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
Paul writes to Timothy to encourage him in his faith and ministry. Others had ‘shipwrecked their faith’ (1 Timothy 1:19-20) and Paul wanted Timothy to not do the same. Timothy’s faith and salvation was intertwined with his ministry. He was to follow Jesus as a good minister of the Gospel. So the instruction comes for Timothy to keep at it and be single-focused. Paul used phrases like ‘devote yourself’, ‘be diligent’, do not neglect your gift’, and then the exclamation point in verse 16: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. “
Salvation will come to both Timothy and his hearers if he perseveres in watching his life and doctrine closely. Usually ministry and salvation are separated by people. The thought is that we are saved at some point and then nothing can touch that spiritual reality. Once saved, then you serve in order to save others. If you end up not serving so great, well – that’s how it goes sometimes.
The perspective that Paul had was different. Much different. He talked about, after preaching to others, not wanting to be disqualified himself (1 Corinthians 9:27). His ministry was intertwined with his own salvation. Paul’s words to Timothy close this loop. Timothy is to persevere – not give up – on watching his life and doctrine closely. If he did he would save both himself and his hearers.
I hear the call to perseverance, devotion and diligence! I’m a preacher with a few hearers. If my life and doctrine and preaching go bad, it will effect me and my salvation! And not just me. If I am disqualified for the prize, those listening will be negatively effective too. It’s not just about me… but it is about me.
The fact that my life is not my own nor does it impact just me is true of everybody. Every Christian has an audience that is impacted by their life and doctrine. As followers of Jesus, our lives, and the way we live them, matter.
Father, give me a singleness of heart and purpose today to be diligent in ministry and to persevere in my new life in Christ.