The Expository Files

 

Godliness

1 Timothy 4:7,8

 

Godliness is a beautiful trait that must be added to our lives (2 Pet. 1:6). Paul wrote to Timothy: "But have nothing to do with worldly fables only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; 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" (1 Tim. 4:7-8). In order for godliness to have a fertile field in which to develop, it is necessary that we keep such things as would corrupt and uproot the growth of the pure fruit. Thus, Paul tells Timothy to avoid "worldly fables fit only for old women." Fables, myths, or tales that are "profane" or "worldly" must be avoided since they are side-issues and have nothing to do with sound doctrine. Rather, they detract from the faith.

On the other hand, we must "discipline" ourselves for the purpose of godliness. The word discipline (gumnazo) is defined "to exercise vigorously, in any way, either the body or the mind . . . of one who strives earnestly to become godly, 1 Tim. 4:7" (Thayer, p. 122). We do not have time for fables; our time is to be consumed in the exercise of self for godliness. The ardent, strenuous efforts are to be put forth with respect to godly living. The reason stated is "for bodily discipline is only of little profit." This passage is usually applied to the taking of physical exercise such as calisthenics, etc. It is emphasized that there is some profit in physical exercise. It is sad, though, that it is limited in that it develops only part of a person - the outer man which, regardless of how much we care for it, will pass away. However, the context would indicate that the exercise or discipline to which Paul here referred would be in the realm of following rigid rules regarding the body that were advocated by the Jewish ascetics. Such things as abstaining from certain foods and any extreme form of bodily discipline has little profit, indeed. In Colossians 2:20-23 as Paul discussed some of the Gnostic's rules about the body, he said that such rules "are of no value against fleshly indulgence." The point is that there is no particular godliness involved in following such rules. Godliness does demand that we discipline our bodies to refrain from that which is sinful (Rom. 8:13,19). The reason is that we might be servants of righteousness.

But the main point that we want to talk about is the statement in v. 8: "but godliness is profitable for all things." So we must ask, "What is godliness?" It is from the word eusebia of which Thayer says, "in the Bible everywhere piety towards God, godliness" (Thayer, p. 262). This form of the word is found 15 times in the NT and, in the KJV, is translated "godliness" 14 times and "holiness" once (Acts 3:12). "Eusebia is the right attitude of God and to things divine, the attitude which does not eliminate God altogether, and which gives God the place he ought to occupy in the life and in thought and in devotion . . . eusebia gives God the right place, and worships God in the right way" (Barclay, New Testament Words, p. 107). Thus, godliness involves the right attitude of mind toward God and right kind of action toward God and divine things. It involves believing God (taking him at his word) that leads to full obedience to him in whatever he requires. This is what Paul says is profitable! Let us look to see in what ways godliness is profitable for us today.

I. Godliness Is Profitable For All

1. Godliness is profitable for all races. The gospel is designed to save both Jews and Greeks (Rom. 1:16). Among the Gentiles it is for the "Greeks and barbarians, the wise and the foolish" (v. 14). The reason is that "there is no partiality with God" (2:11). Thus, "God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right, is welcome to him" (Acts 10:34-35). Thus, when one is baptized into Christ, he becomes a child of God and the spiritual descendant of Abraham and "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:26-29). God is totally color blind as he looks upon his creatures. (We, too, must have this characteristic of godliness.) The gospel is for all, and godliness is profitable for people of all nations, races, and colors. In our striving to be like God, we must seek to carry the Word to peoples of all nations everywhere.

2. Godliness is profitable for all ages. There is no one too young to begin to learn about God, and there is none too old to be saved.

a. The young need the profit that comes from godliness. "Remember also your creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, 'I have no delight in them... (Eccl. 12: 1). Jesus said, "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matt. 19:14). Thus, there is some pointed teaching in God's word concerning the conduct of the young. "Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart" (2 Tim. 2:22). The application is to all, but those who are young are especially indicated in this passage. The young person must "flee youthful lusts" - those desires that are common to the young person. But it is not all negative; the young person must avidly pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace from a pure heart. Let us instruct the young in such areas as this from the time that they can know what we are talking about.

