Timothy was a young pastor. Scholars differ in their estimation of his age. Some put it as between late 20s and mid-30s, while others believe it was between mid-30s and 40s. Regardless, it is not easy for a young pastor to instruct and teach older people. In Asian societies, older people may tell a younger person, “The salt I have eaten is more than the rice you have eaten!” This is like saying, “Young man, I know life better than you do.”
The word “watch” indicates careful attention that should be paid to life and doctrine
Perhaps anticipating similar challenges for Timothy, Paul fortifies him by saying, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young” (1 Timothy 4:12). Timothy has to exercise the authority given to him by God and affirmed by the body of elders at his ordination (v. 14). This authority is not his own, but one derived from his calling. There is no better way to exercise it than by being exemplary in his discipleship. Therefore Timothy is to exemplify godliness in what he believes and in how he lives—in his character, conversations, and relationships (v. 12).
Timothy must not only set a godly example, but also continue to exhort his flock faithfully. This is best done by preaching, teaching, and the public reading of Scripture (v. 13). This is the ministry to which Timothy was called, having been appropriately and adequately equipped by God (v. 14).
Paul summarises both points (example and exhortation) by reiterating, “Watch your life and doctrine closely” (v. 16). Watch who you are becoming. Watch what you are doing. What sort of example are you setting? How are you feeding your flock? Are you a good minister in your inward character and your outward ministry? Such diligent discipleship and ministry (v. 15) will result in the salvation of both the pastor and the flock (v. 16)—in terms of their sanctification and growth in holiness (v. 15).
The word “watch” indicates careful attention that should be paid to life and doctrine. It is like the way many people monitor their health with eagle eyes, taking quick and appropriate action whenever they notice threats or deterioration. How is it that people who give so much attention to their physical health so carelessly neglect their spiritual health?