1 Timothy 4:6–16 comment (0)
October 5, 2006
By Jerry W. Batson
Related Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:6–16
Bible Studies for Life
Associate Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
Take Hold of Godliness
1 Timothy 4:6–16
People generally put high priority on good physical health. Most of us recognize the value of balancing nutrition, exercise and rest. Consequently sleep aids are big business. Items that are packaged as health foods have instant appeal. Physical fitness programs and exercise gadgets abound in every conceivable design. Of course, adequate rest, healthy food and proper exercise have value. Many of us probably need more of those.
This lesson, while referring to nourishment and exercise, has in view the necessity and value of nutrition and exercise that are spiritual in nature. Rather than the goal of a healthy body, which is a worthy and God-honoring aim, the aim is godliness. This passage can encourage and instruct us about the long-term value of making godliness the goal.
Nourished for Godliness (6–7a)
Paul aspired for Timothy to be a good servant of Christ. To be such, Timothy had to continue instructing others in the truths of God, as well as nourishing himself in “the words of faith and of good doctrine.” Devotion to good doctrine should leave neither time nor desire for pursuing silly fables or man-made myths. Such things, at best, are but empty calories devoid of spiritual nourishment; but at worst, they could be deceitful and demonic (1 Tim. 4:1).
“Words of faith and of good doctrine” make for good spiritual nourishment both for those who teach and those who are taught. A steady diet of God’s Word with its revealed truths always makes for growing strong believers. Bible study builds strong Christians. Good Bible doctrine furnishes a skeletal structure on which spiritual muscle can be grown.
What is your daily diet for nourishing yourself on the words of faith and of good doctrine? Is it balanced and carefully planned? Is it systematic and ongoing? Is it wary of fad diets or temporary diversions?
Exercising for Godliness (7b–10)
Paul’s advice to Timothy included the need to train or exercise himself unto godliness. He attached this advice to a trustworthy saying, which he called worthy of full acceptance. The faithful saying holds that bodily exercise is profitable for “little” when compared to exercise aimed at godliness. Other Bible passages make it clear that believers’ bodies are important as temples of God’s Holy Spirit. However, in light of the ultimate difference in long-term value between physical strength and godliness, godliness wins. Our bodies are important for earthly life, but godliness has to do with both life now and life to come.
Paul’s own reaction to the faithful saying’s promise of life was a hearty endorsement. However, the endorsement was not a verbal “amen.” It was a commitment to continued labor in the gospel and a willingness to suffer resultant reproach. In so doing, Paul knew himself to be sustained by his trust in God.
Exercise, whether physical or spiritual, requires discipline. Exercise that produces gain costs great effort. Spiritual progress is not at the end of a road of effortless ease. The journey toward increased godliness has its own demands, but the goal is worth the effort.
Demonstrating Godliness (11–16)
Even highly health conscious people would hardly trust the advice of a health trainer who was not a clear example of the outcome of his or her recommended training regimen. We would want to say, “Train yourself. Show me by your example that it works.”
Paul instructed Timothy to set a good example by demonstrating godliness. Timothy was not left to wonder what his older mentor had in mind. Paul pinpointed five aspects of the example the instructor of others needed to set: speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. The first two would be immediately observable traits. To be genuine, they would grow out of the final three inner qualities. A heart of faith filled with love and inner purity would produce words and deeds that demonstrate godliness.
To help Timothy stay on track, Paul commanded him to pay constant attention both to his life and teaching. By so doing, the teacher of others would not only save those whom he taught but himself as well.