Amplified: But refuse and avoid irreverent legends (profane and impure and godless fictions, mere grandmothers’ tales) and silly myths, and express your disapproval of them. Train yourself toward godliness (piety), [keeping yourself spiritually fit]. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT: Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives' tales. Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: But steer clear of all these stupid Godless fictions. Take time and trouble to keep yourself spiritually fit. (Phillips: Touchstone)
TLB: "Spend your time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit. Bodily exercise is all right, but spiritual exercise is much more important and is a tonic for all you do. So exercise yourself spiritually and practice being a better Christian, because that will help you not only now in this life, but in the next life too."
Wuest: But unhallowed and old wives’ fictions be shunning. On the other hand, be exercising yourself with a view to piety toward God. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: and the profane and old women's fables reject thou, and exercise thyself unto piety
BUT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH WORLDLY FABLES FIT ONLY FOR OLD WOMEN: tous de bebelous kai graodeis muthous paraitou (2SPMM): (1Ti 1:4; 6:20; 2Ti 2:16,23; 4:4; Titus 1:14; 3:9)
Words in red are imperatives = commands
John Butler outlines 1 Timothy 4:6-16 as follows…
Walk of the Minister. The minister's behavior.
Measuring his walk: his preaching and personal practices.
Mandate for his walk: reject God dishonoring philosophies and practices.
Maintenance of his walk: spiritual exercising.
Model for his walk: Paul
Manners in his walk: regarding study (read); regarding stewardship (do not neglect your gifts); and regarding steadfastness ("continue").
Warren Wiersbe outlines 1Timothy 4 as follows…
III. The Church and Its Minister (1Timothy 4)
A. A good minister (1Ti 4:1-6)
B. A godly minister (1Ti 4:7-12)
C. A growing minister (1Ti 4:13-16)
Dr Ryrie outlines 1Timothy 4 as follows…
Instruction Concerning Dangers (1Ti 4:1-16)
Description of the Dangers (1Ti 4:1-5)
Defenses Against the Dangers (1Ti 4:6-16)
D. Edmond Hiebert helps put this next section in context commenting that 1Timothy 4:6-16 deals with…
The subjective fortification against error. Having set forth the fact of the coming apostasy, Paul tells Timothy how to fortify himself and the churches under his care against error. He is to find fortification through a faithful ministry (1Ti 4:6-11) and through becoming personal conduct (1Ti 4:12-16). (Hiebert, D. Edmond: First Timothy: Everyman's Bible Commentary. Moody. 1957) (Bolding added) (Click for Hiebert's entire outline of 1Timothy)
A C Gaebelein says that…
The rest of the chapter consists of exhortations in view of the threatening apostasy, how these evils may be combated and remedied. If Timothy put the saints of God in remembrance of these things, he would be a good minister (deacon) of Jesus Christ, and be continually nourished up in the words of faith and good doctrine. To remember the apostolic instructions and to maintain by them faith and good doctrine effectually counteracts error and the doctrines of demons. Then profane and old wives' fables must be avoided and refused, We have an all-sufficient revelation of God; speculative things of the human mind intruding into things unseen (Col. 2:18), following the theories, imaginations and traditions of men, only lead away from godliness, and lead from foolish questionings into that which is profane. (A believer has no business to investigate Spiritism, Theosophy, or occupy his mind with things not made known in the Word of God. We must avoid these things, refuse to have anything to do with them, else we step upon the territory of the enemy, and lay ourselves open to his attacks.)
The true exercise must be unto godliness, pious, consecrated living; and the true exercise is self-judgment, maintaining a good conscience and communion with God. Bodily exercise by erratic living, abstaining from meats and other things, profits but little. It is far different with true godliness. It is profitable for everything, both in this life and that to come. This is another faithful word and worthy of all acceptation (1Ti 1:15). And for this doctrine the apostle labored and suffered reproach; but he had faith in the living God, who as Saviour-God, by His power and providence, sustains all men. He is the preserver of all men, but especially of those who believe. As Creator He is the preserver and benefactor of all men; but for those who believe He is much more than that. In this God as Creator and Saviour, preserver and keeper, the believer trusts. "These things command and teach." It is another remedy against the seducing spirits and doctrines of demons. None should despise his youth. Timothy was very young when he joined Paul (Acts 16:1-3), and now after some eleven years he was still youthful, especially in comparison with Paul the aged. He urges him to be in his life and walk a model of the believers--in word, in conduct, in faith and in purity.
These are the evidences of true piety and holding sound doctrine. Then as to himself and his service, till Paul came, he was to give himself to reading, which of course must mean the Holy Scriptures, to exhortation and to teaching. He was not to neglect the gift that had been bestowed upon him. In his case this gift was a direct bestowal of prophecy, the voice of the Spirit making it known (as in Acts 13:1). The laying on of hands by the elders had not communicated the gift. It was the outward expression of fellowship with the gift imparted unto Timothy. This gift had to be used and developed like every other gift of the Spirit. A gift may be idle and neglected, but if rightly used it will grow and be used in blessing. To do all this and meditate in these things, be whole-hearted in them, progressing constantly in godliness, is a safeguard against all error. (1 Timothy - by A C Gaebelein)
Not surprisingly Paul gives Timothy several other instructions similar to 1Timothy 4:7 in both first and second Timothy…
1Ti 1:4 (Do not) pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. (1Ti 1:4)
1Ti 6:20 O Timothy, guard (phulasso = aorist imperative = do this now! Do it effectively! It is urgent!) what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called "knowledge" (1Ti 6:20)
Comment: The gospel and the way of truth has been committed to us in all its purity and saving power. We must guard it against all attempts to distort, dilute or deny it, for these would destroy it.
But (1161) (de) introduces a contrast, here between what Paul has just stated Timothy was being nourished by -- "the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine"-- and that which will fail to spiritually nourish him -- worldly fables. The priority must be on God's Word, not man's words. Paul cautions Timothy to keep focused on the Word, not on things that come from man (reject profane and old wives' fables); the greatest effort must be put into God's Word, not man's word.
“Healthy” doctrine will promote spiritual health, but foolish myths will produce spiritual sickness. As an aside it is worth noting in regard to spiritual nourishment is critical for every believer, especially those who minister as pastors. It is an absolute necessity for the pastor to take care to nourish his own soul on the truths which he is supplying to others. It is sad but true that it is quite possible for the pastor to become so busy finding food for his flock that he fails to nourish his own soul with the food he prepares! In such a setting, the personal spiritual discipline Paul calls for in 1Timothy 4:7 becomes difficult if not impossible.
Have nothing to do with (3868) (paraiteomai from pará = aside and in this word gives a nuance of aversion or repudiation + aitéo = ask, beg) is literally to ask along side. To seek to turn aside by asking. As in Mark 15:6, this verb can mean to beg or request (a prisoner to be freed on the occasion of the Passover). In Luke 14:18, it conveys the sense of to beg off or of wanting to be excused from a positive response, in this verse one excusing himself for not accepting a wedding invitation. Finally, in the pastoral epistles (1,2 Timothy, Titus - see below), the meaning is to decline, refuse, to refuse to pay attention to, to shun, to avoid, to reject.
In secular Greek a wrestler was declared the victor when his opponents declined to engage him upon seeing his unclothed physique.
Present imperative means to make it your habit to refuse "worldly fables" (this suggests that we will find them tempting to our fallen nature and must constantly choose [our choice but enabled by God's Spirit and grace] to seek to turn aside). With this command Paul reaffirms his rejection of myth and underscores his commitment to Christianity's sound doctrine (and sober living).
In a parallel use in his second letter to Timothy Paul commanded his protégé to
Comment: The Lord's bondservant must continually avoid getting enticed into ''which came first, the chicken or the egg'' type discussions, those things that are controversial and seriously disputed, and which have no certain basis in truth. In these situations we are to graciously "beg off" an invitation to "war over words" with others. Certainly we can discuss differences of opinions; but our discussions must not degenerate into heated debates over irrelevant issues.
