1 Timothy 4:12 MEANING

1 Timothy 4:12
(12) Let no man despise thy youth.--If Timothy desired that his teaching should be listened to with respectful earnest attention, if he hoped to use a holy influence over the flock, let him be very careful that his comparative youth prove no stumbling-block. To Paul the aged, his son in the faith seemed still youthful--at this time Timothy could not have been more than forty years of age. The old master would have his young disciple supply the want of years by a gravity of life; he would have him, while fearless, at the same time modest and free from all that pretentious assumption, unhappily so often seen when the comparatively young are placed in positions of dignity and authority. Paul proceeds further to explain his solemn warning by instancing the especial points in which Timothy was to be a pattern to the other believers. These gentle words of warning, such notices as we find in 1 Timothy 5:23 and in 1 Corinthians 16:10-11, seem to point to the fact of there being nothing winning in the personal appearance of Timothy, but rather the contrary. It is deserving of comment that among the more famous of the early Christian leaders, beauty of face and form appears to have been the exception rather than the rule. This was, of course, utterly different from the old Grecian idea of gods and heroes. It was no doubt part of the counsel of God that this world-religion should owe nothing to the ordinary conditions of human success. The teaching was novel and opposed to the maxims which guided and influenced the old world. The noblest ideals proposed for Christian imitation were strange and hitherto unheard of. The very foremost preachers of the faith of Christ, as in the case of Timothy, seem to have owed nothing to those personal gifts so highly prized among Pagan nations. So the appearance of St. Paul, the greatest of the early Christian leaders, seems to have been mean and insignificant, "ein armes diirres Mannlein" as Luther has it. The blessed Founder of the religion is described by Tertullian, who lived in the same century with those who must have conversed with Christ's disciples, as "having no human beauty, much less any celestial splendour." Clement of Alexandria, Justin Martyr, and other very early writers, join in the same testimony. It is, however, only fair to say that on this point the view of Origen appears to have been different. The Messianic prophecies evidently looked forward to this as the will of the Most High. (See Psalm 22:6-7; Psalm 22:15; Psalm 22:17; Isaiah 52:14; Isaiah 53:2-4.)

In word.--This refers to the public utterances in teaching and exhortation, but more particularly to the words used by Timothy in social intercourse. These, in such a life as that of the young presiding elder of the Ephesian Church, must have been of the deepest importance. The tone of his conversation was no doubt imitated by many, it would influence for good or evil the whole Christian society of that great centre. The words of men placed in such a position should ever be true and generous, helpful and encouraging, and, above all, free from slander, from all low and pitiful conceptions of others.

In conversation.--This rendering might mislead--the Greek word signifies rather "manner of life," or "conduct."

In charity.--Better rendered, in love. This and the following "in faith," comprehend the great graces in that inner Christian life of which the "words of the mouth," and "conduct," are the outward manifestations. He was to be the example to the flock in "love" to his neighbours, and in "faith" towards God.

The words "in spirit," which in the English version occur between "in charity," and "in faith," are found in none of the older authorities.

In purity.--Chastity of mind as well as body is here signified. The ruler of a church--among whose members evidently a school of teaching existed in which a life of stern asceticism was urged on the Christian believer as the only acceptable or even possible way of life for the servant of Christ--must be above all things watchful lest he should seem to set a careless example in the matter of morality.

Verse 12. - An ensample to them that believe for an example of the believers, A.V.; manner of fife for conversation, A.V.; love for charity, A.V.; R.T. omits in spirit, A.V. and T.R. Let no man despise thy youth (comp. 1 Corinthians 16:11; Titus 2:15). The construction of the sentence is manifestly that adopted in the A.V. and followed in the R.V. Timothy would certainly be under forty years at this time, and might be not above thirty-five. Either age would be decidedly early for so responsible an office - one in which he would have many elders (πρεσβύτεροι) under him (1 Timothy 5:1, 17, 19). An ensample (τύπος); properly the original "pattern" or "model" after which anything is made or fashioned; hence a "pattern" or "example." It is used in the same sense as here in Philippians 3:17; I These. 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; Titus 2:7; 1 Peter 5:3. Them that believe. The R.V. has apparently so translated τῶν πιστῶν in order to assimilate it with the πιστῶν in ver. 10. But οἱ πιστοί are simply "believers," or "Christians" - "the flock," as St. Peter has it, and had better be so rendered. Timothy is exhorted to make it impossible for any one to question his authority on the score of his youth by being a model of the Christian graces required in believers. In word. Specially in his teaching. The exhortation to Titus (Titus 2:1, 7, etc.) is very similar, "Speak thou the things which befit the sound doctrine. In all things showing thyself an ensample of good works; in thy doctrine showing uncorrupt-ness, gravity, sound speech (λόγον ὑγιῆ)" etc. (comp. too 1 Timothy 5:17; 2 Timothy 1:13). Manner of life (ἀναστροφῇ; see 1 Timothy 3:15, note). Purity (ἁγνείᾳ); elsewhere in the New Testament only in 1 Timothy 5:2, where it has the same special sense (compare ἀγνός, 2 Corinthians 11:2; 1 Timothy 5:22; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:2).

