A reflection upon:
"If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished by the words of the faith and the good teaching that you have followed.
But have nothing to do with pointless and silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness.
For the training of the body has limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance."
-1 Timothy 4:6-9
Paul uses some terminology to admonish Timothy in the ministry and Christian life. Paul's purpose for his letter is to specifically instruct Timothy to remain in Ephesus in order to combat false doctrines which had infiltrated the church by means of mouthpieces- namely, teachers (I Timothy 1:3-4) who in essence destroyed Paul's [and the other apostle's] labor concerning the pure unadulterated gospel. We see in Acts chapter 20, when Paul leaves Ephesus he addresses the elders and warns them that after his departure:
"Savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Men will rise up even from among yourselves and distort the truth to lead the disciples away into following them. Therefore be alert and on guard, remembering that for three years I did not cease in warning you with tears."(Acts 20:29-31)
After a few years of Paul's imprisonment [around 5 years] we see Paul's warning had now materialized and became a reality in the church, which is not necessarily surprising considering Ephesus' background and identity as a people. Ephesus is found in present day Turkey, and it was a city that had a reputation [according to church history] for being a center for learning and the practice of magical arts. This background creeped and seeped into the church by way of teachers who began mishandling the word of God producing "false doctrines... myths... endless genealogies."(I Timothy 1:3b-4a)
A few things to consider:
1. Myths. The terminology of "myths" used here in the first century refers to "legends" used by these false teachers that Paul confronts as a means to promote immorality, as well as defend/justify the immoral behavior of the said false teachers. They would often cite Old Testament accounts/people [all of whom fall short of the glory and righteousness of Jesus Christ] and they would use those accounts to justify their immorality. In other words, I take a person from the OT [or story] and I cite/teach upon said person as a means of justifying my behavior which stands in stark contradiction to Jesus Christ and the gospel which He preached.
2. "Endless genealogy" is a term which [in the original Greek] refers to the histories and prophetic speculations rising out of guesswork, and the desire to stand out from the contemporary apostolic doctrine- they wanted to stand out and bring something "new". In other words, they would cite "special interpretations of Scripture" and "special knowledge" found by means of taking a verse out of its original context, relying upon direct & divine inspiration of the "Holy Spirit" and bringing something "new" which Jesus Christ had not revealed in the gospel nor something which the apostles taught.
This resulted in division within the church body. These doctrines promoted absolutely nothing but controversy, contentions and strife, and the said speaker- promoting the preacher/teacher and their strange doctrines rather then God's crystal clear plan revealed in the gospel. It was not equipping the church in order to further God's kingdom nor the gospel, but rather producing factions within the church, confusions- "God said this! God demands that!", and disgrace in the sight of those who were outside bearing witness- it was like a public spectacle.
Wherever the gospel of Jesus Christ is not at the focus and center, you can be sure that confusions and strife will be quick to follow.
So in what way does Paul admonish Timothy? By giving an illustration of how a "good servant of Jesus Christ" ought to be in contrast to these false teachers. If one were to read through Paul's letter(s) to Timothy [as well as to Titus who Paul sent to Crete] we see the underlying theme addressed within them is godliness. And he does this in order so that there may be an environment in which the Gospel may run speedily [as Paul writes in II Thessalonians 3:1] resulting in God's plan of salvation to be manifested and visible within the church.
The primary indicator of what we worship with our hearts is reflected with our mouths or "confession of faith." As a theologian once put it, "the thoughts of the heart is the father to our words and actions." Unless we are mindless animals, every word and action that we produce is premeditated [to an extent]. We cannot begin to say a word without our minds first forming the sentence, nor can we begin to take a step without our minds first directing us to step. s absolutely nothing to do with simply singing. The Hebrew word for worship ["פולחן"] means to "bow down to." And as the author of Psalm 115 writes by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we are conformed into the image/object of what we choose to worship. In other words, if we choose to worship God with our lives, the result is a life that is slowly conformed into the image of Jesus Christ, and this allows for the furtherance of the gospel and God's plan of salvation.
"Ok, cool. But how do I ensure I can live a life of godliness and be a good servant of Jesus, useful for His kingdom?"
And this brings us to our text:
"If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters.."(6)
It deals with verbalizing- to point out. But to point out what? The false doctrines which had infiltrated in the church, as Paul addresses previously to create a stark contrast between a good servant of Jesus Christ and a false teacher:
"Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the latter days some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons, through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared."(I Timothy 4:1-2)
Now this is a terrifying thought. Not only because people will stray from the faith [that is, the faith in Jesus Christ in the gospel] for the sake of deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, but that those who circulate these messages will have had their consciences- or moral sense completely seared. That means to be past feeling concerning what they believe and percieve to "be true", in other words there is absolutely no way to reason with them.
