Online Bible Commentary
Becoming Godly, Part Two
1 Timothy 4: 8b but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.9 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance.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.11 These things command and teach.12 Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. (NKJV)
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 “but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. 9 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance” (vv. 8b-9).
So, Paul begins with the third of five “trustworthy sayings” found in the Pastoral Epistles. Godliness is very valuable for both our present life on earth and for the life to come, in Heaven.
Paul continues with “For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach” (v. 10a). Becoming Godly is hard work. We work and strive through all kinds of obstacles for years to achieve Godliness. 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 next.
He writes “because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe” (v. 10b). 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.
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.
Next, Paul writes “These things command and teach” (v. 11). Paul is exhorting Timothy to “command and teach”.
“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. Paul, through these charges in the Pastoral Epistles, is handing off his ministry to his followers, especially the young Timothy.
Consequently, he writes “Let no one despise your youth,” (v. 12a). Paul encourages Timothy to not let anyone look down on him because of his age.
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 probably 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 concludes this passage by writing “but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (v. 12b). Here, Paul is charging Timothy to overcome his age disadvantage by modeling five virtues of Godliness.
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.