1 Timothy 4:12
Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
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(12) Let no man despise thy youth.—If Timothy desired that his teaching should be listened to with respectful earnest attention, if he hoped to use a holy influence over the flock, let him be very careful that his comparative youth prove no stumbling-block. To Paul the aged, his son in the faith seemed still youthful—at this time Timothy could not have been more than forty years of age. The old master would have his young disciple supply the want of years by a gravity of life; he would have him, while fearless, at the same time modest and free from all that pretentious assumption, unhappily so often seen when the comparatively young are placed in positions of dignity and authority. Paul proceeds further to explain his solemn warning by instancing the especial points in which Timothy was to be a pattern to the other believers. These gentle words of warning, such notices as we find in 1Timothy 5:23 and in 1Corinthians 16:10-11, seem to point to the fact of there being nothing winning in the personal appearance of Timothy, but rather the contrary. It is deserving of comment that among the more famous of the early Christian leaders, beauty of face and form appears to have been the exception rather than the rule. This was, of course, utterly different from the old Grecian idea of gods and heroes. It was no doubt part of the counsel of God that this world-religion should owe nothing to the ordinary conditions of human success. The teaching was novel and opposed to the maxims which guided and influenced the old world. The noblest ideals proposed for Christian imitation were strange and hitherto unheard of. The very foremost preachers of the faith of Christ, as in the case of Timothy, seem to have owed nothing to those personal gifts so highly prized among Pagan nations. So the appearance of St. Paul, the greatest of the early Christian leaders, seems to have been mean and insignificant, “ein armes diirres Männlein” as Luther has it. The blessed Founder of the religion is described by Tertullian, who lived in the same century with those who must have conversed with Christ’s disciples, as “having no human beauty, much less any celestial splendour.” Clement of Alexandria, Justin Martyr, and other very early writers, join in the same testimony. It is, however, only fair to say that on this point the view of Origen appears to have been different. The Messianic prophecies evidently looked forward to this as the will of the Most High. (See Psalm 22:6-7; Psalm 22:15; Psalm 22:17; Isaiah 52:14; Isaiah 53:2-4.)

In word.—This refers to the public utterances in teaching and exhortation, but more particularly to the words used by Timothy in social intercourse. These, in such a life as that of the young presiding elder of the Ephesian Church, must have been of the deepest importance. The tone of his conversation was no doubt imitated by many, it would influence for good or evil the whole Christian society of that great centre. The words of men placed in such a position should ever be true and generous, helpful and encouraging, and, above all, free from slander, from all low and pitiful conceptions of others.

In conversation.—This rendering might mislead—the Greek word signifies rather “manner of life,” or “conduct.”

In charity.—Better rendered, in love. This and the following “in faith,” comprehend the great graces in that inner Christian life of which the “words of the mouth,” and “conduct,” are the outward manifestations. He was to be the example to the flock in “love” to his neighbours, and in “faith” towards God.

The words “in spirit,” which in the English version occur between “in charity,” and “in faith,” are found in none of the older authorities.

In purity.—Chastity of mind as well as body is here signified. The ruler of a church—among whose members evidently a school of teaching existed in which a life of stern asceticism was urged on the Christian believer as the only acceptable or even possible way of life for the servant of Christ—must be above all things watchful lest he should seem to set a careless example in the matter of morality.

