As we consider the advice Paul gives to Timothy in 1 Tim.4:12-16, today we'll take a close look at the first part of that passage: "Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe."
Paul's reference to Timothy's youthfulness did not mean he was ignorant or inexperienced for the work, but rather reflected upon the attitude that some would have toward him. Though it had probably been at least 15 years since Timothy began working with Paul, even at this point, because of his age, some would look upon Timothy with a critical eye. Paul's instruction to him is difficult to follow, yet it is the best possible advice, even for us: SILENCE CRITICISM WITH CONDUCT.
Because of his youthfulness, many would not seek out Timothy's counsel, but his example needed to be undeniable. Quite often, and for a variety of reasons, some are resistant to instruction given in words. Those same folks, sometimes even subconsciously, can be deeply influenced by a proper example. Early on, the question comes up, was Timothy to be an example of the believers (KJV) or to the believers (ASV)? In either case, the word (of or to) is a preposition, and the translators are obviously undecided as to which it should be, since many give a footnote with the alternate rendition. But from all we know about the subject matter, it seems that either (or both) would be correct. On the one hand, believers are always in need of good examples to follow, even in the most basic of things. On the other hand, any Christian should take every opportunity to provide a good example before all, especially to the eyes of the world.
Paul speaks of Timothy's duty to be a pattern for others to imitate. From my carpentry shop, where I use a lot of patterns, at least three qualities for them come to mind. First, a pattern has to be accurate. If it is not true to the correct design, it is worthless to the effort of producing more of the desired product. Secondly, a pattern must be consistent. Every time it is used, it must be the same. It has to remain accurate with the passing of time, regardless of changing conditions or circumstances. Thirdly, a good pattern needs to be serviceable. It shouldn't be confusing, or overly complicated, nor can it be useful if it is falling apart or in need of constant repair. How would you describe your example of speech, conduct, love, faith and purity?
(Part 3 CONTINUED NEXT WEEK)