Make Your Advancement Manifest

“Ponder over these things; be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons.”​—1 TIM. 4:15.

1, 2. What do we know about Timothy’s early life and the change that occurred when he was about 20 years old?

THE Roman province of Galatia, in what is now Turkey, was home to the boy Timothy. There, several Christian congregations were established in the decades after Jesus’ death. At some point, young Timothy, his mother, and his grandmother embraced Christianity and became active in one of the congregations. (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14, 15) Timothy surely enjoyed his life as a young Christian amid those familiar surroundings. Suddenly, however, things began to change.

2 It all started with the apostle Paul’s second visit to the area. At the time, Timothy may have been in his late teens or early 20’s. During Paul’s visit, likely in Lystra, he took note of the fact that Timothy was “well reported on by the brothers” in the local congregations. (Acts 16:2) Young Timothy must have displayed a maturity beyond his years. Then, under the direction of the holy spirit, Paul and the local body of elders laid their hands upon Timothy, setting him apart for special work in the congregation.​—1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6.

3. What unusual privilege of service did Timothy receive?

Timothy was presented with an unusual invitation​—to become the apostle Paul’s traveling companion! (Acts 16:3) Imagine how surprised and excited Timothy must have been! For years to come, Timothy would travel with Paul and at times with others, carrying out various missions on behalf of the apostles and older men. Paul and Timothy engaged in traveling work that contributed much to the spiritual upbuilding of the brothers. (Read Acts 16:4, 5.) Hence, Timothy became well-known to many Christians for his spiritual advancement. After some ten years of working with Timothy, the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians: “I have no one else of a disposition like [Timothy’s] who will genuinely care for the things pertaining to you. . . . You know the proof he gave of himself, that like a child with a father he slaved with me in furtherance of the good news.”​—Phil. 2:20-22.

4. (a) With what weighty responsibility was Timothy entrusted? (b) What questions can be asked about Paul’s words found at 1 Timothy 4:15?

4 About the time when Paul wrote to the Philippians, he entrusted Timothy with a weighty responsibility​—that of appointing elders and ministerial servants. (1 Tim. 3:1; 5:22) Clearly, Timothy had become a dependable and trustworthy Christian overseer. Yet, in the same letter, Paul exhorted  Timothy to ‘make his advancement manifest to all persons.’ (1 Tim. 4:15) Had not Timothy already made his advancement manifest to an extraordinary degree? So, what did Paul mean by these words, and how can we benefit from his counsel?

Spiritual Qualities Made Manifest

5, 6. How was the spiritual purity of the Ephesian congregation threatened, and how could Timothy counteract the threat?

5 Let us examine the context of 1 Timothy 4:15. (Read 1 Timothy 4:11-16.) Prior to writing those words, Paul had journeyed to Macedonia but had asked Timothy to remain in Ephesus. Why? Some in that city were becoming a divisive influence in the congregation by introducing false teachings. Timothy was to protect the spiritual purity of the congregation. How was he to accomplish this? In part, by setting a good example for others to imitate.

6 Paul wrote to Timothy: “Become an example to the faithful ones in speaking, in conduct, in love, in faith, in chasteness.” Paul added: “Ponder over these things; be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons.” (1 Tim. 4:12, 15) This advancement had to do with Timothy’s spiritual qualities rather than with any position of authority. This is the kind of advancement that every Christian should want to manifest.

7. What is expected of all in the congregation?

7 Today as in Timothy’s day, there are various positions of responsibility within the congregation. Some serve as elders or ministerial servants. Others engage in the pioneer service. Still others enjoy assignments in the traveling work, in Bethel service, or in the missionary field. Elders share in various teaching programs, such as at assemblies and conventions. However, all Christians​—men, women, and young ones—​have the potential for making their spiritual advancement manifest. (Matt. 5:16) In fact, as in Timothy’s case, even Christians who have special positions of responsibility are expected to make their spiritual qualities manifest to all.

Become an Example in Speaking

8. What impact does our speech have on our worship?

8 One of the areas in which Timothy was to set an example was in his speaking. How can we make our advancement manifest in that area? Our speech says much about us. Jesus aptly noted: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matt. 12:34) Jesus’ half brother James also recognized the impact that our speech can have on our worship. He wrote: “If any man seems to himself to be a formal worshiper and yet does not bridle his tongue, but goes on deceiving his own heart, this man’s form of worship is futile.”​—Jas. 1:26.

9. In what ways should our speech be exemplary?

9 Our speech can reveal to others in the congregation the degree to which we have progressed spiritually. Accordingly, instead of using speech that is undignified, negative, critical, or hurtful, mature Christians strive to build up, comfort, console, and encourage. (Prov. 12:18; Eph. 4:29; 1 Tim. 6:3-5, 20) Our readiness to discuss our moral convictions with others and to speak out in defense of God’s lofty standards can reveal our devotion to God. (Rom. 1:15, 16) Righthearted ones will surely observe how we use the gift of speech and may follow our example.​—Phil. 4:8, 9.

