The Sin of Silence

Ezekiel 3:17 Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.

18 When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

19 Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

20 Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling-block before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

21 Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul.

Dear Covenant Youth,

Although this passage concerns the calling of the watchman or the minister of God’s flock, it is not contrary to the principles of God’s Word that I apply this Word of God to your lives, for all of God’s people are called to be “watchmen” over the lives of our brethren or to be our brother’s keepers (Gen. 4:9), and even to admonish them if we see that he is overtaken in a fault (Gal. 5:1-2).

Whenever I come across this passage of God’s Word, it never fails to bring a chill to my spine, and I am sure you will have the same reaction. This is perhaps one of the most serious, frightening, awesome word of God in the whole of Scripture. This text together with the title of the article has to do with our awesome responsibility in the sight of God.

What is it about this text that causes one to sit up and pay attention to the message? It is this: we are responsible for the blood of our brethren if we do not bring the Word of God to warn them when we know they are walking in sin.

God does not allow us any excuse for not bringing a word of warning from His Word to them. Perhaps, we say in our hearts, “oh, they ought to know – no need for me to remind them”, or “I don’t wish to rock the boat and cause my brethren to dislike me”. This Word of God does not allow us to be delinquent in our duty.

There is not a more straightforward and direct word of God than this text. What does this text teach me? First, it is our solemn responsibility to warn those who belong to the instituted church of God who sin against Him. In it, there are both the wicked and the righteous – who have departed from the way of God and live a wicked life outwardly. Then, there are those who seem to be righteous but have been overtaken in sin. Both of these groups belong to the household of God. To both groups, we must warn them of their sins and waywardness. Then, it is a fearful thing that God in sovereignty places a stumbling block in the lives of the wicked. Such a stumbling block causes one to fall and sin. It is the result of God’s judgment upon the person who has hardened his heart and refuses to turn from his sins.

Whatever is the situation, our calling is to warn him of his sins, and if he repents from his sins, we have not only saved a sinning soul from death but also our own soul. But, second, if we do turn a blind eye to his sin and fail to warn him of his sin, then when he dies in his impenitence, we are responsible for his sin, simply because we have failed in our duty to warn of his sin. Third, if we warn him of his sin, and he ignores the warning, then our soul is saved but the one who refuses to listen to our admonition will be damned.

Now, practically, what are the sins of our brethren? Let me name a few: not keeping the Lord’s Day holy, failure to attend to the chief means of grace in the preaching of God’s Word and partaking of the Lord’s Supper, living a double life, worldliness, materialism, spiritual adultery and others. It is important that our brethren turn from their sins because they will incur God’s hottest wrath and displeasure. God will not wink His eye at sin and let the sinner go. Our motivation to warn them is the love of our brethren and our desire for their eternal good and blessings to come upon them. Their good that we seek is greater than their displeasure and anger that we may experience from them as a result of pointing out their sin. Ultimately, our greatest motivation is to please God, to conform to His law, and to see to it that His creatures abide by His Word and reflect His glory.

The positive teaching means that in our lives we are always testifying about God – His honour, name, good pleasure, sovereignty, and will. However, whenever we see God robbed of His glory, we cannot be silent but must speak up. This is the reason why silence is sin when sin is committed, especially when we have witnessed it. If we could prevent sin being committed, we will by warning against it. But most of the time, we cannot not prevent it and are witnesses of the sin. Then, our calling is to call the sinning brethren to repent and turn from his wicked ways.

But, we must never admonish our brother is a haughty way, as if we are higher and know better. We could be the ones who have been overtaken in our faults. Thus, we come in the spirit of humility, realising that we could have fallen in the same sins. Furthermore, the timing of that admonition is also very important. We must pray that God give us the grace, wisdom and the humility to confront our brother with love.

