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1 Timothy 4:12

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Let no man despise thy youth - That is, do not act in such a manner that any shall despise you on account of your youth. Act as becomes a minister of the gospel in all things, and in such a way that people will respect you as such, though you are young. It is clear from this that Timothy was then a young man, but his exact age there is no means of determining. It is implied here:

(1) that there was danger that, by the levity and indiscretion to which youth are so much exposed, the ministry might be regarded with contempt; and,

(2) that it was possible that his deportment should be so grave, serious, and every way appropriate, that the ministry would not be blamed, but honored. The “way” in which Timothy was to live so that the ministry would not be despised on account of his youth, the apostle proceeds immediately to specify.

But be thou an example of the believers - One of the constant duties of a minister of the gospel, no matter what his age. A minister should so live, that if all his people should closely follow his example, their salvation would be secure, and they would make the highest possible attainments in piety. On the meaning of the word rendered “example,” see the notes on Philemon 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:7.

In word - In “speech,” that is, your manner of conversation. This does not refer to his “public teaching” - in which he could not probably be an “example” to them - but to his usual and familiar conversation.

In conversation - In general deportment. See this word explained in the notes on Philemon 1:27.

In charity - Love to the brethren, and to all; see notes on 1 Timothy 5:2. There should be nothing in your contact with the other sex that would give rise to scandal. The papists, with great impropriety, understand this as enjoining celibacy - as if there could be no “purity” in that holy relation which God appointed in Eden, and which he has declared to “be honorable in all” Hebrews 13:4, and which he has made so essential to the wellbeing of mankind. If the apostle had wished to produce the highest possible degree of corruption in the church, he would have enjoined the celibacy of the clergy and the celibacy of an indefinite number of nuns and monks. There are no other institutions on the earth which have done so much to corrupt the chastity of the race, as those which have grown out of the doctrine that celibacy is more honorable than marriage.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Men's youth will not be despised, if they keep from vanities and follies. Those who teach by their doctrine, must teach by their life. Their discourse must be edifying; their conversation must be holy; they must be examples of love to God and all good men, examples of spiritual-mindedness. Ministers must mind these things as their principal work and business. By this means their profiting will appear in all things, as well as to all persons; this is the way to profit in knowledge and grace, and also to profit others. The doctrine of a minister of Christ must be scriptural, clear, evangelical, and practical; well stated, explained, defended, and applied. But these duties leave no leisure for wordly pleasures, trifling visits, or idle conversation, and but little for what is mere amusement, and only ornamental. May every believer be enabled to let his profiting appear unto all men; seeking to experience the power of the gospel in his own soul, and to bring forth its fruits in his life.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Let no man despise thy youth - Act with all the gravity and decorum which become thy situation in the Church. As thou art in the place of an elder, act as an elder. Boyish playfulness ill becomes a minister of the Gospel, whatever his age may be. Concerning Timothy's age see the conclusion of the preface to this epistle.

Be thou an example of the believers - It is natural for the flock to follow the shepherd; if he go wrong, they will go wrong also.

"Himself a wanderer from the narrow way,

His silly sheep, no wonder if they stray."

Though, according to the just judgement of God, they who die in their sins have their blood on their own head; yet, if they have either gone into sin or continued in it through the watchman's fault, their blood will God require at his hand. How many have endeavored to excuse their transgressions by alleging, in vindication of their conduct, "Our minister does so, and he is more wise and learned than we." What an awful account must such have to give to the Head of the Church when he appears!

In word - Εν λογῳ· In doctrine; teach nothing but the truth of God, because nothing but that will save souls.

In conversation - Εν αναστροφῃ· In the whole of thy conduct in every department which thou fillest in all thy domestic as well as public relations, behave thyself well.

In charity - Εν αγαπῃ· In love to God and man; show that this is the principle and motive of all thy conduct.

In spirit - Εν πνευματι· In the manner and disposition in which thou dost all things. How often is a holy or charitable work done in an unholy, uncharitable, and peevish spirit! To the doer, such work is unfruitful.

