1 Timothy 4: The Value Of Godliness
1 Timothy 4:1-16 (ESV)
What's gone before...
Paul described our faith in Christ as a mystery, urging the church in Ephesus to make Christ the foundation of their godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world and taken up in glory.
"Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
"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 Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
"Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers."
1 Timothy 4:1-16 (ESV)
Departing from the faith
Paul described faith in Christ as a solid foundation upon which a person may safely stand. To depart from faith in Christ is to step off the firm foundation of God's design.
Departing from faith in Christ makes a person vulnerable to the influence of deceitful spirits and demons.
Why would God allow people to depart from faith? Why would God not immediately punish or destroy rebels? Why allow rebels to be born in the first place?
God tests our hearts
Paul connected faith and conscience with testing in the previous chapter:
1 Timothy 3:9-10 (ESV) "They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless."
God examines our thoughts, desires, motives and beliefs:
Proverbs 17:3 (ESV) "The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts."
Jeremiah 17:10 (ESV) "I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds."
A faithful heart welcomes God's testing:
Psalm 139:23-24 (ESV) "Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!"
Why would David, the writer of this psalm, desire to be tested? Is there any evidence that David believed that he was sinless and therefore would pass God's tests easily?
The story of David's life shows clearly that he would have been the last person to claim righteousness of his own. David welcomed God's testing because he depended upon God's mercy and grace, and he did not want his grievous ways to come between him and his God.
God reveals His power, wisdom and goodness, yet does not force us to worship Him. He tests us, allowing us to remain on the foundation of faith in Him or to step off in devotion to lesser gods: deceitful spirits and demons.
Faith untested has no value.
Hebrews 11:1 (ESV) "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
The testing is not for His benefit...the results of the test do not add to His knowledge. The Creator of time and space already knows our hearts and actions. The testing is for us, to confirm to us that we are living by faith. Faith untested is only a pretty picture on the wall...it has slight connection to reality and it can easily be removed or exchanged. Faith is confidence in God's promise, regardless of our present, temporary situation. When we can look past our present condition and look confidently towards future fulfillment of God's promise, we will experience the blessing of a tested faith.
Hebrews 10:32-38 (ESV) "But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him."
Job 23:10 (ESV) "But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold."
Devoted to deceit
Paul described the consequence of departing from Christ: devotion to deceitful spirits and demons.
Devotion is good, as long as the object to which a person is devoted is good. Christ is the Son of God, Creator of the universe, and Savior of sinful people. Devotion to this truth is good.
It is possible, however, for people to reject that truth and devote one's self other people and other faiths.
The Greek word for deceiver is planos, from which we derive our English word, "planet". At first glance a planet in the night sky appears the same as a star. But stars follow a set path in the sky, remaining fixed in recognizable patterns and constellation. Early star gazers realized that some "stars" appeared to wander out of the path, roving about in seemingly random directions. To be a "planet" meant to be a person who wanders from the path directed by the Creator.
To be devoted to deceit means to pay close attention to something that wanders without an ultimate purpose or goal. A tramp or hobo is not necessarily an impostor, but their carefree wandering is related to the deceitful plans of an impostor. An impostor hopes to entice others to follow him away from truth. Those who are attracted to an impostor will gradually forget or confuse what once was true, substituting truth for a false sense of satisfaction and security.
To depart from faith in Christ is to leave the solid security of truth and seek guidance and support from misleading, deceitful, roving spirits and demons.
Ironically, Jesus Himself was accused of being a deceitful, roving impostor:
Matthew 27:62-64 (ESV) "The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, After three days I will rise. Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, He has risen from the dead, and the last fraud will be worse than the first."
Years later the apostles of Christ were also called deceitful, roving impostors:
2 Corinthians 6:3-4,8-9 (ESV) "We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way...through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known..."
Jesus and the early Christians were scorned and attacked because their preaching was a departure from the traditional doctrine of the Jewish priests.
Now Paul is warning the church at Ephesus to beware of impostors in their midst who were urging others to depart from from the doctrine established by Jesus Christ.
Consequences of departing from faith in Christ
People influenced or controlled by deceitful spirits and demons can become insincere liars with seared consciences. One specific consequence observed by Paul was a radical departure from God's created design for marriage. Rigid rules of celibacy extended even to control of people's diet. Paul reminded the church in Ephesus of the truth: Everything created by God is good, meant to be received with thanksgiving.
A person's "conscience" refers to their self-awareness, their knowledge of the moral rightness of their intentions and actions.
Paul is vividly describing the loss of self-awareness and perception of rightness that results from devotion to deceitful spirits and demons. Insincere liars perverted two of the most basic truths established by God from the beginning of creation: marriage and food.
Genesis 2:21-24 (ESV) "So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."
Genesis 1:29-30 (ESV) "And God said, Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food. And it was so."
Genesis 9:3 (ESV) "Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything."
Irreverent, silly myths
"Crone-like" means to appear as an old, thin, ugly woman. The word "crone" comes from an Old Northern French word, caroigne, meaning carrion, the decaying flesh of dead animals.
