1 Timothy 4:12 Making A Godly Impression

"You must not permit anyone to look down on your youth, instead you must become an example for those who believe; in speech, conduct, love and purity." – Personal Translation.


During the early days of the civil war our nation was moved into a heightened sense of our need for God's protection and care. At that time Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase received a letter dated November 13, 1861. It was written by the Reverend M. R. Watkinson, minister o the Gospel from Ridleyville Pennsylvania.

He wrote:

Dear Sir: You are about to submit your annual report to the Congress respecting the affairs of the national finances.

One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.

You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation? What I propose is that instead of the goddess of liberty we shall have next inside the 13 stars a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION; within the ring the all seeing eye, crowned with a halo; beneath this eye the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of the States united; in the folds of the bars the words GOD, LIBERTY, LAW.

This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my hearth I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters….

Very soon thereafter Chase issued a letter to the director of the Philadelphia mint:

November 20, 1861:
Dear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.

You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition.

April 22, 1864 Congress passed the act which made "In God We Trust" to be inscribed on the one cent coin and by 1873 all coins were permitted to be inscribed with the motto. Since then billions of United States coins of every denomination have born the clearly stamped motto "In God We Trust".1

When the US mint decides to make a new coin they commission an artist to make a drawing. It is required by law that the motto be included. From the drawing they carve a large master template with exquisite detail into a piece of plaster. That template is then scaled down through a series of steps and copied in reverse onto a piece of relatively soft steel which is the size of the coin to be made. That master die is then hardened by intense heat and once it passes final inspection it is finally placed in the press. Depending on the specific coin being made that die will strike bare metal with the force of more than 100 tons thousands of times a day (about 750 new coins per minute!)2 and every single time it will leave behind a perfect replica of the original artists drawing in three dimensional metal alloy.

In our text today Paul writes to Timothy and urges him to be an example. The word example comes from the idea of "to strike" and indicates the mark made by that strike. Like the US Mint's painstakingly created, fire hardened die you and I are commanded to be an example which will leave an indelible impression on the lives of those around us so that they will know "In God We Trust". This means more than that we are merely an example for others to emulate but that we are a hardened mold which should be "pressed into the lives of others so that they attain the same shape."3

By looking into the eleventh verse (1 Timothy 4:11-12) you see Timothy's marching orders. He is commanded to "prescribe and teach these things." But quite frankly, people don't always like to be told what to do. Especially when the person telling them is so much younger than they are. Beyond my comprehension though it might be, some would seem to think that it's hard listening to a pastor who is younger than they are. But in God's eyes, age has nothing to do with it.

The idea of "look down on" which is written in the twelfth verse is a very strong word equivalent to "disgust". It's a little like thinking in your heart, "who is this young whippersnapper who thinks he can tell me what to do?" I'll tell you who I think I am. I'm your pastor – your overseer who has to give an accounting to God not only for my own behavior but for yours!

It's interesting to note that most Scholars regard Timothy to be about my age (35). The word "youth" here could mean anything from a toddler to a forty year old man4 so it's not very precise in it's description. Paul's answer is that age simply cannot be a factor.

You cannot stop other people from thinking something about you per-sé. But you can behave in such a manner as to leave a lasting impression. And that is exactly what Paul commands Timothy to do.

Five Areas of Life

1 Timothy 4:12 gives us five areas touching the inner life and the outer actions of life by which we can not only live but if adhered to will enable us to make a godly impression.


The New Testament is littered with commands regarding our speech.
We're told to avoid telling lies, angry words, bitterness, slander, malice, abusive speech and filthy talk. (Eph. 4:25, 26, 29, 31; 5:4; Col. 3:8, 9).

At the sam time we're told to pursue truth, building others up, admonishing others toward godliness, tenderness in our speech, forgiveness and gratitude – especially gratitude to God. (Eph. 4:25, 29, 32; 5:4, 19, 20; Col. 3:12, 13, 16, 17).5

But controlling our tongue remains one of our most difficult tasks. Since you've all read James recently, this little nugget should still be in your mind:
"For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well." James 3:2.

