We now turn to I Timothy 4:6-10 once more. In a former article from our hand on this subject we called attention to the fact that in this section Paul writes Timothy concerning three matters. (1) A good minister. (2) Of a minister who is to exercise himself unto godliness. (3) Of the incentive of the promised reward.
We finished the matter of what Paul calls a good minister and were in the midst of our discussion concerning the meaning of exercising ourselves unto godliness. We were not yet quite finished in our discussion of the latter. Permit us, therefore, to pursue our discussion of the latter, to wit, what it means to exercise one’s self unto godliness.
The term “godliness” is a very unique term here in this letter of Paul to Timothy. It seems to be the very term that distinguishes the teaching and ethics of Paul from all Judaizers and all philosophic moralists. They all teach a code of conduct; however, they do not teach “godliness.”
It seems to me that the concept godliness must be distinguished both as to a doctrine, the work of God for and in us unto salvation, and as to the ethics, the “new obedience” which is ours because of this work of God, our Savior, in Christ Jesus.
As to the former this doctrine is epitomized in the pithy song, “Great is the Mystery of godliness; God is manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory.” I Tim. 3:16. The truth is (it is a faithful saying) that Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners. Unless we believe that Jesus is the Christ—we are antichrist. For antichrist, and the spirit of antichrist is to deny both the Father and the Son. And the teaching of godliness is all that is taught in Holy Writ concerning God in Christ, the doctrine of the Trinity, Creation, Providence, the Fall, Elective grace and Sovereign reprobation, Christ’s birth, being conceived in the virgin Mary, by the Holy Ghost; His atonement through His sacrifice, His ascension on high, the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on Pentecost, the raising to life through regeneration, calling, faith, justification, sanctification and glorification of the saints. This must all be preached; it all belongs to the doctrine of godliness. Salvation is wholly of the Lord.
Now certainly a good minister must exercise himself unto the preaching of this doctrine of godliness. Only thus will he save himself and those who hear him. Unless he preaches this he is not a good minister, but he is a false prophet. However, there is more to be preached. A good minister must needs also preach the godly walk of the Christian, and must press forward himself unto such a walk. This means that a good minister will need to walk in thankfulness, that is, he will so need to walk that God is glorified as Savior in all of his life and conduct. God must not merely be glorified as the Creator of all things, and the Sustainer and Ruler of all things. He must be glorified as the Savior-God in Christ Jesus. That is a walk of godliness!
Such a walk implies, of course, that one walks in conversion, that is, in the putting off of the old man and in the putting on of the new man in Christ Jesus. And the putting on of the “new man” is true joy in God through Christ and a delight in God to more and more live unto Him as our God and Savior. However, the putting off of the “old man” is that we have true sorrow in our hearts that we have sinned against God, and a resolution to flee from the same with all our power in the Holy Spirit.
This requires great exercise of faith unto godliness.
On the part of the minister, as a believer amongst the believers, it means that he must fight daily against the Devil, the world and his own flesh. Daily he must fight against all the lusts that war against the soul. There is no let-up. But he must also war with the Word as the sword of the Spirit against all ungodliness in the church and flock of God, the living. And that requires that one is and remain in spiritual condition as a warrior of God, a minister of the Word.
Hence, the admonition to exercise self unto godliness.
For such “godliness” has a great gain. It is “profitable” unto all things. Godliness always shows a balance on the credit side of the ledger of our Christian life. It always shows that we have advanced in glorifying God our Savior. There is no end or limit to such advancement.
And the word is so faithful, and is so worthy of all acceptation. None need to doubt this word of the value of godliness. Ah, if it were mere legalism the value would simply be self-inflation of the Devil. And the same would be the case with worldly; philosophical moralism. But “godliness” always leads to contentment with God, and to the love of the brother. It is not merely a matter of the mind, the intellect, but is truly a matter of the will, of the heart. It says: herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent His Son a propitiation for our sins! It says: if God so loved us, how ought we not to love the brother.
Unto this we are to exercise ourselves!
It leads to that virtue of lowlimindedness which Pharisaism nor moralism knows in its terminology and ethics.
Such is the sure Word of God.
And for Paul it is a Beacon Light in the darkness of all his labors and striving (battling). It cheers him in the battle. It is his only hope of reward: the reward of the living God to the godly. For Paul says that only because he has hoped upon the living God, does he press forward. Let none begin this battle, let none enter into the ministry of the Word, without such hope upon God. For hope is the joyful assurance concerning what is not seen. And, O, the minister of the Word must labor so much in hope. So often he sows in tears. And only when a man places his trust solely and resolutely upon the living God will he survive! Only then will hefinally say: I have kept the faith, I have run the race, and henceforth there is laid away for me the crown of life.
And that Timothy too must do. He must place his hope and trust upon God. In Him he must be firmly anchored in hope within the holy place. For this God is not an idol. He is truly God. He is the living God. I Tim. 3:15. That He is the living God means that we too must live before the face of the living God. God lives in his church in living stones, a kingly people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. And as a living temple of the living God we place our trust and hope in him.
Paul employs the perfect tense here in. these verses: Ihave hoped. Paul had hoped all along up till the present moment. And it had not been in vain. For his trust is thus placed upon the living God. God will not allow his promise to go unfulfilled. The promise to those who exercise themselves unto godliness stands. It is like the rock of Gibraltar. It is the faithfulness of God. For the Lord is our Rock, our strong ground of confidence.
And, O, that confidence in God rests upon the fact that the Lord is “the Savior of all men, namely, those who believe.”
We have noticed in an earlier writing on I Timothy 2:3 that God is our Savior. We noticed that this not simply means that God in His providence rules over all things and provides all things in Creation as the Creator-God. We saw that it emphatically refers to God who saves His people from their sins in Jesus; Jehovah is salvation. There is no doubt about that. And, further, we would point out that there is no reason why in this passage under consideration the term “savior,” as applied to God, would not mean: the Savior who saves from sin. It definitely must refer to God as He saves from the guilt and from the corruption of sin.
We also noticed that the term “all men” cannot possibly be equated with “every man.” These two are by no means the same. Besides, it should be pointed out again the term “all men” must be explained in the light of the context. In both this letter (I Tim. 2) and Titus 2the term “all men” refers to all kinds of men: rich and poor, bond and free, male and female, kings, rulers, all in authority, as well are subjects. Now the “living” God is not a national idol, the god of one nation. He scattered man over the face of the earth, so that in Abraham all nations might be blessed. And as the living God He dwells on high and fulfils all His good pleasure.
There is some doubt about the meaning of the term in Greek translated “especially.” The Holland translates “voornamelijk.” The term in Greek is “malista.” Thayer gives the meaning as follows: “Adv. especially, chiefly, most of all, above all.” He cites the following passages in which the term is found: Acts 20:38, 25:26; Gal. 6:10; Phil. 4:22; I Tim. 5:8, 17; I Tim. 4:13; Titus 1:10; Philemon 1:16; II Peter 2:10.
In the light of our insistence that the term “Savior” refers to God as saving from sin, it might appear that Paul here says in effect: God will save all people, but especially those who believe. Thus Paul would then teach here a “common love for all” and a “particular love” for those who believe.
It is our conviction that the term here very readily suggests the sense of to speak more especially: those who believe. All men are then saved, that is “all kinds of men,” but when saved they are known more particularly as the believers. For the Son of Man is raised up, even as Moses lifted up the serpent, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.
And with a view to these elect and their salvation Paul endures all things looking for the promised reward of life and glory.
For Paul was sent into the world to preach the Gospel, a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
Timothy and every good minister must emulate the example of Paul.