1 Timothy 4:12-13. Let no man despise thy youth — That is, let no one have reason to despise it, but conduct thyself with such gravity, wisdom, and steadiness, as, instead of exposing thee to contempt, will rather gain thee respect and reverence. In particular, be thou an example of the believers — A pattern worthy of their imitation; in word — In prudent and edifying discourse, whether public or private; in conversation — Greek, αναστροφη, in behaviour; in charity — Or love, rather, namely to God, his people, and all mankind; in spirit — In thy whole temper; in faith — In thy sincere and constant belief of, and adherence to, the truth as it is in Jesus; in thy profession of it, and faithfulness to thy trust in the execution of thy office. When faith is placed in the midst of several other Christian graces, it generally means fidelity, or faithfulness; in purity — Of heart and life. Till I come — To take thee along with me; give attendance to reading — Both publicly and privately. Study the Scriptures diligently, and read and expound them to the people, whose instructer thou art appointed to be. “Enthusiasts, observe this! expect no end without the means.” — Wesley. “Besides reading the Jewish Scriptures to the brethren in their assemblies for worship, after the example of the synagogue, Timothy was here directed to read these Scriptures in private likewise for his own improvement, (1 Timothy 4:15,) that he might be able to confute the Jews and Judaizers, who founded their errors on misinterpretations of them. Thus understood, the direction, as the ancient commentators observe, is a useful lesson to the ministers of the gospel in all ages. For if a teacher, who possessed the spiritual gifts, was commanded to read the Scriptures for improving himself in the knowledge of the doctrines of religion, how much more necessary is that help to those teachers who must derive all their knowledge of the gospel from the Scriptures, and who cannot, without much study, be supposed to know the customs, manners, and opinions alluded to in these writings.” — Macknight.

4:11-16 Men's youth will not be despised, if they keep from vanities and follies. Those who teach by their doctrine, must teach by their life. Their discourse must be edifying; their conversation must be holy; they must be examples of love to God and all good men, examples of spiritual-mindedness. Ministers must mind these things as their principal work and business. By this means their profiting will appear in all things, as well as to all persons; this is the way to profit in knowledge and grace, and also to profit others. The doctrine of a minister of Christ must be scriptural, clear, evangelical, and practical; well stated, explained, defended, and applied. But these duties leave no leisure for wordly pleasures, trifling visits, or idle conversation, and but little for what is mere amusement, and only ornamental. May every believer be enabled to let his profiting appear unto all men; seeking to experience the power of the gospel in his own soul, and to bring forth its fruits in his life.Let no man despise thy youth - That is, do not act in such a manner that any shall despise you on account of your youth. Act as becomes a minister of the gospel in all things, and in such a way that people will respect you as such, though you are young. It is clear from this that Timothy was then a young man, but his exact age there is no means of determining. It is implied here:

(1) that there was danger that, by the levity and indiscretion to which youth are so much exposed, the ministry might be regarded with contempt; and,

(2) that it was possible that his deportment should be so grave, serious, and every way appropriate, that the ministry would not be blamed, but honored. The "way" in which Timothy was to live so that the ministry would not be despised on account of his youth, the apostle proceeds immediately to specify.

But be thou an example of the believers - One of the constant duties of a minister of the gospel, no matter what his age. A minister should so live, that if all his people should closely follow his example, their salvation would be secure, and they would make the highest possible attainments in piety. On the meaning of the word rendered "example," see the notes on Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:7.

In word - In "speech," that is, your manner of conversation. This does not refer to his "public teaching" - in which he could not probably be an "example" to them - but to his usual and familiar conversation.

In conversation - In general deportment. See this word explained in the notes on Philippians 1:27.

In charity - Love to the brethren, and to all; see notes on 1 Corinthians 13.

In spirit - In the government of your passions, and in a mild, meek, forgiving disposition.

In faith - At all times, and in all trials show to believers by your example, how they ought to maintain unshaken confidence in God.

In purity - In chasteness of life; see 1 Timothy 5:2. There should be nothing in your contact with the other sex that would give rise to scandal. The papists, with great impropriety, understand this as enjoining celibacy - as if there could be no "purity" in that holy relation which God appointed in Eden, and which he has declared to "be honorable in all" Hebrews 13:4, and which he has made so essential to the wellbeing of mankind. If the apostle had wished to produce the highest possible degree of corruption in the church, he would have enjoined the celibacy of the clergy and the celibacy of an indefinite number of nuns and monks. There are no other institutions on the earth which have done so much to corrupt the chastity of the race, as those which have grown out of the doctrine that celibacy is more honorable than marriage.

