Posted By Matthew on June 26, 2014
A little background. This chapter is from a book I wrote some years ago. It was mostly my Thesis from my Freed-Hardeman days. Having a preacher book published is hard work because of the limited audience, but looking after it, it seems to have some good things to say. Here is a chapter from it. Also, there is a reflection section done by my dear friend and mentor Burnice Wesbrooks. He passed away a few years ago. Sorry for the poor Greek change over from the word document to the blog.
Instead of being like the false teachers, who engage in the pursuit of worldly fables, Timothy is to “discipline himself for the purpose of godliness.” Paul introduces an athletic metaphor in verses 7 to 8. Timothy was to train himself in the art of godliness. Paul uses the term “yumnavzein,” which means literally to “exercise naked, train, and can be used of mental and spiritual powers” (Knight 197). This is customary of Paul’s writings. He uses a athletic metaphor in 1 Timothy 6:12, which says, “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” He uses it in 2 Timothy 2:5, “And also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.” And Paul again applies the athletic metaphor in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.
The athletic imagery would have been familiar to Paul’s audience. He alludes to the sort of training that was undertaken by Greeks who were participating in the games at the gymnasium, which was the center of civic life in Hellenized towns. The athletic image was typically used by Greco-Roman moralists and philosophers in their instruction (Keener 614). Everyone would have been cognitive of Paul’s illustrative metaphor of athletes training. There was no institution more characteristic of Hellenic culture than the gymnasium, which is derived from the Greek word for “physical training.” All the young people in the schools were subjected to a rigorous course of athletics. Also the gymnasium was essential for military training. By the New Testament times, a few noble Greeks would enter the Roman army, but most would simply practice the physical arts at home in the city-state. The physical discipline in New Testament times had degenerated into the practice of “body sculpting” (Baugh 465). Most of the young Greek men were constantly training for the perfect body. This training was difficult, hard, and time consuming. The Greeks trained for the perfection of the body, but Timothy was to train himself for the perfection of the character. As the physical training was intensive, so must be the spiritual training. It would require a daily habit of exercising his spiritual senses. The body was not perfected in haphazard training, and neither would spiritual development be completed by a lackadaisical program. By comparing the process of growing in godliness to the process of athletic development, Paul is informing Timothy of the difficult and strenuous process that will be required for spiritual transformation. Godliness is a journey of discipline.
But instead of disciplining oneself for bodily development, Timothy is to exercise to gain godliness. Paul uses “ga;r” in verse 8 as continuative, not enthymematic, as in the sense of extending the comparison of a good Christian servant’s conduct with an athlete’s habits (Campbell198). Paul says in verse 8 “for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things.” This section of the verse is parallel. There is the contrast between bodily discipline and godly discipline (Mounce 252). But what does Paul mean by bodily discipline? He uses the phrase “swmatikh; gumnasiva,” which has typically been interpreted in three ways. First of all, it has been argued that Paul means that this physical exercise is referring to the asceticism of the false teachers. In this interpretation Paul is not casting off completely ascetic practices, but states that these actions only profit a little (Spain77-78).
There seem to be problems with this view because previously Paul denounced the ascetic practices of the false teachers in verses 3-5, so it seems odd that Paul would even condone any form of denial that the false teachers were advocating. Another view is that “bodily exercise” is a call for some physical exercise. This command to Timothy could be seen in the same light as 1 Timothy 5:23 which says, “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” Maybe this is some instruction to help Timothy’s health. But this view appears to ignore the context. Nowhere in this section of text does Paul seem concerned with Timothy’s health. In reality, Paul is reacting to the practices of the false teachers, not wanting Timothy to be physically healthy. The third view of this phrase states that this is a mere literary foil against which Paul wants to say that godliness is of value for all things. It is seen as simply a creation for poetic wording. It is not even meant to encourage any type of physical activity, but to strengthen the impact of the command to develop godliness (Mounce 252-53).
Probably this view is correct because it respects the context and follows Paul’s thought. Paul is helping Timothy to see that while an athlete will accomplish a great deal through training his body, which will be beneficial for his present life, on the other hand, discipline for godliness has value for all things. Where bodily discipline helps in some ways, godliness discipline helps in every way (Moss 90). This is why Paul mentions that godly exercise helps “since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
Creating a Healthy Life for a Healthy Ministry
In verse 8, there have been misguided interpretations of this verse. The verse has been interpreted as Paul’s rejecting physical discipline when spiritual discipline could be practiced. This creates a false dichotomy. Instead of viewing the verse as an either/or situation, as previously noted, it is using the physical discipline phrase to emphasize the need for spiritual development. The Bible teaches more of a holistic approach to mankind. Paul will argue against sexual morality because of the defilement to the body, which is the casing for the Holy Spirit.
