It’s one thing to be young. It’s another thing to be despised for being young. In Ephesus, Timothy faced a dual challenge: older folks in the congregation might despise Timothy’s youthful ministry out of their own pride, and Timothy himself might hinder the cause of Christ through his own lack of wisdom as a young man. Our Lord, by His Apostle Paul, encouraged Timothy to “let no one despise you for your youth” (1 Tim. 4:12). Rather than shrinking back from ministry or being hindered because of his age, Timothy was called to positively pursue exemplary life in Christ.
Pursuing good and wise speech would bring blessing to the believers at Ephesus. Timothy was to take care that his words, whether from a pulpit or in ordinary conversation, were shaped by the Word. This way, his speech would reflect the speech of his Lord and Savior. When Jesus taught in the synagogue in Nazareth, “all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth” (Luke 4:22). Matthew records that “the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matt. 7:28–29). We read similar things about the speech of the Apostles before the Sanhedrin, particularly in regard to the weight of authority that was apparent in their preaching of the Word: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
The reality of being a man in communion with God was to shape Timothy holistically. Not only was he to be exemplary in speech, but he was also to be blameless in his conduct. Talk without walk is hypocrisy. How Timothy treated others by his actions, his gestures, his demeanor, would also exhibit the life that is from Christ.
As the Apostle mentored young Timothy in this verse, he gave three heart characteristics that were to drive, fill, and surround Timothy’s speech and conduct. He was to “set the believers an example . . . in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). Timothy was to walk in love as Christ had loved and did love him. He was to be a man who took God at His word, living with hope and confidence in the Lord. He was to be a man of purity, watchful over his heart and mind, quick to repent of sin, exercising self-control, and growing in holiness. Even if Timothy was young compared to many others in the church, when he took hold of the call of his Savior through the Apostle, he would bear good fruit. Timothy’s life would be a beautiful, and credible, testimony of Christ at work. The same is true for us, whatever our chronological age: the pursuit of life in Christ will, by His grace, transform us and those around us.