12. Let no man despise thy youth—Act so as to be respected in spite of thy youth (1Co 16:11; Tit 2:15); compare "youthful" as to Timothy (2Ti 2:22). He was but a mere youth when he joined Paul (Ac 16:1-3). Eleven years had elapsed since then to the time subsequent to Paul's first imprisonment. He was, therefore, still young; especially in comparison with Paul, whose place he was filling; also in relation to elderly presbyters whom he should "entreat as a father" (1Ti 5:1), and generally in respect to his duties in rebuking, exhorting, and ordaining (1Ti 3:1), which ordinarily accord best with an elderly person (1Ti 5:19).

be thou an example—Greek, "become a pattern" (Tit 2:7); the true way of making men not to despise (slight, or disregard) thy youth.

in word—in all that thou sayest in public and private.

conversation—that is, "behavior" the Old English sense of the word.

in charity … faith—the two cardinal principles of the Christian (Ga 5:6). The oldest manuscripts omit, "in spirit."

in purity—simplicity of holy motive followed out in consistency of holy action [Alford] (1Ti 5:22; 2Co 6:6; Jas 3:17; 4:8; 1Pe 1:22).

Let no man despise thy youth; so carry thyself in thy office, as not to give occasion to any to despise thee because thou art but a young man.

But be thou an example of the believers: which thou wilt do if thou so livest as to be a just pattern unto Christians, imitable by them

in word, in thy common and ordinary discourse, (for he speaks not of his being a pattern only to other ministers, but to believers in the generality), not talking frothily or profanely, or idly and impertinently, but seriously and gravely, but things that are good, to the use of edifying, that it may administer grace to the hearers.

In conversation; and in all thy converse with men behaving thyself justly, and comelily, and gravely.

In charity; performing also to all, all offices of charity and brotherly love.

In spirit; in zeal, and warmth of spirit, truly inflamed with the love of Christ, and for his glory.

In faith; in a steady confession and profession of the doctrine of the gospel; and

in purity; in all cleanness and holiness of life and conversation. This is the way for the ministers of the gospel not to be despised: let them use what other methods they will, they will find what God said of Hophni and Phinehas will be made good, 1 Samuel 2:30: Them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed; nor will any titles, or habits, or severities secure them from that curse, which will cleave to them.

Let no man despise thy youth,.... Timothy was now a young man; some think he was about three and twenty years of age; but he might be older, and yet be so called. Saul is said to be a young man, when he held the clothes of them that stoned Stephen, when he must be at least thirty years of age, some say thirty five; since thirty years after that he styles himself Paul the aged, when he must be sixty years of age and upwards, Acts 7:58. Young men are sometimes honoured by God with great gifts, for usefulness both in church and state, as Samuel, David, Solomon, Daniel, and his companions: nor should they be despised on account of their age, when they have gifts suitable to their office, and behave well in it, but, on the contrary, ought to be esteemed for their works' sake; and such should take care that no man has an opportunity or reason to treat them with contempt on that account: the apostle's sense is, either that Timothy, being in office, should not suffer any man to use him contemptuously; but exert his power and authority, and magnify his office, and not allow men to trample upon him, or use him ill, though he was a young man; which sense suits with the preceding words: or rather his meaning is, that he would have him so conduct and behave himself, as he had taught him to behave, in the house and church of God, and so fill up his place and office, and live such an exemplary life and conversation, that there might be no occasion for any to despise his age, or him, on the account of it: and this agrees with what follows,

but be thou an example of the believers; the members of the church, before called brethren, from their relation to one another, and here believers, from their concern with Christ, the object of their faith; a more honourable character cannot be given of men, though treated with great contempt in this age of infidelity. The Mahometans would engross this character to themselves, calling themselves the believers, and reckoning all others infidels; but to them only it belongs, who believe in Christ unto righteousness and life everlasting. Now sometimes young men may be examples to older ones; and all that are in office in the church, especially in the ministry, whether old or young, should be ensamples to the flock, and that in the following things: "in word"; meaning either the word of truth, the doctrine of the Gospel; by delivering that which is according to the rule of God's word, showing in it uncorruptness, gravity, and sincerity, and by holding it fast; all which may for the imitation of others, to receive the pure doctrine and retain it: or rather this may respect common discourse; which should not be corrupt, filthy, nor foolish; but should be always with grace, Seasoned with salt, or should be grave and serious, wise and prudent, pleasant, profitable, and edifying.