Exemplary in Our Conduct and Chasteness

10. Why is faith without hypocrisy vital to our spiritual advancement?

10 More than upbuilding speech is needed for a Christian to be a good example. Saying  the right things without doing the right things would make one a hypocrite. Paul was well-acquainted with the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the damaging result of their course. More than once, he cautioned Timothy against such insincerity and pretense. (1 Tim. 1:5; 4:1, 2) But Timothy was not a hypocrite. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul wrote: “I recollect the faith which is in you without any hypocrisy.” (2 Tim. 1:5) Still, Timothy needed to make his genuineness as a Christian manifest to others. He was to be an example in conduct.

11. What did Paul write to Timothy about riches?

11 In his two letters to Timothy, Paul provided exhortation on several areas of conduct. For instance, Timothy was to avoid the pursuit of riches. Paul wrote: “The love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.” (1 Tim. 6:10) The love of riches is a sign of spiritual deficiency. In contrast, Christians who find contentment in a simple life, “having sustenance and covering,” manifest spiritual advancement.​—1 Tim. 6:6-8; Phil. 4:11-13.

12. How can we make our advancement manifest in our personal life?

12 Paul mentioned to Timothy how important it was for Christian women to “adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind.” (1 Tim. 2:9) Women who are modest and sound in mind in their choice of dress and grooming, as well as in other areas of their personal life, set excellent examples. (1 Tim. 3:11) This principle applies to Christian men too. Paul admonished overseers to be “moderate in habits, sound in mind, orderly.” (1 Tim. 3:2) When we display these qualities in our daily  activities, our advancement will be made manifest to all.

13. Like Timothy, how can we be examples in chasteness?

13 Timothy was to be exemplary also in chasteness. In using this term, Paul was alluding to a very specific area of conduct, that of sexual morality. Especially in Timothy’s dealings with women was his conduct to be above reproach. He was to treat “older women as mothers, younger women as sisters with all chasteness.” (1 Tim. 4:12; 5:2) Even acts of immorality that might seem to be secret are known to God and are certain to become known to fellow humans eventually. But it is also true that a Christian’s fine works cannot be kept hidden. (1 Tim. 5:24, 25) All in the congregation have the opportunity to make their advancement manifest in conduct and chasteness.

Love and Faith Essential

14. How do the Scriptures emphasize the need for having love among ourselves?

14 A major aspect of true Christianity is love. Jesus told his disciples: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) How do we manifest such love? God’s Word entreats us to put up “with one another in love,” to “become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another,” and to be hospitable. (Eph. 4:2, 32; Heb. 13:1, 2) “In brotherly love have tender affection for one another,” wrote the apostle Paul.​—Rom. 12:10.

15. Why is love vital for all, especially Christian overseers?

15 If Timothy had been harsh or unkind in dealing with his fellow Christians, that could have neutralized the good he accomplished as a teacher and an overseer. (Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.) On the other hand, Timothy’s expressions of genuine affection for his brothers, accompanied by acts of hospitality and good works in their behalf, surely highlighted his spiritual advancement. It was fitting, then, that in his letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul specifically mentioned love as one of the qualities in which Timothy was to be exemplary.

16. Why did Timothy need to display strong faith?

16 During his stay in Ephesus, Timothy’s faith was put to the test. Certain ones were promoting doctrines that were not in harmony with Christian truth. Others were spreading “false stories” or researching ideas that contributed nothing to the congregation’s spirituality. (Read 1 Timothy 1:3, 4.) Paul described such individuals as being “puffed up with pride, not understanding anything, but being mentally diseased over questionings and debates about words.” (1 Tim. 6:3, 4) Could Timothy risk toying with the harmful ideas that were infiltrating the congregation? No, for Paul urged Timothy to “fight the fine fight of the faith” and turn away “from the empty speeches that violate what is holy and from the contradictions of the falsely called ‘knowledge.’” (1 Tim. 6:12, 20, 21) There can be no doubt that Timothy followed Paul’s wise advice.​—1 Cor. 10:12.

17. How may our faith be put to the test today?

17 Interestingly, Timothy was told that in “later periods of time some [would] fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons.” (1 Tim. 4:1) All in the congregation,  including those in positions of responsibility, need to be like Timothy in displaying strong, unwavering faith. By taking a strong stand and decisive action against apostasy, we can make our advancement manifest and be an example in faith.

Strive to Make Your Advancement Manifest

18, 19. (a) How can you make your advancement manifest to all? (b) What will be considered next?

18 Clearly, a true Christian’s spiritual advancement is not connected to his personal appearance, natural abilities, or prominence. And it may not necessarily be reflected in years of service in the congregation. Rather, true spiritual advancement is made manifest by our being obedient to Jehovah in thought, speech, and conduct. (Rom. 16:19) We should heed the mandate to love one another and to cultivate strong faith. Yes, let us ponder over Paul’s words to Timothy and be absorbed in them so that our advancement may be manifest to all.

19 Another quality reflected in our spiritual advancement and Christian maturity is joy, part of the fruitage of God’s holy spirit. (Gal. 5:22, 23) The following article will discuss how we can cultivate and maintain joy during troublesome times.

How Would You Answer?

• What can others learn about us from our speech?

• How is our advancement manifest in our conduct and chasteness?

• Why are Christians to be exemplary in love and faith?

[Study Questions]

[Picture on page 11]

Young Timothy displayed maturity beyond his years

[Pictures on page 13]

Is your advancement manifest to others?