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Sermon preached on 1 Timothy 4:11-16 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 3/5/2017 in Novato, CA.
1 Timothy 4:11-16
“Give Yourself Entirely to Them”
Take heed to yourself. That’s verse 16. We’ve studied this passage the last couple sermons and in both messages we came to this call for watchfulness and self-examination. We talked about it in terms of being an example; Timothy and us need to take heed to ourselves to be such an example. We talked about it in terms of the teaching ministry of the church; that Timothy and us need to take heed to make sure we are staying true to proclaiming and teaching God’s Word as a church. Well, today will be our last week on this particular passage. Next week we will head into chapter 8. But today we’ll again be reminded to take heed to ourselves. But this time I’ll be drawing our attention to this in regard to our continued growth as Christians. We will be focusing in on verses 14-15 of this passage which call Timothy and us to pursue continued growth. This call for growth is especially made in terms of our spiritual gifts. Timothy has a spiritual gift. But it was not enough for him to just have it. He needed to exercise it and even look to grow in his use of it. That is what we’ll have a chance to think about today. And as Paul call’s Timothy to cultivate the spiritual gifts God has given him, let us look to do the same as well in our own lives.
So, in our first point we’ll consider this spiritual gift within Timothy. That’s verse 14. Timothy had a spiritual gift that not everyone had. It says it was a gift that was in him. And it says it was something given to him. The New Testament talks in several places about such spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 12, for example speaks how these are given to God’s people from the Holy Spirit. What is clear from 1 Corinthians 12 is that Christians don’t all have the same gifts. Rather, God’s people have different kinds of gifts, gifts that we all need to be healthy both individually and as church family. But by God dividing up the different gifts among the believers, it makes us need each other. This is what Paul says Timothy has. He has a spiritual gift and the church will need him to make use of it.
So, what is this gift that Timothy has? Well, the text does not explicitly name the gift. Yet, the text does seem to give us a good idea of what Paul has in mind. The verse right before (vs 13) deals with Timothy’s need to keep up ministering the word. It specifically mentions exhortation and teaching. Those are actually two spiritual gifts Paul mentions in Romans 12:7-8, exhortation and teaching. And then in verse 14 it speaks of Timothy’s ordination in connection with this spiritual gifting. That’s the reference to the laying on of hands by the elders. That’s how someone would be ordained to the ministry, and it’s how we still ordain our officers in the church today. They are ordained by the laying on of hands with prayer. And so clearly Timothy has been spiritually gifted for the pastoral ministry of the word, to exhort and teach the scriptures and provide leadership for the church.
Notice that verse 14 says that Timothy’s gift came via prophecy. That’s wonderful though certainly not ordinary. We’re not told the details of how this gift came via prophecy. But it seems the idea is that the spiritual gift was somehow announced and/or verified via a prophecy. This would have certainly been great for Timothy to have such spiritual gifting so clearly made known to him. It would take away any doubt from his mind as to if he was called to some particular function in the church.
And so, when we think about applying this first point to ourselves, there is some great similarity, though also some difference. In terms of the difference, we don’t find out about our spiritual gifts via specific personal prophecy. That would be nice if we did, but that was something extraordinary for Timothy. It is not part of the ordinary operations of the church. The rest of us need to use wisdom and discernment to figure out our gifts. We do that individually and with the help of other Christians.
But then that’s where the similarity comes with us and Timothy. We all will have spiritual gifts. Let us look to wisely discern and determine what they are. This is not an impossible task. Just like we just did with Timothy. Timothy got the prophecy telling him what is spiritual gifting was; we did not. Yet we with a high degree of confidence are able to discern what Timothy’s spiritual gifting was, just by what we know of him. Let us each consider what our spiritual gifts are because the church will need you to use them. If you are in a Community Group, we recently had an exercise to help you think through this. The exercise looked at seventeen different spiritual gifts that we see in Scripture, for a list put together by Philip Ryken in the book The Communion of Saints. If you’d like a copy of that list with their descriptions, let me know. But I will name the seventeen right now to help you begin to think about this. They are: gifts of service, intercession, teaching, hospitality, leadership, faith, administration, evangelism, missions, wisdom, helps, giving, discernment, shepherding, exhortation, knowledge, and mercy. As you hear that list, we are reminded that those are things that in some sense we should all aspire to have in one way or another. Yet, clearly we see how some Christians are particularly gifted in some of those areas. May you too consider which of those items you’ve been particularly gifted in.