Titus 3:10 Reject (paraiteomai = present imperative) a factious (one who will not submit to Word or godly leaders and is a law unto himself with no concern for spiritual truth or unity) man after a first and second warning, (see note Titus 3:10)
Paraiteomai is used 12 times in the NAS (Mark 15:6 ; Luke 14:18, 19 ; Acts 25:11 ; 1Tim 4:7; 5:11;2Timothy 2:23; Titus 3:10; Heb 12:19, 25 - twice) and 4 times in the Septuagint (LXX) (1Sa 20:6 - twice, 28; Esther4:8; 7:7). It is translated as follows: KJV (11) - avoid, 1; excuse, 2; intreat, 1; make excuse, 1; refuse, 5; reject, 1; NAS (12) - begged, 1; excused, 2; have nothing to do with, 1; make excuses, 1; refuse, 4; refused, 1; reject, 1; requested, 1.
Paul's command to refuse fables, indicates that Timothy already has people coming to him with these fables
Worldly (952) (bebelos [word study] from basis = a stepping or walking from baíno = to go + belos = threshold, particularly of a temple) refers properly to one who either was or ought to have been debarred from going over the threshold or entrance of the temple. The picture is that which is trodden under foot and which thus describes that which is the antithesis of that which is holy or set apart. Bebelos thus describes that which is accessible to everyone and therefore devoid of real significance. Bebelos can thus describe that which is worldly as opposed to having an interest in transcendent (existing apart from and not subject to the limitations of the material universe) matters.
The meaning of this adjective is nicely conveyed by our English word profane which describes that which disregards what is to be kept sacred or holy. The English word "profane" is derived from the Latin profanus which means "outside the temple, not sacred" and in turn is derived from pro- ‘before’ + fanum = ‘temple’.
Here in 1Timothy 4:7, bebelos could be translated “unhallowed” or "godless" describing the fables which contradict the truth of Word of God.
Bebelos suggests that which is void of all connection with, or relation to, God. There is nothing sacred about these fables. By using bebelos Paul is not saying that the fables were blasphemous per se but that they did not possess the character of truth and sound doctrine.
The UBS Handbook series adds that bebelos is…
a word that in its neutral sense means “accessible” but is used in Greek writings as the opposite of the word “holy,” hence “secular.” In the present context its primary meaning is “profane,” that is, devoid of anything sacred, so that it is not worth the attention of any godly or religious person. (Arichea, D. C., & Hatton, H.. A Handbook on Paul's Letters to Timothy and to Titus. New York: United Bible Societies )
Bebelos is used 5 times in the NAS - see below - and is translated: godless person, 1; profane, 1; worldly, 3. Bebelos is used 6 times in the Septuagint - LXX (Lev 10:10; 1Sa 21:4,5; Ezek 21:25; 22:26; 44:23)
Paul used bebelos in chapter 1 explaining to Timothy…
that law is not made for a righteous man, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers 10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching (1Timothy 1:9, 10)
Comment: Observe that bebelos is those whose lives are contrary to sound teaching.
Paul used bebelos again in chapter 6 in a warning…
1Timothy 6:20 O Timothy, guard (aorist imperative = urgent! do this now!) what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly (bebelos) and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called "knowledge"
Comment: Again observe that bebelos describes talk that is contrary to true knowledge
Here are the only other NT uses of bebelos…
2Ti 2:16 But avoid worldly (bebelos) and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, (2Ti 2:16-note)
Comment: Once again observe that bebelos is chatter that is contrary to sound doctrine and thus leads not to godliness but to ungodliness
Hebrews 12:16 (note) that there be no immoral or godless (bebelos) person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.
Vincent writes that…
The verb bebeloo means "to profane, pollute", (Matt. 12:5; Acts 24:6, and often in LXX). Derived from belos = threshold (compare to baino = to go). Hence the primary sense is that which may be trodden. Compare to Latin profanus meaning before the temple or on the ground outside. What is permitted to be trodden by people at large is unhallowed, profane. Esau is called bebelos in Heb. 12:16, as one who did not regard his birthright as sacred, but as something to be sold in order to supply a common need. (Vincent's Word Studies)
Fables (3454) (muthos/mythos [word study] from mu- [my-] = to close, keep secret, be dumb <> muô = close [eyes, mouth] >> musterion = secret, a mystery; story, narrative, fable, fiction [Eng., myth, mythology]) (Click word study on muthos) refers to tales (a tale is a usually imaginative narrative of an event that often contains imagined or exaggerated elements) or fables (a fable can refer to a short fictitious story which teaches a moral lesson but in the NT "fable" is used only in a negative sense as something to be avoided because it is false and unreal) fabricated by the mind in contrast to reality. Muthos therefore refers to fictional tales in contrast to true accounts and represents manufactured stories that have no basis in fact. The Greek and Roman world abounded in stories about so-called "gods" which were nothing more than human speculations that in vain (and in error) tried to explain the world's origin and life's purpose and end!
The Scriptural uses of muthos focus chiefly on the contrast of God's Truth and the world's error/falsehood/lies. It follows that in the NT muthos always conveys an unfavorable or negative connotation. As noted in the passages above each of the NT uses of muthos describe something that is contrary to the truth, whether that truth be the doctrines relating to Christian behavior or the accounts of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.
Paul used this word two other times…
1 Timothy 1:4 nor to pay attention to myths (muthos) and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.
Titus 1:14 not paying attention to Jewish myths (an amalgamation of pagan myths and Jewish extra-Biblical traditions, superimposed on the Old Testament Scriptures) and commandments of men who turn away from the truth. (Even some of the Jews had abandoned their sacred Scriptures and accepted man-made substitutes - see discussion) (see note Titus 1:14)
Peter in testifying to the authenticity of the events of Scripture (especially the transfiguration in context) wrote…
2 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales (muthos) when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. (The gospel narratives are not fictional tales, but actual eyewitness reports. Peter testified that he and the other apostles, James and John, witnessed the transfiguration - see note)
Trench traces the evolution of muthos explaining that…
"logos and muthos began their journey together (but) they gradually parted company. The antagonism between these words grew stronger and stronger until they finally stood in open opposition (as here in 2Ti4:4). This is true of words as well as of people, when one come to belong to the kingdom of light and truth and the other to the kingdom of darkness and lies."
In light of Trench's comment on logos and muthos, it is notable that 1Timothy 4:9 emphasizes a "trustworthy statement" which is literally a trustworthy word (logos) which is a clear contrast with the (untrustworthy) worldly fables (muthos) in this verse!
Fit only for old women (1126) (graodes from graus = old woman + eidos = form, external appearance) is an adjective which means of or belonging to old women and which is used only here in 1Timothy 4:7. This adjective describes the fables, indicating that their futile, senseless nature.
Hiebert explains that this phrase indicates that the fables
"are nothing but silly fictions, fit only for senile, childish old crones to chatter about. When people bring them to him he is to "refuse," "beg off" dealing with them. To discuss them seriously would be to give them a dignity which they do not deserve. The present tense indicates this as his constant reaction." (Hiebert, D. Edmond: First Timothy: Everyman's Bible Commentary. Moody. 1957)
Vine comments that…
The adjective graōdēs, “old wives,” signifying “old-womanish” (from graus, an old woman), is used here only in the Greek Bible. The article, which precedes the whole clause in the original, points to the silly stories and myths current at the time which gave rise to trivial teachings; such myths were common in Jewish lore. In the rabbinical schools, the history of the nation was surrounded by profitless legends. These are to be distinguished from the doctrines of demons (1Ti 4:1) which propagated Gnostic errors. (Vine, W. Collected writings of W. E. Vine. Nashville: Thomas Nelson)
MacArthur explains that…
Women were not usually allowed the educational opportunity men had, so this phrase comes from such a situation. That epithet was commonly used in philosophical circles as a term of disdain for a viewpoint lacking credibility and thus appealing only to uneducated, unsophisticated, and perhaps senile matrons. No intelligent man would hear it at all. The Ephesians would have understood Paul’s use of the phrase. (MacArthur, John: 1Timothy Moody. 1995)
Some "worldly fables" -- There was a house in Rome that stationed a boy at the doorway of the mansion to caution visitors not to cross the threshold with their left foot, for fear that this would be an ill omen! And in Scotland in prior days it was the funeral custom not to carry out the casket of the deceased through the front door, but through an opening made in the side of the house which was subsequently sealed up after serving its purpose. The belief was that the person's "ghost" was prevented from re-entering the house because the only door that it knew was gone. And on and on such superstitious unhallowed beliefs go.