In other words, controlling the tongue is the most difficult thing we will ever do. Once you completely master everything you say, you will have gained ultimate control over your body and will truly be able to walk in Righteousness. Listen to the rest of that segment of James. (Read James 3:1-12)

I ask you, why is our tongue so hard to control? I'll give you one of the key reasons. We need to think of our tongues as a pressure release valve for a moment. Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 12:34-37 (Read Matthew 12:34-37)

When we are constantly bringing garbage into our hearts garbage is going to spill out. And it spills out in two very distinct but very related areas. First it affects our speech. We'll say something we wish we hadn't and try as we might we can't really and honestly say, "That wasn't me!" When the plain fact of the matter is, yes it was.

But you are the redeemed of the Lord. You have been purchased by him and he owns you. Therefore your tongue must fall under His control. Submit your tongue, your speech to be obedient to the Lord. Ask him in prayer for forgiveness certainly; but also ask him to aid you in filling your heart with righteous thoughts so that righteous words will flow from your tongue.

The second area from which garbage spills out of our hearts is our deeds which is the second area in which we must be fit to make a godly impression; our behavior.


The often repeated but quite true adage is that people may not always hear what you say, but they will always see what you do. Isn't that an encouraging reminder?

Guard your way of life. Watch what you do that it mirrors Christ; because I can guarantee others will notice when it doesn't. If you are going to mold others to the image of Christ than your general conduct had best be of godliness. It grows hard to witness when you've been swearing like a sailor in the breakroom. It's difficult to talk about love when you've not been loving in your actions.


Love is the highest order of business in the Bible. First the unimpeded love of God and second the Love of your fellow man. And the love described here comes from the Greek word ἀγάπῃ (agape). Of the four words used for "love" in the Bible, this is the one most used to describe Christian Virtue. In every defining passage, agape love means "sacrifice". In my own experience nothing leaves a more significant impression than sacrificial love.


By all means we would expect faith to define a maturing Christian.

It means believing the essentials of Christianity.

It means obedience to the principles of the Bible

It means assurance of things not seen.

In a single word faith means, "an attitude characterizing [your] entire existence, the genuinely Christian demeanor that [you] should preserve [even] amid struggle"6


Purity originally meant sexual purity but more broadly in many New Testament passages, including this one, it refers to the absence of corruption. We cannot afford however to just look at purity as a only a set of rules which we surround ourselves with. Purity as it's used here, stems from having a holy awe of God7 and by implication means that we are to be morally pure not by mere rule following but rather as a response to God's revealed holiness. In other words, purity is achieved by being exposed to God so that we can say, " I am holy because He is holy!"

What you say, what you do, your love, faith and purity join together to design the sort of imprint that you will leave on those around you. In his mercy God will enable you to endure trials and hardship in order to harden these characteristics into you – so that you will become a fitting tool in his hands to make a godly impression on others.

1U.S. Treasury Fact Sheet on the History of "In God We trust".

3William D. Mounce, vol. 46, Word Biblical Commentary : Pastoral Epistles, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), 259.

4Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2002), 4:250.

5George W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles : A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1992), 206.

6Horst Robert Balz and Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, Translation of: Exegetisches Worterbuch Zum Neuen Testament. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990-c1993), 3:97.

7Ἁγνός (like ἅγιος, from ἅζομαι, "to stand in [religious] awe") refers originally to the awe-inspiring holiness of the gods and their realm.
It is used in a broader sense from the time of Homer in reference to persons and things to designate the absence of any impurity such as incest or sexual intercourse which could compromise holiness (= "chaste"), thus esp. ritual purity.

Horst Robert Balz and Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, Translation of: Exegetisches Worterbuch Zum Neuen Testament. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990-c1993), 1:22.