Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:13-16)
Since the historical context of Paul’s letters to Timothy are off the Biblical grid (meaning, we don’t have an historical narrative describing Paul’s travels after his first Roman imprisonment), we cannot say for certain whether Paul ever made it back to Ephesus. There are some interesting websites that address the question: “Did Paul return to Ephesus?” Keep in mind, everything is speculative, but you might enjoy doing a little research, so type it in and see what happens.
In the meantime, as Paul was waiting for an opportunity to visit Timothy, he encouraged him to keep preaching and teaching. The gifts of “preaching and teaching” must have been a part of the spiritual anointing Timothy received when he began his ministry. We don’t have a record of the event where the elders laid hands on him, but Paul tells us about his personal role in the matter: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (2 Timothy 1:6) Perhaps Paul is speaking of the same event. Some have also suggested (since Paul was an apostle and possessed miraculous gifts), he may have actually been the one who imparted supernatural abilities to Timothy through a “prophetic message.”
The study of who had the ability to impart spiritual gifts in the New Testament is an important one, and I would also encourage you to do a little research on this subject if you have the time. The “laying on of hands” (which we call an ordination) did not have to involve a supernatural gift. It was, in essence, a “setting apart” for service, in which the Holy Spirit was involved. But it does appear, in Timothy’s case, something extraordinary was involved.
Yet, even though Timothy was supernaturally gifted, it was up to him to be “diligent” and “watch his life and doctrine closely.” In fact, isn’t it true the more gifted we are, naturally or supernaturally, the more important it is for us to manage what we have been given?
When I read the last verse of our passage this morning, I thought about something Paul once said of himself. He was talking about the difference between righteousness and self-righteousness and using the metaphor of an athlete to make his point when he wrote: “No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)
What we correct in others is always complimented by our personal lives and convictions. I have been corrected in my ministry at times, and I can honestly say when the message came from a person of character who loved me, I received it. I can’t say I always wanted to receive it, but I received it.
The important thing to keep in mind is, we can’t wait until we need to point out a problem in someone’s life to decide we are going to be the example we should be. The example comes first. Then, if God calls us to guide another, we have something to offer. How are you preparing for this possibility?
Dear God, help me develop my example. In Jesus’ name, Amen.