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SCRIPTURE REFERENCES » 1 Timothy 4:6-16

Morning Sermon: 1 Timothy 4:6-16: Keep A Close Watch On Yourself And On The Teaching

Old Testament Reading: Psalm 149

“Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly! Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King! Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples, to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron, to execute on them the judgment written! This is honor for all his godly ones. Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 149, ESV)

Sermon Text: 1 Timothy 4:6-16

 “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that 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. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:6–16, ESV)

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Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

Introduction

This is one of those passages in 1 Timothy which is very specifically and directly addressed to Timothy. Of course, the whole letter is addressed to him. But there are some portions of this letter in which Paul speaks of things more generally. Here he is very direct, saying to Timothy, “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus”, and “train yourself for godliness…”, etc. Paul writes to Timothy very directly in this passage, but it would be a terrible mistake to assume there is nothing here for us. There most certainly is! This letter was not meant to be read by Timothy alone. Think of it. We have this letter in the canon of scripture. Timothy knew that he was not supposed to read this in his study and then stick it in the desk drawer. No, this letter was to be shared and preserved (which it was), for what Paul says to Timothy here applies to every minister of the gospel, and to every Christian. In other words, Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, but he wrote it in such a way that it would function as a guide for all ministers of the gospel and for all church members.  

When I read 1 Timothy 4:6-16 I hear a kind of job description for Pastors. What are pastors to do? What are they to devote themselves to? This passage doesn’t say it all, but it does say an awful lot!

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Pastors Must Pursue Godliness

The second and final point of the sermon today is that pastors must pursue godliness. 

These are the two things that Paul exhorts Timothy to do: devote yourself to teaching the scriptures and to living a godly life. Ministers of course do more than this. But these are two things that Paul highlights. Paul concludes this section in verse 16, saying, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching…” In other words, live holy Timothy. Persist in the faith yourself, and teach the faith to others. These are two things that every minister must do. 

This theme of pursuing godliness permeates this entire passage. 

Look back to verse 6:  “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed”. Before Timothy taught others to walk in the faith, he himself walked in the faith.

Look at verse 7: “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths . Rather train yourself for godliness…” I think it is safe to say that Paul was referring to the teaching of the false teachers with the words “irreverent, silly myths”. Their teachings about the law were mythical. They were not true. They were silly, meaning empty and useless. And they were irreverent or godless, meaning that they produced only a superficial and hypocritical kind of religion. Timothy was to have nothing to do with these false teachings, instead he was to train himself for godliness. 

The Greek word translated as “train” is γυμνάζω, meaning “to control oneself by thorough discipline” (LouwNida, 751). Athletes will go to the gymnasium to train their bodies, but Timothy is here commanded to train for godliness. And then Paul adds this explanation: “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.”

You will notice that Paul does not say that bodily training is of no value. Instead, he says that bodily training is of some value. There is value to bodily training. The Christian should take care of their body. It is a gift from God. Our lives are lived in the body. We serve God with the body. The body and soul are interrelated. Also, bodily discipline is connected to spiritual discipline. So as Christians we should discipline our bodies. We should eat right. We should exercise. 

But here Paul contrasts the limited value of bodily training with the far greater value of training in godliness. Godliness — that is, living in a way that is pleasing to God and in obedience to his word — “holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” The rewards of godliness are great. The rewards are great in this life. Later in this letter Paul will say, “But godliness with contentment is great gain…” And godliness also holds promise for the life to come. Godliness in this life produces heavenly rewards. The same cannot be said of bodily training. 

Perhaps you have noticed that our culture places a very, very high value on bodily training, and a very, very low value on godliness. Look at how much our athletes are paid. Our culture even values their opinion on political, ethical, and philosophical matters. Why? What have they done to earn this respect except train the body? And yet those with true intellectual and spiritual abilities are disregarded. The church must be countercultural. We must place a very high value on godliness, and have a more sober esteem for bodily training.

And it is especially important for ministers to “train… for godliness.” Is there anything more damaging to the life of the church than for a minister who teaches and exhorts others to be godly, to be not godly himself. We all sin, brothers and sisters. All ministers sin. But when a minister lives a life of sin, or has some major moral failing, God’s people are badly hurt. 

In verse 9 we read, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.” What saying? Well, it is the saying we have just considered. “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” (1 Timothy 4:8, ESV).

Evidently this saying was well known and applied, not only to ministers, but by the whole church. Perhaps it was especially common within the church at Ephesus where Timothy ministered. The gymnasium was very popular in Ephesus. And perhaps the Christians in Ephesus adopted this saying in response to it:  “For while bodily training [γυμνασία] 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.”

Are you training for godliness, brothers and sisters? Are you working hard at it? Are you striving to think, speak, and act in a way that is pleasing to God and in obedience to his word? Are you training for godliness with the kind of intensity that a runner trains for a marathon, or a boxer trains for a fight? That is what Paul is calling Timothy to do. And this is what you ought to do as well. Frankly, sometimes we do not progress in godliness because we do not try. We are far too complacent with our sinful thoughts, words, and deeds. Train for godliness, brothers and sisters. 

Verse 10: “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” To toil means “to engage in hard work, implying difficulties and trouble” (Louw Nida, 514). To strive means to fight, or to fight with weapons. Are you striving for godliness? Are you fighting the good fight? Or have you grown soft and complacent, spiritually speaking? 

Why do we toil and strive after godliness? Because our hope is in Jesus and through him we have been saved! Notice Paul does not say, for to this end we toil and strive so that we might be saved. Rather he teaches that we strive for godliness because we have been saved by Christ, and our hope is in him. This is massively important. We pursue holiness because we have been made holy. We strive after godliness out of gratitude for the grace that God has bestowed upon us in Christ Jesus.

Notice that God is here said to be the Savior of all people, especially those who believe. All people clearly means all kinds of people. It is those who believe, from amongst the Jews and the Gentiles, rich and poor, slave and free, who are saved. These are God’s elect. These are the ones for whom Christ died. 

In verse 12 Paul says, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12, ESV). Being a young pastor has its challenges. The word young here may be used to refer to men under the age of 40. Most would agree that Timothy was in his 30’s when Paul wrote to him. As a young minister some were tempted to look down on him. But Timothy was to overcome this by setting “the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” In other words, Timothy would earn the respect of those older than him by being godly in his words and deeds, and also in his heart. He was to serve in love. He was to maintain a strong faith. He was to be pure in the whole of life. 

We come now again to verse 16 where all of this is brought to a conclusion: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching” Paul says. “Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Ministers need to recognize and remember that there is a lot on the line. Minsters do not save people. Christ does. But ministers save themselves and those who hear them through the gospel they preach. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that saves. And so ministers must be sure to preach that gospel, and to live according to it themselves, so that the name of God be not reviled .  

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Conclusion

Brothers and sisters, this second point of the sermon applies to you. Though Paul is here addressing ministers of the gospel, is it not also necessary for you to grow in godliness? Is it not also right for you to live in a way that agrees with the gospel you claim to believe? You share this gospel with others, don’t you? You give people a reason for the hope that is in you. Be sure to live in a way that agrees with that gospel, and to adorn the gospel with good deeds. And would you be sure to pray for your ministers that they would grow in godliness. For this “saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance”, “ 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.”

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, 1 Timothy 4:6-16, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Morning Sermon: 1 Timothy 4:6-16: Keep A Close Watch On Yourself And On The Teaching


"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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