In conversation; in the family, church, and world; which should be as becomes the Gospel of Christ, in all godliness and honesty, with simplicity and godly sincerity; so as to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour, recommend it to others, stop the mouths of gainsayers, and obtain a good report of them that are without.

In charity; in love to God, to Christ, and one another; without which, if a man has the tongue of men and angels, or ever such great and excellent gifts, he is nothing.

In spirit; in the exercise of spiritual gifts; in spiritual talk and conversation; and in fervency of spirit, or true zeal for the honour of God, the glory of the Redeemer, the spread of his Gospel, truths, and ordinances, and the support of the same. This clause is wanting in the Alexandrian and Claromontane copies, and in the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions.

In faith; in the exercise of the grace of faith; in holding fast the profession of faith; and in retaining the doctrine of faith, with all integrity, faithfulness, and constancy, standing fast in it, striving and contending for it.

In purity; or chastity of body, in opposition to all impurity of the flesh, by fornication, adultery, and the like; which was very proper to be suggested to a young man: though this may also have respect to all that is before said, as to purity of language, conversation, love, zeal, and faith.

{14} Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

(14) Now he returns to that exhortation, showing what are the true virtues of a pastor, by which he may come to be reverenced even though he is young, that is, such speech and life as are witnesses of charity, zeal, faith, and purity. But here there is no mention made of the hooked staff, ring, cloak, and such other foolish and childish toys.

1 Timothy 4:12. From this verse on to the end of the chapter, Paul instructs Timothy how he is to behave towards the community that his παραγγέλλειν καὶ διδάσκειν (1 Timothy 4:11) may not be in vain.

μηδείς σου τῆς νεότητος καταφρονείτω] σου is dependent on τῆς νεότητος, which is the object of καταφρον. Wahl, on the contrary (followed by Leo and Matthies), construes σου directly with καταφρ., and takes τῆς νεότ. as a genitive defining the substantive more precisely (= μηδεὶς διὰ τὴν νεότητα καταφρονήσῃ σου, Chrysostom), so that καταφρ. here (like κατηγορεῖν) would be connected with a double genitive (comp. Buttmann, p. 143). This construction, however, is more forced than the former, and καταφρ. occurs nowhere else with it.

According to the form of the sentence, the command is directed to the community, but in sense to Timothy. Timothy is not to permit the authority entrusted to him as representative of the apostle, to be limited on account of his youth: “permit no one to despise thy youth.” The ἀλλά, however, attached to this injunction shows that he is to effect this especially by his Christian conduct; most expositors find here only this last thought.

That he may retain respect, he is to make himself an example to all: ἀλλὰ τύπος γίνου τῶν πιστῶν. A comma is not unsuitably placed after πιστῶν, giving the clause greater independence, and making the qualifications that follow: ἐν λόγῳ κ.τ.λ., more emphatic. On the exhortation τύπος γίνου, comp. besides Titus 2:7; Php 3:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; 1 Peter 5:3. Γίνου does not mean “become,” as if Timothy had not been so hitherto, but “be.” The next five words: ἐν λόγῳ κ.τ.λ., tell wherein Timothy is to be an example to believers. We cannot but observe that there is a certain order in the succession of the words. First we have ἐν λόγῳ and ἐν ἀναστροφῇ. Λόγος includes every kind of speaking (not merely doctrine), i.e. teaching, exhorting, warning, comforting, etc., both in public assemblies and in private intercourse. Ἀναστροφή is the life as embodied in deeds. Word and life are the two forms of revealing the inner hidden disposition. To this inner life we are directed by the next words: ἐν ἀγάπῃ, ἐν πίστει, which denote the powers that give motion to the Christian life. The last word: ἐν ἁγνείᾳ, gives, finally, the nature of the life that is rooted in faith and love. The word does not denote here specially chastity in the relation of sex, but generally “purity of moral behaviour” (Hofmann); comp. ἁγνός, 1 Timothy 5:22; 2 Corinthians 7:11; Jam 3:17; ἁγνότης, 2 Corinthians 6:6; ἁγνίζειν, Jam 4:8; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:3.