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a harlot is one body with her? For He says, “THE TWO WILL BECOMEONEFLESH.” But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians6:15-20).
In no way was Paul teaching that the care for the body was not important. The physical self and the spiritual self work in conjunction with, not separate and apart from, one another. The better one cares for his or her body, the more effective that person can be for the Lord. If the body is ill, weak, or unhealthy, this will seriously limit the amount of labor a Christian can perform for the Lord. A minister being physically unhealthy will slow the progress of the work of the Lord. One can see the misinterpretation by some ministers of verse 8.
Too often the preacher is so involved in the Lord’s work and the myriad of activities at the church that he does not take adequate time to tend to the needs of his own body. Unfortunately, the message loses credibility because of the poor health of the messenger. Some ministers feel spiritually superior in minimizing physical fitness because of the excuse of being too busy serving the congregation. The body is the vehicle God uses to communicate His word to men. It is difficult to preach the message of God when the physical body has little strength or energy to deliver an enthusiastic lesson to a congregation.
Taking Care of the Body
The minister must spend numerous hours each day devoted to study for sermon preparation. These hours are mentally intensive but physically limiting. The minister’s study time is sedentary work, so that the minister needs a regular routine of exercise. This exercise should be thirty minutes per day for at least three days a week. Whatever this exercise routine is, it should focus on maintaining a healthy body and heart. In a section concerning time management of a minister, Sisk emphasizes the need to discipline oneself in a regular exercise routine. He says that “the most serious challenge is adhering to the schedule we say we have” (71). Sisk also notes that if we need not have proper rest and exercise “we will damage our effectiveness in virtually every area of our lives” (71). As well as exercising regularly, the minister must eat correctly. A minister with numerous eating appointments each week can be at risk of being overweight. The minister must focus on practicing a balanced diet and proper eating (Vines and Shaddix 78-80). The comparison of the body to thetempleofGodis just as valid in eating right as in avoiding drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol. Taking in unhealthy foods can be as destructive as taking in the typically banned substances that many Christians consider off limits. The proper care for the body is not an option for a godly minister. Providing for the body is part of the spiritual discipline of the minister. A godly minister cannot reflect the light of Christ when he is confined to his bed because of excessive sickness. For the godly minister to be busy modeling faith to his hearers, he needs to have an active mindset in caring for his body. Paul does not want the minister to neglect his temple. Paul makes himself clear that he is not talking about neglecting the body in order to feed the soul because in 1 Timothy 4:10 Paul uses the terms “labor” and “strive.” It is incredibly difficult to labor in thekingdomofGodwhen the body is weak. Paul says, “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.” Instead of looking at each individual situation in ministry as to whether the minister should work out physically or practice a spiritual ministry, the minister should see these two aspects as working jointly to accomplish the work of the ministry. If the minister does not do this, he will constantly choose the spiritual work over the physical work to the neglect of his body.
The phrase “promise for present life” is a causal clause. It boasts the significance of godliness over bodily discipline. If one develops godliness, he or she will be blessed in the present life as well as the life to come (Knight 201). This is reminiscent of John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.” Elsewhere in the inspired text there is this association between godliness and the quality of the present life. In Ephesians 6:1-3 there is a correlation between honoring parents and longevity. In this verse Paul highlights the need to obey one’s parents because this is a commandment from God. But with the commandment, there is a promise. The promise is that a person will live long on the earth.
Ultimately this life that is given to Christians is rooted in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 1:1 says, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus.” And 2 Timothy1:10states, “but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Jesus could have been the originator of this idea of present-future reward because in Luke 18:29-30 he says, “And He said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.’” In Christ one learns to live life to the fullness of existence which will also transcend earth and time through eternal life. Christians are already participating in eternal life on earth while they are waiting for the fullness of eternal life in the future (Knight 200).
A Trustworthy Statement
In verse 9, Paul indicates that verse 8 is an accepted saying in the community. Paul mentions that “for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance.” Of course there is some controversy concerning if verse 8 or verse 10 is the trustworthy statement. Knight, based on the punctuation of the text, indicates that he believes verse 8 is the trustworthy statement in view (201-202). Moss provides four alternatives for the trustworthy state. He mentions that Paul may be referring back to all of verse 8, or Paul could have just the last part of verse 8 in mind. He also suggests that Paul is considering all of verse 10, or Paul is just thinking about the end of verse 10, which would mean that he is referring to “because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men.” Moss believes according to the language and syntax that all or part of verse 8 is the trustworthy statement (90-91). Moreover, this is not the first occurrence of this phrase “trustworthy statement” in the Pastoral Epistles. It occurs four other times: in 1 Timothy 1:15, “is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” 1 Timothy 3:1, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.” 2 Timothy 2:11-13:
It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him; If we endure, we shall also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.
