Thursday, January 14, 2021

Timothy, First, Read the Word; Then, Expound the Word (1 Timothy 4:13-15)


Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them. Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. Give complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress
(1 Timothy 4:13-15,

My last article on 1 Timothy was written on 9th September 2018 (CLICK HERE)… let me continue where I left off. The apostle Paul was still in prison when he wrote this letter and with pastoral heart, he reminds Timothy to give attention or devote himself to reading, encouraging, and teaching (v.13). The context is undoubtedly referred to the public worship service. Mind you, Paul doesn’t say worship as in singing first but worship as in “public reading of Scripture(ESV) first. Scripture – most probably the Old Testament – was read aloud in such services and should have its proper place in our services today. The written Word of God must have its central place in the church. I always grief whenever I hear preachers read a few verses here and there and using them as preconceived doctrinal supports or to launch themselves into storytelling. First, read the Word. Then, expound the Word. Don’t you know that on its own “the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Hebrews 4:12)?

And then, Timothy ought to encourage the believers. The word “encouraging” here can also mean exhorting or comforting. How he ought to do that? Well, again, through the Scripture. I used to be obsessed with positive thinking stuff and giving motivational speeches. Now I realize that although I can help people to be (presumably) more positive, I cannot change them to be godly. But God through His words can! All encouragement must be based on Scripture. This, however, requires someone to teach it. Maybe that’s the main reason why Paul also told Timothy to teach the Scripture or “give attendance to… doctrine(KJV). Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers puts it like this: “The word ‘doctrine’ suggests public teaching directed rather to the understanding of the hearers. The idea of exposition, or even of dogmatic teaching, seems here included. Like I said, first, read the Word. Then, expound (teach) the Word.

To do these things – reading the Scripture, encouraging the believers, and teaching the church – were a great responsibility for the young man Timothy. However, he was not asked to do these tasks in his strength. God has given him the necessary “spiritual gift” (v.14) for his calling. It is so with every child of God called to do His work. My testimony in the ministry is this: if God calls me, then He will also enable and equip me. For Timothy, Paul reminds him to “not neglect the spiritual gift”, “give your complete attention and “throw yourself into the task so that everyone will see your progress(v.15). At the end of the day, our talk and walk as Christ-followers – especially as ministers of God – must consistently grow in knowledge, wisdom, and usefulness. “If a man really makes progress,” writes Albert Barnes, in his Notes on the Bible, “it will be seen and appreciated by others; if he does not, that will be as well understood by his hearers.” 

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