Be Aware, Be Training, Be the Example (1 Timothy 4)

by FBCMagnolia

Our passage for today is 1 Timothy chapter 4. In this passage, we see that Paul is writing to his beloved disciple Timothy encouraging him in his ministry. Paul gives Timothy 3 instructions in this passage: Be aware, Be in training, and to Be the example.

In the first section, we see that Paul instructs Timothy To Be Aware. Paul gives a warning concerning the false teachers in verses 1-5.

[1] Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, [2] through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, [3] who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. [4] For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, [5] for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV)

Be Aware: If you go downtown in a bad area during bad time of night you are aware of your surroundings. You are aware of blind corners, you are aware of dark alleys, you are aware of everything other people on the streets might be doing. You have a heightened since of awareness, why?, because the potential for danger is greater.

This is what we see Paul is trying to get us to understand. Paul wants us to be aware of false teachers because of the danger that comes from being fooled by poor doctrines. Paul wants us to be aware because the potential for danger is greater.

Here we see that Paul gives us a description of how to spot false teachers. This is important today because not only do we have to check ourselves to make sure that what we are teaching is doctrinally sound, but we also have to watch what others under us are teaching.

See the problem is that it is easy to trust a pastor, to trust what he is saying is true. But we need to be studying the Bible for ourselves and making sure that what is being taught to us matches what we are reading in the Bible.

This is important because doctrines and theology matter. They are not just something pastors study in school or something that super-Christians get excited about. It is for everyone. Everyone is a theologian; just some are not very good ones. And theology matters because it leads to actions. A good theology will lead to right actions, and a poor theology will lead to poor actions. Theology doesn’t stay in theology books, what you believe about God comes out in every aspect of everyday life.

Paul had no patience for false teaching and no soft words for false teachers. He never said that the false teachers just misunderstood the gospel or that they simply taught in error. Rather, Paul knows that false teaching comes from Satan himself through his deceitful spirits.

We know this to be true because there are only two kinds of spirits, the work of the Holy Spirit, who is God therefore, cannot lie, or the work of the evil one who is the father of all lies. False teaching is one of Satan’s many tactics to lead believers astray and to divide the church. Satan’s influence leads people to stray from God. Satan does not create evil things. He is not a creator. He takes good things that God made and distorts and perverts them.

Teachers who resisted the Holy Spirit’s conviction and rejected his control became tools of Satan and promoted the wrong doctrines. Paul wrote to the believers in this church in Ephesus: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) Paul gives a clear picture of what a false teacher looks like and instructs us to teach the truth, so that our congregation will not be as vulnerable to being lead astray

Therefore, this first section teaches us that we are to be aware that there are false teachers out there and that we should be seeking to protect our church, our Sunday school class, and our family from those that teach any Gospel other than that of Jesus Christ.

We are to be Aware that there are false teachers out there teaching false doctrines that could harm not only us, but those that we love around us.

This leads us to our next section where Paul instructs Timothy of his personal responsibilities. Not only does Paul instruct Timothy to Be Aware of false teachers, but also instructs Timothy to Be Training in Godliness in verses 6-10.

[6] If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. [7] Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; [8 ] for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. [9] The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. [10] For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:6-10 ESV)

Here Paul tells us that in order to make sure that we do not fall into false teaching that we need to be trained in scripture and in sound doctrine. That way when false teachers arise presenting their irreverent silly myths, we will have been trained in the truth. John Flavel gives us insight on the importance of not entertaining irreverent silly myths when he wrote, “By entertaining of strange persons, men sometimes entertained angels unaware; but by entertaining of strange doctrines, many have entertained devils unaware.” We will have more success resisting evil by keeping as far from it and as close to Christ as possible.

Illustration: For example, those who are trained to spot counterfeit money do not study the millions of different kinds of fake money, no they study intently the real thing. Because by studying the real thing intently, then they will be able to recognize a fake quickly. Same thing applies to us. We do not study the millions of false gods in this world, but study the one and only true God. As we grow in Christ, we will be less likely to fall under the temptations of false teachers.

The second part of this passage puts an importance on training. “Trying to live the Christian life implies and leads to failure; training to live the Christian life puts even failures to good use.” (Neil Wilson) Training emphasizes the point that spiritual development does not happen by accident. An athlete is focused and committed, constantly training, refusing to let up, always striving. Believers must have the same focus and commitment, refusing to be sidetracked by wrong teaching.

Illustration: Now being a former wrestler the language such as train, toil, and strive, jumps out at me. When I trained for wrestling it consumed me, training for wrestling affects every aspect of your life. It changed the way I ate food. I no longer ate food for pleasure, but for energy and food that was bad, was not even a temptation because I knew the consequences of eating them. It changed the way I slept. I no longer could stay up late playing video games because I needed to have my rest for practice. I could no longer sleep in because I had to fit a full day of training and classes into my schedule. I could never miss a workout just because I did not feel good or because I was swamped with school. Wrestling consumed my time, energy, and my thoughts.

