1 Timothy 4:7-8 Train yourself for godliness

Greek culture in ancient times put great emphasis on physical perfection, an outlook reflected in Greek art with its representations of human figures that would never be encountered in the real world.  Curiously this sat alongside a view that the material world was of no value compared to the spiritual.  Even in our culture great stress can be put on certain standards of physical perfection.  Writing to young Timothy, Paul sets out the true priorities for God’s servants.  Consider 1 Timothy 4:7-8 Train yourself for godliness.

  1. The foolishness to avoid

Paul’s concern for Timothy is that he becomes ‘a good minister of Christ Jesus’ (v6).  One element in that project is that he avoid certain things: ‘Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales’ (v7).  Probably Paul does not have the false teaching of v1-5 in mind, but rather the ‘false doctrines’ mentioned in 1:3 – ‘myths and endless genealogies’.  Paul exhorts Timothy to avoid all forms of false teaching, described as ‘godless’.  The warning of v7 is strong – ‘have nothing to do with’.  The path to spiritual health and fruitful service for all studiously avoids all false teaching and seeks ‘truths of the faith…good teaching’ (v6).

2. The training to pursue

Paul’s call to ‘train yourself for godliness (ESV) sets out a contrast:

(i).  Physical training.  It is of ‘some value’ (v8) – the Bible does not despise the body, since it is God’s good creation and is included in salvation.  The body should be cared for, but not idolised.  This verse provides God-honouring priorities.

 (ii). Godliness.  Paul says ‘godliness has value for all things’ -all of life is included.  It is the core of what a Christian is and how he lives.  Godliness is built on a saving relationship with Christ, who is ‘the mystery of godliness’ (3:16).  Godliness is possible only because we are united to Christ and are being transformed into his likeness.  It is necessary to ‘train yourself for godliness’ – there is a process of growth.  Godliness is the spiritual environment in which Christians thrive.  This requires action on our part, using the means of grace God provides (2 Peter 1:3).  God’s provision fills us with hope.

3. The life to enjoy

Paul offers great encouragement as we walk the path of godliness – ‘holding promise’ – the promise of God to his faithful people.  He promises ‘life’ (2 Timothy 1:1) – Christ brings life in its fulness (John 10:10).  This is the life we were created for:

            (i).  The present life.  The fellowship with God lost in the fall is being restored in Christ – the life that alone brings joy, satisfaction and blessing.

            (ii).  The life to come.  For believers the best is still to come, when we are ‘at home with the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 5:8), with perfection at the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:52).

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