BIBLE STUDY


Paul's Letters To Timothy
by Greg Williamson (c) 2014, 2019
Featuring the text of the New American Standard Bible *
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Intro | 1 Timothy 1:1-11 / 1:12-17 / 1:18-20 | 2:1-8 / 2:9-15 | 3:1-7 / 3:8-13 / 3:14-16 | 4:1-6 / 4:7-12 / 4:13-16 | 5:1-16 / 5:17-25 | 6:1-2 / 6:3-10 / 6:11-21 | 2 Timothy 1:1-7 / 1:8-12 / 1:13-18 | 2:1-7 / 2:8-13 / 2:14-18 / 2:19-26 | 3:1-9 / 3:10-12 / 3:13-17 | 4:1-4 / 4:5-8 / 4:9-22 ** | Articles & Definitions | Sources

A GROWING MINISTER: PROGRESSING IN THE WORD
(1 Timothy 4:13-16)

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.


 
It takes real effort to grow in the Christian life and to be successful in Christian service. God asks for our wholehearted surrender, no matter what the cost. - Warren Wiersbe [ref]
 

QuoteWorthy: Making Progress
When we see abilities of all kinds (spiritual, relational, technical) as gifts from God, we will be in a better position to see his hand at work through people's efforts. - Life Application Bible Commentary on the New Testament [ref]

1 TIMOTHY 4:13 - Effective Ministry (vv. 11-15)

Until I come (1 Timothy 4:13)
A valid alternate translation is: While I am traveling. "'While' Paul is away, (erchomai does not mean 'coming' but 'journeying,' 'traveling' from place to place) Timothy is to watch things in the churches." [ref] When Paul arrived, "Timothy’s commission would be superseded for the time by the presence of the apostle himself (1 Timothy 1:3; 3:14)." [ref]

the (public) reading (of Scripture) ... exhortation ... teaching (1 Timothy 4:13)
"Here the noun [anagnōsis] refers to the public reading of the Scriptures in the meeting of the local assembly for worship. In post-classical Greek it is used sometimes of reading aloud with comments. Here we have the three elements in the ministry of the Word: the reading aloud of the Scriptures; exhortation based on the reading and appealing to the moral sense; and teaching, appealing to the intellect." [ref]

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LITERACY AND BOOK CULTURE

In Greco-Roman antiquity generally literacy was narrowly limited and heavily concentrated in the aristocratic classes. Although the levels and extent of literacy may have varied somewhat with period and region, in no ancient society was there mass literacy. Book culture was similarly limited, being contingent not only on literacy but also on the cost and availability of hand-produced books.

Literacy
... Literacy can be understood to mean anything from signature literacy (the ability to write one’s name), to the capacity to puzzle out a brief and pointed message, to the functional literacy of craftspersons, to the developed skills of reading and comprehending lengthy literary texts. Granting varied types and gradations of literacy, if literacy is understood as the capacity to read with comprehension a text of average complexity, then it seems to have been possessed by relatively few. ... In many areas several languages were current (in Egypt, for example: Coptic, Greek and Latin), and literacy and its levels varied according to the language in question.

... [O]ver the whole period of classical antiquity the extent of literacy rarely exceeded 10 percent of the population. In the special circumstances of a few Hellenistic cities it may have approximated 20 to 30 percent, while in the western provinces of the Roman Empire it may not have been as high as 5 to 10 percent. ... [I]t is beyond dispute that the ancient world knew nothing remotely like mass literacy. Apart from explicit evidence, literacy has historically been a function of social class and of education, and any appreciable extent of literacy within a society requires institutions and incentives to foster it. These were largely lacking in ancient societies, which made no provisions for general public education and offered no strong or broad-based social and economic stimuli to the acquisition of literacy. Moreover, the means for acquiring literacy and the leisure to exercise it belonged only to some, and texts were not readily available or affordable to all.

Although literacy occurred principally within the aristocratic elite and among males of that class, it was not confined to them. There were literate women of the aristocracy, but the extent of literacy among women was considerably less than among men at all social levels. Beyond the social elite, literacy must have been fairly common also among members of the retainer class who were in the service of the elite. Among the lower social echelons literacy was rare. Yet some slaves were literate and often also could write, having been specifically trained for duties requiring those skills. Some technical professions had special uses for literacy: engineers, doctors, surveyors and magicians were frequently literate, as were some well-to-do tradespersons. But there is evidence also that some artisans and craftspersons were literate, and even some farmers possessed low levels of literacy.

