“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” (1 Timothy 4:16 ESV).
In addition to keeping an eye upon himself, Timothy was also responsible for keeping a close watch on the things he taught others. If Timothy failed in this aspect of his ministry, there was a possibility that he (and others within the congregation at Ephesus) might fall victim to the false teachers who were circulating among the members of their community.
In this context, we might view “the teaching” as a reference to the Biblical Scriptures. Timothy could fulfill this mandate by ensuring that he remained focused upon God’s Word in his messages to the congregation. This also serves as an important reminder for modern-day ministers or anyone who seeks to accurately represent Christ to others.
You see, a clever phrase, a humorous anecdote, a passionate oratory, or a memorable sermon illustration are vehicles that help communicate Biblical truths. But if these things fail to help others understand and apply God’s Word, they may do little to facilitate real spiritual growth.
This brings us to the final admonition in this chapter: “…by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you” (NET). In considering this verse, we can say that it does not relate to a human-oriented plan of salvation based on the following passage from the New Testament book of Ephesians…
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
These verses from Ephesians (along with several other passages) should inform our view of 1 Timothy 4:16 for they tell us that this verse cannot refer to eternal salvation. Instead, we can view the last verse of 1 Timothy chapter four as an appropriate conclusion to the first verse: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith…” Timothy could save himself and others from this kind of spiritual shipwreck by paying close attention to the Biblical accuracy of his teachings.
We’ll close our look at this chapter with an observation from a commentator who offers a helpful synopsis of this passage…
“By careful attention to his own godly life and faithful preaching of the Word, Timothy would continue to be the human instrument God used to bring the gospel and to save some who heard him.” (1)
(1) MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Ti 4:16). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.