Not Passive But All Of Grace (Part One)
1 Timothy 4:12 “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. 15 Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. 16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
Seeing that these truths are both precious and needful to me, the following is put forth as my own meditation on the matter; it is meant to focus my mind on these blessed precepts and yet, if others are benefited by it, a double blessing indeed. This post is not designed to accuse anyone or to lord anything over anyone; I trust that men and women will stand precisely where God puts them. The Lord gives much grace and He takes it away as He sees fit, though never utterly. No man can go beyond the grace that God gives them, and yet, such grace should be ever sought after, and that, most earnestly. With this in mind, I will start with…
Let No Man Despise Thy Youth: First, let us be clear in acknowledging that it isn’t primarily the Apostle Paul, but the Holy Spirit Himself, who (through the Apostle Paul) declares “let no man despise thy youth.” Timothy is being instructed to carry on, to press forward, and to not let any man disdain his younger age. He was to righteously plow through any roadblock related to his youth that anyone contrived to set before him; he was not to allow anyone to use his age as a ground or basis for rejecting his godly instruction. Moreover, he was not to allow the folly that often accompanies youth to spring up in his own walk, to sully his office and profession, because such manifest folly often gives people (in their own minds) an excuse to both disregard right instruction and to rebel against, or to even blaspheme, God. Simply put, Timothy was commanded to not let his younger age slow him down or stop him and to not allow the natural lusts of his youth to be a stumbling block before him and before others. Timothy was given much grace and strength in this regard and we should likewise not only follow in this diligence but pray often, as I’m sure he did, for the grace and strength necessary to do so.
Consider also our Lord; He did not let His youth stop Him for He was found in “the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers” seeing that He was zealous to be about His Father’s business (Luke 2:47-50). Even during His 3½ year ministry after His water baptism, the Lord (as it pertains to His incarnation) was likely noticeably younger than many of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and others that He encountered during His sojourn. Though he was fully God, He was also fully man, and His youth as a man (relatively speaking) was no obstacle to Him or his ministry. So ought it be for us who are in Him.
Be Thou An Example Of The Believers: “Be thou an example…” is not a statement of hoping or wishing nor is it an optional statement (one that can be received or discarded at will). “Be thou an example” is an imperative command that the Holy Ghost gave to Timothy through Paul. Unlike what many seem to suggest, God is not stating here “I am telling you to ‘be thou an example’ knowing that you cannot be an example, so look to Christ who is your Example, and then (in looking to Him) you will spiritually fulfill this command and you needn’t worry about it any further; indeed, you can just look to Christ and then disregard this commandment thereafter.” No! God does not want us to spiritualize, or intellectualize, His instruction away. The command is clear; God is telling Timothy absolutely “YOU BE” an example; this is a functionally active (and not some passive) imperative; it is something that God fully expects Timothy to do — albeit with an eye very much single on Christ, His person and his work.
God fully expects Timothy to work this ought in his own life (to the degree that He ordained for him), knowing that He alone must work in Timothy both the will to obey, and the actual ability to obey, this instruction.
Thus, no Christian can be an example in their own strength; I do not have the power to muster up conformity to this command on my own. I, and thus all of us, must grow in grace and in the love and knowledge of Christ to be able to diligently conform to this command. But where is my heart? Where is my mind? Shouldn’t it be towards constant prayer, though imperfectly performed and with many sorrowful gaps – but shouldn’t it be unto this regard –“Lord, I beseech you, make me to be an example for others” (I do not mean in the precise wording per se but in the essence of it). Shouldn’t we be watchful and prayerful; beseeching God for the strength and mercy to do what He instructs us to do? I trust that God will answer such prayer; He will do it in His own time, and in His own way, but answer it I trust He will. So indeed trusting that He will answer in His time, may it be that our active desire is to serve as examples to one another just as Paul was to Timothy, and just as Timothy was instructed to be an example to others. May we also diligently pray for that this same abundance of grace be given to all believers — especially in light of us being one Body, even the Body of our divine Example, the Lord Jesus Christ (our Head), whom the Apostles first followed after — by the grace of God. Seeing that He is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption – He, ultimately, and truly, is the pattern to which we must all be transformed and conformed.
Note also the word example. God is telling Timothy to be a pattern to, and an image of, the believers — something they could see and thus actively follow to the degree that God enabled. “Be thou an example of the believers” God says to Him just as He stated, through Paul, to the Philippians “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I PRESS FORWARD TOWARD THE MARK for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. LET US THEREFORE, AS MANY AS BE PERFECT [MATURE], BE THUS MINDED: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, LET US WALK BY THE SAME RULE, LET US MIND THE SAME THING. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which WALK SO AS YE HAVE US FOR AN ENSAMPLE… For our conversation [literally, CITIZENRY; THE CONSTITUTION AND ADMINISTERED LAWS OF A COMMONWEALTH; THE ADMINISTRATION OF OUR CIVIL AFFAIRS] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 3:13-17).
The Holy Spirit clearly shows that our behaviour is to be patterned after those godly men who were before us; not the traditions and doctrines of men, not what they think or deem holy in light of carnal reasoning and opinion, but the pattern established by godly men of old who, from the source, followed the Apostles example – -seeing that the Apostles themselves followed the example of Christ through the operation of the Holy Spirit in their lives (and is not Christ’s example detailed for us in his holy word, the Bible?). Note that this was not a mere legal; or mercenary; or (slavish) fear-based adherence to a pattern or image (for that would be idolatry and not worshipful obedience); no, it was a heartfelt desire to follow after the very example that is set when men walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh, bearing fruit in Christ, in accordance with the instruction (doctrine) of Christ.
Finally (for this portion), consider that God states “But be thou an example of the faithful.” I substituted faithful for believers because the underlying Greek word at issue has both meanings; in fact, the word at issue is more often translated faithful than believers (it is translated fifty-three times as faithful in the AV/KJV but no more than ten times as either “believe” or some variation of it). So Timothy, and thus all of us, are instructed to be examples not to the world without, nor to the nominal/false professors (at least not primarily), but to those who truly and faithfully follow Christ and rest in His promises as found in the Gospel. The carnal sons of Belial and the legalistic religionists have no Holy Spirit to guide them, so any attempt on their part to follow the example will strictly result in a corruption, even a caricature, of it. If Christ is not in them, and if they are not in Him, they cannot do anything good – the pattern, in them, is broken. Without Christ, we can do nothing of eternal benefit, nothing that is worthy of following or being followed. There is no spiritual pattern-following without the spiritual life found in, by, and through Christ Jesus (who is the eternal life of His elect). If the one attempting to apply the pattern is void of the power that stems from union with Christ, from being washed by His blood, and having received newness of life by His Spirit, then that individual’s efforts are utterly vain. We need Christ and we need Him more than we can possibly know. It is only through His redemptive work, His blood, His washing, and His righteousness that we can began to do (to make manifest) all that He desires for us, in Him, to do. The actual strength to do, the ability to do, is directly tied into the effectual working of the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Ghost.
Finally, seeing that only Christ and Him alone, can be deemed Faithful and True; so it is Him, and not false conceptions of Him, and clearly not the traditions and commandments of men, that must serve as our final example. All earthly, albeit spiritual, examples must be compared to our Lord’s example as it is revealed in His holy Bible; whatever goes beyond it, is not of it, and must be discarded; however, whatever aspect of the pattern proves true – it behooves us to follow it… not out of legalism or carnal fear but out of God-wrought love, worship, and thanksgiving. To God be the glory.