William MacDonald writes that "old wives' tales"…
make us think of Christian Science, which was founded by a woman, seems to appeal especially to elderly women, and teaches fables instead of truth. (MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. Believer's Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. Nashville: Thomas Nelson)
ON THE OTHER HAND, DISCIPLINE YOURSELF FOR THE PURPOSE OF GODLINESS : gumnaze (2SPAM) de seauton pros eusebeian: (1Ti 1:4; 6:20; 2Ti 2:16,23; 4:4; Titus 1:14; 3:9) (1Ti 1:4; 2:10; 3:16; 6:11; Acts 24:16; 2Ti 3:12; Titus 2:12; Heb 5:14; 2Pe 1:5, 6, 7, 8)
The NIV renders it "train yourself to be godly"
Note that the phrase "on the other hand" is not in the Greek but added by the translators to emphasize the striking contrast between the preceding negative commandment and the following positive commandment.
Expositor's Greek Testament remarks that…
There is here an intentional paradox. Timothy is to meet the spurious asceticism of the heretics by exercising himself in the practical piety of the Christian life. The paradox is comparable to… ("make it your ambition to lead a quiet life")… of 1Th 4:11. The true Christian asceticism is not essentially somatike (bodily), although the body is the means by which the spiritual nature is affected and influenced. Although it brings the body into subjection (1Co 9:27), this is a means, not an end in itself. (The Expositor's Greek Testament)
FOR A PERSONAL RESPONSE
For the purpose of godliness - Literally it reads "beneficial toward", "advantageous for". The preposition pros shows movement toward an object.
Yourself (4572) (seautou) from sé = thee + autos = self) is a reflexive pronoun. The idea of "reflexive" is that it expresses action directed or turned back on oneself. Clearly it is good to have godly mentors ("trainers" or "coaches" to keep the athletic metaphor), but ultimately each believer is responsible for his or her own individual spiritual training. No one can do it for us, which implies that each believer must be diligent and disciplined, not somnolent and sporadic!
Jay Adams asks what is the secret of godliness? In a word - discipline! He goes on to say…
The word discipline has disappeared from minds, mouths, and pulpits in our culture. Modern American society hardly knows what discipline means. Yet, apart from discipline, there is no other way to attain godliness; discipline is God’s path to godliness. The counselor, therefore, must learn how to help the counselee to discipline himself for the purpose of godliness. (Adams, J. E. The Christian Counselor's Manual)
Jerry Bridges emphasizes personal responsibility writing that…
Timothy was personally responsible for his progress in godliness. He was not to trust the Lord for that progress and then relax, though he certainly understood that any progress he made was only through divine enablement. He would have understood that he was to work out this particular aspect of his salvation in confidence that God was at work in him (Php 2:12, 13-see notes Php 2:12; 13). But he would get Paul’s message that he must work at this matter of godliness; he must pursue it. We Christians may be very disciplined and industrious in our business, our studies, our home, or even our ministry, but we tend to be lazy when it comes to exercise in our own spiritual lives. We would much rather pray, “Lord, make me godly,” and expect Him to “pour” some godliness into our souls in some mysterious way. God does in fact work in a mysterious way to make us godly, but He does not do this apart from the fulfillment of our own personal responsibility. (Bridges, J. The Practice of Godliness. Navpress. 1996 - this short but pithy book is highly recommended if you sincerely desire to discipline yourself for godliness!) (Practice of Godliness Mp3 - not free)
Vine explains that reflexive pronouns
"In English end in “-self,” “-selves.” They are used when the object of a sentence or clause refers to the same person or thing as the subject." (Vine, W. Vine's You can learn New Testament Greek!: Course of self-help for the layman. Nashville: Thomas Nelson)
As an aside Paul's call for a negative, then a positive, reminds one of the "put off's", that precede the "put on's" (cp Col 3:9-note and Col 3:12, 13, 14, 1Pe 2:1-note and 1Pe 2:2, Ro 13:12, Ro 13:13 and Ro 13:14, Ep 4:22 and Ep 4:24ff, Jas 1:21-note)
Discipline (1128) (Gumnazo [word study] from gumnós = naked, bare, unclad or minimally clothed and descriptive of the common practice of males in the Greco Roman "gymnasia" source of English "gymnasium", "gymnastics") (Click study on gumnazo) literally meant to exercise naked in the palaestra (a school in ancient Greece or Rome for sports).
As R Kent Hughes adds that…
The rich etymology of discipline suggests a conscious divestment of all encumbrances, and then a determined investment of all of one's energies. Just as ancient athletes discarded everything and competed gumnos (naked), so must the disciplined Christian man divest himself of every association, habit, and tendency which impedes godliness. Then, with this lean spiritual nakedness accomplished, he must invest all his energy and sweat in the pursuit of godliness. The lithe, sculpted figure of the classic Greek runner gives the idea. Stripped naked, he has put his perspiration into thousands of miles for the purpose of running well. Even so, the successful Christian life is always, without exception, a stripped-down, disciplined, sweaty affair. The understanding that vigorous spiritual discipline is essential to godliness accords with the universal understanding that discipline is necessary to accomplish anything in this life. (Disciplines of a Godly Man - R. Kent Hughes - Excellent read)
No discipline, no discipleship!
No sweat, no sainthood!
No perspiration, no inspiration!
No pain, no gain!
No manliness, no maturity!
Gumnazo - 4v - 1Ti 4:7; He 5:14; 12:11; 2Pe 2:14
Figuratively gumnazo means to exercise so as to discipline oneself (in the moral or ethical "gym" so to speak) or to exercise vigorously, in any way, either the body or the mind. It conveys the picture of the rigorous, persevering, painstaking, diligent, strenuous, self-sacrificing training an athlete undergoes for a perishable prize, and which the Christian "athlete" should be willing to undergo for an imperishable prize (1Cor 9:24, 25, 26, 27 see note), which in the present context is "godliness" a "prize" that is profitable for this life and the life to come!
In secular Greek gumnazo was used figuratively of training for or practicing an art or profession. It carried the sense not of merely transitory attention, but of consistent, long-term training that made all its activities habitual.
Just as our physical muscles grow stronger through exercise, so also the "muscle" of our will is strengthened by exercise (discipline) in doing right.
Paul gives Timothy (and all who seek to be "vessels of honor" like Timothy and Paul) a command in the present imperative which calls for this to be a Christian "soldier's" lifestyle. There is no time off, because our enemies -- the world, the flesh and the devil -- don't take time off. To let down one's guard, is to make one's self vulnerable to attack. To fail to continually train oneself spiritually is analogous to ceasing to pedal when riding a bicycle, such cessation resulting in a loss of stability and risks serious injury (in one's spiritual life and on the bicycle!)
Train yourself vigorously and earnestly in personal holiness and practical piety. (1Timothy Commentary)
Yourself (seautou from se = thee + autos = self) is a reflexive pronoun in the genitive (possessive case) singular and means "of thyself, thine own self". This reflexive pronoun intensifies the necessity of the spiritual discipline Paul is calling for from his young disciple Timothy (presumably the pastor at the church at Ephesus- see Was Timothy a pastor or an evangelist?). How can Timothy lead others to godliness if he is not himself pursuing this lofty goal? Dear pastor (and may you honestly assess yourself), are you taking pains to "work out" your spiritual growth, or are you being "distracted (perispao in the imperfect tense [pictures this as occurring over and over] = being [passive voice] drawn or dragged around or in different ways at the same time, encumbered, drawn every which way by busyness that only yields barrenness!) with all (your) preparations… worried (merimnao [word study] = having anxiety, divided) and bothered (turbazo from turbe = a crowd, a tumult, figuratively = disturbed in mind - Note: Worry = inward anxiety, bothered = outward agitation!) about so many things" like Martha (Lk 10:41) or are you focusing on and consciously choosing the one thing necessary (Lk 10:42),emulating Mary "who moreover was listening (imperfect tense [pictures this as occurring over and over]) to the Lord's word (the Way, the Truth, the Life), seated at His feet"? (Lk 10:39).
Spiritual food ("nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine" 1Ti 4:6) and spiritual exercise (gumnazo) are an excellent combination to assure spiritual vitality! If believers would put as much energy and enthusiasm into spiritual exercise as they do athletics and body-building, is there any limit to how much stronger they and their churches would be?
