Monday, September 29, 2014

DIET AND EXERCISE (1 Timothy Chapter 4)

1 Timothy 4:6-8, “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in words of the faith and of the good doctrine which you have followed.  Have nothing to do with irreverent silly myths.  Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

As most everyone knows maintaining a good diet and regular exercise are both essential to one’s health.  I’ve had some experience in these matters this year.  Over the course of six months I lost a lot of weight by making some drastic changes to my diet and exercise routine.  It was a lot of work, but the result was well worth the effort--I’ve got much more energy and my knees are happy for the reduced burden.  What is true in the physical realm holds true in the spiritual.  Maintaining a healthy spiritual diet and regular exercise are both essential to one’s spiritual health.

The immediate context of our passage has to do with Paul’s counsel to Timothy regarding false teachers (Cf. 1 Timothy 4:1-5).  Amongst other falsehoods, these false teachers were forbidding marriage and advocating the abstinence of certain foods (Cf. 1 Timothy 4:3).  They had erroneously supposed such activities to be of some spiritual benefit.  But, as Paul instructed Timothy, “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:5).

Essential to a person’s spiritual heath is “being trained in words of the faith and of the good doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:6).  The NASB translates the phrase “being trained” as “constantly nourished.”  The term means to “train up, nurture” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).  In this context it relates to the “good doctrine” which is essential to one’s spiritual growth (Cf. 1 Peter 2:2).  The term translated “good” means “to be healthy, sound in health” (Vine’s).  There are other kinds of unhealthy doctrines, like the spiritually poisonous junk food that the false teachers were peddling (i.e. “teaching of demons”, 1 Timothy 4:1; “irreverent silly myths”; 1 Timothy 4:7).  Those kinds of doctrines need to be rejected.  In the spiritual sense, we need to be careful what we “eat.”  Our bodies depend on the nutritional benefit garnered in partaking of good, healthy foods.  We are likewise spiritually healthy to the extent we are ongoingly nourished through the good doctrine assimilated through the Word. 

There is also the need to “train yourself for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7).  The KJV translated “train” as “exercise.”  The term is related to the English word “gymnasium” and speaks to the spiritual exercise that contributes to godliness.  Paul compares this kind of training with “bodily training” because there is a correspondence between the two.  Both require regular discipline.  Both involve sacrifice.  An Olympic or professional athlete might devote years of regular practice to enhancing his or her skills and abilities.  No one would expect to attain success apart from devotion to such disciplines.  But that kind of devotion is only “of some value” because it is limited in scope to this life only (Cf. 1 Timothy 4:8).

The training which is for godliness is “of value in every way” (1 Timothy 4:8).  Godliness is “that piety which, characterized by a Godward attitude, does that which is well-pleasing to Him” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).  Godliness is “godlikeness”.  It is exemplified and unveiled to us in Christ (Cf. 1 Timothy 3:16).  It is set before us as desirable inasmuch as it hold promise “for the life to come.”  It has to do with heaven and the glorious destiny God has set before us.  We are therefore to train ourselves to this end.  We are to devote ourselves to the exercise of the spiritual disciplines which contribute to godliness (Cf. Philippians 3:14; Hebrews 5:14).  Spiritual discipline is necessary in all aspects of life, but there are some particular disciplines that are essential if we are to grow and be strong in Christ.  They should not be viewed as religious duties.  They are Spirit-led disciplines that work towards a glorious end.  The Spirit of God is our “spiritual trainer.”  He exhorts and instructs us through the Word in matters related to growing in Christ. 

Three such disciplines are of utmost importance.  The first is here in the context—“being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:6) and speaks to the need for us to be “in the Word.”  Likewise there is the need to “continue steadfastly in prayer” (Colossians 4:2).  The maintenance of fellowship is also essential aspect of one’s training unto godliness (Cf. Hebrews 10:24-25).  How’s your spiritual diet?  Are you getting enough spiritual exercise?  Apart from paying careful attention to such things we will inevitably suffer from a kind of spiritual anemia that will leave us weak and vulnerable as believers.  It is important to be healthy, but to be spiritually strong and healthy is of even greater importance for it “holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).

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