Online Bible Commentary
1 Timothy 4:6 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. 7 But reject profane and old wives' fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. 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. (NKJV)
The letter of 1 Timothy is part of what is known as the Pastoral Epistles. The other two Pastoral Epistles are 2 Timothy and Titus.
The Apostle Paul wrote this letter about AD 63 to Timothy who was ministering at the church in Ephesus. Paul has recently been released from two years of house arrest in Rome.
It is thought that Paul wrote this letter from Philippi, in Macedonia, after dropping Timothy off at Ephesus on the way (1 Timothy1:3). Other possible places of writing are Spain or Hierapolis, Greece.
This letter is a personal letter from one minister to another. Ministers typically relate differently to other ministers than they would to others. Therefore, this letter is different than Paul’s previous letters to churches.
It is also different in that Paul switched scribes, amamuensis’, for the Pastoral Epistles. It is believed that Timothy was Paul’s amanuensis for the previously written Prison Epistles. However, with Timothy being dispatched to Ephesus a new amanuensis was needed.
It appears that Luke was Paul’s amanuensis for the Pastoral Epistles, thus a change in writing styles. Doctor Luke’s style of writing is more classical Greek than that of previous amanuensis’.
In Timothy 2 Paul mentions that Luke is the only one with him at that time (2 Timothy 4:11). Luke was likely his amanuensis.
Paul had dispatched Timothy to Ephesus in order to combat false teaching in the church at Ephesus. In this passage Paul elaborates on the nature of the false teaching.
He begins this passage by writing “If you instruct the brethren in these things” (v.6a). The literal Greek for this phrase is “These things having suggested to the brothers.”
The word translated “instruct” is a Greek action verb “hypotithemi”. As you can guess, the “hypo” is important.
This is more than what we would think of as a suggestion. This word means to risk, lay down (a life), point out, or teach.
“These things” refers to the instructions for worship given by Paul, starting from 1Timothy 2:1 and continuing up to this verse. It includes propriety of prayer and worship and qualifications for selecting overseers (church leaders, pastors) and deacons.
Paul continues “you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ” (v. 6b) Paul is saying that Timothy “will be a good minister” for having taught “these things”. “These things” were hard things to teach because they were critical of the teachings of certain leaders in the church, and could have been taken as critical of women in general.
Paul addresses Timothy as a “minister”, using the Greek word for servant, “diakonos”. The word “diakonos” was used by Paul in his earlier writings to denote a function. Phoebe, and even Paul and his fellow ministers, were referred to as “servants” (diakonos) for their contributions to helping the church.
In his later writings, and especially earlier in this letter when he actually set down qualifications for church offices, he uses the term to denote an office. So, by referring to Timothy here as a “diakonos” “of Christ Jesus”, Paul was specifying that Timothy was a servant of Christ, a minister, and not a deacon in the church.
His addition of “of Jesus Christ” was necessary to show that Timothy did not hold an office in the church, but instead was there to minister, to help them. He did not need to be specific like this in his earlier letters, prior to establishing an office of “diakonos”, deacon.
Next, Paul writes “nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed” (v. 6c). Ministers often must teach hard things in order to be “good ministers”, to be faithful to the “words of the faith” (literal Greek), the Bible.
Paul writes “But reject profane and old wives' fables” (v. 7a). Paul cautions Timothy to have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales. The literal Greek for this phrase is “the But profane and old-womanish tales refuse.”
The word translated “profane” is the Greek word “bebelos”, meaning heathenish, wicked, profane. Paul is saying to refuse wicked words, those coming from the false teachers who are being influenced by Satan.
The word translated “old-womanish” is the Greek word “graodes”, meaning silly. It is a reference to some of the foolish talk that might come from old women.
Paul continues “and exercise yourself toward godliness” (v.7b). Paul instructs Timothy to train himself to be godly. The literal Greek for this verse is “exercise And yourself to godliness.”
The word translated “exercise” is the Greek word “gumnazo”, from which we derive our word “gymnasium”. Paul is again referring to an athletic event, specifically to those who would train for the athletic games of the time, similar to our Olympics.
He is saying we need to train for Godliness as we would for an athletic event. As a former athlete myself, I understand the long and hard hours of training needed to become a successful athlete.
Godliness requires the same. It requires long hours of studying the Bible, researching it, living by it, and being sold out to it, and God.
Those who do not do this are prone to becoming false teachers. So Paul is saying, “do not be like the false teachers”, the “bebelos” or the “graodes”, the men and women who spout wicked and silly words.
Next, Paul writes “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 (v.8).
Paul continues his comparison of the physical training of the athlete and the spiritual training of the Godly. He writes that physical training is of some value for this life, but spiritual training is much more valuable because it is more important training, and is for this life and the next, eternity.
Our only defense against the false teachers of today is to train ourselves to be Godly. That is because we can no longer trust some denominations, pastors, or churches to teach the truth of the Bible.
It is more important to be spiritually trained than ever before. There are no shortcuts.
It takes long, hard hours of training, just as it does to become a superior athlete. But the investment in time is well worth it.
It may be the difference between Heaven and Hell. The gate to Heaven is narrow, and getting more narrow every day.