Dear Father in heaven, forgive me for being silent when I ought to speak – to speak of your goodness, beauty, grace, and love. Forgive me of the fear of men – what they think of me but not concerned what thou wouldst think of me. Forgive me for the sake of Jesus, who died for my sins on the cross. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Written by: Paul Goh | Issue 42

A Reformed Man’s View of National Service


God, in His sovereign counsel, has tasked Singaporean young men to give two years of their time to “National Service”. This article aims to give readers a brief overview of National Service, some of the struggles that the servicemen may face, and a Christian’s response to National Service.

Singapore is a young and tiny country that gained her own independence after separating from Malaysia on 9 August 1965. Singapore had to develop her own armed forces to maintain her sovereignty and to deter possible invasions. Thus, conscription was introduced in post-independence Singapore through the National Service Act of 1967. All Singaporean males and second-generation male permanent residents who reside in Singapore are required to undergo a period of two years of compulsory service when they reach eighteen years of age in either the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), or the Singapore Police Force (SPF). In layman terms, they will either be a soldier, a firefighter, or a policeman. National Service is compulsory and those who fail to comply will be seen as deserters, and will be severely dealt with in the military court. National Service is commonly spilt into three different phases – the Basic Military Training Phase, the Active Operations Phase, and the Operationally Ready Phase (ORD). All who go through National Service will have to go through basic military training in training institutes, which will range from 9 weeks to 30 weeks, before going into the active operations phase where they will be enrolled into an active unit and spend the remaining time of national service there. The serviceman will complete his two years of National Service in the first two phases, after which he will be finally declared as “Operationally Ready” and enters into the ORD Phase, where his National Service temporarily ends.

It Is Not Easy

National Service is not warmly welcomed even among Christians in Singapore. A life of routine and regimentation is not easy to get used to. However, God foreordains every unique circumstance in our lives and National Service is no different. National Service is a calling from God for every young man in Singapore. To be a soldier is not something foreign to a Christian, after all, for we have been trained as soldiers for Christ.

Outfield operations and exercises are the bread and butter of a serviceman, especially those who serve within the SAF. Often, we would hear that they are required to be away for extended periods of time to train in camp or to be overseas for exercises. It is not uncommon to hear that these trainings and exercises take place multiple times a year and as a result cause many Christian young men to miss church and Sunday worship. This can be frustrating because they usually have no say in their training or exercise schedules. If they were given a choice, they would definitely not want to train and work on Sundays, but frequent the house of God and worship Him on Sundays. In frustrating times like these, we have to remember that God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isa. 59:9), and be wary and not allow discontentment to breed in our hearts due to the unhappiness we experience for being away from church, and then turn into unmotivated workers. God dislikes discontented and unmotivated workers, for He reminds us in the Bible, “whatsoever we do, we do it heartily as to the Lord and not unto men” (Col. 3:23). Our God is a great and all- knowing God. He knows what we need more than we think. Therefore, His ways are far higher than our ways. We also confess that that “He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1). We are God’s children and He watches over us as His own, so much that without the will of our Father, not a hair can fall from our head, and this applies to us during our National Service as well. All things (including National Service) work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28).

Remember the Sabbath Day

Through the course of National Service, it is inevitable that servicemen will miss church and Sunday worship. God commands us to remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy, and this command has one of the greatest importance. He created the heavens and the earth in six days and rested on the seventh day. He designated the Sabbath Day for His people to rest (Deut. 5:14). The Sabbath Day was also given as a covenant sign to identify those who are the people of God. Exodus 31:13 says, “Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you”. After knowing all these, the important question that we have to ask ourselves this: can we keep the Sabbath Day when we are not in church worshipping God?

