1 Timothy 4:16: “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.”
Holy living and sound teaching must go together if Timothy or any apostolic representative, any ministry, any elder, or for that matter, any believer is to be a blessing. Hence Paul admonishes Timothy to “keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching”. He must persist in holy living and vigilance with respect to teaching. The promise is “for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers”. A man is saved by grace, through faith, not by works (Titus 3:3; Ephesians 2:6-8); yet since holy living and sound teaching are a fruit of the faith, Paul is able to say that by “by so doing” Timothy will save himself and his hearers. God promises a special reward to His faithful ministers, to all his faithfulness witnesses (Daniel 12:3; Matt. 13:43; James 5:20); and threatens with severe punishment the unfaithful (Ezek. 33:7-8).
Many Christians today focus on their life situations such as their trials, problems, difficulties, and so on. When these difficult times come and come they will, what happens? Samantha was a wonderful Christian lady. She was focused on knowing and making known the glory of Jesus. Yet one day one of her family members Bob was diagnosed with cancer. Samantha was shaken to the core and began to question God’s goodness. Everything on the outside appeared to be the same but on the inside her life was chaotic. Eventually what was going on in the inside started to manifest on the outside. What took place in Samantha’s life, if we were honest, happens in the life of many believers. When difficulty and trial come along, we appear to be strong when in fact when we should be weak. It is in our weakness that God’s power is made manifest (2 Corinthians 12:9). By focusing only on her life’s circumstances and not being grounded in solid biblical truth that would sustain her through the trial, Samantha’s questions become increasingly self-centered to the point where she couldn’t see through the fog of her present circumstances. Faith is grounded in God Himself who sent forth His Son Jesus to bleed, die, rise, ascend, and who now serves as High Priest and Intercessor over His people.
When Christians focus only on the trials of life, they are being me-centered and not God-centered. However, many people believe they are God-centered. Samantha was one of those people. What Samantha needed was to open up and to be real about what was going on in her life. She needed the community of faith to encourage and pray with her. Yet the responsibility for that doesn’t land solely on the shoulders of the community of faith because Samantha wasn’t transparent about her struggles. Eventually, she came around to realize that what she needed most was to be grounded in the Word of God and be transparent about her struggles with other Christians. Noting what Paul taught Timothy to “watch his life and teaching” would have helped her realize she was spending more time worrying about how she would make it with the next paycheck than grounding herself in solid biblical truth.
When you and I as Christians focus only on our lives to the exclusion of grounding ourselves in the Word of God, we fail to keep watch on what is truly important in our lives, that of Biblical doctrine to ground our lives in God Himself. Biblical doctrine helps Christians weather the storms of life by building a foundation that is rooted in God Himself. The end result of this approach is that while we may struggle at times during trials, we will be sustained through those tough times of life through a firm reliance on the goodness and providence of God who uses such situations to grow His people in His grace.
Paul told Timothy to watch his life and his doctrine meaning sound doctrine leads to sound living. When we focus on only how we are living to the exclusion of a devotion to sound biblical doctrine, we are failing to pay heed to Paul’s counsel to Timothy. The result of this is that many people walk away completely from Christianity because they feel it does nothing for them, when in fact they never understood that Christianity is a worldview grounded in God’s Word and in the person and finished work of Jesus Christ. If they had understood that the foundation of their lives is to be based in Scripture, their lives would increasingly reflect biblical doctrine. Sadly, many people never grab hold of this and thus never learn the fundamental truth to “watch your life and doctrine”, instead choosing to focus their life on other priorities to the exclusion of biblical doctrine.
Grow deep and wide in God by reading, studying, and mediating on God’s Word which testifies of the finished work of Jesus Christ. By grounding your life in the Word of God, your life will increasingly reflect the truth of Scripture by the grace of God. The reality of life is we need Jesus. Jesus takes non-Christians and transfers them from the Kingdom of Satan to the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. Without that transfer, there is no way our lives can be grounded in God. Thankfully through the finished work of Jesus, He has saved His people, is sanctifying them, and will one day glorify them.
Examine your life today in light of the truth of “watch your life and doctrine” and see whether you are focusing more on your life or whether you are building a strong foundation based on God’s Word. You can tell your life is based in God by your response to trials and difficulties. Ask yourself whether in difficult situations and trials, you know the peace of God that passes all understanding (Phil 4:8)? Do you put to flight thoughts of anxiety and worry by taking them captive to the Word of God (2 Corinthians 10:5) or do you focus on those negative thoughts, situations, and trials to the exclusion of thinking about God and His promises? Our response to trials says a lot about where we are in our walk with God.
Know and serve Jesus and you will heed Paul’s words to Timothy to “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching” for in doing so you will grow deep and wide in the Gospel as Paul told him in 1Timothy 4:15, “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” Timothy was to saturate himself in the gospel, to be nourished on the words of the faith, to train for godly living, so that he might conduct himself in a manner that no one will despise his youth. He was to immerse himself which literally means be absorbed in them. It is the same for Christians today. We never outgrow our need for the Gospel. We are to do that which Paul admonished Timothy for godly living by relying not on ourselves but on the grace of God and the means God has given to His people from His Word, in the finished work of Jesus, and the present work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Immerse yourself in the language and world of the Bible and never look back for in doing so your life will increasingly be saturated in the Gospel and others will see “your progress” in your spiritual maturity, discernment, and love for God’s people.
Dave Jenkins is happily married to his wife, Sarah. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon. Dave is a lover of Christ, His people, the Church, and sound theology. He serves as the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, the Host and Producer of Equipping You in Grace Podcast, and is a contributor to and producer of Contending for the Word. He is the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (House to House, 2021), The Word Matters: Defending Biblical Authority Against the Spirit of the Age (G3 Press, 2022), and Contentment: The Journey of a Lifetime (Theology for Life, 2024). You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, or read his newsletter. Dave loves to spend time with his wife, going to movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or going out for a round of golf with a good friend. He is also a voracious reader, in particular of Reformed theology, and the Puritans. You will often find him when he’s not busy with ministry reading a pile of the latest books from a wide variety of Christian publishers. Dave received his M.A.R. and M.Div through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.