Let’s move now to our second point. I’ve titled it on your outlines as neglecting versus meditation, but basically, I’m comparing verse 14 with verse 15. It may not come across in the English, but the call in verse 14 for Timothy to not neglect his gift is contrasted in verse 15 with his call to meditate on these things. It’s clear in the Greek that these are the opposite actions. There is a Greek root in both words that basically comes down to caring or showing consideration. To bring out the contrast, let me translate it like this. Verse 14, “Don’t not-care about your spiritual gift.” Verse 15, “Care about your spiritual gift.” This is a sort of put off / put on idea. Timothy needs to put off any neglecting of his spiritual gift and put on care and concern for his spiritual gift.
Let me talk about both sides of this then for a moment. Starting in verse 14, our pew Bible says “Do not neglect”. The idea here is that Timothy shouldn’t disregard his gift. He shouldn’t be unconcerned about it. He shouldn’t forget about it or act like it is not important. When you neglect something, you leave it unused, unnoticed, and unexercised. A neglected gym membership is when you rarely go to the gym. A neglected Bible is one sitting in the corner collecting dust. We must not neglect the spiritual gifts God has given to us.
Instead, we are to give our care and concern to these spiritual gifts. In verse 15 we said that it says to “meditate” on them. Some translations say “practice” these things. Meditating and practicing sound quite a bit different. But I would suggest that they are both what you will end up doing when you go from neglecting something to start caring about something. If you are neglecting something, it won’t be on your mind. But if you stop neglecting it, you will start to think about it. In other words, you’ll begin go to meditate about the thing you were neglecting before. Well, after you starting thinking again about the thing you were neglecting, the next logical thing to do is to start making use of that thing again which you had been neglecting. In other words, you’ll start to put into practice that the thing you had been neglecting. So, hopefully you are seeing how verse 15 is the opposite of the neglect mentioned in verse 14. Instead of neglecting a spiritual gift, we need to be concerned about our spiritual gift. We should start to think about that spiritual gift. We should think about how to best use it and grow in our use of it. But then we should go and start making use of it and working on using it more effectively. This is all the opposite of neglect.
So think about this for Timothy. As one gifted in the ministry of the Word, he will have to continue in reading, preaching, and teaching the Word of God. He will need to give thought and attention to not only do this, but how to get better and better at doing it. So, as we consider what are our own spiritual gifts, we will then need to pay attention to them. To neglect them would be to take them for granted and not value them and thus not make use of them. Instead, we should recognize that these gifts are a matter of stewardship. God has entrusted us with these gifts with a duty for us to make use of them for the growth of the church. We need to give thought and attention to them. Your fellow brothers and sisters will suffer if you neglect your spiritual gifts. You will suffer if you neglect them! Don’t let your spiritual gifts collect dust! Bring them out and make use of them!
Okay, lastly, let’s turn in our third point to think about making progress with your spiritual gifts. Verse 15 says to “give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.” Given the context of verse 14, I believe the pronouns here are especially having in mind Timothy’s gifting as a minister of the Word and the things of verse 14 that he needs to be doing in light of his gifting. Similarly, Paul would later remind Timothy of this in 2 Timothy 1:6, that he needs “to fan into flame the gift of God” which came to him “through the laying on of hands.” So, Paul says he need to make progress in his abilities as a pastor and he needs to give himself entirely to his use and growth of his gifts.
That is a wonderful thing for Paul to say. Paul is concerned that Timothy would make progress. Notice that he even wants this progress to be evident to the other church members. (Surely that is part of him being an example as well, like we talked about earlier in this passage.) And this progress especially makes sense for Timothy. Remember, Paul had noted Timothy’s relatively young age. Paul had been concerned that some people might look down on Timothy for his age, so Paul says Timothy needed to live in a commendable way so there is no way people would be able to accuse him of giving into youthful lusts. So now, in a related way, Paul says he wants the church to be able to clearly see that Timothy is growing and maturing as a pastor. That of course should encourage the people that Timothy was the right man to be ordained for such work. This is certainly something we’d want to see in any ordained officer. We recognize that when they first start on their job, they will have a lot to learn. But we want to see growth and progress. I’ve been happy to see how our two new deacons have been growing on the job and learning more and more about how to serve as a deacon through on-the-job experience. It’s exciting to see! And when we “see” such progress, that means God is glorified. To see growth and progress in a spiritual gift is to recognize God who both gave the gift and the growth. God be praised!