Even though we may be away from the church, we are still called to remember and keep the Sabbath Day and preserve our identity as a Christian with great care and consciousness. Being away from church and in an environment that does not promote the sanctity of the Sabbath Day, we should be even more mindful and diligent in keeping the Sabbath Day. We fail to keep the Sabbath Day when we forget the Sabbath Day itself. Therefore, it is crucial to remember the Sabbath Day, and to keep it holy (Ex. 20:8). That day is important and precious to a Christian. To keep the Sabbath Day holy means to consecrate the day to the worship of God. So, remember your devotions! The Word of God is life! Read the Bible whenever you have the opportunity to or even talk to your fellow serviceman about spiritual topics. Text a church brother or sister or tune in to the online sermons on your phone if possible. Let all these be to the honour, glory and devotion of God. Nevertheless, all these are only possible with time. But more often than not, we know that most of the time it is not so. Therefore pray for grace to remember the Sabbath Day even when you are busy. Remember the Lord even on that day, and do all things to the worship of His holy name. God is our helper. He will sustain our soul (Ps. 54:4). Crave and long for the day when you can be back in God’s house worshipping Him together with your brothers and sisters in Christ again.

Friends Matter!

Not only will the young Christian men be away from church, they will also be placed in a godless environment where the majority of their peers will be of a different faith. They speak a different language, they think and behave differently. This calls for great attention as you young men will be spending a large amount of time with them and potentially be influenced by their ungodly beliefs and behaviours.

We do not want to sit “in the seat of the scornful” (Ps. 1:1b) unknowingly. The Bible warns us: “He that walketh with wise (men) shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Pro. 13:20). Therefore, we have to exercise our wisdom in the choice of acquaintances we allow into our lives because once we allow them in, it will be hard to get them out. Serving in National Service is not easy and one may also say that inevitably some form of comradeship will be formed after going through thick and thin together. This can be true. However, the Word of God reminds us that we are a holy people and may not be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14). This is a command for us as Christians to live antithetically, a life of spiritual separation from the wicked world. We do not have to physically separate ourselves from our non-Christian servicemen but it all boils down to saying “no” when sin is involved. And when you have time, spend it with your church friends! “He that walketh with wise (men) shall be wise” (Pro. 13:20). Church friends are a great source of spiritual support when your spiritual life is challenged. They are able to give wise counsel from the Word of God because they know and love God.


National Service is a path our Lord has ordained our young men to go through. They may experience varying good or challenging times. Let us always seek God in prayer to aid and preserve our spiritual brothers in Christ in these times. Do not be discouraged for our God is good! Press on! Remember, Everyday Requires Prayer! (ERP!)

Written by: Paul Ong | Issue 42

Catechism and Memory


Dear young people, you and I can be very thankful to our covenant God that He has preserved the practice of catechism instruction and learning for you and our children in our church. This practice is an ‘old path’ that goes all the way to the beginning of the church in the Old Testament.1 Though it languished for a while in the Middle Ages, it was restored during the Reformation. But alas, this heritage of the Reformation is all but lost in modern Christendom today. The concept, much less the practice, of catechism instruction is hardly known in the church world today. This is undoubtedly one of the main reasons why many churches are weak in doctrine and do not know the basics of the Christian faith. The truth of the Bible is not systematically taught to covenant children and new adult believers to ground them firmly in the faith. Doctrine is glossed over, decried as divisive, and downplayed in favour of a teaching that is man- centred, minimises sin and focuses on universal love and ecumenical union. God’s Word is not taught, but man’s godless philosophy. Unless a church returns to the old path of faithful catechism instruction, she will not maintain the truth of the Scriptures in her generations.

The inestimable value of faithful catechism instruction cannot be overstated.   It   will   take   a   separate article (or even a book) all by itself to underscore this point. In this article, this fact will be assumed. We then move on to discuss the practical aspect of catechism and memory. A few words about the importance of memorising catechism ought to be said so that you have the proper motivation in memorising your catechism. Then we’ll look at some ways to help you in your practice of catechism memorisation.


