Spiritual Growth


"And that from a child thou hast known the sacred letters, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus" 2 Tim. 3:15

"let no one despise thy youth, but be a model of the believers, in faith, in purity."1 Tim. 4:12

"But thou o man of God flee these things, and pursue righteousness, piety, faith, love, endurance, meekness of spirit" 1 Tim. 6:11.

In these three scriptures the apostle Paul refers to Timothy as a child, a youth, and a man. While these expressions may refer to natural growth, I think we can look at them as stages in spiritual growth as well. Each one of us has to start as a child, and Paul comments on the privilege that Timothy had of being taught the Holy Scriptures as a child. We know, too, that he had a godly mother and grandmother and they were all characterized by genuine faith. This is essential if we are to grow spiritually in the things of God.

In this second epistle Paul wrote to Timothy (the last that he wrote) he emphasizes the importance of the word of God. In 1:13 he speaks of a "form of sound words;" then in 4:2 "the word," v. 3 "sound doctrine," and in v. 4 "the truth." He had said in 3:15, "The Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." But he goes on to say in vv. 16 and 17, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."

It is only by careful study of the scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, that we can grow up into Christ.

As breathed of God they are able to deal with every condition of our soul, in order that there will be produced in us the features of men of God, making us perfectly equipped to serve God in this world.

Timothy certainly grew spiritually. When Paul departed from Ephesus, where he had labored for three years teaching the whole counsel of God, he warned the elders in Acts 20:29-30, "After my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." So he needed someone he could trust to stay there to maintain the truth that he had ministered. He had no hesitation in asking Timothy to do this difficult job. Paul had watched this young man grow and develop those features that would equip him to do this work. Read how he speaks of him in Philippians 2:20-22, "For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel."

Not only was Timothy’s faith in God genuine, his care for the saints was as well. He had proved himself worthy of the confidence that Paul had in him. Over against a dark background of the mass of believers turning away and seeking their own things, Timothy was concerned with looking after the things of the Lord. He was still a young man. Some had tried to take advantage of this, despising his youth. But Paul writes, "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." It did not matter that he was still a young man if his manner of life was in keeping with the truth that he was seeking to maintain. But he needed to continue, and to not neglect the gift that he had or meditation on these things. So Paul says in v. 16, "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt save both thyself, and them that hear thee."

Let us ask ourselves the question, "Has the Lord confidence in me to maintain, by living out the truth, the doctrines that men of God 150 years ago recovered for the Church." Paul had that confidence in Timothy; may it be true of us as well.

But Timothy did not stop even there - he continued to grow. He has the distinction of being the only person in the New Testament that is called "a man of God."

It appears that Timothy may have become discouraged by the time of the writing of Paul’s second letter. He was, perhaps, a timid person: Paul recalls his tears. He may not have had very good health and Paul gives advice about this. Things had begun to go wrong in the Church. Paul was in prison. All Asia had turned away from him. Sound doctrine was not acceptable to many and some, who once were faithful (like Demas), had gone away. Surely this was enough to discourage a man like Timothy? But no, Paul stirs him up to go on, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." So this man of God is charged, "O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust," and again, "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us."

Many of us today have inherited a great wealth of truth handed down to us by godly men who are now with the Lord. The question I would ask myself, as well as all of us, is, "Have we grown spiritually so that we can maintain in our day what these men of God did in theirs?"

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