1 Timothy 4:12
Let no man despise your youth; but be you an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
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 - That is, do not act in such a manner that any shall despise you on account of your youth. Act as becomes a minister of the gospel in all things, and in such a way that people will respect you as such, though you are young. It is clear from this that Timothy was then a young man, but his exact age there is no means of determining. It is implied here:

(1) that there was danger that, by the levity and indiscretion to which youth are so much exposed, the ministry might be regarded with contempt; and,

(2) that it was possible that his deportment should be so grave, serious, and every way appropriate, that the ministry would not be blamed, but honored. The "way" in which Timothy was to live so that the ministry would not be despised on account of his youth, the apostle proceeds immediately to specify.

But be thou an example of the believers - One of the constant duties of a minister of the gospel, no matter what his age. A minister should so live, that if all his people should closely follow his example, their salvation would be secure, and they would make the highest possible attainments in piety. On the meaning of the word rendered "example," see the notes on Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:7.

In word - In "speech," that is, your manner of conversation. This does not refer to his "public teaching" - in which he could not probably be an "example" to them - but to his usual and familiar conversation.

In conversation - In general deportment. See this word explained in the notes on Philippians 1:27.

In charity - Love to the brethren, and to all; see notes on 1 Corinthians 13.

In spirit - In the government of your passions, and in a mild, meek, forgiving disposition.

In faith - At all times, and in all trials show to believers by your example, how they ought to maintain unshaken confidence in God.

In purity - In chasteness of life; see 1 Timothy 5:2. There should be nothing in your contact with the other sex that would give rise to scandal. The papists, with great impropriety, understand this as enjoining celibacy - as if there could be no "purity" in that holy relation which God appointed in Eden, and which he has declared to "be honorable in all" Hebrews 13:4, and which he has made so essential to the wellbeing of mankind. If the apostle had wished to produce the highest possible degree of corruption in the church, he would have enjoined the celibacy of the clergy and the celibacy of an indefinite number of nuns and monks. There are no other institutions on the earth which have done so much to corrupt the chastity of the race, as those which have grown out of the doctrine that celibacy is more honorable than marriage.

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.

{14} 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.

(14) Now he returns to that exhortation, showing what are the true virtues of a pastor, by which he may come to be reverenced even though he is young, that is, such speech and life as are witnesses of charity, zeal, faith, and purity. But here there is no mention made of the hooked staff, ring, cloak, and such other foolish and childish toys.

Youth (νεότητος)

oP. See Luke 18:21. Acts 26:4. See Introduction, VII. Timothy was probably from 38 to 40 years old at this time.

In word (ἐν λόγῳ)

Including teaching and verbal intercourse of every kind.

Conversation (ἀναστροφῇ)

Comp. Galatians 1:13; Ephesians 4:22; James 3:13. A favorite word with Peter. See on 1 Peter 1:15.

In spirit


Purity (ἁγνίᾳ)

Only here and 1 Timothy 5:2. Ἁγνός pure, 1 Timothy 5:22; Titus 2:5. In Paul, 2 Corinthians 8:11; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Philippians 4:8. Also in James, Peter, and 1 John. #x391;̔γνότης purity, 2 Corinthians 6:6; 2 Corinthians 11:3. olxx, oClass. Ἁγνός always with a moral sense; not limited to sins of the flesh, but covering purity in motives as well as in acts. In 1 John 3:3, of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 11:2, of virgin purity. In James 3:17, as a characteristic of heavenly wisdom. Ἁγνῶς purely (Philippians 1:17), of preaching the gospel with unmixed motives. The verb ἁγνίζειν to purify, which in lxx is used only of ceremonial purification, has that meaning in four of the seven instances in N.T. (John 11:55; Acts 21:24, Acts 21:26; Acts 24:18). In the others (James 4:8; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:3) it is used of purifying the heart and soul.