Why must you memorise your catechism each week before you go to class? Why do your minister and parents require it of you? Because your parents and this church take our calling and baptismal vow to instruct you in the doctrine of the Scriptures to the utmost of our power seriously. We know that the tried and tested way of ‘sounding down’ the truth to you and have you ‘echo back the truth’, is one of the best ways, if not the best way, for you to learn and remember the grand, biblical truths of the Reformed faith. Memorising the catechism questions and answers will fix the truth in your minds.   When as young children, you memorise the Bible stories, you inscribe biblical history and facts deep in your young and absorbent minds. As the doctrines and truths of Scripture are taught to you and woven into your lives from as young as you can remember, they shape your thinking and mould your character, so that you grow up to be God-fearing young men and women. And by God’s grace, you will one day confess publicly before the church that precious faith you’ve been taught and have come to love.

As you grow into adulthood and face the trials of life, as you certainly will, then having the catechism in your memories will enable you to draw strength and find comfort to go through those difficult times. The beautiful language of   our   Heidelberg   Catechism   will come to you as you lay hold, by faith, of the glorious truth of our certain preservation as God’s children unto the end, assured that “I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ…yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation”. Thus strengthened, you persevere in your pilgrim’s pathway, looking for the city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God.

And if the Lord leads you to find a godly spouse and enter marriage, and give you children, then you will also teach   them   the   catechism,   require that   they   memorise   the   questions and answers, and explain to them the inestimable spiritual value of doing so by your own experience. In this way, the church, through you and other godly families, will raise up another generation who knows the Lord. And the cycle continues from generation to generation. Thus, God by His sovereign grace is pleased to preserve His truth among us and His church in our generations until the Lord Jesus Christ returns.


I hope you see why it is important that you memorise your catechism, and you are now properly motivated to do it. So how can you better memorise your catechism? Here are two ways I have found helpful for myself and my family.

First, Memorise the overview or big picture of the catechism. For the younger children’s catechism, memorise which main sections of OT or NT history the various stories fall into. For the older children, memorise the overall structure of the Heidelberg Catechism (Introduction : Q&A 1-2; Sin : Q&A 3-11; Salvation : Q&A 12-85; Service : Q&A 86-129). Having this big picture constantly at the back of your mind would not only help you to memorise the specific questions and answers better, but also helps you appreciate how a particular truth fits into the overall biblical narrative or the entire body of faith. For example, when the HC deals with the requirements of the law commandment by commandment, it does so under the 3rd section of the catechism on ‘Thankfulness’, showing that the 10 Commandments continue to be relevant in the life of a child of God as a rule for thankful living. So, as you memorise the questions and answers to each of the Commandments, you are always mindful that you obey them not to earn any favour or reward with God, but to express your deep gratitude for His sovereign grace in saving you from all your sin and misery.

Second, make catechism memory part of your daily routine. Parents, make it part of the daily routine of your child. Perhaps during lunch or dinner time, you could take out your catechism book (or an electronic version on your mobile phone) and memorise the questions (you have one week – so you don’t have to memorise everything in one sitting!). Parents can go through the catechism with their children before or after family devotion times. Just like we do for our personal and family devotions, build catechism memorisation into your daily routine. Once you establish the habit, it will become easier. Perhaps initially the daily memorisation feels onerous.

Some days you would probably miss doing it. Many times, you might feel like giving up. But don’t! Pray and ask the Lord for strength. Persevere, for in the long term, not only does it become easier, but you will also begin to enjoy it and realise how much you’re learning each day! The benefits far outweigh any difficulties you may encounter, for you are building up an entire storehouse of the knowledge of the truth of God’s Word. That is priceless!


Catechism instruction and memorisation is one of the greatest blessings for the church. It is part of our rich reformed heritage. Let us treasure it and preserve its practice in CERC.

Parents, be not weary in the well-doing of having your children memorise the catechism, week in and week out. For in due season, you shall reap. This is the Lord’s promise: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Pro. 22:6). Young people, memorise your catechism! It will do you, and the church of which you are a living member, great spiritual good – now and in the generations to come.


Engelsma, David, (1997). Catechism! Michigan, USA: RFPA, Standard Bearer, Vol 73, Issue 21. http:// standar dbear er.r ticles/ catechism-1

Cammenga, Ronald, (1984). Catechism. Michigan, USA: RFPA, Standard Bearer, Vol 60, Issue 21. catechism-0

Gritters, Barry, (2008). Catechism: The Old Path, the Good Way (1). Michigan, USA: RFPA, Standard Bearer, Vol 84, Issue 20.

Gritters, Barry, (2008). Catechism: The Old Path, the Good Way (2). Michigan, USA: RFPA, Standard Bearer, Vol 84, Issue 20.

Van Dyken, Donald, (2000). Rediscovering Catechism: The Art of Equipping Covenant Children. New Jersey, USA.

Written by: Lee Kong Wee | Issue 42

Scripture’s Covenant Youth (V): Moses

After my discussion of Joseph as an example of a very godly covenant youth, I consider with you Moses, an unusual child of God, who lived about 400 years after Joseph. I have written about Moses in the forum articles, and do not intend to repeat what I said in those articles. In fact, most of what I discussed in those articles were events in Moses’ life as a grown man. And this series of articles is about youth.

In Exodus 2:2 we are told that the parents of Moses saw when he was born that Moses was a “goodly child”, and so they hid him for three months rather than give him to Pharaoh’s police to have him killed according to the king’s command. The mention of Moses as a hero of faith in Hebrews 11 repeats what Exodus says: the parents saw that he was a “proper” child. But “proper” is the same as “goodly”, and the Revised Version translates the word in Hebrews as “goodly”.

Many guesses have been made about the meaning of “goodly”. Some say the meaning is that Moses was an exceptionally beautiful baby. Others say that at his birth Moses already possessed abilities that could only be done by children older than he. They speculate that Moses was already able to walk, or to speak; or that his understanding was beyond that of a baby. Some even speculate that he had a halo above his head.

The Bible does not tell us and we may not speculate or curiously inquire into what God has chosen not to reveal. It is, however, clear from the actions of Moses’ parents that something about the baby made them sure that this child had a special work in God’s covenant.

There is one expression in the narrative of Hebrews 11 that has struck my attention and forced me to ponder why it should be included in the Biblical narrative. The text in Hebrew 11 tells us that Moses’ choice for God’s people was “when he was come to years”.

The expression most probably did not refer to Moses’ physical and mental maturity. In our churches, generally, young people, born and raised in the church, make confession of faith when they “come to years”. That is, they have come to physical and mental maturity. We interpret that expression to mean, therefore, that God has so determined that covenant children come to years when they are physically, mentally, and spiritually mature. They are adults because they are ready to leave father and mother’s sheltering care. They are adults because they have attained such maturity that they are able to think and act for themselves without the guidance of covenant parents.

The spiritual development of a covenant child is a wonderful work of God. It comes with physical and mental maturity.

In the first five years of a child’s life, he is so dependent on his parents that he can do nothing by himself and needs constant help. Also, he depends on them to teach him what he has to know. And, in the child’s mind, what the parents say is truth, not to be challenged. When little children are taught to pray, the parents tell them what to pray. When they ask, “Why must we speak to someone whom we cannot even see ?”, the parents assure them that God, though invisible, hears what they say. They accept that without question.

This continues when they start school, for whatever their teachers say has to be true, because “Teacher said so”. The parents have a greater task if their children have to go to public schools, for teachers tell children things that are not true. Parents must know what their children are learning and must correct any wrong ideas by pointing to what God says.

As they develop into their early teens, most children begin to think that they can now make their own decisions and no longer need the guidance and discipline of parents. But deep down in their hearts children of the covenant know they need parents yet for a while. And while they may argue with parents and claim to be “old enough to decide for myself ”, they know they are not, and the struggle to be independent when they are still dependent is a large part of the difficulties early teenagers have. I have always found the most difficult catechism classes and children at home to teach are those in their early teens.