1 Timothy 4:12. μηδείςκαταφρονείτω (“Libenter id faciunt senes inanes,” Bengel). Many, probably, of the Ephesian presbyters were older than Timothy. For μηδείς in this position, cf. 1 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Corinthians 10:24; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 2:18; Titus 2:15; Jam 1:13. καταφρονέω connotes that the contempt felt in the mind is displayed in injurious action. (See Moulton and Milligan, Expositor, vi., viii. 432). The meaning of this direction is qualified by the following ἀλλὰ τύπος γίνου, κ.τ.λ. It means, Assert the dignity of your office even though men may think you young to hold it. Let no one push you aside as a boy. Compare the corresponding direction Titus 2:15, μηδείς σου περιφρονείτω. On the other hand, St. Paul shows Timothy “a more excellent way” than self-assertion for the keeping up of his dignity: Give no one any ground by any fault of character for despising thy youth.

σου depends on τῆς νεότητος. Field supports this by an exact parallel from Diodorus Siculus. The two genitives do not, in strict grammar, depend on καταφρον., despise thee for thy youth.

τῆς νεότητος: St. Paul had met Timothy on the second missionary journey, dated by Harnack in A.D. 47, and by Lightfoot in A.D. 51. About the year 57, St. Paul says of Timothy, “Let no man despise him” (1 Corinthians 16:11). 1 Tim. may be dated not more than a year before St. Paul’s martyrdom, which Harnack fixes in A.D. 64, and Lightfoot in A.D. 67. The question arises, Could Timothy’s νεότης have lasted all that time, about fifteen or sixteen years? We must remember that we have no information about Timothy’s age when he joined St. Paul’s company. But if he had been then fifteen or sixteen, or even seventeen, νεότης here need cause no difficulty. Lightfoot (Apostolic Fathers, Part II. vol. i. p. 448) adduces evidence from Polybius and Galen to show that a man might be called νεός up to the age of thirty-four or thirty-five. In any case, the terms “young” and “old” are used relatively to the average age at which men attain to positions in the world. Forty is reckoned old for a captain in the army, young for a bishop, very young for a Prime Minister. In an instructive parallel passage, Ignatius commends the Magnesians (§ 3) and their presbyters for not presuming upon the youth of their bishop. For Timothy’s comparative youth, cf. 2 Timothy 2:22, τὰς δὲ νεωτερικὰς ἐπιθυμίας φεῦγε.

τύπος γίνου: For the sentiment, compare reff. and 1 Corinthians 4:16, Php 4:9.

τύπος is followed by the genitive of the person for whose edification the τύπος exists in 1 Corinthians 10:6, 1 Peter 5:3.

In the following enumeration, λόγος is coupled with ἀναστροφή as words with deeds (Romans 15:18; Colossians 3:17). These refer to Timothy’s public life; while love, faith and purity refer to his private life, in reference to which they are found in conjunction in 1 Timothy 2:15.

12. in conversation] In behaviour; the verb occurs above 1 Timothy 3:15; see note. It is an especial favourite of St Peter’s, noun and verb occurring 10 times in his short Epistles. The five words describe five stages, from the most defined external to the most defined internal characteristics—speech, behaviour, love, faith, purity; love as it were belonging equally to the inner and the outer self, and combining all. ‘The greatest is love.’ Yet the special emphasis is on ‘purity,’ the word itself occurring only here and in 1 Timothy 5:2, though another form of the word is used in the similar catalogue, 2 Corinthians 6:6. The same connexion of ‘youth’ and ‘purity’ is in St Paul’s mind in 2 Timothy 2:22, ‘flee also youthful lusts.’ Timothy, at 36 years, was young compared with St Paul and the presbyters. See Introd. pp. 56 sqq. Cf. also the use of the Latin iuvenis, for military service up to 40 years; e.g. Liv. i. 43.

in charity, in spirit, in faith] There is no sufficient ms. authority for ‘in spirit’; it is curious that A reads ‘in spirit’ instead of ‘in faith’ in 1 Timothy 2:7. The phrase, most common in St Paul’s earlier Epistles, has left his latest language.

