After five years of a dual major in college, I surprised even myself by going on for four more years of intense seminary education. That’s nine years, if you’re doing the math. Yes, age 27 and just then starting a full-time career. But one of the reasons I submitted to that time investment, beyond the educational opportunity, was that at age 23 and going into ministry, nobody in those days was going to pay much attention to anything you had to say. You’re just a kid. Older pastors were revered as the spiritually astute.
Years later, the masses of the Christian community are often not especially attracted to older pastors and clergy. It is now all about the young and vibrant, high-energy communicator having the best message from God. I feel like I missed out on the cultural trends at both ends.
But it is often true that a younger person may be seen by more senior people as a novice in any endeavor. Though the youthful soul may have great gifting and skills, there have always been settings where it is simply not respected because of the scant age of the individual. And this could well happen in Ephesus with Timothy.
The Baltimore Orioles at this moment in time have a left-handed relief pitcher who is a rookie. A couple of months ago he was looked at as a long-shot to be of any help to the team because of his relative lack of experience. But now he has been in 15 games, and he is yet to give up a run in any of those appearances. He has proven himself to be ready for the big show, in spite of what the doubters originally thought.
And Paul basically tells Timothy to prove anyone wrong who would question his authority and teaching by the character of his life and his faithful ministry skills.
11 Command and teach these things. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
The best guess is that Timothy was probably about age 30 at this time. The word for “young” in verse 12 was used at the time to speak of a person under about age 40.
Paul’s encouragement here is that his younger disciple be consistent and diligent in service. The public reading was both a part of their Jewish heritage and the way things were done in the synagogue, but also it was a necessary part of education in a time where books and Bibles were simply not available. The New Testament was not yet even finalized. And beyond that, Timothy was to be faithful and diligent in the teaching (content) and preaching (exhortation) of Scripture.
Paul’s word to Timothy is essentially to begin well, remain faithful well, and finish well … be consistent, persevere. Sit in the saddle and ride the horse, be it easy or difficult.
It might be natural to look at this passage and think, “Well there’s some good teaching for Randy, Chris, Tim and the staff guys.” And that is true for us before it is true for others. But the principles of it apply to all.
Every believer has gifts (spiritual gifts) that are for the purpose of building up and serving others in the body of Christ. The wise person understands this truth and applies himself or herself to lifelong faithfulness and diligence in using those talents.
There is no vacation season in terms of your spiritual gifts. Are you using them regularly?