In 1 Timothy 4 we find Paul telling Timothy that the Spirit of God openly, and without doubt says there will be major apostasy coming. He begins the chapter mentioning others departing from the faith entirely, yielding to deceptive lies from satan, speaking lies themselves. Some even have their internal moral compass so distorted that they begin to teach complete fallacies. Paul wants Timothy to know that ministry will not be filled with a conglomeration of pure hearted ministers. Instead there will be many that come in and try to pervert the truth. He then comes to verse 12. Amidst a book of instruction on how the church should look Paul takes a moment to specifically address Timothy.
He starts by acknowledging the obvious reason people will dismiss his warning cries “naivety.” The people who Paul was just warning about are surely going to dismiss TImothy’s acusals due to his youth. They will say, when he assuredly calls them out, that he knows nothing due to his age. Paul wants Timothy to be firm, speak with confidence. This will be a time of assertion and he must act as a shepherd protecting his flock from a conniving wolf.
He then moves to one of six admonishments:be an example “in word.” It is no coincidence that verse two (just 10 verses before this) stated that those coming in with ill intent would be “speaking lies in hypocrisy.” Paul wants Timothy to stand out amidst a group of people who would be abandoning truth. He wants Timothy to embrace integrity, knowing that the Word of God can be a foundation that WILL NOT be shaken!
The next admonishment which could not be done without the first is “in conduct.” Paul doesn’t want the integrity of the Word hindered by Timothy’s foolish behavior. Chapter three has already stated that someone who wants to be in leadership should be “blameless.” However, here Paul specifically addresses Timothy and notes that he should also have good conduct. It is a consistent view that the message may be hindered by the messenger. In light of this Paul wants Timothy to be attentive to his actions, paying attention so that he can be looked upon positively. For if Timothy were to begin to lie (abandon his word) and misbehave (poor conduct) he would be disqualified from ministering to many. Those who are falling away from the faith would surely point out Timothy’s personal failings.
Love, something Paul spends countless verses pressing the importance of. Without love all of Timothy’s ministry would be lost. He could not properly address those mentioned in verses 1-3. Everything he would have to say, according to 1 Corinthians 13, would be for nothing. The words would be meaningless and have no power. Furthermore this admonishment carries with it the importance of 1 John 4:20, if Timothy were not abounding in love then his relationship with God was surely waning. We shouldn’t be shocked to find love among this list. Rather, it should shock us if this were NOT here. Any ministry, any LIFE, without love is purposeless. In fact, Paul began the entire book of 1 Timothy with “the goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
“In Spirit” could be interpreted a number of ways. The safest route is likely referring back to verse 1 “giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.” The people Paul is warning Timothy against have been allowing themselves to be misled by false prophets, or spirits. We see other references to this in 1 John 4. The beginning of the chapter we see John refer to false spirits misleading us and being cautious so this doesn’t happen. Though there are other ways to look at the word spirit we can clearly see Paul has recently referenced believing false spirits. Paul here is likely motivating Timothy to persevere in God’s truth, His Word. However it could also be interpreted in light of the beginning of chapter 2 “that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people.” Paul urges TImothy to carry a non conforming view on things. When the rest of the people are grumbling and complaining about the leadership Paul is calling TImothy and the Church to be giving thanks for things and to be praying fo the leadership. Therefore Paul could be continuing this view here and essentially be saying “stay in high spirits, or be motivated and encouraged, not discouraged and grumbling.” Regardless of which way we view this BOTH of these principles are taught from 1 Timothy therefore both should be heeded. Some versions do not have this admonition. This is generally attributed to it not being in EVERY translation. It is a safe route because the principle of following true doctrine is repeated in the next couple of verses. Therefore dropping a word that MAY not have been in the original would not detract from the overall message since it is repeated again shortly after this verse.
“In Faith” is another admonition that could have two meanings, though one is more likely. In the first verse we see that many are falling away from the faith, and also they are being misled by false doctrine. Therefore one could pickup from context that Paul is asking Timothy to stay consistent in God’s truth, or the general Gospel. However, this is likely not the case since we usually find the phrase “the faith” when referring to the corporate belief system in God. Here we see “in faith” which more likely refers to Timothy’s trust in God. It is logically deduced that if Paul has just been warning about all these issues in the church he would follow up with an admonition to continue in trusting God. In fact, he did so in verse 10 of this chapter which refers to putting our “hope in the living God.” Paul knows Timothy could find himself questioning God’s ability when he looks around and sees so many misled. However, Paul wants Timothy to maintain his trust in God, believing God will do what He says He will! Just like the last point: regardless which view is seen BOTH can be taught from this book therefore neither would be detrimental to take away from this.
Then we come to the last admonition “in purity.” The amplified Bible includes “moral” before the word purity. It carries with it a further clarification of the word “conduct” we saw earlier. Whereas conduct could refer to buffoonery and other sorts of behavior that aren’t specifically bad, purity would refer to moral actions that are founded upon shady principles. Paul wants Timothy to keep his moral standards tight. Again, we are being infiltrated by these false prophets, those who are swaying from truth, those who are teaching false doctrine, and we must stand out. If Timothy allows his morals to be compromised, just like with conduct, he may hinder the message being sent out. If he begins to live licentiously with his morals he will most likely miss many opportunities to correct these misled people. Additionally, this can be linked back to the beginning of these admonitions, his youth. Generally children are looked at as having an inconsistent moral compass as they are still navigating life and finding out where the gray areas are etc. To give way to our moral standards is to show one has not fully matured and solidified their immovable standards.
Overall, these admonitions seem to just be a reminder of everything Paul has said so far in this book, and all driven towards assuring the Gospel is taught. Paul wants Timothy to have a fruitful ministry and he knows that often the message is discounted because of the messenger. We cannot assume that a picture perfect messenger will equate 100% adherence to the Word because Jesus was murdered though He spoke truth. However, we must make every effort to assure we are not adding wood to the proverbial fire and hindering God’s Word from being spread.