He also has another trustworthy statement in Titus 3:4-8.
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy statement….
The use of the phrase “trustworthy statement” seems to be a marker for Timothy to take note of some of the classic expressions of the faith. These “trustworthy statements” must have been well known throughout the faith community.
The Hard Work of Godliness
In verse 10 Paul continues with the athletic metaphor in using the terms “labor and strive.” The New American Standard Version translates the beginning of the verse as “For it is for this.” This is the “eivV tou:to ga;r” construction. The phrase “for” is looking back to the faithful saying and the “for this” is indicating the reason for the labor and striving, which is “because we have fixed our hope on the living God.” Paul shows that in this phrase he is looking both forward and backward in the verse (Liefeld 159). This work of gaining godliness has not been easy for Paul. The term “kopiw:men” means “we toil.” It is used as an athletic metaphor, which continues the same imagery from the previous verses in the section. In the next term “strive,” Paul means “we are struggling.” This phraseology is also used in Colossians 1:29: “And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.” It also contains athletic overtones. In fact, it refers to the struggle of an athletic contest (Mounce 255). Christians continue to strive for the faith because of hope.
Paul states in verse 10, “because we have fixed our hope on the living God.” The idea of hope in the Bible does not refer to a future possibility that may or may not come to fruition. The idea of hope is one of confident expectation. Paul uses the “perfect tense here to describe a past action with a continuing significance” (Knight 202). But Paul’s hope is not on himself but on God. He uses the “evpiv” to indicate that his faith is “on” God. He trusts the living God to fulfill his promise to Paul. The use of the “living God” is also found in 1 Timothy 3:15, which says, “but in case I am delayed, I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” The idea of the “living God” anchors Paul’s hope in the Lord. Goodwin indicates that this phrase has been interpreted in the past as referring to verse 8. The phrase “living God” is seen in a causative way, in which the living God makes the promise of present life and eternal life to the Christian. This fulfilled living is realized because Christians serve a living God (65-66). But Goodwin does not see this as the correct interpretation of the verse. He attaches the meaning to Colossians 1:29 in which Paul is discussing his mission work (71). He perceives Paul’s use of “living God” as a theme of missionary significance. The author states, “the important point is that the Savior-title in 1 Timothy4:10implies the missionary role of Paul” (74). Goodwin seems to be bringing the Colossians 1:29 verse to the forefront over the original context. For someone who believes the Pastoral Epistles are post-Pauline (67), it would seem inconsistent to interpret verse 10 in light of Colossians 1:29. More than likely, Paul is placing his hope in the living God who promises life in the present and in the ages to come. Since God is living, He will certainly bring to pass all that He promised to the saved.
GODLY DISCIPLINE AS THE FOCUS IN MINISTRY
Reflections and Applications
A preacher who was weak in godliness invited an elderly man to come and hear him preach. The man accepted his invitation and was in the assembly the next Sunday. At the conclusion of the service, the minister shook the visitor’s hand and asked, “What did you think of my sermon?”
The man replied, “It was difficult for me to hear what you were saying because who you are kept thundering so loudly in my ears.”
The Bible teaches a holistic approach to life. True godliness and the disciplines necessary to obtain and maintain it must be present in all areas of a minister’s life. It is essential that a minister be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. That will not be possible if the preacher’s sermons and his daily life are not harmonious with one another.
An effective minister must be like Jesus. He “…increased in wisdom, stature and in favor with God and men” (Luke2:52). This intellectual, physical, spiritual and social health will require godly discipline as a major focus in ministry.
At first a minister may consider some godly disciplines as duties rather than desires. The challenge is to convert those duties that God requires into our desires. How can this happen? Here are some suggestions:
- Just do them until they become a normal and cherished lifestyle for you.
- Pray daily about them.
- Consider how these disciplines are blessings to your life.
- Look for ways that these disciplines are helping you to bless the lives of others.
Eventually, you will be able to say as a wise philosopher said in his later years, “I can do everything I want to do.” To so tune our wills that eventually everything we desire is what God desires is a worthy Christian goal. Daily practice these four steps and your ministry will be enriched.
There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart. Focus on and pursue those that catch your heart.
Backsliding begins when knee-bending stops.