Summary: Paul's statement to Timothy was not that Timothy demand respect, but that he earn by setting a example in a number of spiritual disciplines.
CONTEXT: Throughout this letter, Paul has given Timothy careful instructions about proper worship, qualifications of leaders—both deacons and pastors—the conduct of women in worship, etc. The summation of his letter really begins in chapter 3: 15-16:
“Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”
Here we have the clear context of Paul’s letter. He was writing a letter of instruction that would advise Timothy of some things he did not know. Although Timothy grew up in a home where his mother and grandmother had shared the faith with him, he had not grown up in a believing church and therefore did not know for certain how believers should conduct themselves, especially in the areas that Paul mentions in this letter. How does a church select a pastor or a deacon? How could Timothy know this without having a “church” experience or even a set of bylaws outlining the methods and qualifications for leadership positions? How could Timothy know the way that the women he was going to pastor where supposed to conduct themselves? Paul provided him with a certainty, a set of instructions that would make it clear.
Then Paul tells Timothy in the beginning of chapter 4 (a continuation of his summary) that there will be people who will turn away from the truth. He names several false doctrines that people will accept and give Timothy the encouragement to stay focused on truth and continue pointing to the right way and by doing so he would demonstrate himself to be a minister of Christ, nourished on the truths of the faith. Paul wants Timothy to be cautious about following some new teaching, some new gospel, some new doctrine, so that he will stay rooted in the truth.
In verse 11 he tells Timothy to do two things:
COMMAND- He is to stand firm on the doctrines Paul has given him. He is to speak with authority in a manner that expects obedience.
TEACH – He is to teach these things. He is to pass on truth.
Do you long for your children to have teachable moments? Those moments are precious when you are not giving orders, but simply sharing how things work and why they work that why! Young people, do you provide your parents the opportunity to teach, or must they always be ordering you about?
Now we get to the meet of the message—look at verse 12
Paul tells Timothy not to let those he was ministering to look down (literally think against or despise) his youth. Paul knew something very important- REAL respect isn’t demanded—it is earned! It is essential to the context to note that Paul isn’t telling Timothy to stand up and demand respect in spite of his youth—he tells Timothy that instead he is to earn the respect of those he ministers to by providing a living example, especially in five areas:
1) Speech - how you speak
Colossians 4:6 “Let Your Speech be with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how to answer every man.”
Your words demonstrate your maturity or lack thereof. Your words need to be sweet and kind because sooner or later you are going to run into someone who will try to make you eat your words.
2) Conduct- how you behave
Do you act with maturity? Do you respond in emotion instead of in a godly manner?
3) Love- How you treat others
Love means you are concerned for others and demonstrate it with sacrificial living. Do you work to meet needs? As you grow up you learn how to love—which means giving rather than getting.
4) Faith – The trust factor—Do you believe God?
Faith Is nothing more than believing God. It is not some form of eternal optimism. It is trusting God and following God. Pastor Joe told me recently that someone testified of him that when Joe starts praying for something you better look out—God answers Pastor Joe’s prayers. This is a wonderful demonstration of faith. Do you trust God? Do you let people know what you are praying for? Do you watch together as God accomplishes His will? Do people see God answering your prayers? Do they see that instead of worrying you are trusting God?
5) Purity- free from sexual misconduct
The Greek word translated here means “chastity” and speaks primarily of refraining from sexual defilement. For a young man, remaining sexually chaste would be difficult, but important if he was going to be dedicated to the ministry.
The next step in Timothy’s spiritual growth was to increase his focus on: