Know, Preach, Teach the Word – 1 Timothy 4:13-16

In our home right now Zachary is discovering that he can repeat just about anything he hears. He’s learning how to speak and form words for himself. He’s two going on three. He doesn’t come up with too much original thought but he sure repeats well.

Nicholas who is now four years old finds great amusement in telling Zachary what to say. This can get old really quickly because Zachary is happy to repeat it all – over and over again. During a football game we were watching on TV yesterday I realized Zachary was repeating my reaction to the game. I’d say, “Catch the ball! catch the ball!” Then Zach would repeat it.

Most of the time his “parrot” act is amusing but occasionally unkind words are said and he repeats those also. That’s another reason as a parent I have to be careful what I say. It’s also why we spend much time with the children putting emphasis on setting the example. We want the older children to realize they need to set the example just as I do in action, word and deed.

In the verses we will look at today, Paul is giving advice to Timothy on how he should grow spiritually as a leader and set an example for those he teaches, to follow. But while Paul’s counsel is directed to Timothy and as part of the Holy Scriptures is directed to the minister, it is also counsel that each of us can benefit from as individuals and it is instruction that is helpful for the church. Let’s look at 1 Timothy 4:13-16

13  Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.

14  Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership.

15  Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.

16  Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

Look again at verse 13…

13  Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.

Paul instructs Timothy to devote himself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. It is clear to see that the Scriptures were to be central to Timothy’s ministry. The scriptures were to be a part of his lifestyle. He is instructed to read the scriptures publicly, to preach them and to teach them.

When we were looking at the qualifications for an overseer or pastor in the previous chapter, one of the qualifications was “able to teach”. 1 Timothy 3:2 tells us the overseer must be able to teach.

Timothy was to give his attention to the scriptures. As a pastor, Timothy’s primary duty was to faithfully teach, explain, expound and make applicable the Word of God to the lives of his hearers. But as Donald Guthrie points out in the original language it “implies previous preparation in private.” 1

Before the Godly minister is able to teach others he must be taught himself. He must be a student of the Word. Being a pastor does not just involve teaching but it involves all of the preparation in study and prayer that goes with the teaching. Romans 2:21 reminds us…

21  You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal?

The faithful pastor not only learns to teach others but also learns to faithfully live the Word he teaches.

If my life doesn’t show obedience to the scriptures all of my teaching will be hot air and wasted time. I am by no stretch of the imagination perfect. I need these scriptures in my life as much as anyone else. I must show obedience to the things of God’s Word.

We all need to be students of the Word. As we grow in our knowledge and understanding of the Word of God and apply it to our own lives, we become equipped to share it with others and to model it for them.

George Mueller understood the importance of the Word of God in his life. After having read the Bible through one hundred times with increasing delight, he made this statement:

“I look upon it as a lost day when I have not had a good time over the Word of God. Friends often say, ‘I have so much to do, so many people to see, I cannot find time for Scripture study.’ Perhaps there are not many who have more to do than I. For more than half a century I have never known one day when I had not more business than I could get through. For 4 years I have had annually about 30,000 letters, and most of these have passed through my own hands. Then, as pastor of a church with 1,200 believers, great has been my care. Besides, I have had charge of five immense orphanages; also, at my publishing depot, the printing and circulating of millions of tracts, books, and Bibles; but I have always made it a rule never to begin work until I have had a good season with God and His Word. The blessing I have received has been wonderful.”  (Source unknown)

This is what we ought to be all about as a church. We need to be faithful in publicly reading Scripture, in preaching and teaching the Word in encouraging one another to include it in our lives daily. The teaching of scripture is central to all we do. That’s why we contribute such a large part of our services to the preaching and teaching of the Word.

Think about your own life. Is reading the Bible a necessary part of your day or is it a low priority in your life? Do you make application of the scriptures to your life; do you obey the scriptures? Or do you see it as a book of old stories or something helpful for the lives of people who need this kind of thing?

The Word of God needs to be central to each of our lives and it needs to be central to the ministry of this church.

After Paul encourages Timothy to be devoted to the Word of God, he moves on in verse 14 to say:

14  Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership.

Paul’s advice to Timothy here is “don’t neglect or overlook your gift.” The word in the original language is charismatos. Charisma occurs sixteen times in Paul’s Epistles and only one other time in the New Testament. This word comes from the root word for grace and it means a gift of grace, a free gift. The word neglect means to be careless about something.  One commentator notes that “to neglect God’s gifts, whether of nature or of grace, is a sin.” 2

Timothy had been given a gift that equipped him for his ministry and Paul encouraged him not be careless with his gift, not to neglect it.

What gifts have you been given? Are you faithfully using them to serve the Lord? Or are you neglecting them? When God calls you to minister for Him, He also equips you and enables you to serve. Though He doesn’t force you to use your gifts. It is possible to neglect the gifts you’ve been given. We need to see to it that we are actively using the gifts God has given us to serve Him faithfully.

1 Corinthians 12:1-7, 11 addresses the area of spiritual gifts.

12:1  Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant:

2  You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led.

3  Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.

4  There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

5  There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.

6  And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.

7  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:

11  But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

Each beleiver has been given a gift. We don’t all necessarily have the same gift. One might be equipped for teaching while another is equipped for serving. Whatever gift we have been given, it is our duty and privilege to exercise it for the glory of God. You might wonder what your gifts are. I would encourage you to find a ministry of interest in the church and get busy. I believe the Lord will help you discover your gifts as you become involved in the ministries of the church. Your gifts often lie in your areas of interest; sometimes in an area you are burdened for but this is not always the case. At times your gifts will be in areas you are reluctant to use. But God prepares you and equips you as you allow Him to use you in areas He prepares for you to serve.

In verse 15 Paul says,

15  Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.

Paul encourages Timothy to be diligent in his devotion to the Word and in using his gift to minister. It takes a great deal of preparation to faithfully teach the Word of God. I have known of pastors who have an almost careless attitude toward their sermon preparation. Some insist that they need to be open to allowing the Holy Spirit to direct their words and don’t spend much advance preparation in preparing to preach and teach. Often what happens is they get up and wing it and spout off their opinions and it’s usually obvious that not much time has been given in preparation to expound the Word of God.

Chuck Swindoll calls this kind of sermon the “long horn sermon”; A point here, and a point here, and a lot of bull in between. David Jeremiah once said that the Holy Spirit can just as easily direct your words in the study on Monday as He can on the spur of the moment on Sunday.

In fact that seems to be more in line with the God we serve. He is a God of order, not chaos and haphazard methods. I think often men who don’t carefully prepare in advance what they will be teaching, all the while claiming they are leaving room for the Holy Spirit to speak, are in actuality being negligent of the awesome responsibility they have been given in handling the word of God.

A pastor needs to be devoted to the Word of God himself so that others may see his progress. In other words it’s essential for the pastor to be growing and making progress in his own life so that others see that example and are encouraged to do the same.

It is interesting to see my children grow and develop and reach different stages in their lives. You should have seen how excited we all were at our house when Nicholas started riding a two-wheeler the other day all by himself. We were all excited to see his progress.

Sometimes we remark, don’t we, about how quickly children grow. But that’s the way it should be. God designed little children to grow and mature and before we know it they are adults.

It is the same in the Christian life. We were meant to be always growing and developing and maturing in our Christian walk.

It is tragic when a little child does not grow and mature properly. It is also tragic when we don’t mature in our faith. A pastor needs to be growing spiritually and modeling that for his flock. Parents need to be modeling it for their children; grandparents for their grandchildren.

A parent may wonder why his children don’t seem to be interested in church and the things of the Lord. But those things are often not what that parent has modeled for his children. All of us need to see to it that we are growing in our faith. It takes effort on our part. We need to be diligent in studying God’s Word, in praying and fellowshipping with one another and exercising the gifts we’ve been given to serve the Lord faithfully.

Verse 16 says,

16  Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

Ray Stedman said about this verse:

“There is a profound psychological principle stated there, and that is that you can only give to others what you yourself have first experienced, nothing more. A pastor can never bring anyone to a maturity which he himself does not possess; he cannot lead anyone further than he himself has gone. Pastors, preachers and teachers must themselves be growing and impacted by the Word; they must be changed and continually progressing. This is why Paul says here to Timothy, “That all may see your progress.” The Word must first become personal to his own heart.

When Paul says, “You will save both yourself and your hearers,” he is not talking about redemption. Timothy was already saved by the grace of God, and so were most of his hearers. The word is used in the same sense as Paul uses it in Philippians 2:13, where he says: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure,” {Phil 2:12b-13 RSV}. Paul is talking about salvation in the sense of fulfillment, maturity, experienced deliverance from evil and growing in the Lord; that is the idea.” 3

Paul warned Timothy to watch his life and doctrine closely. Unfortunately we are all probably familiar with situations where pastors have fallen in sin. In years gone by, there were some rather well known cases of pastors and other ministry leaders in the spotlight who fell and brought great shame on the name of Christ. That is why it is essential for a leader to watch his life and doctrine very carefully. Satan likes nothing better than to have one who is leading others fall. It’s very damaging to the cause of Christ.

Richard Baxter has an insightful comment on the importance of a pastor watching his life closely:

It is an obvious error for all to see in those ministers of the Church who make such a wide gulf between their preaching and their living. They will study hard, to preach exactly, and yet study little or not at all to live exactly. All the week long is little enough to study how to speak for two hours; and yet one hour seems too much time to study how to live all the week. They are loath to misplace a word in their sermons; yet they think nothing of misplacing affections, words, and actions in the course of their lives. Oh, how curiously I have heard some men preach, and how carelessly have I seen them live! – Richard Baxter

While it is essential to take great care in our preparation to teach others, it is also essential that we are living what we teach. Watch your life and doctrine closely. This is essential to those who are in leadership in the church. But this also applies to all of us as well. We all need to be watching our lives and doctrine closely. We need to make sure we are applying the Word of God to our lives each and every day. When others look at our lives do they see a genuine faith? 

We also need to watch our doctrine. If we are to have sound doctrine in our lives, we need to be students of the Bible. We must diligently study it and allow it to speak to us.

A man in Kansas City was severely injured in an explosion. Evangelist Robert L. Sumner tells about him in his book The Wonders of the Word of God. The victim’s face was badly disfigured, and he lost his eyesight as well as both hands. He was just a new Christian, and one of his greatest disappointments was that he could no longer read the Bible. Then he heard about a lady in England who read Braille with her lips. Hoping to do the same, he sent for some books of the Bible in Braille. Much to his dismay, however, he discovered that the nerve endings in his lips had been destroyed by the explosion. One day, as he brought one of the Braille pages to his lips, his tongue happened to touch a few of the raised characters and he could feel them. Like a flash he thought, I can read the Bible using my tongue. At the time Robert Sumner wrote his book, the man had “read” through the entire Bible four times.  4

Here was a man who could have easily excused himself from reading the Word of God. His excuse would have been much easier to understand than some of the lame excuses we offer. We are blessed to be living in a time when there are many translations available to us. We have the Bible on tape so that we can listen to it if we cannot read it. If one version is too difficult for us to understand, there are translations that are reliable that are written in modern English.

We are without excuse aren’t we?

As your pastor it is my privilege and responsibility to faithfully teach the Word of God. In order to do so, I need to study it diligently and live it out daily in my life. What is the purpose in doing so? Is it just so I can pat myself on the back and think what a great guy I am? Of course not! I must be transformed by the Word of God and in so doing others will see my example and follow it.

All of us need to be transformed by the Word of God. When others see the difference it can make in each of our lives, they will be drawn to our Savior and God’s Word and its transforming message.

Are we as a church making progress in the Word? Are we as individuals demonstrating our growth in the Word of God? Are our families making progress in the Word of God? We must commit ourselves to knowing the Bible well and living it out each day in our lives.


1 The Pastoral Epistles , rev. ed. [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990], 109

2 Expositors Bible Commentary

3 ADVICE A YOUNG PASTOR by Ray C. Stedman  (http://www.pbc.org/dp/stedman/timothy/3776.html)

4 The Wonders of the Word of God, Robert L. Sumner