Christians would do well to learn from Josephus' use of gumnazo (Josephus originally was written in Greek before translation into English) in his description of the mighty and feared Roman soldiers writing that…
"… their military exercises differ not at all from the real use of their arms, but every soldier is every day exercised (gumnazo), and that with great diligence, as if it were in time of war which is the reason why they bear the fatigue of battles so easily." (Josephus, F. The Works of Josephus. Wars 3.73)
To be sure believers as good soldiers of Christ Jesus are commanded not to neglect "basic training" or "daily maneuvers", but we are to carry out these endeavors fully cognizant of and relying upon the truth that we are to continually be strengthened "in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2Timothy 2:1-note) and not by fleshly self effort or by legalistic rule keeping. The point is that we don’t depend on our own strength, experience, or expertise. We depend on God’s grace as we "discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness".
The writer of Hebrews uses the verb gumnazo in calling saints to train themselves not for greed but for growth in discernment writing that
solid food is for the mature, who because of practice (in other words they make a habit of obeying the truth of righteousness and thus grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ) have their senses trained (gumnazo - perfect tense = having been trained at some point in time in the past and still maintaining their "spiritual fitness" - perfect tense speaks of the enduring effect of their training) to discern good and evil. (He 5:14-note)
Wuest renders this verse "But solid food belongs to those who are (spiritually) mature, to those who on account of long usage have their powers of perception exercised to the point where they are able to discriminate between both that which is good in character and that which is evil.
The vitality of your spiritual life depends on your "diet". Are you taking in solid food so that you will be able to recognize these false teachers and not "be carried away (like the clouds which are borne along by the wind in the use of this same verb [parastepho] in Jude 1:12) by varied and strange teachings" (see note Hebrews 13:9)?
Christian author Jerry Bridges rightly says that
It is impossible to practice godliness without a constant, consistent and balanced intake of the Word of God in our lives.
Donald Whitney wrote that…
As we engage in the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life, the Holy Spirit molds us more into the character of the Master. Probably the most common reason for the lack of spiritual growth among Christians is inconsistency with the spiritual disciplines. We don't grow in grace if we fail to use the God-given means for growing in grace. It's a simple fact: Those who grow the most and the fastest are those who place themselves in the channels of grace such as the intake of God's Word, prayer, worship, service, evangelism, silence, solitude, journaling, learning, fasting, and so on.
Paul had the correct balance between grace and disciplining himself for godliness writing
by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
For all intents and purposes, the many imperatives in 1Ti 4:12, 13, 14, 15, 16 supply the why’s and the wherefore’s of the exhortation to godliness.
R Kent Hughes writes that…
discipline is the key to becoming proficient at anything, whether it be painting, music, writing, calculus, basketball, golf, chess or the sublimest of arts—fly fishing. Discipline is what separates the achievers from the also-rans. And this is doubly true in spiritual matters, because man’s sinful nature naturally gravitates to foot-dragging in things spiritual. This is why the Apostle Paul unabashedly admonished his young disciple, Timothy, to “train yourself to be godly” (1Ti 4:7). The very word “train” has the smell of a good workout. “Gymnasticize (exercise, work out, train) yourself for the purpose of godliness.” Spiritual sweat is a major component to leading a godly life. No man or woman has ever become godly without it. Moreover, discipline is not antithetical to grace. Paul, as the preeminent apostle of grace, wrote, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1Corinthians 15:10). (Disciplines of Grace).
CALLS FOR COMMITMENT
In the ancient games, victory depended on the athlete’s commitment to rigorous training. Every runner entered strict training under the watchful eye of an official. Marathon runners were known to work out for years—lifting weights, running laps, regulating sleep, restricting their diet. Self-control means we must exercise mastery over our lives, foregoing some pleasures, pursuing other disciplines, all for the sake of winning. No athlete ever achieved the level of Olympic competition without a commitment to pay the price of rigorous, daily training. In the same way, no believer ever achieves genuine godliness without a commitment to pay the price of the daily spiritual training which God has designed for our growth in godliness. We must be committed to the basic spiritual disciplines of the Christian life (Bible Study, prayer, and meditation) in order for godliness to be cultivated and grow. Peter associates the call to commitment with spiritual growth (including growth in godliness) his second epistle writing…
Now for this very reason also (now that you know that have the spiritual resources - everything necessary for life and godliness, His precious and magnificent promises, a partaker of His divine nature, escape from the corruption of this world -- you are responsible to work out your own salvation), applying all diligence (making every effort with eagerness, earnestness, willingness, zeal), in your faith (note that faith is like the roots that sink into truths Peter has mentioned previously -- it is faith that shows itself to be real in obedience to these truths) supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. (2Pe 1:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11-see notes 2Pe 1:5; 1:6; 1:7;1:8; 1:9; 10; 11)
Samson is an example of a believer who did not practice discipline (Jdg 13:1, 14:1, 15:1, 16:1ff- see notes Judges 13; 14; 15; 16) and the godliness that comes from such discipline. Instead of disciplining himself for godliness by keeping his body under control, Samson lived to please his flesh, and the consequences were tragic. Even more tragic, is that Samson's sad career has been duplicated by many Christians, including those in key leadership positions, all of whom are deceived, occasionally even defending their sins and lack of self-control as “enjoying freedom in Christ.” The tragedy is that their so-called “freedom” is really the worst kind of bondage.
A W Tozer…
It will require a determined heart and more than a little courage to wrench ourselves loose from the grip of our times and return to biblical ways. But it can be done. Every now and then in the past Christians have had to do it. History has recorded several large-scale returns led by such men as St. Francis, Martin Luther and George Fox. Unfortunately, there seems to be no Luther or Fox on the horizon at present. Whether or not another such return may be expected before the coming of Christ is a question upon which Christians are not fully agreed, but that is not of too great importance to us now.
What God in His sovereignty may yet do on a world-scale I do not claim to know. But what He will do for the plain man or woman who seeks His face I believe I do know and can tell others. Let any man turn to God in earnest, let him begin to exercise himself unto godliness, let him seek to develop his powers of spiritual receptivity by trust and obedience and humility, and the results will exceed anything he may have hoped in his leaner and weaker days.
War Cry magazine reminds us of an important principle
A loose wire give out no musical note; but fasten the ends, and the piano, the harp, or violin is born (Ed: Put some tension on it!). Free steam drives no machine, but hamper and confine it with piston and turbine and you have the great world of machinery made possible. The unhampered river drives no dynamos, but dam it up and we get power sufficient to light a great city. So our lives must be disciplined if we are to be of any real service in this world.
Godliness (2150) (eusebeia [word study] from eu = well + sebomai = reverence. Sebomai is in turn derived from "seb" which refers to sacred awe or reverence exhibited especially in actions) literally means "well worship" and describes reverence or awe that is well directed.
Godliness comes from the old English word "Godlikeness" which means to have the character and attitude of God. It is manifest by devotion to God which results in a life that is pleasing to Him. And how does one maintain such a state of godliness? Such a life is impossible without a continual intake of the pure milk of the Word, and a consistent submission and obedience to that Word empowered by His Spirit.
Eusebeia - 15x in 15v in NAS - Study Paul's uses to glean his wisdom on what godliness looks like and how it is attained - Acts 3:12; 1Ti 2:2; 1Ti 3:16; 4:7, 8; 1Ti 6:3, 5, 6, 11; 2Ti 3:5; Titus 1:1; 2Pe 1:3, 6, 7; 3:11 - For more of Paul's wisdom on godliness see also Noun - Theosebeia = godliness in 1Ti 2:9, 10, verb eusebeo 1Ti 5:4
Eusebeia is true religion that displays itself in reverence before what is majestic and divine in worship and in a life of active obedience which befits that reverence. Eusebeia is a term used, not of God, but of men. Eusébeia is that piety which is characterized by a Godward attitude and does that which is well–pleasing to Him. Godliness is a right attitude and response toward the Living God and manifest itself in a preoccupation from the heart with holy and sacred realities. It is respect for what is due to God, and is thus the highest of all virtues.
David Daniels writes…
In 1Ti 4:7, 8, Paul commands his young disciple to discipline himself for the sake of godliness. Paul warns that many people get involved in activities ("godless myths and old wives' tales") that give the appearance of spiritual maturity but really have no eternal value. The only worthwhile goal, he writes, is godliness—a character conformed to God's character. But such conformity comes only through discipline.