12. Let no man despise thy youth—Act so as to be respected in spite of thy youth (1Co 16:11; Tit 2:15); compare "youthful" as to Timothy (2Ti 2:22). He was but a mere youth when he joined Paul (Ac 16:1-3). Eleven years had elapsed since then to the time subsequent to Paul's first imprisonment. He was, therefore, still young; especially in comparison with Paul, whose place he was filling; also in relation to elderly presbyters whom he should "entreat as a father" (1Ti 5:1), and generally in respect to his duties in rebuking, exhorting, and ordaining (1Ti 3:1), which ordinarily accord best with an elderly person (1Ti 5:19).

be thou an example—Greek, "become a pattern" (Tit 2:7); the true way of making men not to despise (slight, or disregard) thy youth.

in word—in all that thou sayest in public and private.

conversation—that is, "behavior" the Old English sense of the word.

in charity … faith—the two cardinal principles of the Christian (Ga 5:6). The oldest manuscripts omit, "in spirit."

in purity—simplicity of holy motive followed out in consistency of holy action [Alford] (1Ti 5:22; 2Co 6:6; Jas 3:17; 4:8; 1Pe 1:22).

Let no man despise thy youth - Act with all the gravity and decorum which become thy situation in the Church. As thou art in the place of an elder, act as an elder. Boyish playfulness ill becomes a minister of the Gospel, whatever his age may be. Concerning Timothy's age see the conclusion of the preface to this epistle.

Be thou an example of the believers - It is natural for the flock to follow the shepherd; if he go wrong, they will go wrong also.

"Himself a wanderer from the narrow way,

His silly sheep, no wonder if they stray."

Though, according to the just judgement of God, they who die in their sins have their blood on their own head; yet, if they have either gone into sin or continued in it through the watchman's fault, their blood will God require at his hand. How many have endeavored to excuse their transgressions by alleging, in vindication of their conduct, "Our minister does so, and he is more wise and learned than we." What an awful account must such have to give to the Head of the Church when he appears!

In word - Εν λογῳ· In doctrine; teach nothing but the truth of God, because nothing but that will save souls.

In conversation - Εν αναστροφῃ· In the whole of thy conduct in every department which thou fillest in all thy domestic as well as public relations, behave thyself well.

In charity - Εν αγαπῃ· In love to God and man; show that this is the principle and motive of all thy conduct.

In spirit - Εν πνευματι· In the manner and disposition in which thou dost all things. How often is a holy or charitable work done in an unholy, uncharitable, and peevish spirit! To the doer, such work is unfruitful.

These words are wanting in ACDFG, and several others; both the Syriac, Erpen's Arabic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Vulgate, and Itala, and many of the fathers. Griesbach leaves them out of the text. They have in all probability been added by a later hand.

In faith - Εν πιστει· This word πιστις is probably taken here for fidelity, a sense which it often bears in the New Testament. It cannot mean doctrine, for that has been referred to before. Be faithful to thy trust, to thy flock, to thy domestics, to the public, to thy God. Fidelity consists in honestly keeping, preserving, and delivering up when required, whatever is intrusted to our care; as also in improving whatever is delivered in trust for that purpose. Lose nothing that God gives, and improve every gift that he bestows.

In purity - Εν ἁγνεια· Chastity of body and mind; a direction peculiarly necessary for a young minister, who has more temptations to break its rules than perhaps any other person. "Converse sparingly with women, and especially with young women," was the advice of a very holy and experienced minister of Christ.

4:12 Let no one have reason to despise thee for thy youth. To prevent this, Be a pattern in word - Public and private. In spirit - In your whole temper. In faith - When this is placed in the midst of several other Christian graces, it generally means a particular branch of it; fidelity or faithfulness. 4:12 Let no man despise thy youth. The remainder of the chapter is personal. Timothy was much younger than Paul, much younger than most of the presbyters, but he must have been fully thirty-five years old. He was converted about A.D. 46 and was then a young man, quite young, according to the ideas of that age, to be over presbyters. In A.D. 51, Paul had taken him away from home (Ac 16:1-3). I suppose that he must have been twenty at that time. If so, he was from thirty-five to thirty-eight years old at this time.

Be thou an example of the believers. So should every preacher be, and in all the characteristics which follow.

1 Timothy 4:11
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