I Timothy 4 Part 2
New King James Version 6. If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.
The Resultant Version 6. If you put the brethren in mind of these things, you will be an ideal servant of Jesus Christ, nourished up the words of faith and of good teaching, which you have fully known.
Paul now urges Timothy to instruct or put the brethren in mind of these things. We might well wonder: had these brethren heard of these things before, or would the first time they would hear of these things from Timothy instructing them out of this epistle? We would tend to think that they would have received some instruction in these things from their local apostles and prophets when the dispensational change took place, as we discussed earlier. God did not leave them without guidance as they tried to come to grips with the new dispensation and what was expected of them in it.
At the same time, we can be certain that giving up their old way of life according to the law would have been hard for many of them. No doubt the response of many Jewish believers in Christ would have been the same as that of Peter when he was told to kill and eat the unclean animals in the great sheet that came down from heaven in his vision in Acts 10: “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” How hard to give up what formerly had been right, good, and beneficial in the sight of God! Yet this was now the truth for today, and so Timothy needed to keep these things before their minds and hearts so that they would learn to receive them and live according to them. If they did not, but persisted in living according to the old customs and laws, then they would be doing nothing but living according to the teaching of demons, and that would not be good at all!
Paul assures Timothy that one who instructs according to these things will be a good minister of Jesus Christ. Yet this word the New King James Version translated “minister” here is the same word that they translated as “deacon” back in chapter 3 verses 8 and 12. This hardly seems like consistent or honest translation! It is clear that the translators wanted to get “deacons” into the Bible. We would make it as in The Resultant Version, a good or “ideal servant” of Jesus Christ. Yet, the ideal servant of Christ will teach according to the truth of this dispensation, even if he is not very popular with the ones being taught because of doing so!
The ideal servant who instructs in these things is also nourished up or educated in the words of faith and of good teaching. Faith, we must recall, is taking God at His Word and responding accordingly. The words of faith, then, are the words that bring faith: that is, the words that God has spoken. Good teaching is good because it is right, and the good teaching Paul had in mind was the teaching that is in accord with truth for today, as he was instructing Timothy to set it forth.
The words of faith and of good teaching are fully known by Timothy, Paul declares. The idea could also be that he has carefully followed these words. From what we know of the character of Timothy, and the fact that he was one who stood faithful with the apostle Paul to the end, we can be sure that once he did get to know the truth of God for this present dispensation, that he then carefully followed it.
New King James Version 7. But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness.
The Resultant Version 7. But refuse profane and old womanish fables, and exercise yourself in the true worship of God.
Paul urges Timothy to reject common and old womanish myths. The idea is not of old wives necessarily, but of old women. Of course, this is not to say that young women or men cannot take up these stories as well, but Paul is speaking of the kind of strange story or outlandish fable that old women tend to promote and spread. These kinds of myths and fables can have to do with superstition and so-called homespun wisdom. Yet often what is commonly thought is not correct.
It is interesting some of the myths and legends that get passed around among people. The television program “Mythbusters” examines some of these often-repeated ideas to see if they are true or not. Sometimes they find them to be accurate, and other times to be completely wrong. The same is often true of the stories old women tell. Yet what Paul probably particularly has in mind here is old womanish fables that would lead to a certain kind of behavior that is not in line with what God would teach as truth for today. Many an old woman believes and practices what she has been taught since a little girl, and might have plenty of stories and fables supporting what she is doing as being good and beneficial. Yet if such fables are contrary to God’s truth, they are all to be refused as evidence. It is only the word of God that is reliable. Old womanish fables are not a trustworthy source of truth.