In this passage, the term to discipline or to train is the Greek word gymnazo, from which we get gymnasium and gymnastics. Literally, it means "to exercise naked." Unlike modern competitors who don protective padding and equipment, ancient athletes would strip away clothing and accessories that might prevent them from performing their best. The Christian also must habitually strip away anything that hinders the goal of godliness. (Discipleship Journal)
Godliness is not "letting go and letting God." There is no such thing as drifting into godliness. In fact the "stream of tendency" (our enemies - the world, the flesh, the devil) flows against us! It is vital to remember that growth in godliness calls for strenuous involvement on our part. Beloved, how are you doing in your growth in godliness? Are you making every effort, every day, to exercise self-discipline? Godliness is not talking godly but living godly. Godliness is a practical awareness of God in every aspect of life. Godliness reflects an attitude centered on living out one's life in God's presence with a desire motivated by love for Him and empowered by His grace to be pleasing to Him in all things. Godliness is that inner attitude of reverence which seeks to please God in every thought, word or deed. Godliness is living one's life with a "Coram Deo" mindset, ever as before the face of God. Godliness is a practical awareness of God in every area of life—a God-consciousness.
Ungodliness is living our life as if God does not exist. Godliness is seeing all of life through the lens of God as the focal point of my life.
Fairbairn writes that…
practical piety or godliness requires when properly cultivated the full bent and strenuous application of the mind.
As someone has well said…
The rich are not always godly, but the godly are always rich. (And we might add, not only in this present life but in the life to come and for ever!)
John Piper writes that…
Godliness… means a love for the things of God and a walk in the ways of God." (Read the full sermon Liberating Promises)
George Meisinger writes that…
Godliness is godly living, living according to the will of God. It is the kind of obedience that results from walking in the Spirit (Romans 8:4-note) (Meisinger, George: Chafer Theological Seminary Journal V1)
Godliness that overcomes the craving for material wealth produces great spiritual wealth…
Godliness is another way of describing holiness, sanctification, and Christlikeness. To put it in other terms, the purpose of the spiritual disciplines is intimacy with Christ and conformity (both internal and external) to Christ.
Practices. A spiritual discipline is something you do, not something you are. Disciplines should not be confused with graces, character qualities, or the fruit of the Spirit. Prayer, for example, is a spiritual discipline, while joy, strictly speaking, is not. As practices, the spiritual disciplines are first about doing, then about being. The spiritual disciplines are right doing that leads to right being. That is, the purpose of doing the practices known as spiritual disciplines is the state of being described in 1 Timothy 4:7 as “godliness.” Thus the discipline of prayer, rightly practiced, should result in godly joy. So while they should not be separated from each other, it is important to distinguish the practices known as the spiritual disciplines from the fruit that should result from them.
Biblical practices. We may not properly call just anything we do a spiritual discipline. Regardless of the benefit we may derive from a given activity, it is best to reserve the biblical term “discipline” for practices taught by precept or example in the Bible. Otherwise, anything and everything will eventually be called a spiritual discipline. Someone could claim that washing dishes—which, admittedly, ought to be done in the presence of and to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31)—is as spiritually beneficial to themselves as prayer is to others. But if we allow this, what basis for disagreement over what is and what isn’t a spiritual discipline will exist except personal experience and preference?… Only the spiritual disciplines found in Scripture are “inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2Ti 3:16–17). And “every good work” for which Scripture makes us “adequate” and “equipped” would certainly include “the purpose of godliness.”
Means to godliness, not ends. A person is not automatically godly just because he or she practices the spiritual disciplines. This was the error of the Pharisees, for although they prayed, memorized Scripture, fasted, and practiced other disciplines, Jesus pointed to them as the epitome of ungodliness. Godliness is the result of God’s Spirit changing us into Christlikeness through the means of the disciplines. Apart from faith and the right motives when practicing them, the disciplines can be dead works. The purpose for practicing the spiritual disciplines is not to see how many chapters of the Bible we can read or how long we can pray, nor is it found in anything else that can be counted or measured. We’re not necessarily more godly because we engage in these biblical practices. Instead, these biblical practices should be the means that result in true godliness—that is, intimacy with and conformity to Christ. (A God Entranced Vision of All Things)
Christ came into the world to open a new gymnasium for godliness. And he said in 1 Timothy 4:8, “Bodily exercise is of some value, but working out in the gymnasium of godliness holds promise for the present life and the life to come.” If it feels good to run ten miles and lose five pounds, it feels a hundred times as good to conquer Satan by the power of Christ and break free from some unloving bent in our personality. (MONEY- CURRENCY FOR CHRISTIAN HEDONISM)
J I Packer adds that…
Godliness, to the Puritans, was essentially a matter of conscience, inasmuch as it consisted in a hearty, disciplined, ‘considerate’ (thoughtful) response to known evangelical truth, and centered upon the getting and keeping of a good conscience. (Packer, J. I.. A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life. Crossway Books. 1994)
Charles Stanley writes that
Godly people order their lives around godly counsel. They seek friends with fellow believers, not with the lost. They get enjoyment, encouragement, and refreshment from the Word of God. Godly people will successfully stand the storms of life, are fruitful, and prosper in all they do. Godly people are contented. They are not anxious or fretting. A sweet quietness marks them. The beginning of being a godly person is receiving Jesus Christ as Savior. That’s the foundation to build on. (Stanley, C. F. In touch with God. Nashville: Thomas Nelson)
J.C. Ryle (1816-1900 - read a short biography), in the introduction to a book of biographical sketches of Christian leaders such as George Whitefield and John Wesley made the following statement --
They taught constantly the inseparable connection between true faith and personal holiness. They never allowed for a moment that any church membership or religious profession was the proof of a man’s being a true Christian if he lived an ungodly life. A true Christian, they maintained, must always be known by his fruits; and those fruits must be plainly manifest and unmistakable in all relations of life. “No fruits, no grace,” was the unvarying tenor of their preaching. (Christian Leaders of the Eighteenth Century. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth.) (Bolding added)
John MacArthur (1Timothy: Moody Press) writes that
"There is no effective spiritual ministry apart from personal godliness, since ministry is the overflow of a godly life."
MacArthur quotes J. Oswald Sanders who wrote…
“Spiritual ends can be achieved only by spiritual men who employ spiritual methods”
R. C. Sproul in Pleasing God, warns about the tragic disassociation of sound doctrine and godly living, explaining that believers
"must reject a false dichotomy between doctrine and life. We can have sound doctrine without a sanctified life. But it is extremely difficult to progress in sanctification without sound doctrine. Sound doctrine is not a sufficient condition to produce a sound life. It does not yield sanctification automatically. Sound doctrine is a necessary condition for sanctification. It is a vital prerequisite. It is like oxygen and fire. The mere presence of oxygen does not guarantee a fire, but you can’t have a fire without it." (Sproul, R C: Pleasing God. Tyndale House, 1988 ) (Bolding added)
Donald Whitney writes that
"Godly people are disciplined people. It has always been so. Call to mind… heroes of church history… they were all disciplined people. In my own pastoral and personal Christian experience, I can’t say that I’ve ever known a man or woman who came to spiritual maturity except through discipline. Godliness comes through discipline." (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. page 15. NavPress, 1991 )
The godly man or woman lives above the petty things of life, the passions and pressures that control the lives of others. The godly individual seeks to do the will of God making the kind of decisions that are right and noble, not taking the "easy" path simply to avoid either pain or trial. That's Biblical godliness!
Paul did not take for granted the godliness of his spiritual son Timothy even though Timothy had been his companion for a number of years and had "followed (Paul's) teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions and sufferings..." (2Ti 3:10-note; 2Ti 3:11-note). Nevertheless, Paul still felt compelled to charge Timothy to "train himself to be godly.” It follows, that if Timothy needed this charge, then surely believers also need it today. Are we listening? When was the last time you heard a series on the pursuit and practice of godliness? Could our failure to discipline ourselves in this vital area explain at least to some degree our failure to be salty salt and clear, bright lights (Mt 5:13, 14, 15, 16-see notes Mt 5:13; 14; 16; 16) in a society that is growing darker and more ungodly by the day?
