“But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and 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. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance.”
1 Timothy 4:7-9
Five times the apostle Paul calls something a “faithful” or “worthy” saying. It’s a way of highlighting something that is generally important that might be minimalized or even forgotten. We’ve look at these two:
“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Ti 1:12).
“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work” (1 Ti 3:1)
Today we’ll look at the third faithful saying which Paul says is “worthy of full acceptance” (NIV, ESV, NASB).
A new section of the letter begins in 1 Timothy 4:1 with a warning that the Spirit clearly warns that in the latter times some “will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons”. He warns of their lies, hypocrisy, seared consciences, and coming up with their own commandments to abstain from things like marriage and certain foods.
The way to fight these false influences is to “instruct the brethren in these things” (1 Ti 4:6). The best defense is a good offense – if we know the truth we will be able to recognize, reject, and fight against what is false! Those who teach are good ministers of Jesus Christ if they are “nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine” and carefully follow it themselves (1 Ti 4:6).
Accepting the truth also involves rejecting what is false: “But reject profane and old wives’ fables” (1 Ti 4:7). This won’t be popular because these things will be long and widely held beliefs. But they aren’t truth, so you reject them and instead, “exercise yourself toward godliness” (1 Ti 4:7).
Most newer translations say, “train yourself for godliness” (ESV), “train yourself to be godly” (NIV), or “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (NASB). We understand that exercise requires training and discipline. We need to apply training and discipline to being godly – study, prayer, worship, obedience, serving, etc. That means it won’t always be easy. That means sometimes it will require painful sacrifice. That means godliness is an ongoing process of spiritual strengthening.
When we hear the word “exercise” our minds naturally go to physical exercise. That can be helpful when we apply physical principles of discipline and training to spiritual things, but it can also be a distraction. Sometimes we are caught up in the benefits of physical improvement to the point that we lose sight of the value of spiritual exercise and growth. So, the Spirit inserts here, “…bodily exercise profits a little…” (1 Ti 4:8). We need to be reminded of that frequently! Many physical things can have some profit, but in comparison to the benefits of godliness, the benefits of physical things are “little.” We need to keep that perspective in order to value spiritual things as we should.
The Third Faithful Saying…
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. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance.”
1 Timothy 4:8-9
Physical exercise profits a little, but now look at godliness – it “is profitable for all things”! We often don’t look at godliness this way. Godliness is reverence for God and His things. It is considering what is pleasing to God when we choose, decide, and act. So, in other words, how much do we value choices and actions that are according to the will of God? How valuable is obedience?
It's interesting to contrast our physical choices and actions with our spiritual choices and actions. The physical can seem and feel more real, more urgent, more necessary. That makes them seem very important, even more important than everything else. Spiritual things can feel important, but less tangible, less urgent, more about the future or eternity. This is why this is underscored as a “faithful saying worthy of all acceptance”: “but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” – godliness gives us the best life now and in eternity!
How This is True…
It’s pretty easy to see why godliness is profitable for the life “which is to come”. Eternity in God’s presence is what makes godliness ultimately worthwhile no matter what sacrifices must be made in this life. But how is godliness profitable in this life?
Serving God does sometimes get us in trouble in this life. Sometimes we can lose jobs, possessions, friends, family, spouses, and even our lives because we are godly and refuse to compromise. When we see the purpose of physical life as glorifying God, then even faithfulness in persecution is “having promise of the life that now is.” But there’s a lot more in the promise! Godly people avoid a lot of problems and guilt that accompany sin. A lot of fear, anxiety, pain, and punishment can be avoided by doing the will of God. But there’s even more! There are many things and relationships that are so much better when we do them in keeping with our Creator’s design and purpose. Godliness is the best way for this life and eternity!