The Uses of Literacy
The need of literacy, when it was not routinely gained through the education available to the small upper class, depended on its practical uses. Chief among these was the importance of writing and reading in the operations of government, especially in imperial and provincial administration. Official correspondence, administrative record keeping and the public dissemination of decrees, laws and regulations were essential tasks. Relatedly, there was apparently an above-average rate of literacy in the Roman army, where it had obvious uses in the communication of orders and in maintaining rosters and records, as well as probably counting in recruitment and promotion. The sheer expanse of the empire placed a premium on writing and reading for long-distance communication, not only in trade but also between family members and friends at far removes.

But locally the general population had little or no need of literacy to negotiate the ordinary business of life. When such skills were required (e.g., in writing contracts or business letters, recording marriages or divorces, drawing wills) the assistance of a professional scribe was accessible almost anywhere, and the great number of documentary papyri attest to the regularity of such recourse. In addition, but almost entirely among the elite, literacy was essential to the pursuit of the arts and higher learning. ... Literacy also had a role to play in religion ... principally for priests or hierarchs who had use of calendars, ritual manuals, temple archives or oracular records.

In addition to its diverse pragmatic uses, literacy possessed structural and symbolic values. Because of its restricted accessibility, what was written easily acquired significance in excess of content alone: it had features of the esoteric, of uncommon stability and permanence and of authority. Hence literacy and texts also furnished a medium for the construction, configuration and exercise of power. ...

Literacy and Orality
The culture of the ancient Mediterranean was a traditionally oral culture into which literacy had made a strong advance, and although literacy was mostly concentrated in the social and political elite, society at large was characterized by a lively synergism of the oral and the written. ... In the ancient world writing and reading were closely related to the spoken word: texts were commonly inscribed from dictation and, once inscribed, were normally read aloud, so that at the level of composition and use the oral and the written were interpenetrating. ...

... Christianity, which emerged from a textually oriented Judaism and whose constituency comprised a rough cross-section of Greco-Roman society, was also early engaged in the use, interpretation and production of texts. Appeals to Jewish Scripture and the exegesis of Jewish texts appear to have been an aspect of Christian activity from the beginning. There was frequent epistolary communication with Christian communities by their founders or overseers and among the far-flung communities spawned by the Christian mission; and various pre-Gospel textual redactions of tradition (small collections of sayings, miracle stories, testimonia) furnished materials later employed in the composition of full-blown Gospels.

In respect of its interest in texts, as well as in other ways, early Christianity more closely resembled a scholastic movement or philosophical school than did other religious groups of the period. Christianity’s concern with texts was practical and functional rather than literary in the high sense: texts served the needs of communication, teaching, evangelism, apologetics and worship. Not least in connection with worship a small fund of texts would have been indispensable in virtually every Christian community. Although the vast majority of Christians were, like the larger society, illiterate, through the public reading, interpretation and exposition of texts in worship and catechesis they were strongly exposed to texts and participated in book culture to an unusual degree.

Book Culture
In a context where literacy was restricted and all texts were individually produced by hand, book culture was naturally limited. Beyond literacy, the cost of books and the leisure to use them meant that book culture was mainly confined to the upper classes.

The standard form of the book in antiquity was the roll, a strip of papyrus 8 to 10 inches high and up to about 30 feet long, inscribed on the inside (recto) in tall, narrow columns 2 to 4 inches wide with 25 to 45 lines per column. Near the end of the first century an alternative form, the codex, or leaf book, made an appearance. Constructed by stacking sheets of papyrus, folding them and stitching them along the fold, the codex enabled the leaves to be inscribed on both sides, usually in one broad column to the page, and thus made for a more economical, capacious and convenient book. The codex, which served originally as a notebook, only slowly replaced the roll in general usage but caught on very early in Christian circles. Judging from extant early Christian manuscripts, it appears to have been the preferred and nearly exclusive format for Christian writings.

