The Promise Of Being A Blessing

adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 3 March 2012

 

“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Timothy 4:16).

The Pastoral Epistles are comprised of 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus. Timothy and Titus were young pastors whom the apostle Paul had left in Ephesus and the Island of Crete to look after the respective congregations. We can see from the content of the three letters, that they are intended to remind and instruct the two young pastors on how they should organise the church and their ministries.

1st Timothy and Titus were probably written sometime after Paul was released from his imprisonment in Rome recorded in Acts 28. 2nd Timothy was written after he was re-arrested and was locked up in the death row in Rome.

In this instalment of our study on the great and precious promises in the Bible, we want to consider a promise in 1st Timothy. Now, there is a famous reference to a promise in 1 Timothy 4:8—

“For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Tim 4:8).

But this verse is not exactly a statement of promise. The statement of promise is actually found a few verses down in verse 16, which is our text for this study.

Now, this verse contains a promise, or more specifically, a conditional promise. And it is, in fact, a promise that reflects very well the purpose of this letter. This letter, after all, is written by the apostle Paul to encourage Timothy to maintain right doctrine and practice in his own life and in the life of the church.

Let’s consider this verse, the Lord helping us. Well, if you examine this verse carefully, you will see that Paul is, in fact, enjoining two or three duties, and endorsing two promises.


1. Two or Three Duties

The statement of duty is in the words: “16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them…

What does Paul mean by “continue in them”? Well, the word translated ‘doctrine’ (διδαχή) is in the singular in the Greek. This means that by the word ‘them’, Paul is referring not to doctrine, but to the two duties, namely: “take heed unto thyself”; and “take heed… unto the doctrine.” So to continue in them is really to conduct himself well, as he does these two duties of taking heed to himself and taking heed to the doctrine. So in a sense, there are really three duties!

Thus, we may say that Paul is actually telling Timothy first of all to take care of his character; secondly, to take care of his confession; and thirdly, to take care of his conduct.

Timothy and all of us must make sure that we are spiritually healthy. We know how to make sure that we are physically healthy. We eat the right food; drink plenty of water; exercise in moderation; and rest sufficiently. What about spiritual health? Well, it is about the same thing that we have to do physically.

We must eat, that is to say, we must make used of the means of grace, especially, the hearing and reading of God’s word, as well as make use of the sacraments. When we come to the Lord’s Table to remember the Lord’s death, it is not only a mental exercise. It is a spiritual feast.

Again, we must drink, which means we have to pray. We must not only pray in public. We must pray in private. We must pray all kinds of prayers including praise, confession, thanksgiving and supplication.

Again, we must exercise, which we must seek to keep God’s laws, and we must meditate on God’s word. One of the ways of meditating on God’s word is to sing the psalms.

Again, we must rest, which is to say, we must observe the Sabbath and delight in it. We must worship the Lord and cast our cares upon Him.

If we do these things, then we shall take heed to ourselves; or take care of our character.

But secondly, Timothy and all of us must take heed to our doctrine.  That is to say, we must make sure that we learn the right doctrine. We must hold fast the form of sound words through the catechisms we have learned. And we must teach or promote right doctrine when we teach our children or when we speak to one another.

We must not entertain false doctrine and spread false doctrine. False doctrine, we must remember, is not merely some harmless opinion. In many instances, they are really damnable heresies, for many who walk according to false doctrine are walking along the broad road that leads to damnation.

But now, thirdly, Timothy and all of us, must seek to live and serve consistently according to our creeds and the Christian character that is cultivated through the use of the means of grace.  We can imagine why the apostle would want to enjoin Timothy to do that. It is one thing to know and to grow when things are going on well. It quite another thing to remain meek, holy, honest, and obedient to the truth when things are not going so well. How easy it is for us to give up, and even to cast aside our conscience when circumstances in our life are unfavourable.

But Paul reminds us that only if we would do these two or three things: take heed to ourselves, take heed to our doctrine and continue in them, that we will see the fulfilment of the promises of God in our lives.

Consider the…


2. Two Promises

Paul says: “for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.

The first promise is that we shall save ourselves. What does Paul mean? Quite obviously, Paul cannot be speaking about salvation by works. That would go contrary to his clear teachings. No doubt, then, Paul must be referring sanctification rather than justification. He is essentially telling Timothy that if he observes the duties enjoined him, then he would be working out his salvation well. He will enjoy “assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace and perseverance therein to the end” (WSC 36). Or in a word, he will enjoy the blessings of eternal life more and more.

This would be true for Timothy, and it would certainly be true for all of us.

What about the second promise? Well, the second promise to Timothy if he would take care of his character, confession and conduct, is that he would save those who hear him.

What does that mean? Well, again obviously, Paul could not be suggesting that Timothy could save anyone by what he does. Salvation is of the Lord! God the Father must elect whoever is to be saved. God the Son must live and die for him. God the Spirit must work in his heart. Only God can save.

But it is also true that God has chosen to involve sinful men in the process of saving his elect and cultivating them in the faith. He uses us to bring the unconverted along to seek the Lord. He uses us to be good examples to encourage the sinners. He uses us to tell them the gospel. He uses preachers to bring the word to them authoritatively. He uses pastors to counsel them and to guide them in their Christian walk. He uses members of the church to support and encourage them through thick and thin.

Now, what Paul is promising Timothy and all of us is that if we do our duty to cultivate our character, confession and conduct, then God will use us for the salvation of those who hear us.

For the minister of the Gospel these would mainly be the members of the church. But what is true for the minister is also true for all of us. Contained in the words of the apostle Paul is a promise to each one of us that we may be a blessing to those who hear us.

Of course, we can be a blessing also to those who cannot hear us, but faith comes by hearing. So words are important as a tool of salvation. It is important not only for the minister of the Gospel whose primary tool is words. It is also important for all of us. But naturally, though words are the main tool, it is not the only tool. Our example, demeanour and decisions are important too.

In any case, what the apostle is suggesting is that if we take heed to our character, creed and conduct, then the Lord will use us to bless others with salvation. We will be instrumental to lead the unconverted to Christ. We will be instrumental to encourage the converted in their Christian walk. Of course, not everyone who hears us will be saved, for salvation is of the Lord. But the promise is God will involve us when He saves.

Fathers, the promise of the covenant is unto you and your children. This is the Abrahamic promise. The promise is not that all your children will be saved. The promise is that God will cultivate elect children in your family. But now, we have another promise in our text. This promise is not conditioned upon election, but upon your faithfulness.

These two promises,—one unconditional and the other unconditional,—put together give us tremendous hope for our children! They leave us without any room for despair and discouragement. They spur us persevere on to pray for our children and to continue to train them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.


Conclusion

May the Lord grant us therefore that this precious promise that we may be instrumental in the salvation of one another lift up our spirit and encourage us to press on. Amen. W