Watch Your Life & Your Doctrine

Text: 1 Timothy 4:6-16

After laying out warnings against the false teachers (vv. 1-5), Paul now instructs Timothy and the right way to live, and how to help each other in this fight. Two important reminders…

1. Be Trained in Godliness (1 Timothy 4:6-10)

To be “trained” is the same word used to describe what athletes do in preparing for an event. They train their bodies by eating right, exercising, practicing their sport, getting rest, eliminating distractions. They don’t just show up for the race or the competition. They prepare for it. They plan for it. They train for it.

But notice, in this training is not just self-punishment. Paul is not talking about finding your identity or gaining some religious pride in what you give up, like the false teachers were promoting. Paul is teaching us the right way to walk in godliness, the right way to live out the spiritual disciplines and to grow in godliness. Good works can’t save us. But good works should be an evidence that we’re saved. In this way, the way we live our lives causes our faith to be seen, to be a credible witness. We all fall short, and we all fail. That’s why we need constant reminders, constant “training”, constant discipleship in the faith and the teachings of Scripture.

Like water drains from a broken cup, all of us are leaky vessels. We hear the truth one day, and forget it the next. Trials wear us down. Temptations pull us in different directions. We need constant reminders of God’s love for us. We need constant reminders of the power of the gospel. We need to preach the gospel to ourselves daily. And not just for ourselves; we need to help one another to know and live the truth.

That’s how to be faithful followers of Jesus. Not just for Timothy, and not just for pastors. For every Christian. That’s how the Body ministers to the Body, helping each other to treasure and live and proclaim the gospel – constantly dwelling on the truth of God’s word, revealed in Jesus Christ.

This is the measure of a good servant, as Paul puts it – to live the gospel, with humility and grace, and help each other follow Christ and grow in God’s word. None of us do this perfectly. And we shouldn’t pretend to. Living out life together as Christians means we see each other’s failures and flaws. Our trials and our struggles. And we help point each other to the cross, again and again.

The motivation for training in godliness is to know it has value in this life, and in the life to come. In this life, to grow in the truth means we will be prepared to identify and reject false teachings, and  it helps us to live joy-filled, peace-filled, god-honoring lives. And training in godliness now prepares us for the life to come in God’s kingdom. My praise here is just a dress-rehearsal for the praise there. Surrendering to Christ now means spending eternity with Christ then.

2.  Be an Example to the Church   (1 Timothy 4:11-16)

When we are growing in godliness, it will be evident to those around us. God takes our inward growth, and makes an outward witness. In Timothy’s case, not only was he charged with helping a church who was battling false teachers, but he was a young man facing a culture that revered older philosophers and dismissed younger men as immature and naïve.

But notice, Paul didn’t tell Timothy to answer his critics by demanding respect or trying to win every debate. Instead, he was to show his spiritual maturity by example. Paul tells Timothy to set for the believers an example in…

speech – how you talk, how you teach, how you use your words to minister grace, not gossiping or slandering, but speaking the truth in love.

in conduct – how you behave, how you treat others, how you live your life.

in love, faith and purity – In contrast to the false teachers who said one thing and lived another, Timothy, you prove what you teach by how you love God and love others, how you walk in faith and faithfulness, and how you walk in godliness and purity of your lifestyle.

Our public reputation as a Christian is called our “testimony”. We are not to be paralyzed by what others think about us, but on the other hand, we are not to completely dismiss what others think either. The life of the Christian is meant to reflect Christ. Not just what we believe, but how we live should give an accurate (albeit imperfect) reflection of who Jesus is, what He taught, and what He did for us on the cross.

It’s important we know the truth. But we can’t just know it.

It’s important to believe the truth. But we can’t just believe it.

What we know and believe to be true, we must live for others to see – not to impress others, not so that we will get any glory, but for the purpose of living an example for other Christians to follow, and for those who don’t know Jesus, for them to see our lives and want to know Christ.

[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.

All that Paul has told Timothy in these verses is summed up in this beautiful, powerful encouragement: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.” In other words Timothy, “Watch your life, and watch your doctrine.”

That includes pastors and church leaders: keep a close watch on how you live, and what you teach. And that includes every Christian: watch how you live and what you believe. Be sure those things reflect each other.

What you believe will determine how you live. And how you live will tell others what you really believe.

If we persist in this, if we keep going, if we keep growing and living out the gospel that we proclaim, not only can we know our own salvation is genuine, but God will use us to draw others to Himself as well.


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