However, in wrestling all that training was for 7 minutes on the mat. How much more important is it that we have the same discipline and dedication to do the things that are eternal. Another reason why training in Godliness is infinitely more important than training for wrestling or any other bodily training is that after March, I could eat, sleep, and eat some more until next October. However, as can be observed in 2 Timothy 4:2 that in preaching God’s word there is no offseason.

Keeping with the theme of training, if an athlete is constantly training and does not get the proper nourishment, his body will fail him. Likewise, proper spiritual nourishment promotes spiritual growth. Proper nourishment for Timothy included constant meditation on the words of faith and sound doctrine.

We see in verse 10 that it is important to labor for the purity and preservation of the gospel. Because worldwide evangelization is essential and is rooted in God’s own evangelistic desire, we have a guarantee that our toiling and striving will not go wasted.

Now in the first part of this passage, Paul tells Timothy to be aware that false teachers are out there. In this second part, we see that Paul tells Timothy to be in training. To be training in godliness.

Now in the last section of this passage Paul instructs Timothy of his pastoral responsibility. Timothy is To Be the Example. We see this in verses 11-16.

[11] Command and teach these things. [12] Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. [13] Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. [14] Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. [15] Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. [16] Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:11-16 ESV)

Youth are often looked down on because of attitudes and behaviors that are annoying or immature. Some of the things people often associate with youth are disrespect, rebellion, self-absorption, conformity to peer pressure, indifference to serious issues, and a fixation on fun as the only thing that satisfies. If these are pronounced, people can even despise youth. Paul implies that in saying, “Let no one despise your youth.”

Paul says, the way I want youth to pursue not being despised is to look to God’s standards of love and faith and purity. In that way, even young people can become examples to older people. “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.”

The point is not: Find out what older people want and give it to them so they do not despise you. The point is: Find out what kind of words and conduct God wants, and do that. Paul gives love, faith, and purity as examples of what we should do in our words and conduct. Let all your words and actions come from faith in Christ. Let them be loving.

Therefore, Paul’s main point is that Timothy should not have low expectations of the impact of his life toward those who are older. He should look to God, believe in the gospel, do what God calls him to do, and in that way become an example to the rest.

How many of our young people think that way: I am called to set an example for the adults. Of course, adults are supposed to set an example for young people. However, here it is the other way around. That calls for a dramatic shift in mindset for most adults and youth today: I frequently encourage our youth to not settle for the low cultural expectations for youth. Set high ones.

And to the Youth this morning I want to say to you that you can become examples for adults. Think that way. Dream that way. Let us stop wasting our time and energy on things that keep us from growing in Godliness, just because we can meet the low expectations that are given to us. Let us not waste our ministry waiting until the time we graduate, or until we have our own family.

I like to think of it like this. When I was coaching wrestling in Louisville, I had a wrestler that went to college to wrestle. When he would come back during the holiday breaks to workout with us, all of the high school wrestlers would be amazed by how good he was. While he was showing them some moves and giving them advice, I overheard one of them say well you can do that because you are in college. I interrupted and said, so your telling me that when he stepped foot on a college campus he all of sudden became a good wrestler? I said of course not, it was because he did the right things while he was in high school, is the reason why he got to go to college to wrestle.

The point I am trying to make here is that I am afraid that many of us are wasting our time in school treading water until we receive our diplomas and enter into our grown up roles at the church. Some of us think that it will all change soon as we get our diploma or until we have our own family. It is like saying soon as we step into our roles that we will instantly turn into a John Piper, or a John Macarthur, or some other pastor that has dedicated their life to studying God’s Word.

However, I encourage you all to not waste your remaining time. Do not wait until you move to your place of service to share the gospel with your neighbors, do not wait until you have your wife and kids, and Do not wait until you are older to become the person you are called to be right now.

This is critical because if we take Paul’s instructions to Timothy to be aware of false teachers, to be training in Godliness, and to be the example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity; we will save not only ourselves, but also our hearers.

Now as we close, you might be thinking, all this talk about discipline sounds a lot like legalism. And you might be saying Joey you have already spoke to us against legalism so are you contradicting yourself? The answer is no. There is a difference between legalism and discipline. Legalism is self-centered, but discipline is God-centered. The legalistic heart says, “I will do this thing to gain merit with God.” The disciplined heart says, “I will do this thing because I love God and want to please Him.” Paul knew the difference well, and he never gave an inch to legalists, even while challenging Christians to train yourself for godliness.

What is so important to note here is that train yourself for godliness in its context primarily refers to training ourselves in and by the scriptures for the purpose of godliness. Our diet is to be the scriptures, and we are to exercise ourselves in them. We will become godly only through the most godly book ever written – God’s own Word.

Therefore, Run until your feet are like lead, and then choose to sprint. Pump iron until your muscles burn, until another rep is impossible, then do more anyways… For the purpose of godliness.