Sharing the Gospel
1 Timothy 4:12-16
Those who believe with their hearts that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world have a difficult time not sharing their faith with others. We do so by our example as well as our words, and both our example and our words match... and are what Jesus wants them to be. To exist and live as followers of Christ is to show and share His love to others.
We seek to share with others first because we love God with all our hearts, souls and minds. That's the greatest commandment, and this kind of love makes itself evident by actions. Paul described at least three things with reference to his sharing the gospel:
1) He realized an obligation to God and to others to share the gospel.
2) To right thinking Christians this obligation to God and man brings not only a willingness but an eagerness to share the gospel.
3) The obligation is profound enough that it overrides hesitation due to fear thus making us "unashamed" of the gospel (Romans 1:14-16).
It is important to preach and teach and share the gospel by example. We are going to look into our need to share the gospel. While some of it applies mainly to preachers of the first century, its underlying principles apply to all disciples of all ages, because all disciples are expected to become "teachers" of others (Hebrews 5:12; James 5:19-20).
Here is some good news: the message we are to teach does not change. (1 Timothy 4:1,2). God's will on moral and spiritual issues is the same, though society's view is constantly changing. Consider the text:
12 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.
13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.
14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.
15 Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all.
16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
(1 Timothy 4:12-16).
Be An Example of a Believer (4:12)
Any good preacher or teacher lives the message he enjoins upon
others. Jesus does not call us to become hypocrites (Matthew 23:2,3; 25). The
godly person tries his best to apply the truth to his life. He is not perfect,
but he is pressing on toward that direction. His walk is in the light, and he
does not treat his mistakes lightly (Philippians 3:12-14; 1 John 1:6-9).
However, the Christian's imperfection should never be used as an excuse to do nothing, and it won't be if the Christian is genuinely "pressing on" toward perfection. He seeks to apply the Lord's will in every circumstance; in public and in private. He watches his speech. He speaks the truth in a controlled way so as not to render his religion vain (James 1:26). He is an example of behavior, love, faith, purity. We continue to press on toward perfection in these things, understanding that we are not there yet. If this is our attitude, then we will be the examples we are called upon to be.
Give Attention to Reading (4:13)
Here, this "reading" is specifically about publicly reading from the Scriptures in the assembly for the mutual benefit of all. This can be very uplifting when the reader knows his text and reads it well, and when he knows the meaning of what is being read himself so that in his inflections and emphasis he may impart that to others. That calls for preparation and study and prayer. Note the Lord does not just say to read the Scriptures, but to give attention to the reading. This entails proper preparation on the part of the reader.
This is necessary because if a reader does not read it well, then it will not be as helpful to others. Reading is a learned skill. We're not born with it. As with other learned skills, it must be practiced to be done well. Public reading, done well, is the edifying experience it ought to be (Nehemiah 8:1-6). All things in the assembly ought to be done with the goal of edification (1 Corinthians 14:26).
Do Not Neglect Your Gifts (4:14)
Whether the gift was bestowed by the Lord miraculously (as with
Timothy) or naturally, it is still a gift God has given and must not be
neglected. Be aware of what you have to offer and develop your talents for the
Lord as you put them to use in His kingdom according to the authority of His
word (Colossians 3:16).
We each need to develop our talents. Take preachers, for example. I may have a "favorite preacher" who I always get so much out of his lessons. I cannot be him. I can only develop my talents, not his. You and I do not have to be someone else. We need to be the best we can be at using what God has blessed us with.
When the early Christians were scattered from Jerusalem, they went everywhere preaching and teaching the word (Acts 8:4). Could they all preach like Peter on Pentecost? I doubt it, and they didn't have to. Develop what you have been given; that is all the Lord expects, but He does expect, and even require, that of each one of us! Dedicate yourself to these things. The phrases "take pains" and "be absorbed" give some indication of the prominent attention God expects out of us in developing ourselves (1 Timothy 4:15).
Pay Close Attention to Self and Doctrine (4:16)
Our self-evaluation ought not to be superficial, or self
justifying. We are not looking for reasons to remain as we are, but reasons and
ways to become better. We want to be more effective citizens of the kingdom.
God gave us a mirror that we need to look into (James 1:25). Don't let anything remain which may spring up and cause trouble later (Hebrews 12:14-16). This includes things like neglect and under evaluating the things of God (like Esau did)! We must also be careful to maintain purity of doctrine. We must have knowledge of the teachings of Scripture and be willing to teach them to others (2 Timothy 2:15). The text ends with an admonition and a promise: "...persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you." (1 Timothy 4:16b).
The admonition is to persevere, or continue, in these things. This means live so as to continuously progress as we become better examples of faith to others. The promise is that if we will do this, we will insure salvation for ourselves and for those who will hear us. Isn't that what living for Jesus is all about?
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 15.8; August 2008