stood for Prayer Book, and since his Christian name was William, he carried the other tag of Prayer Book Bill. He demanded of his trainees a perfect reading of the service, the 1662 Prayer Book of course. At least we didn't have to intone the service which made him relatively modern in the great scheme of things.



P.B. always had a swag of practical advice for his young trainees. His first was "keep fit." This entailed daily power walking and a breakfast of wheat porridge. He was in his 60's and I was in my late 20's, but he could outwalk me any day. His second piece of advice was to buy a Rover car rather than any of other piece of rubbish. He would scan the market for aged low milage Rovers and buy them for a song. He had a number going at any one time and simply drove them until they were scrap. He probably did save himself a lot of money in the transport department. His third piece of advice was whistle stop visits. He had this scheme whereby he would perform a visiting blitz throughout the parish. He claimed he could visit every church member in a matter of days which then left the rest of the year for him to do what he wanted to do. He was the master of the five minute visit - no time for tea!!

The apostle Paul's letters to Timothy are also examples of advice from an elderly minister to his young colleague. They have their practical elements, but are somewhat more theological than the advice dished out by Prayer Book Bill. On the practical side there is advice like taking a little wine for good health, somewhat more enjoyable than wheat porridge. Paul also reminds Timothy of the danger of sexual attraction when it comes to ministering to younger women. This is similar to the advice I was given of keeping the study door open when interviewing a young woman, and of course now, also children - perceived immorality and all that. Yet, Paul's advice, particularly in the passage before us, goes beyond the practical to the substantial.

Yes, these words are for ministers, but it is important for all who sit in a pew to understand the guidance Jesus, through his apostle, offers his servants. A congregation that understands this divine guidance will be less likely to impose unreal expectations on their minister.

In our reading today there was the obvious advice about personal piety, "in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity." Obviously, a minister can't expect to lead others when their own life is compromised. Yet, a quick scan of the passage tells us that Paul's advice is focused on the teaching and preaching of God's word. Timothy had been trained in the gospel and his role is to teach it and not be drawn aside into "godless myths and old wives tales." Timothy is a gifted minister of the gospel, his gifts have been confirmed by his colleagues and so it is up to him to exercise those gifts.

So there it is, we may think our minister should be doing this or that, but what Jesus wants him to do is study God's Word and communicate its truth to his people. We need to accept that a minister's role is primarily Word-centered.


1. List the roles your minister performs in your church and try to rate them by importance. Discuss.

2. What portion of a minister's time should be spent in the study. Support your opinion.

[Printer icon]   Print-friendly: Sermon Notes. and Technical Notes: 4:6-10 and 4:11-16

Index of studies: Resource library
[Pumpkin Cottage]
Pumpkin Cottage Ministry Resources
Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons