A note from Kelly King: I just started a small group with young women in college and in their 20s. Our topic this week was on holiness and how God’s Word is clear about being set apart for His glory. In today’s article, Lauren Sparks, is a young leader who breaks down 1 Timothy 4:12 and how Paul encourages his young apprentice Timothy. No matter your age, Lauren’s article is both an encouragement and a challenge for all of us who lead.
As young leaders and young people in general, we hear 1 Timothy 4:12 often.
Don’t let anyone despise your youth, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.
What a charge with clear direction. But have we really taken the time to stop and discover what this charge is? Let’s break it down to see our commission.
Don’t let anyone…
The Greek word here is mēdeis which means nobody, no one, nothing.1 You see, you were created with a purpose, with a certain bent and a certain eye. You can be sitting at a table with eight other people and each will see something completely different. When Paul tells Timothy “don’t let anyone,” he means it imperatively. We see this same Greek word in Titus 2:15, “These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee” (KJV). If you know Paul, even a little bit, you know he isn’t fluffy in his words. He says no one is to look down on you. Speak up, stand for your convictions, and lead up with those you are in authority under with respect and honor.
What I love about Paul is that he covers those he leads. Check out this cross reference in 1 Corinthians 16:10-11. “When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers” (ESV).
Paul teaches those around him how to interact with those under his leadership. I can see him speaking and standing up for his brother’s talents, knowing that what he has to offer is just what the people needed. As a seasoned leader, do you have women under you whose leadership you can defend, without question, because of how intentionally you have equipped them? Are you telling and showing others how not to look down on them by giving them space, platform, and authority to lead?
We are called, commissioned, and assigned to set an example. This is part of our mission and purpose. This is how others will be able to physically see Jesus and lean in to know more about Him. Let’s check out these five commands that we are to as set an example in by looking at the original word to get the correct charge.
The word speech in Greek is logos. One of its many meanings is a word, uttered by a living voice; it embodies a conception or idea.2 This is the same word that is used in John 1:1 and John 1:14 when John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” and “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In our speech, we are called to exemplify Jesus. It is wise for us, as believers, to spend time studying how Jesus used His words to speak truth to the woman at the well, call out the Pharisees, be honest with Martha, and stand firm against temptation by speaking back Scripture to the enemy, all the while being the Word (speech) Himself. In a world that challenges us to speak up and speak out, let’s filter our speech through Scripture to be an example for the believers and ask ourselves how we can bring glory to God with our words in each conversation.
The Greek word for conduct is anastrophē, which is the way in which holy living shows itself.3 Lately, I have been challenged that I am to live in light of 1 Peter 1:13-16: “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'”
That’s the conduct to which we are called. The word holy moves my conduct from self to Savior. It calls me to live set apart for God. To be an example to the believers, I am to live with a conduct set apart for Christ—not for myself so I can boast in how clean I am. Conduct is what others see on the outside and is a direct reflection of belief and trust on the inside. In order to be an example on the outside, we must lead ourselves on the inside to think on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and anything excellent or praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). What I listen to and watch must be filtered through what I am to think on. We set an example to the believers by living a life that exemplifies holy living.
This love, in the Greek, is called agapē. It is an affection, good will, benevolence, and brotherly love.4 We first see this word in the Song of Solomon and watch it beam throughout each page of Scripture, giving us examples of how to love others, love God, and love ourselves. This is a love of Christians to Christians, us to God, and God’s love and His nature of love.5 John 15:9 states, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” This is the love in which we are to set an example for the believers. A love that lays down his life for his friends (John 15:13). A love that can’t separate us from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:35). A love that is genuine, abhorring what is evil and holding fast to what is good (Rom. 12:9). A love that does no wrong to a neighbor (Rom. 13:10). A love that gives, is patient, kind, does not envy or boast, and is not arrogant (1 Cor. 13). This is the love with which we are to set an example as we lead well.
The Greek word for faith is pistis. It is a moral conviction of religious truth or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher, especially reliance upon Christ for salvation.6 Conviction changes us. Our posture is different in light of what we are convicted by. When we have faith in God, we are saying that we have a trust and confidence that He is who He says He is and He does what He will do regardless of how we feel. We show people this faith that we hold by proclaiming our peace in Jesus in hard times, our gratitude for His death, burial, and resurrection, and our hope of His return. When hard times come, we celebrate the victory in advance because we know who defeated death. When life feels like it is tossing us in the waves, we choose to be steadfast in His name because we have faith in how true Jesus is. This changes us and allows us to walk in light with our cares cast on Jesus. We are an example to the believers in how we stand firm in our faith and live it out with great conviction of the truth we know.
The Greek word for purity here is hagneia, a sinless life.7 As we walk, not letting anyone despise us or our youth, we are choosing to flee sin. I am not to entertain sin, but rather, I am to dismiss it immediately. Living a pure life demands authentic community that calls us to be honest with where we are, confess our hurts, habits, and hangups, and allows us to stand before a holy God blameless. See, on that sweet cross, Jesus died for our purity, and now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). In our faith in Christ, we have received His blood covering over us. The Holy Spirit is now in us and with us, and He guides us to a life of purity. I told my small group recently that the Holy Spirit is inside us, and He goes everywhere with us. Where are you taking Him? The moment became really reflective.
As we are an example to the believers in purity, sin will be refined out of us, and God could use us to call out sin in those we love, with grace and truth. We are an example by not giving into what feels right but rather standing firm in truth. We are an example when asked why we aren’t participating or why we don’t enjoy xyz; we respond with our words by stating that we have faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives inside us, and we desire to honor Him by living a life of purity. It isn’t a legalistic life. It’s a life of liberty and a gift we give back to God for the sacrifice He made for us. We take our thoughts captive (2 Cor. 10:5), and we hate sin. We get mad at it and stand against it. We fight arm in arm with our sisters who are saying no to sin and encourage them to purity. This is how we are an example to the believers in purity.
It’s challenging to sit with a verse like 1 Timothy 4:12. As leaders, we are called out and set apart. How many days go by that the charge and commission feels unclear and daunting. Paul’s command here in 1 Timothy with the words “set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity” give us clarity as we strive to lead well by example right were Jesus has called us.
Lauren is the Operations Lead for her family’s custom in-ground pool company. She found her passion for organization, processes, and development while serving the women of her church by developing small groups and creating gatherings that last longer than just one event. She is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University with a degree in organizational communication. She loves coffee, her journal, and a good ink pen. Along with food, flowers, and football, her passion is to mentor girls how to fall madly in love with Jesus.