But by mid-teens young people come to a point of maturity. Maturity means that in their development spiritually and intellectually, they receive and examine what they have been taught, not mechanically, but because they have thought it over, compared it with Scripture and come to their own conclusion as to whether what they are taught is true or false. In the church, they are ready to make confession of faith. They not only believe what they do because they were taught this by parents and teachers, but because they have found what they were taught as true. They themselves have compared their knowledge with the Word of God. They know it is true, not because mom and dad have said so, not because the preacher has said so, but because they have compared it with Scripture and found that it is taught in the Bible.

So, by the time young people reach their late teens or early twenties, they are physically, mentally, and spiritually ready to make confession of faith and take their place in God’s church as responsible and eager contributing members of the church. We could say, “When so and so came to years he made his choice for the people of God – as Moses did”. Moses made his choice for the people of God when he came to years. So do we!

Confession of faith is a very important event in the life of a Christian youth. It is so important that I would like to discuss it in some detail. But it is better to do so in another article.

Written by: Prof. Herman Hanko | Issue 42

Timothy: Too Young?

“You’re too young.”

“Maybe when you get a little older.”

“Go outside and play while the adults talk.”

We have all heard these words at some time or another in our lives, have we not, young people? Most often they have come to us from our concerned and protective parents. And usually they are right. There are some things that children and young people should not know or do until they grow more mature. There are certain things that require a level of maturity and sensitivity sometimes lacking in young people. As we grow older we tire of hearing our parents tell us we are too young, but in most instances our parents are correct. They have our best interests at heart.

However, young men and young women, there is one area in particular in which we as young people are not too young. We are not too young in things pertaining to salvation. We are not too young to be active members in the church of Jesus Christ. Our Baptism Form makes abundantly clear that both young and old, gray-haired saint and newborn babe are heirs of the kingdom of heaven. “Infants,” we read, “are to be baptized as heirs of the kingdom of God and of His covenant.” In the Prayer of Thanksgiving at the end of the Form we pray, “Almighty God and merciful Father, we thank and praise Thee that Thou hast forgiven us and our children all our sins…received us through Thy Holy Spirit as members of Thine only begotten Son, and adopted us to be Thy children.” One of the many blessed truths that we as Protestant Reformed Churches maintain is that children as well as parents are members of Christ’s church and co-heirs of eternal life.

In this article and a few others to come, D.V., we will look at how God has worked mightily in the lives of young people like ourselves. At certain times in history God has been pleased to use young men and women to preserve and build up his church. God often uses wise old men and women for such important work, but he uses young people as well. It is quite astounding to read of what these young people were able to do by the grace of God while only in their twenties. It is my hope that these articles will instil in us thankfulness for the work of God in these young people and embolden us to do the work of the Lord even at a young age.

We begin with Timothy. Timothy was the young pastor to whom the apostle Paul wrote two books of the Bible (I & II Timothy). The New Testament Scriptures tell us a bit about the background of young Timothy. We know from Acts 16:1 that Timothy’s mother was a Jew, but his father was a Greek. This verse also makes special mention of the fact that Timothy’s mother was a believer. His father was most likely not. From II Timothy 1:5 we know that Timothy’s mother’s name was Eunice and his grandmother’s name was Lois. In this verse Paul says that he is filled with joy “when I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee [Timothy], which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” Later in the same letter Paul writes that “from a child thou hast know the holy scriptures” (II Tim. 3:15). Timothy was reared in the truth by his God-fearing mother and grandmother. They taught him the Scriptures already when he was a child. God used these faithful mothers to prepare Timothy for his work in the church.

This is encouragement to you, young women. While this and subsequent articles speak of the work of God in young men, they are not intended only for the young men of the church. They are intended for you young women also. You too have a place in the church. An important place! An absolutely crucial place! Without you there is no future for the church. You must aspire to be like Lois and Eunice. You must rear and teach the next generation of believing children. That unfeigned faith that rests within you must be imparted to the next generation. Without Eunice and Lois there can be no Timothy. And the church needs more Timothys.