There was no mass production of books in antiquity. An author who wished to publish a text engaged the services of a professional scribe and furnished the text to be copied. Publication (ekdosis) consisted in giving such a copy to a patron or a friend, who then made it available to be copied at the initiative of other interested parties. In this way copies of the book were multiplied seriatim, one at a time. Once a text was in circulation and available for copying, anyone who had an interest in and access to it could have a copy made. Thus books were produced and acquired through an informal and unregulated process. Commercial interests played a very small role. Although there were some booksellers, because the market was limited and copying was unregulated they commonly produced books to order rather than stocking large numbers of copies of any work, and throughout the period books were routinely obtained privately, through channels of friendship among persons of literary interests.

The acquisition and use of books depended upon literacy, leisure, financial means and otherwise on need. The educated aristocracy valued and collected belletristic books -- of poetry, prose, history, philosophy -- for aesthetic and intellectual purposes. Scholars and certain professionals (e.g., physicians, architects, magicians) also required books, including technical manuals. Novelistic literature had a readership, though in a largely illiterate society it hardly qualified as popular in the broad sense. Because literature was a symbol of social status, books were sometimes avidly collected and ostentatiously displayed by the upwardly mobile and nouveaux riches. Yet a true book culture flourished only among the literati and among scholars.

Reading in antiquity was customarily done aloud, even if privately. The reason is that texts were written in continuous script (scriptio continua), without divisions between words, phrases, clauses or paragraphs, and without punctuation, so that the syllables needed to be sounded and heard in order to be organized into recognizable semantic patterns. Correspondingly, almost all ancient texts were composed in consideration of how they would sound when read aloud. In general it was more common to hear a text read than to read it oneself. There were various occasions of public reading when the illiterate or semiliterate might hear a text and have contact with literary culture.

Books were variously accumulated into libraries, both personal and institutional. Personal libraries of any size were exceptional and rarely exceeded some hundreds of rolls, though a few larger ones are reported. The great institutional libraries of the ancient world not only harbored very large collections of books but also carefully established texts from the best manuscripts and catalogued their holdings. The renowned Alexandrian library reputedly held some half a million items, housed a scriptorium and sponsored technical philological scholarship. The rival library at Pergamum was not so large but pursued similar textual, philological and bibliographical work. Roman institutional libraries were smaller and on the whole less notable for technical scholarship. There is no reason to think that ancient institutional libraries were public in the modern sense: their use was limited de facto to a small number of literate and leisured persons, and one of their principal functions was to serve as cultural and political symbols.

- H Gamble [ref]

"Scripture" would include both the completed Old Testament and "portions of the growing New Testament" (Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; Revelation 1:3; 22:18-19). [ref] [ref] "[T]he apostles put their writings on a level with the Old Testament Scriptures. So each local church would begin to make its collection of the letters and memoirs of the apostles, so that on the Lord’s day in the Lord’s assembly there would be two public readings, first from the Old Testament Scriptures (from the law or the prophets or both) and then from the apostolic writings." [ref]

In light of the problem with the false teachers, it is worth noting that: "From their very beginning all the congregations read the LXX Old Testament in their services just as was done in the synagogues. Now the present danger was that here and there some of the cranks and fanatics (1 Timothy 1:4) and the foolish law teachers (1 Timothy 1:7) might read or ask to have read as lections the Old Testament genealogies, to which to pin their myths, and lections from the Levitical laws, to be interpreted for their ignorant purposes. This Timothy was not to allow." [ref]

exhortation ... teaching (1 Timothy 4:13)
Scripture reading followed by an exposition was customary in the synagogue (e.g. Lk. 4:16ff.; Acts 13:16ff.), and this practice was carried over into the churches. "It was taken for granted from the beginning that Christian preaching would be expository preaching, that is, that all Christian instruction and exhortation would be drawn out of the passage which had been read." [ref]

The early Christian writer and martyr Justin Martyr (c. 100-165) [ref] informs us "that after the Scripture reading by the lector a presbyter or some other person admonished and exhorted the people to take to heart what had been read. At times there was also 'the teaching,' not necessarily of the lection read but on this or that subject. So Paul taught the gospel of Christ in the synagogues and did this without basing it on the haphtarah or the parashah that happened to be the lections of the day. How easy it would be for some of the [false teachers] to inflict some of their myths or some of their ignorant notions of the law on a congregation! In 1 Timothy 4:1, 4 we see what damage this might do." [ref]

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SCRIPTURE

The word for “Scripture” in Greek is graphē. It simply means “a writing” or “what has been written.” But in the NT this term is used exclusively of Scripture and is used in such a way that quoting Scripture is understood to be the same as quoting God (e.g., Jn 7:38, 42; Ro 4:3; 9:17; 10:11; Gal 4:30).