The great value for godliness in the lives of the young is seen in Ephesians 6:1-3 where Paul pointed out that obedience to parents has a promise attached to it. That promise is "that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth" (v. 3). This is quoted from the Lord's requirement of Deuteronomy 5:16. The wise man indicated the profit of godliness by saying, "The fear of the Lord prolongs life. But the years of the wicked will be shortened" (Prov. 10:27). He further said, "The fear of the Lord leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil" (Prov. 19:23). The young person who is godly is promised a longer life. He is going to profit in every way by his godliness. Later in our study we shall observe how we profit by the living of a godly life. Brethren, let us look to the very fertile fields of young people as those who will profit by godliness. I feel that so often we overlook the great work that can be done here. I have found in my work that the most receptive age group to the gospel is those of college age. We have had more baptisms from that group than from any other. Our "Crossroads" brethren have seen the tremendous opportunity among young people and have concentrated their work in college areas. All of us should learn the value of the young person to the cause of Christ. What a great and rewarding work this can be!

b. Godliness is profitable for manhood and womanhood. Godliness brings real strength to men and women in the promise of life as they face the problems of work, family, and community relationships. Godliness will make one a better husband and father (Eph. 5:25 ff.; 6:4). It will make one a better wife and mother (Eph. 5:21-24; Tit. 2:4-5). It is by godliness that a man and woman form the closest of all earthly ties - the marriage bond. It is only by godliness that this bond can be properly maintained. It is by godliness that we deal properly with others at work and with our neighbors. Truly, godliness is profitable for men and women in the very throes of life.

c. Godliness is profitable for the elderly. As the years pass and the sight grows dimmer and the body more frail, it is truly comforting to know that our God is with us and will sustain us and carry us through to victory. The wise man says that "the gray head is a crown of glory if it is found in the way of righteousness" (Prov. 16:31). The key to it all is "if it is found in the way of righteousness." By our godliness we have a deep fellowship with the Father and his son (John 14:23). Nothing can be more rewarding to an older person than knowing "him and the power of his resurrection" (Phil. 3: 10). The psalmist prayed, "And even when I am old and gray, 0 God, do not forsake me" (Psa. 71:18). God promises, "Even to your old age, I shall be the same, and even to your graying years I shall bear you up" (Isa. 46:4) Thus, the psalmist can say, "The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age" (Psa. 92:12-14). How precious to see an older person walking with the Lord with the sweetness of God's loving kindness reflected in his soul. On the other hand, how sad it is to see one growing old without the Lord. It is heartbreaking! Godliness is so profitable for old age. It takes one by the hand to lead him through the valley of the shadow of death. Godliness is profitable for all ages.

3. Godliness is profitable for people in all financial brackets. In life there may be a great difference in the financial power of people. But there is a final leveling power that is coming to all: death. In death the rich man has no more than the poor man. "For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either" (1 Tim. 6:7). This reminds us of Job's statement: "Naked came I out of my mother's womb; naked shall I return thither." When the gospel addresses a man, it addresses the fact that all are sinners - rich and poor alike. The gospel has exactly the same demands of the rich and the poor. Everyone must be saved by faith on the basis of God's grace. The wealth of a person does nothing to influence God's treatment of him. All of his benevolent deeds do not buy him any favor with God. James could say, "But let the brother of humble circumstances glory in his high position; and let the rich man glory in his humiliation ('on a level with the poor,' Williams), because like flowering grass he will pass away . . . so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away" (Jas. 1:9-11). Therefore, none is so rich as not to need godliness; none is too poor not to be made rich by it. James further said, "Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to those who love him?" (Jas. 2:5).

How does the poor man profit by godliness? James says that he is elevated to a high position (1:9). That position is seen in Ephesians 2. This chapter shows that all are dead in trespasses and sins (v. 1). It also shows us the immense wealth of our God. He is "rich in mercy" (v. 4). He has "surpassing riches of his grace" (v. 7). In chapter one Paul speaks of "riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us" (vv. 7-8). When the poor man comes to Christ, he comes to one who can "supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19). Because of his surpassing riches, God takes the poor man and saves him by his grace (Eph. 2:4). But he does something else. He has "raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus" (v. 6). This saved man now has a position of fellowship with Jesus - seated with him. Truly, he is elevated to a high position.

But how is the rich man brought low? Well, before he can come to God, he must empty himself of any self-sufficiency. He must humble himself before God, recognizing that he is nothing and has nothing so far as God is concerned. Thus, he becomes "poor in spirit" in order that he might enter the kingdom of God. He is blessed in this humiliation. So, he is to rejoice in his being made low in order that he, too, might be saved by God's grace and raised up to sit with Christ in heavenlies. This is the occasion of his rejoicing.

