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12. Becoming Good Ministers of Christ Pt. 2 (1 Timothy 4:11-16)

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Command and teach these things. Let no one look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in your speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift you have, given to you and confirmed by prophetic words when the elders laid hands on you. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that everyone will see your progress. Be conscientious about how you live and what you teach. Persevere in this, because by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.

1 Timothy 4:11-16 (NET)

What are qualities of good ministers?

In 1 Timothy 4:6, Paul says, “By pointing out such things to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, having nourished yourself on the words of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.” “Good servant” can also be translated “good minister.” Paul instructs Timothy throughout this letter—teaching him both how to run the church (cf. 1 Tim 3:15) and how to be a good minister. In 1 Timothy 4:6-16, he gives specific instructions on being a good minister of Christ. These instructions don’t just apply to Timothy or to pastors. A minister is simply somebody who serves God and others. We are all called to be ministers, and this text gives us qualities of good ones.

Previously, we considered these qualities in 1 Timothy 4:6-10:

  • Good Ministers Warn the Flock
  • Good Ministers Constantly Nourish Themselves on God’s Word
  • Good Ministers Are Obedient to God’s Word
  • Good Ministers Avoid Ungodly Teaching
  • Good Ministers Practice Spiritual Disciplines
  • Good Ministers Continually Hope in the Lord

In 1 Timothy 4:11-16, we consider further qualities of good ministers so we can model them.

Big Question: What qualities of good ministers can be discerned from 1 Timothy 4:11-16?

Good Ministers Teach with Authority

Command and teach these things.

1 Timothy 4:11

Interpretation Question: What does command and teach “these things” refer to?

In 1 Timothy 4:11, the word “command” can be translated “to order.” It is a “call to obedience by one in authority.”1 It is a military word that reflects the fact that the church is God’s army and that spiritual leaders are called to pass down instructions with authority and conviction because they come from God.2 When Paul says command and teach “these things,” he refers to the instructions given to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:1-10: He should warn the flock of false teaching and avoid it himself. He should discipline himself to godliness and train others to do so. However, these instructions weren’t just for Timothy; they were also for the Ephesians. In this we see another quality of good ministers; they preach and teach with authority.

This was clearly seen in Christ’s ministry. The Jews marveled at Christ’s teaching because he spoke with authority. Rabbis simply quoted other rabbis, but Christ spoke for God (Lk 4:33). Before Christ’s ascension, he declared that all authority had been given to him and therefore we should make disciples of all men (Matt 28:18-20). Believers are meant to minister in his authority. First Peter 4:11 says that we should speak as the very “oracles of God” (ESV).

John MacArthur said this about the sad state of most preaching and teaching:

Paul’s command to Timothy contrasts sharply with much contemporary preaching. Preaching in our day is often intriguing, but seldom commanding; often entertaining, but seldom convicting; often popular, but seldom powerful; often interesting, but less often transforming. Paul does not ask Timothy to share or make suggestions to his congregation. Rather, he is to prescribe the truth to them.3

Application Question: How can ministers preach and teach with authority?

Preaching and teaching, whether in our private or public ministry, is not something conjured up from inside of us; it comes from understanding and applying these principles:

  1. Ministers must believe that God’s Word is inspired and without error (2 Tim 3:16-17, Matt 4:4, Psalm 19:7-9). If we believe there is error in Scripture, it robs the Scripture and our teaching of authority. Billy Graham once struggled with whether the Bible was fully inerrant. One of his fellow ministers leaned towards liberal doctrine and that was affecting him. He even wondered if he would have to give up preaching. One day, he went into the forest and put down his Bible on a tree stump. He cried out to God, “Father, I am going to accept this as thy Word by faith!” Franklin Graham, his son, attributes that declaration as the beginning of a great move of God in Billy’s ministry. Shortly after, droves of people began to respond to Billy Graham’s ministry in a way that had never happened before.4
  2. Ministers must properly interpret Scripture. If we are unsure of what a text means, again, we will lack authority in sharing it with others. Proper interpretation comes from diligent study and comparing Scripture with Scripture (2 Tim 2:15).
  3. Ministers must recognize that they are called to please God and not men in their preaching. In Galatians 1:10, Paul said, “Am I now trying to gain the approval of people, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave [servant] of Christ!” Sadly, the church is full of men pleasers and very few God pleasers. God’s approval should be our motivation in everything we do, but especially in our preaching and teaching. When we seek to please God instead of others, there will be authority in our ministry.
  4. Ministers must serve others out of an abiding relationship with Christ. Christ said, “If you abide in me and I in you, you will produce much fruit” (John 15:5 paraphrase). No doubt, this fruit includes God’s authority and power on our ministry to heal, to encourage, to strengthen, to build up, and even to tear down. If we neglect abiding in God, we will lack authority and power in our ministry.

Good ministers preach and teach with authority which comes from God. Christ has sent us forth with authority from heaven to make disciples, and when we are faithful, we operate in that authority (cf. Matt 28:18-20, Eph 2:6).

Application Question: Why is belief in the inerrancy of God’s Word so important to preaching and teaching with authority? How would you teach the inerrancy of God’s Word to somebody who doubts (cf. 2 Tim 3:16-17, Matt 4:4, Psalm 19:7-9, Titus 1:2)?

Good Ministers Are Models of Godliness

Let no one look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in your speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity.

1 Timothy 4:12

Application Question: Why is godliness in the life of a minister so important for ministry?

Next, Paul calls Timothy to not let anyone look down on his youth. Most likely, Timothy was around 30 to 35 years old.5 In that context, a great respect was given to age and wisdom, and therefore a youth was anybody from birth to forty years old.6 No doubt, some of the people in the Ephesian church struggled with Timothy’s young age. Maybe, they thought, “What can he teach me? He is so young!” However, Timothy was called to calm their fears by being a godly example.

John MacArthur said, “The single greatest tool of leadership is the power of an exemplary life.”7 Puritan Thomas Brooks said, “Example is the most powerful rhetoric.”8 By being a godly example, Timothy would quiet the mouths of those who questioned his ministry.

Observation Question: In what areas was Timothy called to demonstrate godliness, and how can good ministers be examples in these areas?

Let no one look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in your speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity.

1 Timothy 4:12

1. Good ministers model godliness in their speech.

Proverbs 10:19 in the ESV says, “When words are many transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” Young ministers are often prone to excessive talking instead of listening. James 1:19 says, “be quick to listen and slow to speak.” Excessive talking often leads to sin. Good ministers must be good listeners—listening to what people say, what they are not saying, and listening to God. Only after deeply listening should ministers speak, and when they do, it should be in a loving manner (Eph 4:15). Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle response turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.” Our manner of speaking is just as important as our words. Good ministers understand that.

Are you modeling godliness in your daily speech, especially when others fail or hurt you?

2. Good ministers model godliness in their conduct.

Conduct refers to our behavior and lifestyle. In how we handle our money, our family, our friendships, our personal appearance, our work, our entertainment, and anything else, ministers must seek to glorify God. First Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”

Are you modeling godliness in your daily conduct—your eating, drinking, and everything else?

3. Good ministers model godliness in their love.

Good ministers model biblical love. This love is not simply comprised of emotions, as is often considered by the world, but includes self-sacrificing service regardless of how one feels. In John 13:34, Jesus said, “‘I give you a new commandment—to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Christ loved us by giving his life for us, and therefore, we must demonstrate this love to others. Good ministers sacrifice their time, money, and even goals to love God and people. As others watch, they are inspired to love more deeply as well.

Are you modeling godliness through your sacrificial love for God and others?

4. Good ministers model godliness in their faith.

This probably refers both to faith in God and faithfulness. Sadly, though Christians are saved through faith, most aren’t living by faith. They have no expectations of God. They don’t approach God in faith for him to move powerfully and change lives through Sunday worship. When they encounter difficulties, instead of trusting God, they fret, worry, and often quit. Even though Christians are believers, they often do not actually believe. Jesus said he couldn’t perform very many miracles in his hometown because of their lack of belief (cf. Matt 13:58). Sadly, this is true for most. They believe in a supernatural God but their worldview and faith are largely natural.

In addition, as mentioned, faith also applies to faithfulness. Our yes must mean yes and our no must mean no. If we say, we are going to do something, we must follow through. These are qualities of good ministers. They are models of faith in God and faithfulness in their daily lives.

Are you modeling godliness through your faith?

5. Good ministers model godliness in their purity.

This would have been especially important for Timothy, as he pastored in Ephesus. Ephesus was the location of the temple of Diana. She had a great many temple prostitutes, and immoral sex was one of the ways people pleased her and sought prosperity. Sex and sexuality was exalted throughout the city and the Greco-Roman world for that matter.

Timothy needed to model purity both in his conduct with young women (1 Tim 5:2) and his thought life. Purity is not just an outward issue but a heart issue. Christ taught that a man committed adultery simply by lusting after a woman that was not his wife (Matt 5:28). To demonstrate purity in heart, Timothy needed to constantly take his thoughts captive and confess them to Christ (2 Cor 10:5). He needed to battle to keep his mind and heart pure by avoiding ungodly entertainment, practices, and relationships that characterized the Greco-Roman world.

Are you modeling godliness through your purity—your conduct with the opposite sex and in your heart? Good ministers model godliness in every area of their life—provoking others to godliness.

Application Question: If you had to pick one, which area of godliness—speech, conduct, love, faith and purity—do you struggle with most and how are you going to strive for godliness in that area?

Good Ministers Are Bible-Centered

Until I come, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.

1 Timothy 4:13

Interpretation Question: What does Paul mean by public reading and preaching and teaching?

Paul told Timothy to be devoted to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and teaching. Public reading of Scripture was very important in that culture, as many were illiterate and very few owned manuscripts. Books in general were very expensive. After reading, Timothy was to preach or exhort, which refers to challenging people to apply God’s Word. Teaching refers to the passing along of biblical doctrine.

This method of disseminating God’s Word was originally practiced in Judaism. In synagogues, Jews would stand to hear God’s Word read and then somebody would explain and apply the text. In Nehemiah 8, Ezra and the Levites read the OT for six hours and explained it to Israel, as they stood listening. Nehemiah 8:8 says, “They read from the book of God’s law, explaining it and imparting insight. Thus the people gained understanding from what was read.” Similarly, Christ and Paul read and explained Scripture in the synagogues (cf. Lk 4:16, Acts 13:15).

Expositional Preaching

It seems clear from Scripture that the Jewish method of presenting the Word carried over to the apostolic Christian church. This is often called expository preaching, as people teach verse by verse through Scripture after a public reading. It “exposes” truths in the text to the hearers by explaining the text in the ancient context and applying it to the contemporary setting.

John Stott said this about exposition: “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.”9 Kent Hughes concluded, “Therefore, any preaching that does not guide the listener through the Scriptures is an aberration from the apostolic practice.”10

Sadly, exposition is often not practiced in churches today. A pastor approaches the pulpit to read a text and then everybody waits anxiously to hear it explained. Then the pastor launches into a series of stories and jokes with a moral, political, or social conclusion and hardly even references the text or other Scriptures.

As a result, the church is malnourished, and most don’t even know what biblical preaching is. They come away from sermons saying, “That was so encouraging!” However, they don’t understand their Bibles any better. All they know is a bunch of stories, illustrations, and devotional thoughts.

Expositional Hearers

It is important not only for pastors to expositionally preach God’s Word but also for the church to be expositional listeners. This means congregants listen to preaching to both understand the text in its original context and apply it to their contemporary life and situation. We have a lack of exposition in the pulpit, in part, because most congregants don’t really desire to understand and apply God’s Word. They just want to be encouraged or entertained. Paul said this in 2 Timothy 4:2-4:

Preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction. For there will be a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves, because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things. And they will turn away from hearing the truth, but on the other hand they will turn aside to myths.

Again, exposition is often neglected simply because people don’t want to hear it. Those who preach the Bible are mocked and criticized—called intolerant, irrelevant, and sometimes even boring. This doesn’t remove the responsibility of the preacher to preach God’s Word, but it does put responsibility on the hearers to demand God’s Word, instead of messages that simply itch ears and make people feel good.

Expositional Disciplers

In addition, good ministers are expositional not only in their public teaching but also in their private teaching. When a person is depressed, angry, or lost, ministers open their Bibles to present Scripture, explain its meaning, and apply it to that person’s life. They do this because they believe Scripture is useful for thoroughly equipping men and women for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17).

Are you an expositional teacher? Do you share Scripture with people and apply it to their life or situation to help them grow? Are you an expositional listener? Do you come to worship to understand Scripture in its original context and applied to the contemporary setting? Good ministers are Bible-centered—they have a wholly biblical ministry.

Application Question: What is your experience with expository preaching—verse by verse teaching of Scripture? How has the church often strayed from its Jewish and apostolic roots in this area? Why is being expositional in preaching and hearing so important?

Good Ministers Faithfully Exercise Their Gifts

Do not neglect the spiritual gift you have, given to you and confirmed by prophetic words when the elders laid hands on you.

1 Timothy 4:14

As Paul instructs Timothy, he also commands him to not neglect his gift. We don’t know what spiritual gift Timothy had. If the context is considered, most likely his gift was preaching and teaching (cf. v. 13). Since “Do not neglect” is a command in the original, it implies that Timothy was being tempted to not use it and maybe abandon ministry all together.11 Timothy had a timid disposition (2 Tim 1:7). People looked down on him because of his youth. False teachers in the church twisted the Word, and persecution came from outside the church. One of Satan’s tactics has always been to intimidate the church into silence. He is a “roaring lion” seeking whomever he can devour, and fear is one of his tactics (1 Peter 5:8).

The tendency towards not using spiritual gifts is not unique to Timothy; it’s common for all believers. In the Parable of the Talents, the person who received one talent said to the Lord, “I was afraid so I hid my talent in the ground” (Matt 25:25, paraphrase). Fear of failure, fear of what others think, fear of persecution, etc., all hinder believers from faithfully using their gifts.

God gives each person a gift at salvation, if not many gifts (1 Cor 12:7). However, at times, God gives gifts later in life to meet a need in the body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 12:31, 14:1). This is probably what happened with Timothy. Second Timothy 1:6 says, “Because of this I remind you to rekindle God’s gift that you possess through the laying on of my hands.” When Timothy was called into ministry, Paul prayed for Timothy and some gift was imparted into his life. Timothy had the responsibility not only to use it, but to develop and fan it into flame.

Our spiritual gifts must be developed and cultivated. They must become skills, as we use them and refine them for God’s kingdom. If we instead choose to neglect them, God may remove them. In Matthew 25, the master took the neglected gift away from the servant and gave it to another (v. 28). Afterwards the master responded, “For the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him” (v. 29). Therefore, we all bear the responsibility to use and cultivate our gifts, lest God removes them.

Application Question: How can we discern our spiritual gifts?

There are several ways:

  1. First, God gives gifts to serve the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:7), and therefore, we must serve in order to identify them. As we serve, we will find areas that we’re gifted in and areas we’re not so gifted.
  2. Another way we discern our gifts is by whether we are edified by using them. Typically, while using our gifts, we will feel built up and encouraged (cf. 1 Cor 14:4). Serving outside our gift-set will be less edifying and even burdensome at times.
  3. Not only will we be edified by using our gifts, so will others. This provides further affirmation in discerning our gifts (cf. 1 Cor 14:4). If one’s gift is teaching, others will be edified by his teaching. If ones’ gift is helps, others will be built up and motivated by his serving. As others are built up, God will affirm one’s spiritual gifts through them. When Paul mentions the body of elders laying hands on Timothy, this probably referred to his ordination to ministry.12 At some point, the elders publically recognized his gifts and affirmed his call to ministry. Something similar happened to Paul when he was called to missions in Acts 13:1-3.

Are you faithfully using and cultivating your spiritual gifts? Good ministers are faithful stewards of God’s gifts. They don’t hide them in the ground, they use them to build up others and expand God’s kingdom. In addition, they affirm the gifts in others and encourage their use of them (Heb 10:24).

Application Question: What spiritual gifts do you have? How has God called you to use and cultivate them as you serve the church? What specific people do you feel God is calling you to encourage and affirm their spiritual gifts?

Good Ministers Are Progressing Spiritually

Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that everyone will see your progress.

1 Timothy 4:15

Next, Paul tells Timothy to, “Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that everyone will see your progress.” Often, there is a misconception in the church that pastors are perfect. Sometimes pastors reinforce this by never sharing their weaknesses or struggles (cf. Paul in Romans 7:14-25). However, they are not and are far from it. They must be “blameless” (1 Tim 3:2)—nothing in their lives should disqualify them from ministry—but they are not perfect. Pastors and ministers must continually be growing and progressing spiritually, and it is important for the congregation to watch their growth. As the members watch, they are inspired to grow, as well.

The word “progress” is a military term. It means a “‘pioneer advance.’ It describes the soldiers who go ahead of the troops, clear away the obstacles, and make it possible for others to follow.”13 As spiritual leaders grow in speech, conduct, love, and faith, they inspire the church to follow along the same path. No minister can lead others where he has not gone. Therefore, this is a quality of every good minister—they are constantly growing.

Observation Question: How was Timothy supposed to continue his spiritual progress and not plateau? How should all ministers continue their spiritual progression?

How was Timothy called to continue this growth? By “taking pains with these things” and being “absorbed in them.” “Be absorbed in them” can also be translated to give himself “wholly to them” (NIV). Timothy was called to wholly give himself to the endeavor of seeking godliness, knowing God’s Word, and sharing it with others.