The nature of Scripture is explained by Paul when he writes that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). Without dictation or blocking out the individuality of the human writers, God the Spirit bore them along as they wrote, so that the product is “the holy Scriptures” (2 Tim 3:15), the Word of God.

Another important passage is 2 Pe 3:15. In the NT, graphē normally refers to the OT revelation or to an OT text. But Peter writes of “our dear brother” Paul’s letters and identifies them with “the other Scriptures.” This reference and the evidence of church history make it clear that the writings that compose the NT were recognized very early as Scripture.

- Lawrence O. Richards [ref]

exhortation (1 Timothy 4:13)
This would include "warning (for example, against error in doctrine and morals), advice, and encouragement." [ref]

teaching (1 Timothy 4:13)
Contrary to the well-meaning but simplistic folk who advocate for peace at any price -- as in, "Why can't we just all get along?" -- "[t]here are certain facts with respect to doctrine and morals which must be taught, and which one must accept and embrace, so that one's life is founded upon them." [ref]

Why does Paul fail to mention the other elements/activities typical of a Christian a worship service -- prayer, singing, testimony, the Lord's Supper, etc? Because here he is "correcting tendencies introduced by the enthusiasts, and he focuses on the primary tasks of the minister. God's Word, through its reading, preaching and teaching, initiates and sustains spiritual life, and its place in Christian worship is central. Without it there can be no effective ministry." [ref]

QuoteWorthy: Why We Gather
Men ultimately do not gather together to hear the opinions of a preacher; they gather together to hear the word of God. - William Barclay [ref]

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ENCOURAGEMENT 101

Apparently Timothy needed some encouragement. Most likely, so do many people around you. Each day we have many opportunities to support and inspire family members, fellow workers, and even total strangers. People need help and affirmation all along the way. Paul modeled six important principles to help us encourage others:

  1. Begin with encouragement. People who know we will encourage them will be happy to work with us.
  2. Expect of others only what you expect of yourself. People will resist being held to unfair standards.
  3. Develop expectations of others with consideration for their skills, maturity, and experience. People will reject or fail to meet expectations that do not fit them. Be patient with distracted or slow learners.
  4. Monitor your expectations of others. Changing circumstances sometimes require revised or reduced expectations.
  5. Clarify your expectations with others. People are not likely to hit a target that no one has identified.
  6. End with encouragement. People love to be thanked for a job well done.
- Life Application Study Bible [ref]

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1 TIMOTHY 4:14 - Effective Ministry (vv. 11-15)

"True, Timothy was young and inexperienced. But let him remember (and remind others) that God had called him (through the prophetic word), equipped him (through the heavenly gift) and commissioned him (through the presbyters’ hands), and the people will not despise his youth or reject his teaching." [ref]

Do not neglect (1 Timothy 4:14)
The literal translation is: "Do not keep on neglecting." "The word 'neglect' is in the present imperative, which when used in a prohibition, forbids the continuance of an act already going on. ... Timothy, while a good young man at heart, was rather diffident, and needed periodical prodding by the great apostle." [ref]

the spiritual gift within you (1 Timothy 4:14)
"Gift" is used here "'in the technical Pauline sense of extraordinary powers distinguishing certain Christians and enabling them to serve the church of Christ, the reception of which is due to the power of divine grace operating in their souls by the Holy Spirit' (Thayer). The word refers here to a 'special inward endowment which qualified Timothy for exhortation and teaching, and which was directly imparted by the Holy Spirit' (Vincent)." [ref] It may well be that here Paul is refering "to what had happened at Lystra on Paul's second missionary journey. It was then that Timothy by the operation of the Holy Spirit had been amply endowed with this gift." [ref]

While we are not told exactly what Timothy's gift was, educated guesses include:

  • "discernment between the true and the false, and consequently of being able to exhort, teach, and guide" [ref]
  • "Timothy’s charisma was his ability to understand the true gospel teaching over against spurious and false teachings. He had the gift of prophecy (Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:10) and of discerning of spirits (1 Cor. 12:10), i.e., seeing through all false teaching. He could properly transmit the true Word of God, could also teach and expound it, and could detect what deviated from it." [ref]
  • "Perhaps Timothy’s gift was his teaching ministry, together with the authority and power to exercise it." [ref]
  • "It is probably not possible to specify a particular gift here (such as teaching, preaching or leadership -- Rom 12:7-8), though we are at least to understand a reference to Timothy's Spirit-given abilities for ministry." [ref]
  • "The gift of pastor/teacher (cf. Eph. 4:11) which was given to Timothy" [ref]
  • "God’s gift, the special work of the Spirit equipping him for ministry (see 2 Tim. 1:6–7)" [ref]
  • "Timothy’s gift (cf. 2 Tim. 1:6) was leadership with special emphasis on preaching (2 Tim. 4:2), and teaching (1 Tim. 4:6,11,13; 6:2)." [ref]

bestowed on you through prophetic utterance (1 Timothy 4:14)
Here "the preposition 'through' denotes not 'means' but accompanying circumstances." [ref] And so the thought is: "accompanied by prophetic utterance."

with the laying on of hands by the presbytery (1 Timothy 4:14)
This "was the outward act and ceremony symbolizing the fact that Timothy was now to be identified with the elders in the common work of the ministry of the Word. He became one of them and one with them." [ref]

One Bible commentator elaborates on the meaning of "the laying on of hands":

 
The Biblical custom rests on the conception of the hand as the organ of mediation and transference. The priest laid his hand on the head of the bullock or goat (Leviticus 1:4) to show that the guilt of the people was transferred. The hand was laid on the head of a son, to indicate the transmission of the hereditary blessing (Genesis 48:14); upon one appointed to a position of authority, as Joshua (Numbers 27:18-23); upon the sick or dead in token of miraculous power to heal or to restore to life (2 Kings 4:34). So Christ (Mark 6:5; Luke 4:40). In the primitive Christian church the laying on of hands signified the imparting of the Holy Spirit to the newly-baptized (Acts 8:17; 19:6; comp. Hebrews 6:2). Hands were laid upon the seven (Acts 6:6). But the form of consecration in ordination varied. No one mode has been universal in the church, and no authoritative written formula exists. In the Alexandrian and Abyssinian churches it was by breathing; in the Eastern church generally, by lifting up the hands in benediction; in the Armenian church, by touching the dead hand of the predecessor; in the early Celtic church, by the transmission of relics or pastoral staff; in the Latin church, by touching the head. [ref]
 

The word "presbytery" "speaks of a group or 'board' of elders ... These men together constitute a biblically recognized group. The Bible never speaks of a corresponding group identity for deacons. The notion of deacons functioning as a 'board' is never mentioned in the Bible." [ref]

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SPIRITUAL GIFTS

The Greek word involved in this subject is charisma. It indicates a grace gift, one bestowed only by God to people in the NT. In Romans, Paul speaks of “the gift that came by the grace of” Jesus, eternal life (Romans 5:15; cf. 6:23). But in most occurrences in the NT, charisma is God’s special endowment of believers for service to the community of faith. This Greek word occurs seventeen times in the NT (Ro 1:11; 5:15–16; 6:23; 11:29; 12:6; 1 Co 1:7; 7:7; 12:4, 9, 28, 30–31; 2 Co 1:11; 1 Ti 4:14; 2 Ti 1:6; 1 Pe 4:10).

Because of the unusual character of some of the spiritual gifts identified in Scripture, the real significance of this biblical teaching has often been clouded.

Basic passages on spiritual gifts
The two major passages are Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12.

Romans 12 calls on believers to look at life from God’s perspective (Romans 12:1–2). Immediately Paul moves to explain God’s view of the individual believer within the community (Romans 12:3–8). Individuals are to see themselves as members of a body -- parts of a living organism, within which each person has a distinct function. God has endowed each believer with a gift, an enablement that makes him or her able to contribute to others in the body. Thus the church is an interdependent community, a living body, within which each of us “belongs to all the others” (v. 5) and is to serve others. In Romans 12:9–18 Paul describes the interpersonal relationships that members of the body are to develop. Only loving and intimate personal relationships create a context for that loving service in which spiritual gifts operate.