Then Timothy is to exercise himself in Godliness. The word here eusebeia is the same word as in I Timothy 3:16, used in the phrase, “the secret of true worship.” It could mean “devoutness” as in solemn dedication to pleasing God, or it could mean “the true worship of God,” as it is rendered in The Resultant Version. As Christ admonished the woman at the well in John 4:24, we must worship God in spirit and in truth. The spirit in the Bible has to do with the mind, the thoughts, the opinions, and the beliefs. It is out of these, out of the mind, that true worship must grow. Yet this does not mean that worship is merely a cold intellectualism. True worship has to do with the opinion you really have of God, the value you truly judge Him at, the worth He truly has to you, and the value you truly place upon Him. When we through reading and coming to a greater understanding of the Scriptures grow in appreciation for Who God is and what He has done and our hearts are lifted up in appreciation towards Him for these things, this is real and true worship before God.
This is the proper alternative to following the mandates of the fables of old women: to exercise oneself in the true worship of God. This will be in accord with what is revealed as being pleasing to Him in this dispensation of grace in which we live. To live, act, and think in accord with these things is much better than following the fables of old women.
New King James Version 8. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.
The Resultant Version 8. For bodily exercise is beneficial for a few things, but devoutness is profitable unto all things, because this has a promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
Paul acknowledges that bodily exercise has some profit. The New King James puts it “profits a little,” which we acknowledge that it does. Others have suggested “profits for a little,” which again is true, for we know that bodily exercise benefits the body for a little while, but if one ceases to exercise, the profits quickly are gone. The Resultant Version suggests that “bodily exercise is beneficial for a few things,” and this is also true, as it benefits for better health, or for more successfully carrying out certain vocations like soldier or construction worker and so forth.
In contrast to bodily exercise, however, Godliness is profitable or beneficial for all things. “Godliness” is again the Greek word eusebeia, and could mean “devoutness,” as in The Resultant Version, or “the true worship of God,” as we discussed it in verse 7. To serve and worship God in a true manner and with devoutness is profitable unto all things. What aspect of life cannot benefit from devoutness and true worship of God? One who lives Godly will have that character and the benefits that come from it affect him in every area of life. On top of that, the promise of profit is not just regarding the life that now is, but also regarding that which is to come. In this, it is much superior to bodily exercise, which really will not affect the life to come at all. Yet the true worship of God does benefit us in the life to come, and so exercising ourselves in this has benefits beyond what we now see and experience. Let each of us, then, expend his energy in living a life of Godliness, for the benefits of this will continue to come in far beyond what we now know or understand.
Lenski in his commentary on this verse has an interesting suggestion. Considering that the false teachers in Ephesus were apparently teaching wrong things about the law, many of which had to do with exercising the body in Godly behavior, he suggests that this is what Paul means. The contrast is not between physical exercise, like jogging or lifting weights, and godliness, but rather between exercising the body in Godliness and simply being devout and Godly in heart and character. In other words, he believes that the “bodily exercise” is simply exercising Godliness in the body, and this is what Paul says is only beneficial for a few things. Godliness in heart and character, however, is what is beneficial in all things. This is an interesting thought, and might well be true. Indeed, being Godly in what you do with the body is good, but being Godly in heart and character is much, much more than this, and is far more beneficial.
New King James Version 9. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance.
The Resultant Version 9. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance.
Now Paul speaks again of a faithful saying that merits all acceptance. This is another one of those trustworthy sayings that Paul speaks of in his two letters to Timothy and his letter to Titus. We saw the first of these back in chapter 1, and now we come upon another of them.
We might wonder whose sayings these were. Were these sayings that went around among the believers? Or were these sayings original with Paul himself that he is putting forth for Timothy to teach others as a faithful saying? We cannot say for certain which is the case. Yet at the very least the Holy Spirit is giving His stamp of approval to these sayings by having Paul repeat them in this way, so we can say that they are good sayings, no matter what their origin might be.
New King James Version 10. For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.
The Resultant Version 10. For in relationship to this we both labor and we suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, Who is the Savior of all humanity, especially of those who believe.