These words are wanting in ACDFG, and several others; both the Syriac, Erpen's Arabic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Vulgate, and Itala, and many of the fathers. Griesbach leaves them out of the text. They have in all probability been added by a later hand.

In faith - Εν πιστει· This word πιστις is probably taken here for fidelity, a sense which it often bears in the New Testament. It cannot mean doctrine, for that has been referred to before. Be faithful to thy trust, to thy flock, to thy domestics, to the public, to thy God. Fidelity consists in honestly keeping, preserving, and delivering up when required, whatever is intrusted to our care; as also in improving whatever is delivered in trust for that purpose. Lose nothing that God gives, and improve every gift that he bestows.

In purity - Εν ἁγνεια· Chastity of body and mind; a direction peculiarly necessary for a young minister, who has more temptations to break its rules than perhaps any other person. "Converse sparingly with women, and especially with young women," was the advice of a very holy and experienced minister of Christ.

Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7 (EGW), 915

Compare the Good Shepherd, who gave His life for His sheep, with those who are filled with self-esteem, puffed up, dictatorial, loving to rule in the church. The prophets have specified Christ's attributes. They foretold Him as a gentle Shepherd, who would carry the lambs in His bosom. There are others pointed out by prophecy, who have accepted the position of leaders and religious instructors, whom the Word of God rebukes for their neglect, in their ignorance, to do the work which they should have been doing in their places of responsibility (Manuscript 176, 1898). 7BC 915.1

16 (Colossians 1:26, 27; Romans 16:25; see EGW on John 1:1-3, 14; 2 Timothy 3:16). Beyond the Ken of Man—Great is the mystery of godliness. There are mysteries in the life of Christ that are to be believed, even though they cannot be explained. The finite mind cannot fathom the mystery of godliness (Letter 65, 1905). 7BC 915.2

(1 Peter 1:11, 12.) The Incarnation a Painful Process—The work of redemption is called a mystery, and it is indeed the mystery by which everlasting righteousness is brought to all who believe. The race in consequence of sin was at enmity with God. Christ, at an infinite cost, by a painful process, mysterious to angels as well as to men, assumed humanity. Hiding His divinity, laying aside His glory, He was born a babe in Bethlehem. In human flesh He lived the law of God, that He might condemn sin in the flesh, and bear witness to heavenly intelligences that the law was ordained to life and to ensure the happiness, peace, and eternal good of all who obey. But the same infinite sacrifice that is life to those who believe is a testimony of condemnation to the disobedient, speaking death and not life (Manuscript 29, 1899). 7BC 915.3

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Ellen G. White
The Voice in Speech and Song, 346

“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” [2 Timothy 4:1, 2]. VSS 346.1

The minister is not to indulge in the relation of anecdotes, but he is to preach the Word. “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality” [1 Timothy 5:20, 21]. “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” [1 Timothy 4:12]. “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” [2 Timothy 2:15]. VSS 346.2

We are to present Christ to the people, following the words of the apostle, where he says, “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: whereunto I also labor, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily” [Colossians 1:28, 29]. Was it essential for Paul to have this experience? Read carefully his words, and see if it is safe for any of the ministers of Christ to shape their life according to any lower standard of godliness.—Letter 3, 1892. VSS 346.3

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Ellen G. White
That I May Know Him, 316.2

There is a great work for us to do if we would inherit eternal life. We are to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live a life of righteousness.... There is no salvation for us except in Jesus, for it is through faith in Him that we receive power to become the sons of God. But it is not merely a passing faith, it is faith that works the works of Christ.... Living faith makes itself manifest by exhibiting a spirit of sacrifice and devotion toward the cause of God. Those who possess it stand under the banner of Prince Emmanuel and wage a successful warfare against the powers of darkness. They stand ready to do whatsoever their Captain commands. Each one is exhorted to be “an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12), for we are to “live soberly, righteously, and godly” in this present evil world, representing the character of Christ, and manifesting His spirit.... TMK 316.2

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Ellen G. White
That I May Know Him, 200.1

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12. TMK 200.1

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