TAKE HEED UNTO YOURSELF AND THE DOCTRINE
"Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine, continue in them: for in doing this though shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee" (I Timothy 4:16).
These words are from the pen of Paul to the young preacher Timothy. While addressed to a young preacher two thousand years ago, this admonition loses none of its forceful meaning when applied to old as well as young preachers and to saints generally.
Take Heed Unto Thyself
This statement comes at the close of a number of such exhortations relating to Timothy's personal demeanor. In I Timothy 4:12 he said, "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example to the believers, in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity." The apostle was impressing upon the young evangelist the importance of living the gospel and walking circumspectly before all. He was conscious that preaching by word of mouth only was not enough. Timothy must preach by his example also. His personal speech, privately and publicly, must be without corruptness, guile, or vulgarity. His manner of conduct should reflect a close walk with Jesus whom he proclaimed. His affection for the Lord, for the brethren, and for the unsaved should be without hypocrisy. His thoughts, words, and deeds should reflect that purity of heart which one should see God. His faith in God and the gospel should be undaunted and his steadfastness in duty without reproach. All of these factors were involved in Timothy's taking heed unto himself. To fail in these would be a betrayal of the doctrine he preached.
Take Heed Unto The Doctrine
Here, no doubt, Paul moves from the personal example aspect into the substance of the message Timothy proclaimed. It was not enough to live the doctrine; he must also preach it. The very expression "take heed" implies not only the value of the doctrine itself but also the importance of preaching it. The admonition, then, includes
1. a knowledge in the doctrine;
2. a loyalty to the doctrine;
3. a zeal for the doctrine; and
4. a faithful proclamation of the doctrine.
For Timothy to fall short in any aspect of the doctrine was a betrayal of the example he professed.
Continue In Them
This exhortation sets forth the absolute necessity of steadfastness. The time would never come when Timothy could quit taking heed to himself and to the doctrine. There were no leaves from duty as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. He must always be on the alert. His mustering out time would be only at the end of the battle and the battle would never end while he was conscious that his warfare continued. And his warfare would continue as long as he had himself to "take heed" to and the doctrine needed preaching.
For In Doing This
The work of an evangelist is not theoretical. It is real, not imaginary. There was work to be done, not contemplated only. Only by continuing to take heed to himself and to the doctrine could his labors be crowned with success. And what success it was!
Thou Shalt Save Thyself
Timothy's staying with his responsibility guaranteed his own salvation. When he had first believed, then, he was not assured of eternal life for only if he should "continue in them" could he save himself. But what a joyful thought! What a glorious consolation! At the end of the journey all would be well. Every temptation resisted, every trial overcome, every effort expended would be richly rewarded for he could say, "By the grace of God, I have saved myself! I loved His appearing (II Timothy 4:8), and now He honors mine!"
Save Them That Hear Thee
These, too, will be saved through Timothy's example and teaching. Along with himself he is conscious that a throng of others are blessed with the crown of righteousness bestowed by the "King in His beauty." Not only would Timothy by his life and preaching rescue his hearers from the old life of sin but by the same procedure he would inspire them to such activity that heaven would be their home. He has laid Jesus Christ as the true foundation and has built "gold, silver, and precious stones" upon it. the "day" has come, his work is "made manifest," it "abides," and he receives the "reward" which the Lord, the righteous Judge alone bestows (I Corinthians 3:11-14; II Timothy 4:8).
It is not enough to live an exemplary life. It is not enough to preach "sound doctrine." Neither by itself assures salvation. We must "take heed" to both and "continue in them." To fail in either is to forfeit eternal life.
There are those who emphasize living a good life and this is a necessity. There are also those who stress the necessity of preaching "sound doctrine." This, too, is a must. But to emphasize either and neglect the other is to lose our souls.
Gospel preaching is balanced preaching and balanced living. It is well founded, grounded, bounded, and sounded. No person can be strong on one point and weak on the other and wield he influence he should over the world and before the church.
It matters not how pious a man may be, how spiritually minded, how sober, prayerful, honest, and charitable, if he fails to preach sound doctrine he will be lost. On the other hand, one may "convict the gainsayer," champion the truth an defend it, be a symbol of soundness in his public and private proclamation of the gospel, yet be lost because he is not sober, honest, charitable, prayerful, and spiritually minded. To falter in either aspect of gospel work is to fail altogether. Any man who does not and will not practice right preaching is unworthy of support and defense, and any man who does not and will not preach right practice is equally unworthy of support and defense. Both are divinely enjoined. Both must be religiously observed. "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine: continue in them!"