The Expository Files


Godliness - Profitable For All Things
1 Timothy 4:8


There are a few expressions in the Bible that are meant to arrest our attention. These are similar to expressions in our own vernacular such as "Listen up!" or "Hear what I'm sayin'?" Jesus would sometimes use "Verily verily" or "Truly, truly". In the Revelation He used the phrase "He that has ears, let Him hear..." These statements meant that something very important was about to be said. Paul sometimes used the phrase: "It is a trustworthy statement" which means "You can take it to the bank" or "You can count on it."

Look with me at one such trustworthy statement:

8 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.
9 It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance.
10 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.
11 Prescribe and teach these things.

(1 Timothy 4:8-11).

The statement Paul is referring to is the one made in verse 8: "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."

Bodily Discipline Profits a Little

The body is temporary. Entropy takes its toll as the body wears out. It ultimately loses its capacity to grow and heal and replenish itself.

But we can do something to delay these effects. We can exercise. We can become more conscious of what constitutes good nutrition and make wise application. We can do things to increase lung capacity; improve our cardio-vascular system; strengthen our muscles; increase our endurance and enhance our mental alertness. We can perhaps slow the effects of the aging process, but we cannot stop it. To stop the effects of aging altogether would come closer to being "of great profit" but since we cannot do that, bodily discipline is said to be of only a "little profit".

16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

The body is temporary, no matter what we do. The inner man (spirit) is eternal. The loss of the body not a great loss when compared to eternal weight of glory. The greatest loss by far, is for the spirit to enter into eternity unprepared. The natural body will wear out; perish; die. Take good care of it and it may last longer, but will still finally die. The new spiritual body of the resurrection will never wear out, grow old, or die. (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).

Body: A Temple for God

Our bodies are wonderful gifts from God; intricate in design; we should be good stewards and this means to take good care of our bodies (Psalm 139:14). We are told that we should use our bodies to glorify God because our bodies are a temple of God; that He dwells in His faithful ones (1 Corinthians 6:19,20). We are told that Jesus dwells in us by faith (Ephesians 3:17).

So, taking care of our blessings and not squandering them is a good thing, and that includes taking care of our bodies. Godliness helps us live longer lives (Ephesians 6:4; 2,3).

Godliness Profitable For This Life

Like bodily discipline, godliness is also profitable for this life. God promises to give us the physical necessities if we arrange our priorities correctly.... Spiritual things first! Generally no conflict between good spiritual health and good physical health; as well as the prosperity that comes from good, honest living ( Matthew 6:33). But there are exceptions to this truism. For example, sometimes faith, because of persecution, has caused people to lose their good health, and even their physical lives (Matthew 10:28-33).

God causes "all things" to work together for our good. In context "all things" refers to the things God has done for us; giving His Son; His Word; His love: His grace ... everything God has done for us works together for our good if we love God (if we are godly) (Romans 8:28).

Godliness holds much greater value than material treasures, especially when accompanied by contentment (1 Timothy 6:6); Philippians 4:11-13). Think about the strength and power of being content in all circumstances, good or bad.

Godliness and Eternal Profit

But the thing that bodily discipline cannot do is prepare us for eternity. Ungodliness brings eternal ruin. There is no tomorrow in hell... no escape... utter ruin (Revelation 21:8). We reap eternally what we sow today; destruction or life... (Galatians 6:7,8).

But it does not have to end this way. Bodily exercise cannot change the outcome, but godliness can. Unlike physical exercise, the rewards of godliness never stop!

It is sometimes wondered, "Why are ungodly people sometimes so 'lucky' in life?" (Psalm 37:16-18). That doesn't seem fair! But don't envy the wicked nor their ways. Their gains are temporary; the gains of godliness are eternal. Peter describes it as a "never fading inheritance" (1 Peter 1:3-5)! As the hymn Amazing Grace" suggests, when we've been there 10,000 years it will still be just as fresh and wonderful as the day it began! Now, honestly, what reward does the wicked receive in this life that compares to that?

To pamper the physical body and ignore the inner person would be to throw away the imperishable crown in order to have a crown which will last only briefly (1 Corinthians 9:25) . Many people are making that poor choice today. Do not let yourself be one of them; the crown of glory that Jesus holds for us in heaven is too precious to ignore Paul must have been a fan. He liked to use athletics as illustrations of discipleship. For example, as he neared his death, he compared his life to having run a race to victory (2 Timothy 4:7,8). I plan on one day receiving my eternal crown from the hand of my Lord. I hope to see you receive yours as well.

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 14.8; August 2007