The same themes are picked up in 1 Corinthians 12. There are different gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4), sovereignly distributed by God (1 Corinthians 12:7). Each believer is given a gift to be used for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7). The passage emphasizes the importance of each person to the body, a corrective in a church that tended to exalt some gifts over others (1 Corinthians 12:14–26). As in the discussion in Romans, Paul moves on to speak of the climate of love that is to mark the believing community (1 Corinthians 13:1–13). It is in the context of interpersonal relationships shaped by love that spiritual gifts function freely.

Peter sums up the personal impact of the Bible’s teaching on gifts: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10).

Function of spiritual gifts
The grace gifts of the NT are always seen within the context of the Christian community. Although believers are called on to witness to, and to do good to, all people, the passages that explore spiritual gifts are focused on the shared life of members of the body of Christ. It is within the body that spiritual gifts function “for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7).

According to Ephesians 4, the “works of service” of Christians are called for “that the body of Christ may be built up, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12–13). Vitalized by the spiritual life that flows from Jesus, the whole body “grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:16).

It is important that we see spiritual gifts as spiritual endowments that function within the body, focused on the maturing of our fellow Christians and the believing community. God surely works through his people to serve and witness to him in the world. But spiritual gifts are in Scripture a family concern.

Questions about spiritual gifts
Many questions are asked about spiritual gifts, questions that cannot be fully answered here. But some observations are called for in response to major questions raised.

(1) Do the more obviously supernatural gifts of the Spirit operate today? No decisive answer can be given to this much-debated issue. But surely there is not enough biblical evidence to say with certainty that the more spectacular gifts mentioned in the NT cannot operate today.

(2) Are all the spiritual gifts listed in the Bible? It is best to take the various gifts listed in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 as representative rather than as an exhaustive listing of God’s endowments. Any way in which we serve others and contribute to their lives must depend on the Holy Spirit’s working through us and should be considered a charisma.

(3) Where do spiritual gifts operate? The context defined in the Bible is relational. Spiritual gifts operate as we lovingly respond to others and seek to serve them. At times we mistakenly identify spiritual gifts with church offices or institutional roles. We should not assume that the spiritual gift of teaching is summed up by functioning in a Sunday school classroom.

(4) Can a person have more than one spiritual gift? It is clear that Paul had more than one gift (1 Corinthians 14:18; 2 Corinthians 12:11–12). We know that each believer has at least one spiritual gift. There is no reason to believe that any individual is necessarily limited to one gift.

(5) What is the difference between the spiritual gifts and persons who are called God’s gifts to his church? Both 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 speak of such gifted persons: apostles, evangelists, etc. These persons were set aside in the early church to a full-time and probably itinerant ministry. They had to be gifted spiritually to fulfill their ministries. But the offices are not gifts in the sense of charisma.

Discerning an individual’s spiritual gift(s)
Many believers wonder what their spiritual gifts are. How can they find out?

It is important to remember that spiritual gifts operate in a relational context. It is in a climate marked by intimate sharing and love that we respond to others’ needs and that God the Spirit ministers through us to serve them. Given this, we can outline the way that spiritual gifts can be identified.

First, Christians must develop close relationships with other believers. Within this context a person will respond appropriately to shared needs.

Second, Christians must be willing to reach out and serve others, seeking to help and to minister to personal, emotional, material, and spiritual needs. In responding to others and in seeking to serve them, God the Holy Spirit has opportunity to work through the individual.

Third, the ministry of God the Spirit through the individual will eventually be recognized by others in the community of faith. It is the testimony of others concerning how God has worked through an individual that is decisive in identifying that person’s spiritual gifts.

Fourth, as gifts are identified, each believer must seek opportunities to minister in appropriate ways that use his or her gifts for the benefit of others.

- Lawrence O. Richards [ref]


Highly skilled and talented athletes lose their abilities if their muscles aren't toned by constant use. Likewise, we will lose our spiritual gifts if we don't put them to work. Our talents are improved by exercise, but failing to use them causes them to waste away from lack of practice and nourishment. What gifts and abilities has God given you? Use them regularly in serving God and others.