Therefore, to the rich and poor alike Jesus says, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:19-21). Truly, godliness is profitable for all financial brackets. We all stand on equal footing as we come before our Lord.

4. Godliness is profitable for people of all educational backgrounds. We must remember that "the foolishness of God is wiser than men" (1 Cor. 1:25) and that "the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, 'He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness'; and again, 'The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless'" (1 Cor. 3:19-20). God has chosen the simple things so that all can understand his way of grace and be saved by it. He also has chosen the "foolish" things in order that we cannot boast of our wisdom and greatness before him. Once again, all men must humble themselves; they must empty themselves of their worldly wisdom in order to allow the Lord to save them. Perhaps the reason that many of those with worldly wisdom never come to the Lord is that they are not willing to cast aside their human achievements and bow at the cross of Jesus so that they can be saved by his grace.

II. Godliness Is Profitable In All Ways

1. Godliness is profitable physically. The wise man pointed out the need of keeping this teaching by saying, "For length of days and years of life, and peace they will add to you" (Prov. 3:2). Wisdom says, "For by me your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you" (9:11). One way by which godliness helps to prolong life is that it keeps us from dissipating morals and habits. Drugs, alcohol and immorality work to destroy the physical body. Godliness regulates our behavior so that we do not engage in "sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties and abominable idolatries . . . excess of dissipation" (1 Pet. 4:34). Godliness bids us to "flee fornication" and youthful lusts." It teaches me that my body is "a temple of the Holy Spirit" and that I must "glorify God in my body" (1 Cor. 6:18-20). 1 must present my body "as a living sacrifice" (Rom. 12:1). Thus, I will refrain from habits that are destructive to this body which belongs to God.

May I make an earnest plea to my brothers who use tobacco? It has been shown most emphatically that cigarette smoking is linked to lung cancer and heart disease. With every cigarette you are shortening your life by some fourteen minutes. Why do that which is taking precious minutes of service to God away from him? You will agree that suicide is sinful - it destroys God's temple. But destroying the body by degrees is accomplishing the same thing over a period of time. If we can do something that will help us have longer time to serve him, let us do so. Remember, God does not demand anything of us in our serving him that will destroy our bodies. Godliness truly is profitable.

2. Godliness is profitable mentally. One of the outstanding benefits of Christ's way is that it demands the use of the mind. He demands that we think, reason, understand, and believe. He teaches that our thought process controls our actions (Matt. 15:19-20). The reason so many are bound for Hell is that they "walk in the futility of their mind, being darkened in the understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart" (Eph. 4:17-18). Please observe the power of the mind in binding man in sin through this negative thinking. On the other hand the Christian is to program his thinking in a positive way: ". . . true . . . honorable . . . right . . . pure . . . lovely . . . good repute . . . let your mind dwell on these things" (Phil. 4:8). This is genuine "positive thinking" and it leads us to say with Paul, "I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (v. 13).

The proper use of our minds will lead us to search, to study his word, and to believe God. The Christian is one so "who by reason of use has his senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Heb. 5:14). For this reason "though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16). The intellect is a vital part of our service to him because service demands faith, and faith is a function of the intellect. Our faith grows by our hearing God's word, and this, too, is a function of the mind. Therefore, we can say most emphatically that godliness is profitable mentally.

3. Godliness is profitable emotionally. Each one of us from time to time must face circumstances that tax us emotionally. That such is a national problem is seen in the large number of counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists who are constantly busy with emotionally disturbed people. This is not to suggest that qualified counselors do not serve a vital and needed purpose - they do. However, Jesus Christ offers to us an emotionally stable form of life. Godliness offers that which is psychologically sound from every standpoint. It offers a faith to sustain us. Jesus said to the apostles, "Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me" (Jn. 14:1). He can help eliminate the troubled heart that we all have from time to time. I have sometimes bogged down in the slough of despondency. I have been at that low point where one feels that the world is against him. I have felt the sorrow of severed relationships that once were precious. I have cried out in anxiety because of my own sins. But "thanks be to God for his wonderful gift!" I can be free from all these fiery darts of Satan. He lifts me up from the pit!

