Monday, July 10, 2023

Truths about Teaching: Timothy As a Teacher

This morning I started a deep dive into 1 Tim. 4:11-16. Here Paul instructs Timothy both to ignore his disadvantage as a young person and to be active and diligent in the task of teaching. The sheer number of imperatives is amazing -- ten! 

Above all, Timothy is to lead by example. This is clearly seen in the qualities listed in verse 12. 

If I were a youth pastor, this would be my life verse. The big question is: Are the words "in spirit" (Greek: en pneumati) original? Methinks not. The addition of these words is supported only by the Majority Text. However, what if I am teaching this passage in a church that uses the KJV or the NKJV? Their Bible will include these words. So the question I have to ask is not only, "What is this passage saying?" but also "What are the original words of this text?" Imagine the confusion you would sow if you used the ESV in a congregation that used the NKJV? They would ask, "But you've said nothing about the words 'in spirit'!" 

Remember, in biblical exegesis, you main concern is "What do I see in the text?" But to do this you always have to pay special attention to the art and science of textual criticism. There is a direct correlation between your ability to observe Scripture and your ability to apply it accurately. Sometimes -- as in this case -- you will find a very significant textual variant. So please don't ignore this step! 

Let me make two more observations and then conclude:

1. The command in verse 12 is not simply to "become a model for the believers" but to "continue to become a model for the believers." The present imperative reveals a continual obligation to become an example to those we are teaching. Modeling is by its very nature a process. We must live consistently, day by day, in such a way that others will want to emulate our lives as teachers. 

2. Paul lists 5 (or 6) outstanding areas in which others should be able to follow our example. The first two deal with the speech and conduct of the teacher. The latter three deal with the qualities he must show. Each of the words that Paul uses would repay a deep word study:

  • Speech
  • Behavior
  • Selflessness
  • Trustworthiness 
  • Purity 

If you accept the words "en pneumati" as original, then you would add to the list the idea of fervor, passion, and enthusiasm. 

The point is, if you are a teacher, do whatever it takes to (1) understand the kind of example Paul wants you to be, and (2) be hungry to see results in your own life and teaching ministry. The goal is not to acquire mountains of data about the text but to allow God's word to bear fruit in our lives. Never substitute interpretation for application. Never be content with head knowledge without experience. In God's mind, knowledge without obedience is sin.