"I know what I know, and I know what God has told me."
"I know for a fact."
"No, God has told me specifically and you cannot question the validity or authenticity. Because I know it to be true."
"The Bible may say that to you, but that doesn't apply to me."
Here is a simple test to see where we lie within this spectrum. In the Gospel, Jesus says:
"I do not call you servants anymore, because a servant does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from My Father."(John 15:15)
Take a moment and reflect upon this verse before continuing and ask yourself, "Do I believe Jesus Christ? Has Jesus already made known to us EVERYTHING which He has heard from the Father and which He desired to speak to us 2,000 years ago?"
Our response to this word of Jesus Christ will immediately dictate and impact our lives of worship, godliness, and environment where we find ourselves.
The primary indicator of what we worship with our hearts is reflected with our mouths or "confession of faith." As a theologian once put it, "the thoughts of the heart is the father to our words and actions." Unless we are mindless animals, every word and action that we produce is premeditated [to an extent]. We cannot begin to say a word without our minds first forming the sentance, nor can we begin to take a step without our minds first directing us to step.
"But hold on a second! You stated earlier worship is not merely a song!" It's not. There's a saying I've grown to appreciate which says "the modern Christian does not tell lies to God. They simply sing them." Because in accordance to Isaiah 29, the Lord says of Israel:
"Inasmuch as these people draw near to Me with their mouths and honor Me with lip-service- their hearts are far from Me, and human rules direct their worship of Me."(Isaiah 29:13)
How can you discern what a Christian worships? Bring up the topic of God and Christianity and see what follows. Because as it is written:
"As in water reflects the face, so a man's heart reflects the true man."(Proverbs 27:19)
"Yes but context! Because that refers to the latter or end times. The "times of tribulation." Very good! In Paul's earliest written letter, which was to the church in Thessalonica, he addresses the infiltration of false mouthpieces within the church who began deceiving the church into believing that Christ had already returned and gathered His own to Himself. To combat this, Paul first encourages the church in their pursuit of the faith, addresses the error of the nature of the doctrine, and explains why it occurred in the first place:
For a people who are called according to Christ in the gospel to be separated for the Kingdom of God, we talk the least about it [that is, the kingdom of God]. For a people who talk about loving Jesus so much because "He talks to me personally", we as Christians know absolutely little to nothing about Him as a person and as He is revealed in the Word. We don't examine the OT to try and find Jesus behind everything [because all Scripture points to Jesus], instead we mine the OT for examples to justify ourselves in the sight of others concerning our "spiritual" and "godly" pursuits.
What makes the good servant of Jesus Christ different from the false teacher? The source by which they draw on to instruct and point out to others. The second half of verse 6 reads as such:
"You will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished by the words of the faith and the good teaching that you have followed."(6b)
What is the source by which they draw on? "The words of the faith and the good teaching that you have followed." This again standing in stark contrast to what Paul says concerning the false teachers- who "have strayed concerning the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons."(I Timothy 4:1b) There is a key phrase/terminology used here and it is imperative for us to grasp. Paul does not say, "be nourished by words of faith." I could reassure and affirm to myself that I will be a billionaire one day, however that does not mean that I will.
Nor does it mean to attribute to God something which Jesus did not explicitly reveal in the Gospel. After all, Muslim Jihadists by faith strap themselves with bombs and blow themselves up- by faith they do it.
What does Paul say? "Nourished by THE words of THE faith" [vs saying "words of faith"]. With precise wording [including "the words of the faith"], more importantly the inclusion of the word "the", Paul makes it extremely clear that there is already a preexisting resource of faith by which we ought to draw from. The faith by which Paul speaks of refers to Jesus Christ [of whom it is written is the "author/source of our faith" in Hebrews 12:2] which is found in the gospel.
A man or woman of true faith is one who conforms their lives to the gospel message, not those who by faith conform the gospel message to their lives/lifestyle or pervert it in order to fit it into their doctrine of demons/deceitful spirits.
"But wait you heretic! I received a 'divine revelation' from someone who gave a sign and that sign came to pass! I saw 'God' work with wonders! You cannot argue against that!"