4:11-16 Men's youth will not be despised, if they keep from vanities and follies. Those who teach by their doctrine, must teach by their life. Their discourse must be edifying; their conversation must be holy; they must be examples of love to God and all good men, examples of spiritual-mindedness. Ministers must mind these things as their principal work and business. By this means their profiting will appear in all things, as well as to all persons; this is the way to profit in knowledge and grace, and also to profit others. The doctrine of a minister of Christ must be scriptural, clear, evangelical, and practical; well stated, explained, defended, and applied. But these duties leave no leisure for wordly pleasures, trifling visits, or idle conversation, and but little for what is mere amusement, and only ornamental. May every believer be enabled to let his profiting appear unto all men; seeking to experience the power of the gospel in his own soul, and to bring forth its fruits in his life.Let no man despise thy youth,.... Timothy was now a young man; some think he was about three and twenty years of age; but he might be older, and yet be so called. Saul is said to be a young man, when he held the clothes of them that stoned Stephen, when he must be at least thirty years of age, some say thirty five; since thirty years after that he styles himself Paul the aged, when he must be sixty years of age and upwards, Acts 7:58. Young men are sometimes honoured by God with great gifts, for usefulness both in church and state, as Samuel, David, Solomon, Daniel, and his companions: nor should they be despised on account of their age, when they have gifts suitable to their office, and behave well in it, but, on the contrary, ought to be esteemed for their works' sake; and such should take care that no man has an opportunity or reason to treat them with contempt on that account: the apostle's sense is, either that Timothy, being in office, should not suffer any man to use him contemptuously; but exert his power and authority, and magnify his office, and not allow men to trample upon him, or use him ill, though he was a young man; which sense suits with the preceding words: or rather his meaning is, that he would have him so conduct and behave himself, as he had taught him to behave, in the house and church of God, and so fill up his place and office, and live such an exemplary life and conversation, that there might be no occasion for any to despise his age, or him, on the account of it: and this agrees with what follows,

but be thou an example of the believers; the members of the church, before called brethren, from their relation to one another, and here believers, from their concern with Christ, the object of their faith; a more honourable character cannot be given of men, though treated with great contempt in this age of infidelity. The Mahometans would engross this character to themselves, calling themselves the believers, and reckoning all others infidels; but to them only it belongs, who believe in Christ unto righteousness and life everlasting. Now sometimes young men may be examples to older ones; and all that are in office in the church, especially in the ministry, whether old or young, should be ensamples to the flock, and that in the following things: "in word"; meaning either the word of truth, the doctrine of the Gospel; by delivering that which is according to the rule of God's word, showing in it uncorruptness, gravity, and sincerity, and by holding it fast; all which may for the imitation of others, to receive the pure doctrine and retain it: or rather this may respect common discourse; which should not be corrupt, filthy, nor foolish; but should be always with grace, Seasoned with salt, or should be grave and serious, wise and prudent, pleasant, profitable, and edifying.

In conversation; in the family, church, and world; which should be as becomes the Gospel of Christ, in all godliness and honesty, with simplicity and godly sincerity; so as to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour, recommend it to others, stop the mouths of gainsayers, and obtain a good report of them that are without.

In charity; in love to God, to Christ, and one another; without which, if a man has the tongue of men and angels, or ever such great and excellent gifts, he is nothing.

In spirit; in the exercise of spiritual gifts; in spiritual talk and conversation; and in fervency of spirit, or true zeal for the honour of God, the glory of the Redeemer, the spread of his Gospel, truths, and ordinances, and the support of the same. This clause is wanting in the Alexandrian and Claromontane copies, and in the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions.

In faith; in the exercise of the grace of faith; in holding fast the profession of faith; and in retaining the doctrine of faith, with all integrity, faithfulness, and constancy, standing fast in it, striving and contending for it.

In purity; or chastity of body, in opposition to all impurity of the flesh, by fornication, adultery, and the like; which was very proper to be suggested to a young man: though this may also have respect to all that is before said, as to purity of language, conversation, love, zeal, and faith.

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