- Life Application Study Bible [ref]

Also see: The Spiritual Gifts Handbook (pdf)

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LAYING ON OF HANDS

The laying on of hands has great significance as a religious rite or ceremony in the Bible. This rite is associated with the bestowal of divine blessings upon a person, and it also is used as a special form of recognition for persons set apart for God’s service.

On the Day of Atonement, the high priest placed his hands on the head of a goat before releasing it into the wilderness. Through this rite, he symbolically transferred the sins of the people to the scapegoat (Lev. 16:21).

Abraham and the other patriarchs placed hands on their descendants to confirm a birthright or to convey a special blessing, as when Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph (Gen. 48:14, 18). The ceremony sometimes implied the transfer of authority (Num. 27:18–20). Joshua was said to be “full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him” (Deut. 34:9).

The laying on of hands apparently served also as a formal declaration of identification by the church at Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, whom they were sending out as missionaries (Acts 13:2, 3). This same sense of identification with sacrificial animals as a substitute for the people may be implied in the burnt offering presented by the priests in Old Testament times (Lev. 1:4).

Placing hands on persons in need of healing has a strong biblical precedent. The practice was used by Jesus during His healing ministry (Matt. 9:18) and when He blessed the children (Matt. 19:15). The apostles laid their hands on the sick (Acts 14:3) and on newly baptized persons (Acts 8:16, 17). There also appears to be a connection between the laying on of hands and the reception of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:18).

The Levites were consecrated to service by the laying on of hands (Num. 8:10, 11). In the New Testament, the practice is associated with the ordination of deacons (Acts 6:6) and ministers (1 Tim. 4:14; 5:22) and the setting apart of missionaries for divine service (Acts 13:2, 3).

- The Open Bible [ref]

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1 TIMOTHY 4:15 - Effective Ministry (vv. 11-15)

Take pains with these things (1 Timothy 4:15)
"There is a play on words here in the Greek that does not come through in English. In 1 Timothy 4:14 Paul says, "Do not neglect" (amelei, melo with a-negative). In 1 Timothy 4:15 he says, 'Be diligent' (meleta; NASB: 'Take pains'). What he is saying is 'Don't be careless about your gift, but be careful about your pastoral duties.'" [ref]

be absorbed in them (1 Timothy 4:15)
"Lit. be in these things. ... The meaning is that he is to throw himself wholly into his ministry." [ref] Today we would say that he should "live and breathe these things." [ref] It is as if Paul is telling Timothy: "Don't compromise, and don't allow yourself to be distracted." [ref]

progress (1 Timothy 4:15)
"Progress" [Greek prokopē] refers to "'a striking forward' (pro, 'forward,' kopto, 'to cut') ... Originally the word was used of a pioneer cutting his way through brushwood." [ref] It "was used in military terms of an advancing force and in general terms of advancement in learning, understanding, or knowledge." [ref] Timothy was to live in such a way "that the whole church could see his spiritual progress and imitate it." [ref]

It is quite possible that Paul also has in mind an advancement "that has already been made a long time before Timothy’s present task and position were assigned to him. Many years before this time, when the congregation in the city was first organized, Timothy had been with Paul in Ephesus. Since at that time he had been younger than he now was, he had not held so responsible a position. Since Timothy was ever steady and true in his present work, all would at once see the advancement that he had made since the years that intervened, and that Paul’s now putting him in full charge was not a mistake, either as far as his age or as far as his qualifications were concerned." [ref]

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THE PROGRESSING PASTOR

The example which Christian leaders set, then, whether in their life or their ministry, should be dynamic and progressive. People should be able to observe not only what they are but what they are becoming, supplying evidence that they are growing into maturity in Christ. Some Christian leaders imagine that they have to appear perfect, with no visible flaws or blemishes. But there are at least two reasons why this is a mistake. First, it is hypocritical. Since none of us is a paragon of all virtues, it is dishonest to pretend to be. Secondly, the pretence discourages people, who then suppose that their leaders are altogether exceptional and even inhuman. Paul himself conceded that he had not arrived. ‘Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on …’ (Phil. 3:12). In the same way we should not give the false impression that we have reached our goal; on the contrary, we are still on the road, still pilgrims. Not that we should go to the opposite extreme, parade our failures, or make embarrassing public confessions. That helps nobody.

- John Stott [ref]


Here in this passage is set out in the most vivid way the personal duty of the Christian leader.

