1 Timothy 4:11-16
Keep a Close Watch on Yourself
In this brief passage we see Paul’s heart for Timothy and his ministry in full force. He has just told Timothy to train himself for godliness, but now it gets personal. Paul is an older man. He has plans to go to Spain and preach the gospel, but he also knows that his life always hangs in the balance. He has discipled several men during his ministry, and Timothy seems to have been one of his most beloved and faithful students (1:2; Philippians 2:22). So here he links together several exhortations almost like a dying man urging his son onward to fight the good fight of godliness.
The most important words he says to Timothy here are: “Set the believers an example” and “Keep a close watch on yourself and your teaching.” Godliness is a pastor’s first concern. Everything else the Apostle says serves this purpose. The way to make sure that “no one despises you for your youth” is to be the godly man God calls you to be. So set them an example “in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” There is nothing that can go missing. The whole life is called to godliness. One cannot hold something back in his life, cling to some secret corner where God is not allowed and some sin permitted to fester. If you have a problem with language, clean it up! Gossip? Stop it! You must be a man of God in all your conduct—in church and in your house. If not, it will be found out in the end. Outdo others in being loving, faithful, and pure in heart and mind.
As for what a pastor needs to be doing? Reading the Scriptures to the believers both in the church and in their homes, exhorting and encouraging them to greater holiness as he teaches them. (It is a travesty how little just plain Scripture reading is done in evangelical worship services!) Paul already told him to pray for kings and all people (2:1-2). What gift Paul refers to in verse fourteen is hard to discern, but he encourages Timothy to use every spiritual gift he has as every pastor should.
But ultimately, it is about godliness and setting an example. So pastors must keep a close watch on themselves, on their doctrine, and on their progress so that all may respect and follow them. And it is good to have other men of God to help hold oneself accountable. It is in this way that pastors lead their flocks—by example. Command and teach all you want; no one will follow if they do not see you striving to walk more closely, crucifying sin, dying daily and living for Him. Do this, man of God, and “you will save both yourself and your hearers.” What a blessing! What a responsibility!