In summary, Biblical Godliness…
(1). Necessitates effort on our part (1Ti 4:7,8)
(2). Must be pursued (1Ti 6:11)
(3). Can be faked (2Ti 3:5- note)
John Angell James writes…
there is a second passage well worthy the attention of all young converts, I mean where Paul exhorts Timothy thus, "Exercise yourself unto godliness." 1 Tim. 4:7. The word in the original is very strong, and might be rendered by a free translation, "practice gymnastic exercises in religion," like the ancient competitors in the Olympic games. We say also of soldiers in the early stage of their training, "they are practicing their exercise." They are being trained in what they do not previously know, and cannot perform without being taught; and to learn which, and do it well, requires a great deal of labor. So it is with the Christian, he must in all that concerns true godliness, learn his exercise, and be often thus engaged. True godliness, and progress in piety, cannot be acquired without great pains. As a man cannot be at once a good soldier, while he is a young recruit, and before he has been drilled upon the parade ground, so no one can be an eminent Christian as soon as he is converted, and before he has been at his drilling. Self-improvement in knowledge by the student, and in business by the tradesman, are the result of great painstaking. No one can expect advancement without labor. It is astonishing and sad, to see how little concern there is among many to improve themselves in true godliness. (John Angell James. Christian Progress)
William Kelly, Plymouth Brethren writer…
From old-wives’ fables Timothy was to turn away. But, says Paul, “exercise thyself unto piety.” Service of Christ is admirable; yet there is no greater danger if piety be neglected personally. It is of prime moment that this be kept up in the soul, as otherwise the comfort and joy as well as the sorrows and dangers of His service are most absorbing…
Piety (godliness) is spiritual exercise and demands as constant vigilance, as holy self-restraint, as complete subjection to the revealed will of God, even as training for the games called for habitual abstinence from every relaxing habit and for daily practice toward the end in view. How little the latter goal! How transcendent the former!
Keep the Goal in View - Bible scholar William Barclay (Ed note: see critique) tells of his walks through the meadow with his bull terrier Rusty. Whenever his dog came to a shallow creek, he jumped in and started removing stones, one by one, dropping them haphazardly on the shore. This pointless activity would go on for hours.
Barclay says that Rusty's strange behavior reminds him of some self-proclaimed experts on the Bible. They expend enormous energy and countless hours trying to interpret obscure passages, but all their effort does nothing to edify themselves or others.
Through the years I have received long letters from people like that. Some show me how to know exactly who the Antichrist will be. Others claim to have found the key to certain Bible mysteries by studying the meaning of names in the lists of genealogies.
Apparently there were some teachers in Ephesus who were trying to impress the believers by weaving myths and fables into their interpretation of the Bible. But what they taught did nothing to promote godliness. It was therefore as pointless as Rusty's stone removal project.
Paul said to Timothy, "Exercise yourself toward godliness." That's the most important goal to keep in view as we study the Bible. —Herbert Vander Lugt (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Oh, grant us grace, Almighty Lord!
To read and mark Thy holy Word,
Its truths with meekness to receive,
And by its holy precepts live. —Boddome
Don't study the Bible to be able to quote it.
Study it to obey it.
(see Inductive Bible Study)
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Godly Exercise - Fitness advocate Jhannie Tolbert says you don't need a treadmill or specialized equipment to get a great physical workout at home. Tolbert uses a toolbox for stepping exercises, lifts soup cans to work his shoulder muscles, and employs other common household items in his daily training. He says you can stay fit at home using a low-tech approach. Other trainers agree and encourage people to use jump ropes, chairs, brooms, and even bags of groceries in conditioning routines. They see exercise as a matter of will, not wealth.
The same principle holds true with spiritual fitness. While Bible dictionaries, commentaries, and other books are helpful, we can begin spiritual training with nothing more than the Bible and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Paul urged his protégé Timothy: "Exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come" (1Timothy 4:7,8).
It requires no money to study a Bible passage or memorize a verse. We don't need special equipment or materials to pray for a friend, give thanks to God, or sing His praise. We just need to begin where we are, with what we have, right now.—David C. McCasland (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Just as the body will grow strong
With exercise each day,
So too, we grow more like our Lord
By living life His way. —D. De Haan
Godly exercise is the key to godly character.
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Waiting For The Weekend -"Good morning! Only 1 more day until Friday!" Our local traffic reporter counts down to the weekend for his morning radio audience. Many in his audience are likely thinking all week about hitting the bike trail, heading for the beach, or teeing off in the morning mist.
Paul told Timothy that physical exercise does profit us "a little" (1Ti 4:8). Regular exercise and recreation can help to restore our perspective, to tone up our muscles, and to recharge our batteries. But Paul said that "godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come" (1Ti 4:8).
The trouble is that many Christians today emphasize physical exercise almost to the exclusion of spiritual exercise. Paul also said, "Exercise yourself toward godliness" (1Ti 4:7). Regular spiritual exercise such as prayer, Bible study, walking in the Spirit, sharing Christ with others, serving others, and living a pure and holy life are "profitable" for both time and eternity.
Looking forward to the weekend is fine. And there's nothing wrong with biking, swimming, golfing, or other forms of recreation. But remember, the greatest profit comes from exercising "toward godliness." —D C Egner (Copyright. Used by permission of Our Daily Bread)
A healthy body, healthy mind,
Should be the Christian's goal;
But it is more important still
To exercise the soul. —Bosch
To keep spiritually fit, feed on God's Word and exercise your faith.
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Training For Life - When Dean Karnazes completed the 26.2-mile New York Marathon in November 2006, it marked the end of an almost impossible feat of endurance. Karnazes had run 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days. This exceptional athlete’s ultra-endurance feats include: running 350 continuous miles, mountain biking for 24 hours straight, and swimming across San Francisco Bay. That level of fitness requires relentless, dedicated training.
Spiritual fitness, Paul told Timothy, also takes much more than a relaxed approach to live a God-honoring life. In a culture marked by false teaching, along with extreme forms of self-indulgence and self-denial, Paul wrote:
Exercise [train] yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come (1Ti 4:7-8)
Our bodies and our minds are to be dedicated to God and prepared for His service (Ro 12:1-2). The goal is not spiritual muscle-flexing but godliness—a life that is pleasing to the Lord. Vigorous study of the Word, focused prayer, and bodily discipline are all part of the process.
How well we train greatly affects how well we run our race of life.— David C. McCasland (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Just as the body grows in strength
With exercise each day,
Our spirit grows in godliness
By living life God’s way. —D. De Haan
Godly exercise is the key to godly character.
Steven Cole asks…
What is discipline? What does it entail? I want to sketch what it is and is not. Then I’ll show how to implement it.
A. What discipline is and is not:
(1) Discipline is an ongoing process, not a quick fix. The verb is a present imperative, pointing to a process. This means that you can never say, “I’ve arrived!” It’s like staying in shape physically: You can do it for 25 years, but the day you quit you start getting flabby. You’ve got to keep at it. So, no matter where you’re at spiritually, 1Ti 4:7 applies to you. It’s a lifetime process.
(2) Discipline involves hard work. “We labor and strive.” (“Strive” is a better reading than the KJV’s “suffer reproach.”) It’s a word used of wrestlers in an athletic contest, giving every ounce of strength to defeat their opponent. This means that discipline doesn’t come naturally! It’s not something some people are just born with. It’s not a spiritual gift.
By definition, discipline means acting against your feelings because you have a higher goal. We’re being encouraged in our day to live by our feelings. If we violate our feelings, we might do some sort of psychological damage! But if you’re disciplined, even though you feel like that piece of chocolate cake, since your goal is to lose weight, you deny your feelings. Or, you feel like sacking in; but your goal is to be godly, so you roll out of bed, grab your Bible, and spend time with the Lord. It’s not easy and it doesn’t always feel good!
Discipline is something in which both God and you must be involved. “Self-control” is a fruit of the Spirit (Ga 5:23). That is, when the Spirit of God controls you, He gives you the ability to control yourself. Thus God does it, and yet Paul can tell Timothy, “Discipline yourself … ” You have a responsibility in the matter. It boils down to the question, “Are you willing to pay the price?” If athletes put themselves through years of hard work and training to get a silly gold medal, shouldn’t we be willing to pay the price to be godly?
(3) Discipline means discarding hindrances. Paul tells Timothy to “have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women” (1Ti 4:7). Some translate it “old wives’ tales.” It refers to the stories an old woman might pass on to her grandchildren. Paul was ridiculing the “endless myths and genealogies” of the false teachers (1Ti 1:4). The Greek word for “discipline” is gymnazo, from which we get “gymnasium.” It came from a word meaning “naked,” because the Greek athletes would strip off their clothing so as not to be hindered from their purpose of winning their event. The point is, if we’re going to train ourselves for godliness, there are hindrances we have to strip off. We have to say no to things that hinder us from our purpose. Of course that includes all sin; but also it includes things that may be all right in and of themselves, but they don’t help you grow toward godliness. It certainly means controlling the TV set!
