Tuesday, January 05, 2010

1 Timothy 4:6-10

V6-10 – 6If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. 7Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 9This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance 10(and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.

Paul points out that being a good minister is what Timothy was trained to do, and that comes through shepherding with sound doctrine. The first phrase in v6 literally means, “to suggest.” Shepherding sometimes requires gentle nudging (Jude 22), and other times harsh commands and rebuke (v11; Jude 23); both are appropriate in their place. Later in v6, after Paul mentions being “a good minister of Christ Jesus,” he speaks of being “brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.” This literally means, “Constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine that you have followed.” In other words, Paul is declaring what a good minister needs – sound doctrine – for food, and he is saying that Timothy has had that. Timothy is faithful thus far in his ministry, and Paul is encouraging him to continue training himself unto godliness (v7) by sticking with sound doctrine and avoiding the “godless myths and old wives’ tales” of the false teachers.

Paul contrasts physical training, which has “some value” (v8), with spiritual training unto godliness, which “has value for all things.” Spiritual health is to be a priority over physical health, because it carries over into “the life to come” (3 John 2). Some commentators think Paul is writing about exercise, while others think he is referring to various ritualistic fasting or sexual abstinence, which eventually led to monks and nuns. In our culture, certainly the former applies, but in Paul’s culture, the latter is more likely his intention. One commentator says of the crucial word “godliness,” “This is a pivotal term in the Pastoral Letters. It refers to the doctrinal and daily lifestyle implications of the gospel. It describes not the exceptional, but the expected. It is a compound term from ‘good’ (eu) and ‘worship’ (sebomai). True worship is daily living by means of proper thinking.” And Paul issues the reminder of “a trustworthy saying” in v9, referring either to the importance of godliness in v8 or the fact of v10, that our hope lies in “the living God, who is the Savior.”

In the parenthetical remark of v10, Paul uses athletic metaphors to reveal his strenuous effort in proclaiming the gospel – the word “strive” might better be rendered “suffer reproach” or “agonize.” Also, notice the pronouncement that God, the self-existent One, is Savior of all men, to which Paul adds, “especially [or, that is,] of those who believe.” In other words, the call to repent and be saved is for all, in the sense that all kinds of people will respond by grace, for not all people hear the call of God due to their spiritual deadness. Salvation is a gift from God, for all who believe receive it. Jesus is the only Savior, and that’s exclusive, but He’s available for all kinds of men, not Jews only, and that’s inclusive.

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