“Train yourself in godliness for the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8, HCSB).
In this verse the Apostle Paul is explaining to his protege, Timothy, that we live our present life in preparation for eternity. Paul says that we should live our lives in anticipation of eternal life!
This theological supposition is most apparent in the teachings of Jesus, particularly in His parables and proclamations of the near and coming Kingdom of God. When Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God, He usually meant it as both present and future, already but not yet, life that starts now and continues forever.
Jesus taught that people should live in this present age with respect to what will be the future reality.
Now, Paul clearly invokes this same theology in this admonition to young Timothy. But Paul’s entreaty stipulates godliness is a character trait that has significance for eternity. Because, if you are planning to spend eternity with God, then you should learn to be like Him as much as possible. You should do what He does, like what He likes, dislike what He dislikes!
So, Paul tells Timothy to train himself in godliness. Learn to become like God through disciplined practice.
Disciplined practice in godliness is akin to the training one would follow to prepare the body for a competitive sport! But godliness training is has more value than physical training because it has relevance for eternity. With godliness training a person receives eternal benefits–eternal life–while physical training only benefits a person in this present life.
Like physical training, godliness training should be rigorous. It requires constant exercise and practice: “We labor and strive for this, because we have put our hope in the living God” (vs. 10).
And any exercise program includes a regimen of activities to participate in and activities you should not do. For example, Paul instructs Timothy not to engage in the godliness demanded by “irreverent and silly myths” (vs. 7) requiring abstinence from certain foods or forbidding marriage. These kinds of demands don’t necessarily develop eternal godliness because they are teachings that are concocted by people, not God.
Let us, then, formulate for ourselves a rigorous training plan for eternal life, a plan that will develop godliness in us through regular Bible study, prayer, meditation, and worship.
And then let us go and practice godliness by serving people and proclaiming the gospel!
- Living for the Future in the Present, Part 2 – 1 Timothy 6:11-12 (stevesbiblemeditations.com)
- Living for the Future in the Present, Part 3 – 1 Timothy 6:18-19 (stevesbiblemeditations.com)