(4) Discipline means keeping your eyes on the goal. The goal is fairly clear: “godliness” (in the Greek) has the nuance of “reverence for God.” So it points to a person who is growing in conformity to God in his character and daily life because he has fixed his hope on God (4:10). He takes God seriously and recognizes the practical implications in terms of developing a godly thought life, godly speech, and godly actions. The way we move toward that goal (in the words of Heb. 12:2) is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus so that we become more and more like Him, especially as we endure the trials God uses to make us more like Him.
(5) Discipline means managing your time in line with your goals. This point is not directly in the text, but it’s a logical necessity. An athlete works his schedule around his goal. He says no to many good activities so that he can say yes to his daily workout. As Annie Dillard has pointed out, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives” (Reader’s Digest, [7/92], p. 137). And how we spend our minutes and hours is how we spend our days. The goal of godliness demands that you spend time each day alone with God in His Word and prayer. It’s not a question of having a schedule. You have one! We all have the same number of hours in our day. We all make time to do what we want to do. The question is, Is your schedule in line with your goal of becoming a godly person?
(6) Discipline is not opposed to the grace of God. Many people resist discipline by saying, “That’s legalistic!” It can become legalistic if your motive is wrong. But if your motive is to love and please the God who gave His Son for you, it’s not legalistic. Grace doesn’t mean sloppy living (1Co 15:10).
And discipline, though it sounds restrictive, is the only way to true freedom. Someone who has disciplined himself to play the piano or speak a foreign language is free to do things I am restricted from doing. As we saw last week, Paul talks about enjoying God and then moves on to talk about discipline. They go hand in hand. The disciplined Christian enjoys God in ways the undisciplined person can’t.
(7) Discipline is not driving yourself relentlessly. Some people get obsessed with discipline to the point that they can’t relax or enjoy time off. We need the balance of Scripture which teaches that God rested after His labor, and so should we. He made our bodies to require sleep. We’re not good stewards if we drive ourselves until we burn out, either physically or emotionally.
Often our problem is that we mess around when we’re supposed to be working, so we feel guilty when we try to relax. A disciplined Christian will work hard when he works and thankfully take time for rest and recreation when it’s needed. As far as the Lord’s work goes, it helps me to remember that God is the Savior of the world; I’m not. By His grace, I can labor and strive for His purpose, but I can also relax and not worry that somehow His purpose will flounder without me.
(8) Discipline is not being so rigid that you are insensitive to what God is doing. This point also comes from the balance of Scripture, not directly from our text. It’s good to be disciplined for the purpose of godliness, but the flesh can abuse that good goal by becoming so rigid that you miss what God is doing. For example, you’re having your devotional time and your toddler bounds into the room and says, “Daddy, look what I did!” You say, “Go away! Can’t you see that I’m reading the Bible!” You’re not being disciplined; you’re being rigid and insensitive to your child. Jesus always did the Father’s will, but He always had time for people who interrupted Him (Mark 5:21-43).
B. How we implement discipline:
(1) By being constantly nourished in the truths of the faith (1Ti 4:6). The verb is present tense; the meaning is, we must continually feed on God’s Word, or “sound doctrine.” As we saw last week, spiritual warfare involves your mind, and your mind affects your morals. So it’s crucial that you feed your mind on God’s Word through every means—by hearing it preached; by reading, studying, memorizing and meditating on it. God’s Word shows us what God is like and how He wants us to live. There is no such thing as godliness apart from constant nourishment from God’s Word of truth.
If you’re not a reader, learn! God saw fit to record His truth in written form. Almost anyone can learn to read. That may be a necessary step in disciplining yourself for godliness. Meanwhile, get the Bible on tape and listen to it daily. If you don’t have a regular time in the Word, set a realistic goal and stick with it. Start out with 25 minutes a day reading the Bible and 5-10 minutes in prayer. When you’re consistent, you can increase the time. But you need spiritual nourishment from the Word as much as you need to eat. Also, we implement spiritual discipline …
(2) By being obedient to the truths of the faith (1Ti 4:6). “… which you have been following … ” We aren’t supposed to learn God’s Word for the purpose of filling our heads. It is to change our lives. So we always should come to God’s Word with the prayer, “Lord, show me how this applies to me, and enable me to obey it!” It may be a wrong attitude or thought I need to change. Maybe my speech isn’t honoring to God. I may need to change my behavior. The Word often confronts my selfishness. Remember, the goal of the Christian life is not happiness and fulfillment. It is godliness and becoming a good servant of Christ Jesus (1Ti 4:6). But the beautiful irony is that as we pursue that goal, God blesses us with true joy and fulfillment, because godliness holds promise both for the present life and for the life to come (1Ti 4:8).
Marla and I both had an Italian sociology professor in college who used to say, “Class, whenever I feel like exercising, I go and lie down for two hours until the feeling goes away.” A lot of us can identify with that! Exercise is discipline and discipline is hard work, and who likes hard work?
And yet, like it or not, discipline is essential for godliness. And godliness is essential because eternity is certain. There are no shortcuts, no easy, effortless ways to godliness. But if you have fixed your hope on the living God who is the Savior, can you do anything less than discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness?
1. If you knew you had one year to live, how would your life be different? How about one week? Where’s the balance between an eternal perspective and long-range goals?
2. What are some “good” (not sinful) hindrances to discipline you struggle with?
3. How do we find the balance between being disciplined and being driven?
4. Jesus was disciplined, but never seemed to be in a hurry. How can we do likewise in our busy culture? (Copyright 1994, Steven J. Cole, All Rights Reserved)
Amplified: For physical training is of some value (useful for a little), but godliness (spiritual training) is useful and of value in everything and in every way, for it holds promise for the present life and also for the life which is to come. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV: For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
NLT: Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: Bodily fitness has a certain value, but spiritual fitness is essential both for this present life and for the life to come. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: For the aforementioned bodily exercise is of some small profit, but the aforementioned piety toward God is profitable with respect to all things, holding a promise of this present life and of that about to come. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: for the bodily exercise is unto little profit, and the piety is to all things profitable, a promise having of the life that now is, and of that which is coming;
FOR BODILY DISCIPLINE IS ONLY OF LITTLE PROFIT : e gar somatike gumnasia pros oligon estin (3SPAI) ophelimos: (1Samuel 15:22; Psalms 50:7, 8, 9, 10, 11,12, 13, 14, 15; Isaiah 1:11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16; 58:3, 4, 5; Jeremiah 6:20; Amos 5:21, 22, 23, 24; 1Corinthians 8:8; Colossians 2:21, 22, 23; Hebrews 13:9) (Hebrews 9:9,10)
For (1063) (gar) is a conjunction which serves as a marker of cause or reason between events and in this case introduces an explanation for the exhortation "discipline yourself for godliness".
Steven Cole explains that…
Bodily (4984) (somatikos from soma = body) means corporeal as opposed to noncorporeal. It refers to that which pertains to the body and thus to the physical.
Matthew Poole emphasizes that…
Discipline (1129) (gumnasia/gymnasia from gumnazo/gymnazo = exercise) is a noun referring properly to the exercise of the body in the palaestra. In context gumnasia could refer to training such as seen in asceticism. Gumnasia therefore could be interpreted as referring not just to simple physical exercise (one possible interpretation) but to the exercise of conscientiousness relative to the body as is characteristic of ascetics and consists in abstinence from matrimony and certain kinds of food. This latter meaning would certainly be compatible with Paul's description in 1Ti 4:3 of…
Hiebert comments that…
Little (3641) (oligos) means puny in extent, degree, number, duration or value. The Greek phrase pros oligon could be translated "for a little time" or in other words "for this transient life". KJV translates it "profiteth little," which is probably a bit too negative. God has given us our bodies as a stewardship to care for, so some attention to exercise is certainly in order. In light of time and eternity, the believer's proper perspective is that physical exercises are of some value now, but spiritual exercises are far more valuable yielding benefits now and forever.
Paul is exhorting Timothy (and us) to avoid the American obsession with “body-sculpting” in the gymnasium in place of "heart molding" in the arena (agon) of real life. It is much easier to pick up a set of barbells than to lay down one's "rights" in order to follow Christ!
