13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
5:1 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.
Look at the things Timothy is supposed to do to grow himself and to grow the church while waiting for Paul’s arrival. He’s not supposed to hid up in his room and read the Bible all day. The list is a very public and outward-facing list.
- Public reading of scripture
- Exhortation (urging people)
All of these would require other people to participate. Some of them are more intrusive than others, of course. There are modern-day equivalent activities to this that vary too. You can sit at a table at a coffee shop and read the Bible without being too strange. One week our men’s Bible study sat at a local restaurant and talked about the Bible. At least twice, people from other tables came by as they were leaving and made positive comments about our conversation.
You can publicly exhort people a lot better with a donut than with a bullhorn.
And more people are overhearing your table conversation than you’d think.
As part of his public ministry, Timothy is also warned against how he rebukes others. Encourage old men like you would your father. For all of the people complaining that they had a bad father figure and it wrecked their view of God, here is a rare reversal. If you’re going to rebuke an old man, you have a chance to reflect the love, kindness, tenderness, and faithfulness of God. (Those are all fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5!)
And Paul knows who he is talking to. He doesn’t have unrealistic expectations for Timothy. Look at how he reminds him of the high stakes as he interacts with young men, older women, and young women. “In all purity” isn’t just there for show. Even in the zeroeth century, Paul was already exhorting young men to be pure with the young women so they wouldn’t wreck their ministry or their budding church.
The Christian life is full of practices and lifestyles we can immerse ourselves in and watch God work. Even sitting in a public place and reading a Bible can bring about a change in someone’s life that would save them for all eternity. God works in us when we fly 7,000 miles and learn a new language, or even when we sit and read a book at a fast food joint near our house. He loves us so much.
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