In 1 Timothy 4:11-12 we read:
These are the things you must insist on and teach. Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
Paul writes to Timothy and urges him to be an example. The word example comes from the idea of “to strike” and indicates the mark made by that strike. Like the US Mint’s painstakingly created, fire hardened die you and I are commanded to be an example which will leave an indelible impression on the lives of those around us so that they will know “In God We Trust”. This means more than that we are merely an example for others to emulate but that we are a hardened mold which should be pressed into the lives of others so that they attain the same shape.
In other words, I’m equating appearance to behaving in such a manner as to leave a lasting impression. And that is exactly what Paul commands Timothy to do. We need to guard our way of life. Watch what you do that it mirrors Christ; because I can guarantee others will notice when it doesn’t. If you are going to mold others to the image of Christ than your general conduct had best be of godliness.
Now, I know being in ministry would seem to preclude this discussion as unnecessary. We’ve discussed the first two areas in which Paul states we are to be an example: speech and conduct. How about love, faith, and purity?
Love is the highest order of business in the Bible (1 Corinthians 13:13). First the unimpeded love of God and second the love of your fellow man. The love described here comes from the Greek word agape. Of the four words used for “love” in the Bible, this is the one most used to describe Christian virtue. In every defining passage, agape love means “sacrifice”. In my own experience nothing leaves a more significant impression than sacrificial love.
By all means we would expect faith to define a maturing Christian. It means believing the essentials of Christianity. It means obedience to the principles of the Bible. It means assurance of things not seen. In means, “an attitude characterizing [your] entire existence, the genuinely Christian demeanor that [you] should preserve [even] amid struggle.”
Purity originally meant sexual purity but more broadly in many New Testament passages, including this one, it refers to the absence of corruption. Purity, as it’s used here, stems from having a holy awe of God, and that, by implication, means that we are to be morally pure not by mere rule following but rather as a response to God’s revealed holiness. In other words, purity is achieved by being exposed to God so that we can say, ” I am holy because He is holy!”