Along these lines, all of us should be concerned with growing in our spiritual gifts. We should all want to make progress in general as Christians and specifically in our ability to use well the gifts God has given us. In Philippians 1:25 Paul talks about the progress that the Philippians would be making as they grow as Christians. Paul was excited to be able to be used by God to help the Philippians grow. And so, we see the application to us today. If we aren’t neglecting our gifts, it means we are looking to grow in them. Progress is something we are called to pursue. We don’t want to be stagnant or just keeping the status quo. We should want to grow! And isn’t that also a wonderful idea. Though God gives the gift to us, it is still something we can grow in. Just because it’s a gift, doesn’t mean we can’t grow in making use of that gift. Certainly, there’s another example of that relationship of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. God’s gifting doesn’t preclude our striving to grow in using those gifts. And of course, when we do grow we recognize his grace in that growth as well.
And so, it’s in light of this pursuit of growth that Paul tells Timothy to give him entirely to these things. Literally in the Greek, he tells Timothy to “be in them.” One translation translates it as “immerse yourself.” One commentator described this that a pastor “must live and breathe these things”. This statement of “giving yourself entirely” is nice because in some sense it points out the obvious. It’s not a big secret on how progress comes for a Christian. Let me give you an example of Bible memorization. I hear some Christians make comments at how they aren’t very good at memorizing the Bible like some people are. Now granted, some people are more gifted at this than others. And when you are young, the brain is especially good at memorizing, and when you are older your memory can have troubles. I understand that. Yet at the same time, the people I see who are most good at memorizing the Bible are the ones who really work at it. And the ones who constantly report not being good at it, tend to be the ones who don’t put any time into actually working at the memorizing. There’s no secret here. You have to immerse yourself. You have to give yourself to the growth. You have to “be in” whatever it is you are trying to get better at.
This doesn’t take away from the fact that our growth is ultimately the work of God. Remember how Paul spoke of this with an agriculture example in 1 Corinthians 3:5. There, Paul spoke of how the Corinthians grew. Paul said that he planted and Apollos watered, but the growth came from God. That’s us too. The planting and watering is akin to our “giving ourselves to our growth.” The growth ultimately comes from God, but it’s not a secret that if we want plants to grow we need to plant and water them. Immerse yourself in whatever area of your spiritual life that you are trying to grow in.
From own personal experience, I’ve seen this to be true. When I’ve really invested myself in some particular area, I’ve seen great growth. For example, for me I think of when I preach through a book of the Bible. No matter how well I thought I knew that book beforehand, after preaching a series through it, I come away having learned so much and having grown so much in my understanding of that particular book. Again, there is no secret to this. We need to make the time and investment in our growth. Let us each then, figure out your spiritual gift, put your attention on it, and then figure out how to “be in” your spiritual gift. Figure out how to give yourself to know and grow your gifts. Then invest yourself in that way, for the purpose of your progress and continued growth in that gift.
Brothers and sisters, in conclusion I point us back to Jesus Christ and the gospel. It says in Ephesians 4:8 that when Jesus ascended on high he gave gifts to men. It is part of the larger picture of our salvation that Jesus gives gifts to his church. Jesus came not only to bring us forgiveness of sins and eternal life, but he also came to sanctify us and edify us. And so, yes, let us put our faith in Jesus that on the cross he paid for all our sins. Let us believe and trust in that and know that we are justified before God. But let us also see that his victory also includes the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts that he uses to mature us and grow us. Rejoice too in that. Trust and believe in that.
Hebrews 2:3 says we should not neglect the great salvation that has been proclaimed to us. Let us not neglect to put our faith and hope in Christ for this salvation. But then likewise, we know that he gives us these gifts. Let us not neglect that either. Let us see these gifts as what they are! Gifts! Grace from above! Something he gives to bless us and our fellow Christians!
My point here is that when I talk about really striving to grow in these gifts, you could be tempted to think this is just some moralistic call. But that would be to miss the point. Christ in his grace gives us these gifts. We don’t pursue growth in them by our own strength. We don’t pursue growth by putting confidence in ourselves. No, we pursue growth because we know Jesus gave us these gifts. And because we know he wants us to pursue this growth. And because we trust that he will be with us as we seek such growth. And because we trust that as the growth comes that this too is his wonderful saving work at work in our lives. So then, let us heed this call to take heed to ourselves. Let us look again to our growth and progress. But let us do so trusting not in ourselves, but in our Lord and Savior who loves us and works all things together for our good and his glory. Amen.
Copyright © 2017 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.