Wednesday, 8 September 2021

People are Watching and Listening: the Saving Power of What We Say and Do

Having instructed Timothy about his role and responsibilities as an evangelist and mentor, Paul writes: Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:15-16).1

With respect to “these things” (all that has preceded, cf. vv. 6, 11) and in contrast to possible neglect (v. 14), “Practice” [meletáō],2 also rendered “Meditate” (N/KJV), capturing the sense of mental exertion, and “Take pains” (NASB), “Be diligent” (ASV, NIV), perhaps an extension of the athletic imagery used earlier (vv. 7-10). The word translated “immerse” is from eimí (lit. “be”), also rendered “be [absorbed]” (NASB), “give” (ASV, N/KJV), “devote” (N/RSV). The reason for these imperatives, “so that all may see your progress,” underscores the significance of Timothy’s example (cf. v. 12; 5:25).3


Keep a close watch on” [epéchō],4 “Take heed to” (ASV, N/KJV, RSV), or “Pay close attention to” (CSB, NASB, NRSV) “yourself” – attitude and behavior (vv. 7, 12) – and “teaching” (vv. 6, 11, 13; cf. 1:3, 7; 5:7; 6:2); “Persist” [epimé],5 or “continue” (ASV, N/KJV, NRSV), “hold to” (RSV), “persevere” (CSB, NASB, NIV). 

These directives are of utmost importance, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers,reiterating the principal aim of spiritual salvation emphasized repeatedly in this letter (v. 10; 1:15-16; 2:3-7, 15) and the next (2 Tim. 1:9, 10, 12; 2:10; 3:15; 4:8, 18). “Salvation involves perseverance; and Timothy’s task in Ephesus is to model and teach the gospel in such a fashion that it will lead the church to perseverance in faith and love and hence to final, eschatological salvation.”7


As we “adorn the doctrine of God” (Tit. 2:10), let us be mindful of William J. Toms’ observation, “You may be the only Bible some person ever reads.” As Christians, what we say and what we do comprise a living document, “to be known and read by all” (2 Cor. 3:2). 


--Kevin L. Moore



     1 Unless otherwise noted, the text used here is from the English Standard Version in bold type.

     2 Employed in the NT only here and in Acts 4:25 (quote from the LXX).

     3 Note also Matt. 5:16; Tit. 2:10; 1 Pet. 2:11-12. The work of a localized evangelist is within the fellowship of the local community, so “the really important work of the Christian Church is never done by any itinerant evangelist but always by its settled ministry” (W. Barclay, Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon 101).

     4 Also occurring in Luke 14:7; Acts 3:5; 19:22; Phil. 2:16. 

     5 Elsewhere in the NT, John 8:7; Acts 10:48; 12:16; 15:34; 21:4, 10; 28:12, 14; Rom. 6:1; 11:22, 23; 1 Cor. 16:7, 8; Gal. 1:18; Phil. 1:24; Col. 1:23.  

     6 See also Ezek. 3:16-21; 33:1-11; 1 Cor. 9:23, 27. Note the mutual responsibility of the teacher and “the ones hearing” [toùs akoúontás], involving receptive and responsive hearts (cf. Matt. 7:24; 10:14; 11:15; 13:9, 13-15, 23, 43; 15:10; 17:5; Luke 8:21; John 4:42; 5:24; 6:45; 8:43, 47; 10:3, 16, 27; 18:37; Acts 2:37; 3:22-23; 4:4; 8:6, 12; 10:33; 13:7, 16, 44; 15:7; 18:8; Rom. 10:17; Gal. 3:2; 1 Thess. 2:13).

     7 G. D. Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus 109.


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