Guzik has some interesting thoughts writing that…
Barth Campbell rightly notes that…
Alva J. McClain adds that…
Profit (5624) (ophelimos [word study] from ophelos = profit in turn from ophello = to heap up, accumulate or benefit) means useful, profitable, helpful, beneficial. It refers to that which yields advantageous returns or results.
Warren Wiersbe gives an important caveat that…
OUR ALLOTTED TIME
Why should we be about the business of disciplining ourselves for godliness? Puritan writer Thomas Watson has this to say in answer…
BUT GODLINESS IS PROFITABLE FOR ALL THINGS: e de eusebeia pros panta ophelimos estin, (3SPAI) : (1Ti 6:6; Job 22:2; Titus 3:8)
An anonymous medieval poet wrote this pithy ditty…
Related Resources on Godliness…
But - Introduces the striking contrast between the value of discipline of our physical bodies and our spiritual lives.
Godliness (2150) (eusebeia [word study] from eu = well + sebomai = reverence. Sebomai is in turn derived from "seb" which refers to sacred awe or reverence exhibited especially in actions) literally means "well worship" and describes awesome respect accorded to God.
Paul warned Timothy that
Any doctrine that does not encourage, promote and in the end result in godly behavior is not based on Scripture. Conversely, a godly life is a good indicator one is being fed healthy, wholesome doctrine. What accelerates and excites the beat of your heart (your "control center") beloved? Is it racing after godliness or worldliness? (see Mt 6:24-note)
In his second epistle to Timothy Paul warns his young disciple of the subtle, seductive danger of fake eusébeia, for certain men (and they are always in our midst) were
Weymouth renders 2Ti 3:5…
Phillips offers this pithy rendering…
These men, like the pious, religious Pharisees, have an external appearance suggesting godliness but lacked the "real thing". They may have made a profession that they believe in Christ, but by their ungodly behavior, they show that they do not possess "the mystery of godliness" and thus are living a lie. They have no holy fruit in their life to testify to the fact that the Holy Spirit (holy begets holy) dwells in their earthly "tabernacles". They may have been reformed, but never regenerated. (cp Jn 3:3, Titus 3:5, 6-note) They may profess but do not possess Christ (cp Titus 1:16-note). They want to be religious and to have their sins at the same time, a dichotomy genuine God glorifying godliness will not allow.
Paul warns Timothy of purveyors of unsound (false) doctrine…
Simply stated these pseudo-saints peddled their phony professions of piety for personal profit. Times haven't changed much have they?
Contentment (841) (autarkeia from autarkes from auto = the same, himself + arkeo = to suffice or be sufficient, to be contented or satisfied) actually means an inner sufficiency that keeps one at peace in spite of outward circumstances. Paul using the related word (autarkes) declared
This inner satisfaction (contentment) is a "fruit" of godliness in the heart, not wealth in the hand. Dependence on material things will never bring genuine inner peace.
As MacDonald says
In Paul's last mention of godliness in first Timothy, he charges his young protégée to
From this verse again (as alluded to earlier) it becomes quite clear that godliness is not achieved automatically but involves fleeing from evil and toward good. Discipline and diligence are to be the man of God's life long twin watchwords if he desires to possess the lofty, long lived prize of godliness.
Lest one overemphasizes the human effort and responsibility called for in the pursuit and growth in godliness, believers must continually be aware that we as mere humans cannot train ourselves to be godly without the teaching and training ministry of the Holy Spirit Who dwells in us. Since the Spirit is holy, He will continually hold us to the highest standard of spiritual excellence as He teaches, rebukes, corrects, and trains us. And since He teaches and trains us through God's word of truth, we must consistently expose ("marinate", saturate) ourselves to the word of God if we are to grow in godliness. In his introduction to Titus, Paul makes this association clear writing that "the knowledge of the truth… leads to a godly life" (Titus 1:1NIV-note) In other words, believers cannot grow in godliness without the knowledge of the truth, truth which is found only in the Bible. And remember that Paul is not referring to just "head" knowledge which puffs up with pride and arrogance (cp 1Co 8:1, Is 5:1, 47:10), but is referring to spiritual knowledge taught by the Holy Spirit (growth "in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" - 2Pe 3:18-note) and obeyed from the heart without hesitation, protestation or excuse, that too even motivated by the Spirit (cp Php 2:13NLT)!
In the last NT mention of godliness in the NT Peter teaches that this attribute is the heart and soul of Christian character writing that
Profitable (5624) (ophelimos [word study] from ophelos = profit in turn from ophello = to heap up, accumulate or benefit) means useful, helpful, beneficial. In most of western society, when we hear the word "profit", we think of a good financial return, as on an investment or a stock, especially an excess of returns over expenditure. As used by Paul the reference the spiritual "return" in excess or our expenditure or cost to discipline ourselves, as directed by the Word and empowered by the Spirit.
All things (3956) (pas) means every without exception, which includes one's entire well-being, physical and spiritual as well as temporal and eternal. This promise (recalling that God stands behind the promise) should serve to motivate us to press on when we don't feel like disciplining ourselves for godliness.
J Vernon McGee notes that…
William MacDonald writes that…
Warren Wiersbe writes that…
SINCE IT HOLDS PROMISE FOR THE PRESENT LIFE AND ALSO FOR THE LIFE TO COME : epaggelian echousa (PAPFSN) zoes tes nun kai tes mellouses. (PAPFSG): (Dt 28:1-14; Job 5:19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26; Psalms 37:3,4,16, 17, 18, 19, 29; Ps 84:11; Ps 91:10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16; Psalms 112:1, 2, 3; Ps 128:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6; Ps 145:19; Pr 3:16, 17, 18; Eccl 8:12; Is 3:10; 32:17,18; Is 33:16; 65:13,14; Mt 5:3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12; 6:33; Mt 19:29; Mk 10:19,20; Lk 12:31; Lk 12:32; Ro 8:28; 1Co 3:22; 2Pe 1:3,4; 1Jn 2:25; Rev 3:12,21)
Holds - Is in the present tense indicating the promise continues to be good, year in and year out.
Promise (1860) (epaggelia from epí = intensifier or meaning upon + aggéllo = tell, declare) is a declaration to do something with the implication of an obligation to carry out what is stated. With the exception of the use in Acts 23:21, the reference is always to God's promises.
Present (3568) (nun) is a temporal marker designating a point of time, not past or future, but right now. Literally it is the "now" life.
Life (2222) (zoe [word study]) describes the state of one who is possessed of vitality or is animate. In the Greek writings of Homer zoe meant ‘living’ referring to ‘substance or property’, without which there would not be life. After Homer it means existence as opposed to death. Note that zoe refers to the higher principle of life in contrast to the Greek word bios which refers to the means of life or to that which sustains and supports life here.
Godliness assures one of real life both here and hereafter.
The supreme advantage of godliness is that it has attached to it the "promise for… life" on this present earthly existence and in our coming eternal existence.
Disciplining oneself for godliness is indeed worthy of all our effort for…
War Cry magazine reminds us of an important principle
The Scriptures are replete with the benefits of godliness…
Hiebert explains the significance of this promise of life noting that…
W E Vine explains that godliness…
To come (3195) (mello) means to take place at a future point of time, or a time yet in the future or yet to come.
Although Paul is clearly contrasting spiritual “exercise” with the bodily exercise, he does not condemn physical exercise but only emphasizes that spiritual discipline pays dividends in this life and in the life to come. In essence Paul was saying something like…
Marvin Reid comments…
Wise Buy - I read with interest the newspaper ad about a thermostat that automatically adjusts the temperature of a house to the appropriate level, day or night. If what the ad claims is true, the thermostat will pay for itself in energy savings within 1 year. When I multiply that savings by the projected life of the unit, it is obviously to my advantage to buy it. Yet interestingly enough, I find that I'm hesitant to spend the money today to purchase the unit. But why, if it is such a value?
What holds me back? Some earthly tie? A thirst for gain?
In Our Daily Walk, F B Meyer writes the following devotional on 1 Timothy 4:7-8 entitled "Spiritual Gymnastics"…
What does it mean to discipline ourselves? How does one do this? Here is an answer from the Biblical Illustrator…
Bishop Stevens writes on "The law of spiritual growth"
Dr. Beattie on The advantages of practical religion:
C H Spurgeon on The profit of godliness in this life: (full sermon Profit of Godliness in this Life)
C H Spurgeon on The profit of godliness in the life to come (Full sermon Profit of Godliness in Life to Come):