Paul also states that in relationship to this they both labored and suffered reproach, or, as the Companion Bible suggests, “are reviled.” In relationship to what? To the truth of this faithful saying. This saying is that we trust in the living God. Yes, that is why we labor. Yes, that is why we are willing to be mocked and reviled. We do not trust in a dead savior. We do not trust in a god who is merely the imagination of men. We trust in a God Who is alive, Who died and yet Who rose from the dead and is living today. We trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is worth laboring for. Yes, He is worth spending your life upon. He is worthy of suffering reproach and revilement from men. He is worth appearing small or foolish or misguided or crazy before them. We are not out to achieve the praise of men, but of God. We labor and are reviled because we trust in Him.
Moreover, this living God we trust in is the Savior of all men. This verse is a favorite of those who hold with the doctrine of universalism. They would teach that since God is the Savior of all men, means that He set out to save every man. Since God never fails at anything He sets out to do, they maintain that God must eventually save every man, no matter how wicked or rebellious he may be. Yet this ignores the next phrase, “especially of those who believe.” If it is the personal, individual salvation from sin and death of every man that is being taught here, how could some, those who believe, be “especially” saved from sin and death? There is no such thing as being “especially” saved if this is the case.
The fact is that I do not believe Paul is speaking of the saving of every individual man here, but rather the saving of all humanity, as The Resultant Version has it. For example, the United States has been saved several times throughout its existence by the winning of wars wherein the very existence of the country was at stake. If these wars had been lost, the country called the United States would have ceased to exist. Yet in those wars, many individual soldiers were lost. These men were not saved by the war. Instead, they died in the war. Yet through the war, the entire United States was saved. It was the United States as an entity, not every single individual, that was saved. In the same way, all humanity is being saved by the Savior, yet this does not mean that every individual among humanity is being saved.
So I believe that it is humanity that is being saved, not every single individual. Yet what is He saving humanity from? I think it cannot be doubted that one thing He is saving us from is ourselves. We must admit that we have evolved (or devolved) to a point where the human race might be capable of wiping ourselves out. Though the idea that there are enough nuclear weapons to destroy the earth ten times over seems to be an often-repeated Hollywood myth (the earth is not so easily “destroyed” as all that), the nuclear weapons that exist do pose a significant threat to much of the population on the earth. Then there is the genetic work that is being done. Is it possible for a virus to accidentally be synthesized and then escape that could wipe out the earth’s population, as happens in many disaster movies? Perhaps we do not know enough to say, but it is clear that technology in the wrong hands and under the wrong circumstances can be dangerous. Then there is simply the wickedness of men, which could reach a pitch wherein men would be so divided by wickedness and hate that all would seek the extermination of each other. Yet we need not worry that some fool or madman may someday do something that destroys man from off the earth, for we are assured that God is the Savior of all humanity. He is the Savior, and so we will be saved. He will not allow us to wipe ourselves out, no matter how much we might try to do so. He is on the job, so we will be saved.
What else might He be saving us from? I believe He also saved us all the way back to the beginning. When Adam and his wife ate the forbidden fruit, their actions brought sin and death into the world. The penalty for their sin was death, and yet that penalty did not fall on them right away, or even for hundreds of years. God was gracious, for He might have brought the penalty of death on them right then. Yet if He had, humanity would have come to an end, and He would not allow that. He is the Savior of all humanity, so He saw to it humanity was saved.
Then again, we notice that, while at first men lived for around 900 years in total, that after the flood the ages of men started to drop drastically. Whether this was caused by a change in the atmosphere on the earth, or whether it was caused by the close intermarriage between siblings and cousins that must have gone on after the flood, we cannot really say. Yet the ages of men dropped, sometimes by several hundred years per generation, until men were living to just over a hundred years, and then even less than a hundred. If the lifespans kept falling like this, we would have reached a place where men would have started to die too young to even have children. If this had happened, humanity would have been destroyed. Yet the Savior of all humanity was on the throne, and He stopped the decline in lifespan at its current span of about seventy years. Once again, He proved Himself to be the Savior of all humanity.