1 Timothy 4:12. Μηδεὶς, no man) Conduct thyself so, that no one can despise thee on the ground of being a young man. Worthless old men are glad to do so.—τύπος, a type, an example) The way of obtaining true authority.—ἐν λόγῳ, in word) public and private.—ἐν ἀναστροφῇ) in daily intercourse or conversation.—ἐν ἀγάτῃἐν πνεύματι, in love—in the Spirit) 2 Corinthians 6:6, note.[38]—ἐν πίστει, in faith) Faith, considered apart from its office in justification, enters often into the middle of an enumeration of this kind, and denotes sincerity of the mind trusting in God, in prosperity and adversity: ch. 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22 : comp. Galatians 5:22, which passage has faith likewise in the middle of the enumeration.—ἐν ἁγνείᾳ, in purity) ch. 1 Timothy 5:2.

[38] “By the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned.” Love follows immediately after mention of the Spirit, as being its principal fruit, and that which governs the use of spiritual gifts.—ED.

Verse 12. - An ensample to them that believe for an example of the believers, A.V.; manner of fife for conversation, A.V.; love for charity, A.V.; R.T. omits in spirit, A.V. and T.R. Let no man despise thy youth (comp. 1 Corinthians 16:11; Titus 2:15). The construction of the sentence is manifestly that adopted in the A.V. and followed in the R.V. Timothy would certainly be under forty years at this time, and might be not above thirty-five. Either age would be decidedly early for so responsible an office - one in which he would have many elders (πρεσβύτεροι) under him (1 Timothy 5:1, 17, 19). An ensample (τύπος); properly the original "pattern" or "model" after which anything is made or fashioned; hence a "pattern" or "example." It is used in the same sense as here in Philippians 3:17; I These. 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; Titus 2:7; 1 Peter 5:3. Them that believe. The R.V. has apparently so translated τῶν πιστῶν in order to assimilate it with the πιστῶν in ver. 10. But οἱ πιστοί are simply "believers," or "Christians" - "the flock," as St. Peter has it, and had better be so rendered. Timothy is exhorted to make it impossible for any one to question his authority on the score of his youth by being a model of the Christian graces required in believers. In word. Specially in his teaching. The exhortation to Titus (Titus 2:1, 7, etc.) is very similar, "Speak thou the things which befit the sound doctrine. In all things showing thyself an ensample of good works; in thy doctrine showing uncorrupt-ness, gravity, sound speech (λόγον ὑγιῆ)" etc. (comp. too 1 Timothy 5:17; 2 Timothy 1:13). Manner of life (ἀναστροφῇ; see 1 Timothy 3:15, note). Purity (ἁγνείᾳ); elsewhere in the New Testament only in 1 Timothy 5:2, where it has the same special sense (compare ἀγνός, 2 Corinthians 11:2; 1 Timothy 5:22; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:2). 1 Timothy 4:12Youth (νεότητος)

oP. See Luke 18:21. Acts 26:4. See Introduction, VII. Timothy was probably from 38 to 40 years old at this time.

In word (ἐν λόγῳ)

Including teaching and verbal intercourse of every kind.

Conversation (ἀναστροφῇ)

Comp. Galatians 1:13; Ephesians 4:22; James 3:13. A favorite word with Peter. See on 1 Peter 1:15.

In spirit


Purity (ἁγνίᾳ)

Only here and 1 Timothy 5:2. Ἁγνός pure, 1 Timothy 5:22; Titus 2:5. In Paul, 2 Corinthians 8:11; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Philippians 4:8. Also in James, Peter, and 1 John. #x391;̔γνότης purity, 2 Corinthians 6:6; 2 Corinthians 11:3. olxx, oClass. Ἁγνός always with a moral sense; not limited to sins of the flesh, but covering purity in motives as well as in acts. In 1 John 3:3, of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 11:2, of virgin purity. In James 3:17, as a characteristic of heavenly wisdom. Ἁγνῶς purely (Philippians 1:17), of preaching the gospel with unmixed motives. The verb ἁγνίζειν to purify, which in lxx is used only of ceremonial purification, has that meaning in four of the seven instances in N.T. (John 11:55; Acts 21:24, Acts 21:26; Acts 24:18). In the others (James 4:8; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:3) it is used of purifying the heart and soul.

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