  1. He must remember that he is a man set apart for a special task by the Church. The Christian leader does not make sense apart from the Church. His commission came from it; his work is within its fellowship; his duty is to build others into it. That is why the really important work of the Christian Church is never done by any itinerant evangelist but always by its settled ministry.
  2. He must remember the duty to think about these things. His great danger is intellectual sloth and the shut mind, neglecting, to study and allowing his thoughts to continue in well-worn grooves. The danger is that new truths, new methods and the attempt to restate the faith in contemporary terms may merely annoy him. The Christian leader must be a Christian thinker or he fails in his task; and to be a Christian thinker is to be an adventurous thinker so long as life lasts.
  3. He must remember the duty of concentration. The danger is that he may dissipate his energies on many things which are not central to the Christian faith. He is presented with the invitation to many duties and confronted with the claims of many spheres of service. ... It is easy for the Christian leader to be busy here and there, and to let the central things go. Concentration is a prime duty of the Christian leader.
  4. He must remember the duty of progress. His progress must be evident to all men. It is all too true of most of us that the same things conquer us year in and year out; that as year succeeds year, we are no further on. The Christian leader pleads with others to become more like Christ. How can he do so with honesty unless he himself from day to day becomes more like the Master whose he is and whom he seeks to serve? ... The Christian leader's prayer must first be that he may grow more like Christ, for only thus will he be able to lead others to him.
- William Barclay [ref]

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1 TIMOTHY 4:16 - The Fruit of Effective Ministry

Pay close attention to yourself and your teaching ... persevere in these things (1 Timothy 4:16)
Put simply, Paul was telling Timothy: "Be conscientious about how you live and what you teach" (NET). "The order is significant. Personality goes before teaching." [ref] To "persevere in these things" is to "[s]tay by them, stick to them, see them through." [ref]

Why is Paul urging Timothy to be constantly alert? [ref] So that Timothy will be authentic.

 
Thus Timothy is to keep a close eye on two things equally. First, his life, literally ‘himself’, his character and his conduct. Secondly, he is to watch his doctrine, his teaching of other people. He is to be neither so engrossed in teaching others that he neglects himself, nor so concerned with the culture of his own soul that he neglects his ministry to others. Instead, he is to be consistent, applying himself with equal attention and perseverance to himself and to others. As Paul had said to the Ephesian elders: ‘Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock …’(Acts 20:28). Then there will be no dichotomy between his public and his private life, or between his preaching and his practice. Instead, he will manifest that most necessary of all leadership qualities, personal authenticity. [ref]
 

you will ensure salvation (1 Timothy 4:16)
It is possible that the "salvation" mentioned here refers to "being saved from the teachings of demon-influenced men. That is, by the reading of the Word, by exhortation from it, and by a clear explanation of its meaning, Timothy and his hearers will be saved from becoming entangled in these heresies." [ref] [ref] [ref] In that case, it is as if Paul is telling Timothy: "You do save yourself and others from wrong beliefs and therefore from wrong ways by this continual reminder." [ref]

But even in the sense of the ultimate salvation which comes from God, we must remember that rather than mere passive observers we are active participants. Once saved, we are expected to work out our salvation -- however imperfectly -- by seeking first God's kingdom and his righteousness. And being saved in the first place means that we heard and responded to the Gospel message that someone else shared with us -- and that we, in turn, are called to share with others. "By careful attention to his own godly life and faithful preaching of the Word, Timothy would continue to be the human instrument God used to bring the gospel and to save some who heard him. Though salvation is God’s work, it is His pleasure to do it through human instruments." [ref]

As one Bible commentator notes well: "In this life we experience the process of salvation as stages of growth in "Christlikeness," "putting on the new self (Col 3:11), working out our salvation (Phil 2:12); and many things can impede growth. Essential to growth, however, is the ministry of God's Word in preaching and teaching in the church, from which we draw spiritual nourishment, as well as the modeling of godliness by the more mature for those younger in the faith. Important, too, for the salvation process (especially for the Christian leader) is faithfulness in carrying out the calling of God. Effective ministry is ministry in which the Word of God is applied to individual lives and to all situations in life." [ref]

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*Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org) | **This outline is from The Bible Exposition Commentary, by Warren W. Wiersbe