Yet He is not just the Savior of all humanity, but also He is the Savior especially of those who believe. We know that at the beginning of this current dispensation of grace, God fell silent. He stopped proving Himself by signs, wonders, visible manifestations, or any other evidential means. For anyone to believe today, he must believe without seeing. In such conditions, we might expect that true faith would cease from the earth, and all trace of true faith in the living God of Scripture would disappear. Yet this has never happened. We must admit that there have been times like the Dark Ages when the number of those who truly believed in the God of Scripture as the Bible sets Him forth were very small. Yet during the Protestant Reformation there were men who worked hard to spread the true knowledge of salvation as Scripture sets it forth, and now there are many who believe. Yet every year it seems new threats emerge that have for their goal wiping all faith in the true and living God off the face of the earth. In the light of such threats, we might start to wonder if some of these schemes might succeed, and that men who believe might cease from the earth. Yet this verse assures us that this is not so. Though God is silent in our day, He still is working behind the scenes to maintain faith. He is the One Who generates belief in the hearts of people, and He will not cease to do this. In spite of all the efforts of Satan, the world, and wicked men, true belief will not cease from the earth, for believers have a Savior, and He is the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus the living God is not only the Savior of all humanity, but He is also especially the Savior of those who believe.
New King James Version 11. These things command and teach.
The Resultant Version 11. These things order and teach.
Now Paul urges Timothy that these things he should command and teach. Of course, this goes back to trusting in the living God, the faithful saying he just set forth. Yet it could also go back to the profitableness of devoutness, or refusing profane and old womanish fables, or avoiding the doctrines of demons, or all the things Paul has been teaching Timothy in this book. These lessons Paul is teaching Timothy are first of all for him to know, but secondly for him to command and teach to those he is ministering to in Ephesus. In the same way, for we who have opportunity, we should first learn these things ourselves, and then command and teach them to others. These are the very truths of God that have to do with the proper way to live in this dispensation of the grace of God in which we live.
We might wonder about this matter of commanding. We realize that God has given us no Divine leadership in the dispensation of grace. We are all individual believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, and as such, we have no one above us to whom we are responsible before God. Our only responsibility really is to each other, to our fellow believers in Christ who are on the same plane we are. As such, we have no one who can or should command us in our new life in Christ. The Lord urges us today to let no one set the order for us in food or in drink, or in regard to some particular festival, or the new moon, or the Sabbaths. These are all a shadow of things to come, but the reality is of Christ. See Colossians 2:16-17. Yet we too should be commanded, and our commands are right here for us in God’s Word. We may not answer to any man above us, but this Book is above us, and for Its commands we will answer, whether we have obeyed and lived according to them or not.
Yet when Paul wrote this, things were a little different. Timothy had been one of God’s apostles in the Acts period. Moreover, he was sent to these people by Paul, who still was God’s representative on earth, at least so far as writing books like I Timothy was concerned. Timothy therefore had real, God-given authority over the people of Ephesus that no human being today really has. God might not have backed up his commands with any sort of Divine punishment for breaking them, yet before God Timothy really did still have the right to command people the things that they should be doing before God. Yet the fact that there was no power to back up his commands is clearly demonstrated for us by II Timothy, which shows us that Paul and therefore his representative Timothy had been ignored and rejected by the people to whom Timothy was ministering. In reality they were disobeying God’s commands, whether He backed them up with power or not, and someday they will answer for their failure to comply.
Yet this situation I just described was during the early days of the dispensation of grace while everything was still in transition. Ever since Paul put down his pen from writing II Timothy, the last book written of the Scriptures, God has fallen silent, and no direct word from Him, commands or otherwise, has proceeded from heaven. We are tied down, not to light from heaven, but to our portable lamps, the Word of God. Therefore no one can command today, unless it be straight out of the Scriptures. In that case, it really is the Bible commanding, not the person. But even then, it is only a true command if it is rightly divided, rightly interpreted, and rightly applied. Ultimately, only God’s truth has the right to command us today. We should do all we can to allow it to do so!