We know from several passages in the two letters that Paul wrote to Timothy that, at the time of his work with Paul, Timothy was a young man. Paul addresses both letters to “my own son” (I Tim. 1:2) and “my dearly beloved son” (II Tim. 1:2). In I Timothy 4:12, Paul makes reference to Timothy’s youth. He exhorts, “Let no man despise thy youth.” A little later Paul writes, “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren” (I Tim. 5:1). Clearly Timothy was still just a young man. How young? The Bible does not tell us. Many scholars speculate   that   he   was   between   25 and 35 years old, but these are merely educated guesses. All that we know for certain from the Word of God is that Timothy was quite young, especially for the work which he was called to perform.

For Timothy was called to do important work, work that from an earthly point of view would seem to be reserved only for older, more experienced men. But young Timothy was qualified for this work by God. We see evidence of this already when we first encounter Timothy in the Word of God. We first read of him while Paul was travelling on his second missionary journey. Soon after leaving Antioch, Paul stopped in the cities of Derbe and Lystra (in present-day Turkey) were he met young Timothy (Acts 16:1-3). Paul must have immediately recognized what an exceptional young man he had before him. He no doubt saw the work of God in this boy’s life. Here was a young man of God! Here was a young man who “was well reported of by the brethren!” Paul could not leave without this exceptional young man. “Him would Paul have to go forth with him.” This young man must be used in the service of God’s kingdom. And Timothy selflessly agreed. He even allowed himself to be circumcised (vs. 3) so that he might not be an offense or a hindrance to the spread of the gospel.

From this point forward Timothy was a faithful and tireless labourer under Paul. Apart from all of the places where he worked with Paul, the Scriptures tell us that Timothy went, often on his own, to many places throughout the Mediterranean establishing churches and building up the faith of the believers. He remained in Berea after Paul was forced to leave by the ungodly mobs (Acts 17:14). He was sent by Paul into Macedonia to preach the gospel among the people there (Acts 19:22). We also are told that Timothy probably went by himself to the Philippians (Phil. 2:19), to the Thessalonians (I Thess. 3:2, 6), and to the Ephesians (I Tim. 1:3). Paul, rather than going to the Corinthians himself, sent Timothy “who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ” (I Cor. 4:17). Later in the same letter Paul says that Timothy “worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do” (16:10). All this from the mouth of the great apostle Paul! What a remarkable young man Timothy must have been! Here was a twenty-something year old man travelling throughout the ancient Roman world instituting churches and preaching the gospel to the saints. God was working in him mightily, even at such a young age.

Paul was not oblivious to Timothy’s age and the difficulties this might cause. In that well-known passage (I Tim. 4:12),

Paul says, “Let no man despise thy youth.” Timothy’s youth should not be a hindrance to the reception of the gospel. The Word preached cannot be denied because of the youthfulness of the one bringing it. Age makes no difference. The Word of God is not changed. We too must remember this, young men and women. Yes, we are young. Yes, we still have much to learn. But this does not mean that we cannot be active members of our churches. This does not exclude us from bringing God’s Word to our fellow saints, even those who are older than us. While not eligible to hold a special office in the church, we do hold the office of believer, and we must faithfully carry out the duties of this office.

But we must also heed what Paul writes to Timothy in the rest of this verse. “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.” Paul is making a strong contrast here. No man may despise our youth, young people, but we must not give them a reason to despise it either. We may not think, “No man may despise my youth, so I can go and do as I please.” Paul is not giving Timothy or us an excuse to sin and do whatever we want. We must be an example in every aspect of our life. The call to live a godly life does not wait until we think we are ready. It does not wait until we are older and ready to settle down. It is the calling of every child of God, no matter what age. Do you want no man to despise your youth? Then be an example. Timothy was an example. Yes, he was a sinner just like you and I, but he was an example to the believers in his youth.

His example is one which we must follow, young people. And by God’s grace we are able to do so. Just like Timothy, each one of us “from a child…hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (II Tim. 3:15). Timothy was not too young. Neither are we.

Written by: Joshua D. Engelsma | Issue 10