. . but be thou an example of believers, in word, in conversation, in love, in Spirit, in faith, in purity.” — I Timothy 4:12
We all must lead exemplary lives. We must not simply have lives which are beyond reproach and censure; lives which are border-line, playing with sin, and really flouting the spiritual nature of the law of God. Our lives must always be such that they are such as commending themselves to be imitated.
The English term example is worthy of notice. It is derived from the Latin verb: ex-emplum. fr. ex-inere; to take out. It means that something is taken out of the rest, a part from the whole. It is interesting to notice that the Dictionary gives the following usages of the term;
“1. A particular item, fact, incident or aspect that is representative of all or a group type.”
“2. Someone or something that serves as a pattern to be imitated, whether good or bad.”
“3. A parallel or closely similar case, especially when serving as a precedent or model.”
”4. A punishment inflicted on someone as a warning to others, as when makes public example of.” (Webster’s New Collegiate ‘Dictionary.)
In the King James Version of the Bible the term ”example” is used interchangeably with “ensample.” Both terms are the translation of the same word in the Greek language. In the New Testament Scriptures we have four different words translated in English by the term “example.”
The first instance of these is: deigma, In Jude 7 we read “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set for an example suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” This is very instructive for us and full of warning. This is purely an act of God, the sending fire from heaven, to destroy the wicked and the proud. Lot had been delivered, and God did not destroy the righteous with the wicked. Here the “example” is the punishment inflicted on these cities as a warning to others. God made a public example of these cities. They are an example of all who God will destroy with the breath of His mouth causing them to suffer the “vengeance of eternal fire.” This vengeance belongs to God alone! We are never to act this part of making people a public example of our wrath. We are to give place unto wrath, and not to try to act the part of the Judge of all the earth!
A similar instance of the usage of the “example” of the judgments of the Lord we have in the Lord’s dealing with unbelieving Israel. This was written as an example to us that we should not walk in the same unbelief. In I Cor. 10:11 we read, “Now all these things happened unto them for examples, and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come . . These are typical instances of God’s dealings in his chastisements and in his just judgments. Look at the things which happened to Israel during their forty years wanderings in the desert, to those who were “overthrown in the wilderness.” Their carcases fell in the wilderness.
Now we do not make people, even evil people, an example!
That is the prerogative of God!
Ours is the duty to “become an example of the flock” (I Peter 5:3) to “become an example of the believers.”
That is the very meaning of the term ex-ample! We must be a true representation of the entire group of believers, ft must not be said of any member of the church: if that is what the church stands for, then I will have nothing of it. Nay, we must be an example. We must be such a part of the whole, of the entire congregation, the covenant young people, that we can represent the church, the believers, the society at its ideal best!
Such is the warning to Timothy, a youthful minister and an evangelist of Christ in the church at Ephesus. Some years ago I wrote concerning this as follows:
“Timothy must be an example of the believers! It is conjectured that at his time he was about thirty years old. Surely a young man compared with older members, grandfathers, grandmothers, widowers and widows. Yet as a young man he must lie an example for others to imitate. He must be able to say: walk as I do. He must not simply be a walking exegete: he must lie an example of godliness! It must be seen that Christ dwells in his heart by faith, and that the love of God has been shed abroad in his heart. ‘A youthful overseer of the flock must see that he be in advance of his years’ writes a certain expositor of tin’s passage. . . .”
“An example of believers!”
“A minister must be in the eyes of the congregation and of all the world what they expect to see in the best of those who profess Christ as their Savior and Redeemer; he must be such as a part of the whole.” Thus the undersigned wrote a few years ago in the Standard Bearer on this passage.
What is true of a minister and of an elder is equally true of covenant young people. The Lord expects leaders, not only in knowledge and in intellectual achievement; but also in godliness and purity. It is good to notice that this we must “become.” The Greek verb is “ginou” present imperative, second person singular. It means: keep on becoming constantly. It is the continual, prayerful struggle and battle. Such is a battle in the field of athletics to be an example to all others in conduct and in performance. But such it is also here for the believers, to be such an example of believers: one taken from the whole to be a pattern of conduct to all!
Here is the golden rule: do unto others as ye would have them do to you. Be to others as you would have them be to you as an example!
Paul singles out the following perfections for Timothy, wherein to be an example of believers and to believers: in word, in conversation, in love, in Spirit, in faith, in purity. Perhaps the last perfection mentioned is the sum-total effect of all the rest.
Purity! What is it?
Again we wrote concerning this in the past: “We believe that the term ‘purity’ (agneia in Greek) is placed last with a certain emphasis. It sums up all the other factors here enumerated, such as, words, conversation, love and faith. This purity must not be taken in the sense that moralism would reach purity, leaving God out of the picture, but it must emphatically refer to the spiritual ethical purity of the sanctification which is ours through the Spirit of Christ. It is the purity of heaven, of the spiritual man, of the new mart in Christ, in true righteousness, righteousness and holiness. It is the purity of godliness, which is not merely a matter of form and convention, but a life which has the power of godliness . . .”
Are you such an example of believers?
Are you a living member of the church, who will forever remain such?