a. Jesus can eliminate the guilty conscience. He urges us to come with confidence to the throne of mercy that we may find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:14-16). He tells us that the blood of Jesus is constantly there for the Christian so that as he repents and confesses his sins, he will have a continuing relationship with the Father (1 John 1:7-9). How precious it is to know that every sin of our past lives has been hidden in the depth of the sea of God's forgetfulness. We do not have to lie down on our pillow at night with the guilt of any sin upon us. We can take all our sins to him and he will abundantly pardon.

b. Godliness also helps to eliminate worry from our lives. We have, perhaps, all worried about where the rent or the next bag of groceries would come from. We have worried about our health. We have worried about our children, and quite often, about myriads of insignificant things. Paul wrote, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6-7). As Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount, he said, "Do not be anxious then, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink? or 'With what shall we clothe ourselves?' (Matt. 6:31) Instead, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of itsí own" (v. 34). Only by a deep, abiding faith in God can we develop this armor against worry. John wrote, "this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith" (1 John 5:4). Certainly we can say that godliness is profitable emotionally.

c. Above all, we can say that godliness is profitable spiritually. As we have seen, godliness is profitable because it gives to us a faith to sustain us and the forgiveness of all sins. Godliness gives to us a God to serve. Jesus said, "Man should not live by bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). When man's stomach is filled with food, when his body is enraptured with pleasure, there is still a longing of soul that nothing physical can satisfy. As Paul expressed it in our opening text, godliness "holds promise for the present life." It is promise of the abundant life of which Jesus spoke, "I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly" (John 10:10). You can live an abundant life! But, friend, that life is only in Jesus Christ.

III. Godliness Is Profitable At All Times

1. Godliness is profitable for the everyday living of this present life. "But godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come" (1 Tim. 4:8). In writing to the Philippians, Paul spoke of three great attributes that every Christian ought to possess: joy, peace, and contentment. He tells us how to have all these traits. He tells us to "rejoice." But he does not stop there. He tells us of the only relationship in which we can rejoice - "in the Lord." There can be no genuine joy elsewhere. Nehemiah expressed it centuries ago when he said, "For the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Neh. 8:10). When we have the joy of the Lord in our lives, we are strong. Satan cannot rob us of our spirituality when it is guarded by joy. Just as a husband and wife who are truly happy with each other will not seek love elsewhere, even so one who knows the joy of Jesus will not seek the companionship of the devil.

He tells us how to have peace. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayers and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6-7). We pray with sincere faith in Jesus' promises to us. Because we believe him, we believe that he will hear us. We believe that our sins are forgiven. We believe that he will never leave us nor forsake us so that we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid" (Heb. 13:5-6). In godliness we have "peace like a river."

Paul tells us how to have contentment. He said, "For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.

I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need" (Phil. 4:1112). What was the secret that Paul had learned? "I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (v. 13). He had contentment through Jesus because he knew that "my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (v. 19). He knew that "if God be for us, who can be against us?", and that all things work together for good to those who love God" (Rom. 8). Godliness brings joy, peace, and contentment into our lives. It is profitable for this present life.

2. Godliness is profitable for the life which is to come. It is only by godliness that I can be with God eternally. He has made it possible by his grace for me to have a right standing with him. I have the responsibility of maintaining that right standing by walking in the light and allowing the blood of Jesus to cleanse me of my sins. This "walking in the light" can be equated with godliness - the right attitude to God and to things divine. By God's love and power, I can have eternal fellowship with him in Heaven. Peter describes our new dwelling place in 2 Peter 3:11-13. He shows that this present world is to be destroyed. Since it is to be destroyed, "what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God?" Please observe the demand for holy conduct and godliness on our part. By this kind of living in fellowship with him "according to his promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells." Our new dwelling place beyond this earth is "an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Pet. 1:4-5). Therefore, godliness- will carry us through life and will help see us through the valley of the shadow of death. God will lead us safely through to the other side where we can hymn his praises forever while eternity rolls on and on.

After Paul had spoken of the need of godliness and that it is profitable in all ways, he said, "It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance" (1 Tim. 4:9). Let us rely on it; let us live by it. We will have a better life now and eternal life with Jesus in the new heavens and new earth. Our prayer is that the Father will grant us to live in all godliness before him all the days of our lives.

Forrest D. Moyer, 1988
http://www.corkchristians.org/offsite/page30/files/Godliness.html
 
 

By Forrest D. Moyer
From Expository Files 20.5; May 2013

 

 

 

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