1 Timothy 4:6-10 – Words of wisdom and encouragement

If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, especially of those who believe.
– 1 Timothy 4:6-10 ESV

I love this passage because it shows us Paul the man and Paul the mentor. The apostle Paul doesn’t only diagnose the heresy within the Ephesian Church and instruct Timothy to oppose it. He offers Timothy words of personal encouragement and support. I need to read this over and over again because it reminds me of my responsibility within the church: To set words of faith and good doctrine before the brethren as a servant of Jesus Christ. For those who oppose the teaching of Scripture are not fighting against me or rejecting my words, but they are fighting against and rejecting Jesus Christ.

In telling Timothy to ‘have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths’, Paul gives us a useful strategy for addressing false teaching: reject it! This might seem obvious to some, but so often we miss this. Not wanting to appear intolerant we enter into polite discussion and so allow those who are propagating false teaching to set the agenda. It seems that Paul is clear that our response to heresy is not to enter into ‘constructive’ dialogue but to reject it and continue to set before the brethren words of faith and good doctrine.

It is also important that we, as Christian leaders, guard our own hearts and train ourselves for godliness. There is a danger that we can get so caught up in responding to our critics prattle that we neglect our own rigorous pursuit of godliness. Comparing the pursuit of the holy to bodily exercise, Paul encourages Timothy to continue his spiritual exercises. Victor Pfitzner notes that this concept of spiritual exercise ‘is not restricted to a negative physical asceticism… but rather implies a positive developing of his strength nourished above all “by the words of faith”‘.

This analogy is really helpful to remember because we tend to expect our spiritual exercise to be of immediate benefit to us and then we are disappointed (or even give up) when it doesn’t result in an instant transformation of our lives and circumstances. This is like beginning a diet or setting up a daily exercise regime and giving up the next day because it hasn’t made a difference! Paul urges us, even as he urges Timothy, to commit ourselves to regular training in godliness that leads to growth in our faith and knowledge of God. For this training holds promise not only for the present life but also for the life to come.

To encourage this pursuit of godliness Paul shares with Timothy a third of three trustworthy sayings in the 1 Timothy (the first being 1 Tim. 1:15 and the second being 1 Tim. 3:1 ). This third saying (1 Tim. 3:10) urges Timothy to keep pursuing godliness,  ‘For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, especially of those who believe.’ It should remind us that the godliness we pursue is not a self-centred ascetic struggle for moral and religious perfection but a pursuit of God’s stated desire that ‘all people be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth’ (1 Tim. 2:4).

God is the only living God. He is the only Saviour of all people (that is people from every tribe and tongue). He is the Saviour of those who believe. In the context of Ephesus many ancient inscriptions have been found honouring dead men as gods and saviours. Paul’s trustworthy saying reminds us that God is the only Saviour and that whilst in His common grace He saves all people from the worst excesses of depravity. He is the special Saviour of all who believe in Him for eternal life. For this reason we are to pursue godliness and keep setting before people the words of faith and good doctrine. I pray that God would give grace to us all in this pursuit.

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About James Church

I'm a Minister of the Gospel serving Radford Road Church and Lillington Free Church in Royal Leamington Spa. I grew up as a son of the manse, but I came to personal faith in my early teens. I am committed to the authority of Scripture and the truths found there that by grace through faith in Christ we are reconciled to God to His praise and glory.

Posted on October 16, 2012, in Monday Exposition and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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