Paul expanded upon the issue of being influenced by deceitful spirits and demons, describing some people's faith in "irreverent, silly myths". His description pictures an old, thin, ugly woman, as ugly as death, who lives by the dictates of ficticious tales, such as stepping on a crack in the sidewalk, crossing paths with a black cat, consulting psychics and horoscopes, and fearing shamans.
Godliness: the opposite of "irreverent, silly myths"
1 Timothy 4:6 (ESV) "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."
Faithful, good doctrine results in emotions, thoughts and behavior which reflect godliness:
1 Timothy 4:7-12 (ESV) "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 Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity."
A person's sincere reverence or adoration for God produces piety. "Piety" means the quality of being religious or reverent, as in acts of piety and charity. Godliness, or piety, refers to the outward, observable behavior that results from an inward desire or belief.
"Godliness" is behavior that gives evidence of sincere faith.
Godliness is the result of faith, but it's not an automatic, or easy, result:
1 Timothy 4:10 (ESV) "For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe."
Our English word, "cope" comes directly from this Greek word. Christians must "cope" with fatigue, hard work and even pain, as they work out their faith here on earth. Godliness can be fatiguing, difficult and even painful.
Compounding the problem of pain of living a godly life, Christians may experience rejection and scorn from other people. Why should Christians "toil and strive" for godliness, seeing that it most likely will involve fatigue, hard work, pain and scorn?
1 Timothy 4:8 (ESV) "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."
Paul assures us that godliness is worth the pain. Godliness is of value, in every way. Godliness has value for us here on earth, as well as for our resurrected life in heaven in the presence of God.
The value and promise of godliness
The good news about Jesus Christ, the gospel, is a promise from God concerning Himself: God pledges something good for those who rely upon Jesus for their salvation and sanctity. The good that God promises is for our life here on earth right now, and it's good for our future life in heaven.
The "living God" is the "Savior of all people": Jesus Christ. Genuine faith in Christ is essential for Christians, and it produces a desire, and the power, to live in a way that reflects what we believe about God and His design for our lives. Our speech, our conduct, our demonstrations of love, our expressions of faith and our habits of purity are all to be an example of the truth revealed to us about God and ourselves. Every example of godliness is intended by God to be of value: helpful or serviceable, both now and in heaven in His presence.
Paul urged Timothy to work at godliness:
1 Timothy 4:13-16 (ESV) "Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers."
"Devote" in this reference is the same as used in verse one of this chapter. The opposite of devoting one's self to the influence and teaching of deceitful spirits and demons is to devote one's self to God's word. Paul's exhortation was to Timothy, as the pastor of the church of Ephesus. However, Timothy's life was to serve as an example to all the Christians. Every believer in the church was to follow Timothy's example and devote themselves to God's word. They were to read Scripture, exhort and teach others. All of the believers were to practice reading, exhorting and teaching, immersing themselves in acts of godliness.
Where is the pay-off? What will a sincere believer who practices godliness get in return for the fatigue, hard work, pain and scorn they may experience?
1 Timothy 4:16 (ESV) "Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers."
Godliness, although at times difficult, even painful, will protect a person from loss and injury that is even more destructive. Here on earth there exists the potential for tremendous loss and injury for those who recklessly abandon godliness: drug addiction, prison, fights, poverty, disease, depression and insanity.
There are, of course, "acts of God" which bring tragedy upon all people, godly and ungodly. There are accidents, injuries, disease and violent assaults which God allows even upon people of sincere faith in Christ. Yet, everything which befalls a sincere believer must first be filtered through the hands of our completely powerful, utterly good, everlastingly loving God and Father in heaven.
The foundation of safety in this world is sincere faith in Christ and godly behavior. When God in His wisdom determines that godly people must suffer loss or injury, they must retreat to the pillar and support of their faith: Jesus has purchased for us a home in heaven, with safety assured for eternity, with glory and joy that will go beyond our time of trouble here on earth.
Godliness provides good things and a safe life here on earth, to a limited degree. When good things fail and life becomes painful and dangerous, we can retreat to our hope of eternal joy and safety in heaven in the presence of God, thanks to the good news of Jesus Christ.
What truths about God, or ourselves, does this passage reveal?
- God allows people to depart from the faith, devoting themselves to spirits and demons.
- Devotion to deceitful spirits and demons damages and perverts our conscience.
- A perverted conscience allows our intentions and actions to radically contradict God's design.
- Genuine, faithful hope in God brings the desire and ability to strive for godliness.
- Salvation follows persistence in godliness.
- Godliness brings valuable, yet limited protection for us now on earth.
- Godliness brings valuable, unlimited protection for us in heaven.
What must we do to obey the truth revealed in this passage?
- I will accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior.
- I will trust God for blessings and safety here on earth.
- I will trust God, even in times of loss, pain and sadness, for blessings and safety in His presence in heaven.