Read Deuteronomy chapter 13. After giving the Law to Israel in order to remain faithful to the Lord, Moses [by inspiration of the Holy Spirit] immediately warns that false prophets will come drawing Israel away to worship after idols. He also says that in order to achieve this, they will come with signs and Moses instructs Israel that even if those signs were to come to pass, they were to refrain from following after them because the Lord is permitting this as a means to test Israel to see if they truly love the Lord with all their hearts, minds, strength.
"But that's just Old Testament! You yourself said it! The Old Testament ought to direct to Jesus, nothing more!"
Exactly! Which is precisely what Jesus Christ Himself warns of in the gospel. After having finished giving the entirety of God's plan to His disciples, Jesus then warns them of the end days:
"For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders to lead astray [or deceive], if possible, even the elect."(Matthew 24:24)
"Yes but context! Because that refers to the latter or end times. The "times of tribulation." Very good! In Paul's earliest written letter, which was to the church in Thessalonica, he addresses the infiltration of false mouthpieces within the church who began deceiving the church into believing that Christ had already returned and gathered His own to Himself. To combat this, Paul first encourages the church in their pursuit of the faith, addresses the error of the nature of the doctrine, and explains why it occured in the first place:
"The coming of the lawless one is based on Satan's working, with all kinds of false miracles, signs, wonders, and with every wicked deception among those who are perishing. They perish because they did not accept the love of the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a strong delusion so that they will believe the lie."(II Thessalonians 2:9-11)
This, once more is solidified by what Paul says to Timothy in our text set before us:
"But have nothing to do with pointless and silly myths."(7a)
What constitutes as pointless or silly? Anything that boasts against the revealed knowledge of Christ in the gospel. I've heard so often Christians using the phrase, "pray for wisdom! Pray for practical wisdom so you know what to do, what choices to make!" Yes, 100%. It's imperative for us to walk in wisdom, and wisdom by its definition is the application of instruction, knowledge, and understanding. However Paul writes that Jesus Christ was made wisdom for us [I Corinthians 1:30] meaning that whenever we are in need for instruction and guidance in the midst of trials, we are to look and draw from the resources of our faith- which is Jesus Christ in the gospel. Because in doing so, we are enabled to walk in a manner which emulates and reflects Christ.
This is precisely what Paul finishes with in the remainder of that verse:
"Rather, train yourself in godliness"(7b)
Who trains you? You do! And this training leads into all aspects of life according to Paul:
"Godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds the promise for the present life and also for the life to come."(I Timothy 4:8)
It's that simple! By constantly exercising godliness, one's mind Godward and towards His kingdom, we begin to acquire a completely new mindset by which we view things. The things which our carnal self would've placed a tremendous amount of weight upon no longer holds weight as we weigh it against eternity. If we were to place our desire(s) and pursuits on a scale and the counter weight were everything that will encompass eternity, 11 times out of 10 Eternity will outweigh it.
"But 'the heart is desperately wicked and deceitful [Jeremiah 17:9]!' I can't trust myself with making decisions on my own! It's better to let 'God' choose!"
Then why in the world are you even asking for anything in the first place? Your priorities are all wrong! We want God to "bless us with this" or "bless us with that" or "guide us where He wants us", yet we do absolutely nothing to address the wickedness of our hearts which effects us both in the present as well as the future! Pray for God to give you a new heart and forget about everything else. Why gain the whole world and still wake up one day in hell?
More times then not, the "divine revelations" which Christians receive are nothing more than a test, and the interpretations conveniently coincides with their hearts desires
It's the equivalent of a child asking their father for a car because they want to drive [though they have no idea how to drive nor the experience] and expect a Ferrari or Lamborghini. It doesn't make sense, does it? "When I was a child I reasoned as a child, but when I became a man I cast off childish things."(I Corinthians 13:11) Should we trust in ourselves? Heavens no! But one thing I acknowledge is the working of grace of Jesus Christ within me which re-prioritizes my values and shifts my focus onto eternity and His kingdom, allowing me to exercise my thought as to how to approach life and perspective plans.
If you cannot trust your spiritual state to make a decision, what makes you think that God can trust you? We want God's maximum "blessing" on minimal deposit.
Examine Adam as an example. God gave Adam an overall commission: tend after My garden. This is then furthered when it came time for all the animals to be named [which fell under Adam's responsibility]. Yet how does God approach this work which He wanted done? By taking the animals one by one before Adam and telling Adam to memorize every name that God Himself had given to them? By micromanaging Adam as he went about naming the animals to ensure Adam named every animal in accordance to what God had predestined their names to be? What does the Scriptures say?
"Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he [Adam] would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name."(Genesis 2:19)
Whatever Adam called each animal, that was the name which God gave it. Having entrusted the responsibility of tending after His garden to Adam, God respected each decision concerning the names which Adam gave to each animal. Adam had been given a mind by God, and Adam was to exercise his thought by becoming familiar with the characteristics of each animal in order to give each animal a name which fit its personality accordingly- he named the serpent, "serpent" because it was more cunning than any other animal, and the name "serpent" in Hebrew is defined as "to practice divination or fortune telling" which we see play out when he acts as a "mouthpiece of God" instructing an ignorant Eve.
We to, as Christians have already received our commission entrusted to us by Jesus Christ and to those who are born again- a new heart and the mind of Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 2:16). Now, there are certain responsibilities which fall under this commission and yet we are entrusted to exercise our thoughts in order to address each one using godliness. Because, harkening back to what Paul says, godliness is beneficial for "every way"- pertaining to this life, and ultimately leading to eternal life.
God is not interested in the decisions you make inasmuch as He is interested in how you approach each decision. Many Christians have blasphemed the name of Jesus Christ and turned His glory to shame all in the name of the Father, the Son, and most importantly, the Holy Spirit.
After addressing godliness, and touching base on how we are to exercise our minds in Christ, it seems good to finish with the aspect of the result from exercising godliness. The Greek word used for exercise ["άσκηση"] refers to training, or strict discipline, and Paul makes it very clear when writing to Timothy what he is to discipline himself in. Earlier in his letter he addresses the spiritual climate of the church as a result the false teachers and (after "breaking down" the structure of the church begins to "rebuild" it from the foundation upward) says:
"First of all then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth."(I Timothy 2:1-4)
[Prayer and intercession for both the church, as well as the unsaved and authoritative leaders within the government]
Paul writes later:
"Don't let anyone despise your youth, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity. Until I come, give yourself to public reading, exhortation, and teaching."(I Timothy 4:12-13)
[Devoting oneself to the Scriptures to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and primarily the gospel as well as conduct]
"[P]ursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of eternal life to which you were called and about which you have made a good confession in the presence of many witnesses."(I Timothy 6:11b-12)
This part deals with both one's character, as well as moral compass. The first part Paul addresses Timothy to pursue attributes which reflect Christ: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, etc. And the latter part deals with the moral compass and focus: eternal life. Aside from preaching and teaching concerning the kingdom of God, we are called to live set apart for that kingdom.
We have Jesus and the apostles as an example. They did not proclaim the message of "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!"(Matthew 4:17) and then had their thoughts and affections earthbound which is reflected in the manner in which they lived. They comprehended that their home was not on earth, and by exercising their thoughts in godliness [i.e. what Jesus taught in the gospel and His manner of life as the ultimate example], they were committed to sacrificing everything in order to lay hold of the promise reserved for them in heaven.
What occurs when we exercise? We grow- either in endurance or strength. But what results when we exercise? Have you ever tried lifting weights and decided that you were going to start by benching 1000 lbs? You may have all of the faith in the world that you'll hold that bar upright, however there's a strong possibility that you'll be dead immediately after attempting to hold the bar as it drops on you. You need to start at a comfortable load or pace and gradually work your way up. And after we exercise we are typically exhausted right? That's only natural, as Solomon says:
"And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh."(Ecclesiastes 12:12)
But what gets weary? The flesh! By devoting oneself to the Word and prayer [as we cannot know what to pray for aside from the Word], the "flesh" is drained of its desires, passions, and lusts, allowing for the spiritual man to grow.
How is new muscle formed? By the tearing into of the existing muscle. As we begin to exercise godliness we are rewarded with opposition, the way I heard it once said is as such:
"Wounds are nothing more than the word of God being manifested in the flesh."
By stepping into the gospel calling and exercising our thoughts to take steps in the faith, what results is wounds. Yet much like with muscle growth, the grace of Christ heals us of our wounds and allows us to grow in His grace- allowing us to in turn bear more and endure more.
As we pursue our goals, desires, and plans while exercising godliness, it is inevitable that we will come across opposition. And this opposition will inevitably force us to make a decision: either we persist in our goals, desires and plans, typically resorting to the use of force which results in our victory. Or, we lay hold of our moral code which results in our defeat. At times it is better to seek after defeat for the sake of ensuring we do not compromise our moral principles grounded in Christ rather than allow an opportunity for Jesus Christ and His gospel to be blasphemed and accused.