Theme: Three Specifics of Godliness
In this week’s lessons, we see that godliness, rooted in a thorough understanding of biblical doctrine, is necessary for the Christian life.
Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:7-8
Paul goes on to say that godliness has great value for all things. There has never been a time in the history of America where we can understand that verse better. Physical training is of some value. Obviously a lot of people think so. Every time I go out, I see joggers going up and down the streets. We live in a culture that practically worships the human body, especially one’s own body. We do everything we can do to keep it in shape. We tone it up by exercise. We get face lifts when it begins to sag, and have done any number of procedures or treatments that will make ourselves look better than we really are. And if we can give the impression that we’re 25 years old when we’re 45 years old, or 45 years old when we’re 65 years old, and have someone think we are 20 years younger than we really are, that is just about the best compliment some people can receive.
In the area of physical exercise, Paul says it is of some value. It’s better to be in good shape than in poor shape. But even if you are in the best physical condition and health, no matter how hard you work to keep it that way, Paul knows that there is a limit to which that will be beneficial. For one thing, your body will get weaker and weaker as it ages, no matter what you do. And for another thing, it is the wrong priority to be more concerned with the condition of your physical body than with your spiritual person and the means by which we are to grow in holiness. No matter how much time and money is put into taking care of your body, it will eventually die and there’s nothing you can do to stop the process. But the spirit and the soul are going to live forever. This seems to be Paul’s version of our Lord’s words when Jesus said, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul” (Mark 8:36)?
Beginning with verse 11, Paul gives some practical instructions to Timothy:
Command and teach these things. 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. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers (1 Tim. 4:11-16).
I think he deals with three specifics of godliness in these last verses of this chapter. One has to do with life itself, the second with the work we do, and the third with the diligence with which we’re to perform each one. When he talks about life, he has three emphases. In verse 12, there’s an emphasis upon love, faith and purity. Love has to do with our relationship to others; faith concerns doctrine, which connects with our relationship to God; and purity has to do with ourselves in terms of moral living. Together, these three make a truly Christian presence in the world.
I’m not sure whether there’s a direct parallel here or not, but I find it interesting that those three terms, “love,” “faith,” and “purity,” fit in very well with what John writes about in his first letter. There, John is trying to give the Christians in his day the reason for understanding whether they’re really born again and whether God has really done the work in their lives that they claim. John says the way you can tell this is by the Holy Spirit expressing himself within the believer in these three areas. John writes about the need for truth, which is correct belief about doctrinal matters, focusing on the nature of Jesus Christ as God incarnate. Another area is that of love. If you don’t love other Christians, seen by having no interest in fellowshipping with them and preferring the company of the world, then do not think that you’re born again. If one has the life of God within him, that one will want to be with God’s people. The last area John writes about is righteousness, which has to do with obedience. If Jesus Christ tells you to do something and you find that you can disregard it easily because you don’t want to do what he says, don’t think you’re a Christian. One cannot claim to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and disobey or ignore his commandments.
You can see how Paul and John are saying similar things. Like John, Paul says that if the Spirit of God within you is beginning to mold you into the image of God so that you become more godly, these are three areas in which you’ll see it and by which you can measure the degree to which this spiritual growth is happening.
What evidences do we have of people being more concerned about their physical condition than their spiritual health?
Briefly define the three aspects of godliness Paul mentions.
How do Paul’s three aspects correspond with the three ideas John writes about in 1 John? Explain how John is using his three terms.
Application: How would you evaluate your Christian life in terms of love for others (especially other Christians), faith (your knowledge of and relationship with God), and a holy life?