Jesus Christ is the most significant human figure in all of history. Because God became flesh, the truth of the incarnation is simply far beyond what anyone could imagine or even understand. But it does not stop there! Those who receive salvation by faith, quickly learn that regeneration creates a new desire, a thirst for righteousness, which can only be quenched through spiritual growth. And with that growth comes power since God the Father enables His servants to experience spiritual fruitfulness in their labours for Him. Someone once said that the biggest room in the world, is room for improvement, and unless we are mistaken, every Christian can stand to grow spiritually
Paul taught Timothy about the value of godliness in his first letter to him. A metaphor is given whereby the value of physical exercise is compared to that of godliness and with predictable results (1 Tim. 4:8). Only a life of godliness can prepare the soul for heaven. If lives are not fixed on Christ and His Word then is it any wonder, that many have succumbed to Satan’s lies and have and will turn away from the faith due to false teaching ( vs.1). Truth is what leads people into a godly life and Satan wishes no part of it. That is why Timothy is exhorted to teach and preach the truth to the congregation, even the public reading of Scripture (vs.13) since it is the Word that teaches against sin and instructs the soul in the ways of righteousness. Whatever fickleness may be found in today’s hearers, nothing is more urgent for people to listen to than the gospel. It is unfortunate that many leave off teaching doctrine for fear of alienating people. In a post modern world our church members, who are reeling from a culture that is anti-authority, possess no real sense of objective knowledge, and where individualism reigns supreme, need to be reaffirmed that Christ is still on the throne and leading His people. Only the gospel can promote godly living in the day and age that we live in.
The actual value of a godly life and the vigilant pursuit of it is what follows from vv 7 to the end of chapter four. Timothy is told to exercise himself with a view toward godliness. The root word in Greek, which is where we get our word gymnasium from, is the word for exercise and involves the rigorous exertion of either body or mind. If you are going to spend time at doing anything rigorously, and remain committed to it, then it seems quite probable that you are convinced of its importance. The reason godliness is essential is given in verse eight where it speaks of its value in this life and the life to come. As much as physical exercise has limited value, mainly for the body; godly living, on the other hand, affects all things and every area of life. The intrinsic worth of godliness affects the way we think about life, the things we do in life, and the goals we aspire to in life; essentially, all is affected. You see the infinite worth of godliness in everyday practical matters, and still even more so in things that regard eternity. Discerning between false and true and choosing the right course of action, you are essentially valuing the things that God does and thereby are living godly lives. What is valuable in this life prepares us for the life to come. Inasmuch as living morally upright lives is the outworking of our salvation, it provides assurance that we are spiritually adopted sons and daughters. Also, our own lives may help save that of others through our example and influence which may lead them to embrace the gospel.
Some in Timothy’s day had considered him too youthful due to his age, but Paul instructs him to show his critics his true state of maturity through a godly life and in so doing, may not only change their opinion of him, but may also help lead them to Christ ( vs.16) In order to do so, Timothy is to set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. (vs.12) The essence of godliness is that it must be found both in our conversation and our practice together. Our words and deeds must never be competing forces. Where our talk is more than what our lives can support then it will detract from the gospel. Sometimes, the word hypocrisy is heard among evangelicals. In vs.2 false teachers are labelled “hypocritical liars.” They speak piously and learnedly to cover up their ignorance and immorality. They wished to be thought of as wise, trustworthy, and desired respect from their followers, but in fact were not deserving of such. For Christians, it is quite essential that as we speak the gospel that we live by it since we ourselves are the life of our teaching. The Christian life is about consistency. Paul makes it clear that godliness is to occupy every aspect of our lives where our speech and personal behaviour are to be one and the same and to blend into Christ’s life like a shadow does into its form. Yet, the quintessence of godliness has not left much of an impression on the public so far; probably because the gospel message has been marred by halfhearted living. George Barna conducted an opinion poll about what people wished for their christian leaders to be like. Here are some of his findings: Many wish for the church ministers to be a modern day business manager. Character is not as essential as personality is, and being socially gregarious is more desirable than ability. Fun and attractive messages were preferred over sound exegetical sermons. Prayer and practical knowledge of God was not as important as is charisma and likableness.1 It would seem that Christians have some work to do before they can convince others what it means to be a godly man or woman.
Vigilance is required for a godly lifestyle. We are confident of this since in the remaining four verses of chapter four Paul directs our attention to the pursuit of godliness. Stress is placed on five verbs, all basic to a common activity: devote, be diligent, give yourself, watch your life and doctrine closely, persevere in them (vv.15,& 16); which leaves the distinct impression that effort is required if godly living is in sight. In part, we may see why Paul is so insistent. In his writing to Timothy, apart from those he had previously said would fall away from the faith, he identifies a few who have already made shipwreck of their faith, such as Hymenaeus and Alexander, from a larger group whose names are not given (1:19,20). The temptation to succumb to the onslaught of Satan is great. Sometimes it comes almost imperceptibly. The old adage that water will settle on the lowest part of the floor can be said of some Christians who seem satisfied to compare themselves with others in their pursuit of godliness, especially, if that other is less than passionate about their love for Christ. To pursue godliness in this anemic fashion can only lead to disaster. It is not the kind of perseverance that Paul speaks of here in vv.15 and 16. To point to other metaphors that Paul used, he illustrates participants in the christian life as those who are are running a race, and who must run as though to win it; or boxing, just not flaring away at the air but precision punching in order to win the contest. (1 Co. 9:24 – 27). All this requires discipline, persistence, and focus to complete God’s goal for the believer. Now I wish for you to listen to a man who in his own words fell short of doing a better job in his christian life.
When I look into my heart and take a view of my wickedness, it looks like an abyss infinitely deeper than hell. And yet it seems to me that my conviction of sin is exceedingly small and faint: it is enough to amaze me that I have no more sense of my sin. I have greatly longed of late for a broken heart, and to lie low before God.2
It may surprise us but Jonathan Edwards, who by all account was esteemed highly by his peers for the manner in which he lived, spoke these words about his ministerial and personal sins.
A godly life requires a twenty-four hour commitment so that its influence may be felt in our outreach. Our faith is never wanting or without power or substance when God blesses our work. In a little booklet titled Words to Winners of Souls author Horatius Bonar observes that “a ministry of power must be the fruit of a holy, peaceful, loving intimacy with the Lord.”3 In reaching souls for Christ he adds that “our power in drawing men to Christ springs chiefly from the fullness of our personal joy in Him and the nearness of our personal communion with Him. Personal godliness is the means to achieve success with men’s souls.”4 To reduce it to its simplest form: Godly living pleases God, and where God is pleased with us, He then is quite happy to empower us to change the lives of others with the gospel. That is the power of a Godly life.
1 God in The Wasteland – David Wells
2 Words to Winners of Souls – Horatius Bonar pg 36, 37
3 Ibid pg – pg 13
4 Ibid pg– pg 13