What does 1 Timothy 4:13 mean?
ESV: Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.
NIV: Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.
NASB: Until I come, give your attention to the public reading, to exhortation, and teaching.
CSB: Until I come, give your attention to public reading, exhortation, and teaching.
NLT: Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them.
KJV: Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
NKJV: Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
Verse Commentary:
Paul's reference to a later visit suggests he planned to return to Ephesus from Macedonia. Based on what we read in his later letters, Titus and 2 Timothy, it appears likely Paul returned to Ephesus. Historically, we are not sure whether or not Paul was able to make his planned trip to Spain (Romans 15:24–28), or to Colossae at Philemon's home (Philemon 1:22). However, he seems to have successfully arrived at Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3), Macedonia (1 Timothy 1:3), and Nicopolis (Titus 3:12), where he planned to spend the winter. We then find him imprisoned in Rome (2 Timothy) where he expected soon to die.

Paul told Timothy to "devote" himself to three areas. First, Timothy is to be committed to the public reading of Scripture, which at that time specifically meant the Old Testament. Second, he is to be faithful to exhortation, meaning preaching. Third, he is to teach others. All three aspects are important in the life of a preacher or pastor. He must be able to publically read Scripture well—an often forgotten practice in many modern churches—as well as proclaim it, and instruct others accurately.
Verse Context:
First Timothy 4:11–16 focuses on Timothy's own personal conduct as the leader of a Christian church. Paul emphasizes ideas such as persistence, confidence, and diligence. Of particular importance is that Timothy live out an example for other believers. Among the most powerful counters to false teaching are the positive results spiritual truth can bring. Along with teaching the truth, Timothy must live it. By devoting himself to these principles, Paul reassures Timothy that he can be a powerful positive influence for Christ.
Chapter Summary:
First Timothy 4 provides an important perspective in advance of Paul's upcoming instructions. After giving Timothy details on how to choose church leaders, and the proper conduct of church members, this chapter is mostly focused on Timothy's own personal spiritual choices. In particular, Paul instructs him to be diligent, faithful, and prepared. The stakes are high—both for Timothy and those he is called to lead. This chapter emphasizes the importance of good spiritual practice, which is key when considering Paul's advice in the passages both before and after these words.
Chapter Context:
First Timothy chapter 4 serves as a bridge from Paul's introduction into the later part of his letter. Prior chapters indicated the qualifications for church leaders, and some instructions on the proper way for church members to conduct themselves. Here, in chapter 4, Paul reminds Timothy not to be swayed by the false teachings of others. This combination of encouragement and warning sets the stage for the rest of Paul's message. The final two chapters will provide a means for Timothy to identify and avoid errors in his spiritual life.
Book Summary:
First Timothy is one of Paul's three ''Pastoral Epistles.'' Paul's other letters, such as Romans, Ephesians, and Colossians, are meant for a broader audience. First Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus are written to specific people whom Paul is advising on how to best lead their local churches. These three letters present a close look at the form and function of church leadership. First Timothy, like 2 Timothy and Titus, is less formal and systematic, and more personal. This gives great insight into the way pastors, deacons, and elders ought to prioritize their time and energy.
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