Online Bible Commentary
Becoming Godly, Part Two
1 Timothy 4: 8b godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 9 This 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. 11 Command and teach these things. 12 Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. (NIV)
In the previous passage Paul has given Timothy the formula for becoming Godly. That formula is found in training. We must train spiritually, just as those who train for athletic events train physically. We invest many long hours, days, and years training for athletic events. We should do the same to train spiritually. By doing this we will not teach false doctrine, and we will not be misled by those who do.
In this passage, Paul begins with the third of five “trustworthy sayings” (v.9) found in the Pastoral Epistles. This saying is “godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (v. 8b). We “labor and strive” for years to achieve this Godliness (v. 10a). This is the spiritual training that is required to become Godly.
But why should we do this? Why should we labor and strive for years to become Godly? Paul answers that question in verse 10b. The word translated “that” is the Greek word “oti”, which is better translated “for” or “because”. The NIV adds parenthesis’ (v. 10a) which are not needed when “oti” is translated properly as “because”. So the answer to the question “why?” is because we have put our hope in the living God. Our total hope is in God. We are sold out to Him. He gives meaning to life, and for us there is nothing else but Him.
In verse 10b, the word translated “especially” is the Greek word “malista”, which is better translated “particularly”. The meaning is that God is the Savior of all men, particularly of believers. Jesus came to save all, but only those who believe are saved.
Paul then exhorts Timothy to “command and teach these things” (v.11). “These things” refers back to verse six of this chapter and means Paul’s instructions against false teaching given from 1 Timothy 2 until this passage, specifically for propriety in prayer and worship in the church, qualifications for overseers (leaders and pastors) and deacons, and personal godliness. Paul gives these types of commands, or “charges”, throughout the Pastoral Epistles.
This brings to mind that Paul is at the end of his ministry, and likely feels it. He is now in his early sixties, and he has lived a hard life, full of physical persecution. Perhaps, though, his most pressing concern is the intense persecution from Nero at this time. Nero beheads Paul two years from now. Paul, through these charges in the Pastoral Epistles, is handing off his ministry to his followers, especially the young Timothy.
Consequently, Paul encourages Timothy to not let anyone “look down” on him because of his age (v. 12a). In Judaism, a man could not become a priest until he turned thirty. Jesus began his ministry at age thirty. The elders at the church in Ephesus had recently laid hands on Timothy, in a type of ordination. Therefore, Timothy was in his early thirties at this time, and he was instructing elders in the church who were much older than him. He was having to remove some elders because they did not meet Paul’s requirements for “these things”, which had led to false teaching in the church. He needed Paul’s encouragement at this time.
Paul charged Timothy to overcome his age disadvantage by modeling five virtues of Godliness (v. 12b). Timothy was to be Christ like in his speech, his behavior, his love, his faith in the gospel, and in his purity. This example was in contrast to the false teachers who quarreled, were hypocrites, lacking in love, had abandoned the true gospel, and were teaching Gnosticism, a false purity that denied physical pleasure. Through displaying Godliness Timothy would win over the church, and would be able to excommunicate the false teachers. His youth would not be a detriment because he would show himself as mature in the faith. He would show himself as Godly.