If this is how one keeps from plateauing spiritually, then it is easy to tell why many are not progressing. It’s simply because they are not giving their whole self to God’s calling. They give everything to work, school, family, and friends, but their spiritual life is continually neglected. Our spiritual life must come first, and from that, grace spills over into every other endeavor. Only those who are diligent, those who are “all in” will continue to grow in their prayer life, their knowledge of the Word, their teaching of it, and ultimately their ministry to others.

Are you all in or only partly in?

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been in vain. In fact, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” God’s grace was on his life to be an apostle; however, that didn’t mean he could be spiritually lethargic. He worked to complete the work God began in his life, and therefore, the grace of God was not in vain. Sadly, for many Christians, God’s grace is without effect. God gives much grace that is often neglected. He gives every believer power, love, and self-discipline (2 Tim 1:7) and everything needed for godliness (2 Peter 1:3); however, many come up with excuses. They say things like: “I’m not a morning person,” “I don’t speak well,” or “That’s not my gift!” It is easy to toss God’s grace to the side by focusing on ourselves or others instead of our resources in him.

God’s grace is available. Are you using it? Are you working hard to fulfill God’s call? Paul said, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in us to will and do of his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12-13, paraphrase). Good ministers are progressing spiritually, as they wholly give themselves to their work.

Application Question: Have you had seasons where you were more “all in”—fully absorbed into your spiritual life and ministry? What did those seasons look like? How can you better or more consistently give yourself fully to your calling?

Good Ministers Are Balanced

Be conscientious about how you live and what you teach. Persevere in this, because by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.

1 Timothy 4:16

Interpretation Question: What does life and doctrine refer to?

Finally, Paul calls Timothy to be conscientious about his life and teaching, and if he did, he would save both himself and those who listened to him. This is probably a summary statement of 1 Timothy 4:6-15—encompassing all the qualities of a good minister. “Life” obviously encompasses everything—his speech, his faith, his love, etc.—and “teaching” includes both what he believed and shared with others. Paul told Timothy to stay away from godless myths and old wives’ tales (4:7) and also to give himself to public reading, preaching, and teaching (v. 13). His life, beliefs, and teaching needed to be guarded.

Paul probably mentions this because ministers are often prone to a dichotomy—a separation between their true life and their beliefs/teaching. In one scenario, the minister preaches and teaches but allows weeds to grow in his own life. He neglects his devotions and his family and children. He allows pride, anger, and bitterness to sprout in his heart. When he does this, he pushes people away from God—leading some to never accept Christ and others to fall away from him. This neglect may also precipitate his own stumbling away from the faith.

For others, they selfishly focus on themselves and neglect teaching. Because of this, many congregations are malnourished. This opens the congregation to a plethora of attacks from the enemy—leading some to fall away from the faith all together.

But again, this doesn’t just apply to pastors but to every minister. Parents must cultivate their spiritual lives and their teaching so they can raise godly children. When they don’t, they endanger their children’s spiritual lives and ultimately their eternal destiny.

When Christians cultivate their life and doctrine, those who watch them daily are inspired either to be saved or to grow in their faith. When they fail at cultivation, others are pushed away, and they also endanger themselves.

Are you cultivating both your life and doctrine? Good ministers are balanced. Their faith and the faith of others depend on it.

Application Question: How can ministers stay balanced by cultivating both their life and doctrine? What makes this difficult at times?


What are qualities of good ministers?

  1. Good Ministers Teach with Authority
  2. Good Ministers Are Models of Godliness
  3. Good Ministers Are Bible-Centered
  4. Good Ministers Faithfully Exercise Their Gifts
  5. Good Ministers Are Progressing Spiritually
  6. Good Ministers Are Balanced

1 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy (p. 167). Chicago: Moody Press.

2 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 227). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

3 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy (p. 167). Chicago: Moody Press.

4 Accessed 5/18/2016 from

5 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believers Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2093). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

6 Guzik, D. (2013). 1 Timothy (1 Ti 4:11–16). Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.

7 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy (p. 171). Chicago: Moody Press.

8 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy (p. 171). Chicago: Moody Press.

9 Hughes, R. K., & Chapell, B. (2000). 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: to guard the deposit (p. 116). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

10 Hughes, R. K., & Chapell, B. (2000). 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: to guard the deposit (p. 116). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

11 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy (p. 177). Chicago: Moody Press.

12 Stott, J. R. W. (1996). Guard the truth: the message of 1 Timothy & Titus (p. 122). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

13 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 227). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Related Topics: Leadership, Pastors

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