Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
1 Timothy 4:7
I. The word godliness signifies a religious character in all its integrity, with special reference to God: it is therefore the highest idea to which your aspiration can be raised. It is not simply salvation from sin, or holiness as separation from evil, but the result into which both flow. It is religion known by its highest possible name. And this piety, thus clothed with its perfection, you are bidden to seek as the business of your life: as the goal of all other aspirations. There is not in the Bible a more impressive and stimulating appeal to your own individual energy. The words assume it as the universal law of the supernatural order that one condition of our spiritual wellbeing, indeed of our spiritual life, is our own sedulous self-discipline. There is much music in the air that is not played to this note. There is a danger of our resting on Jesus and casting all our care on Him, in a sense for which He gives no authority.
II. Exercise thyself unto godliness. With regard to all the exercises of a holy life, whether the training of the soul to overcome sin, or its education to habits of deep devotion, ever more remember that the aim must be godliness, and nothing but that. Here is, the protection of all religious discipline against the abuse to which it is liable. For instance, if your end is likeness to God, to God as revealed in His all-holy Son, you will never rest in the means. You will not mistake the aids and helps of religion for religion itself; you will for ever be freeing your way through them to Him who is the end. And if the whole soul is set on genuine godliness, no failure will divert its pursuit from that. The very sincerity of its desire will shield it from despair.
W. B. Pope, Sermons and Charges, p. 314.
Reference: 1 Timothy 4:7.—R. G. Gould, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 228.
1 Timothy 4:8The Right Human Life is its own Reward.
I. The life which we have received from nature, beyond a very brief stage, is impracticable: it will not hold together. One and one only human life can hold its own and renew itself for ever. Therefore, clearly, it is the only wise life, the only profitable life. All your real interests for time and all your real interests for eternity, you may stake on the life that recognises God for its source and law. It is as reliable as God's own existence. It will repay all your training, unfolding and unfolding for ever into higher and higher forms of humanity. Your strength and labour spent on any other human life will be lost and your time wasted.
II. The Highest, the Eternal, is capable of human development. More, God, who is the infinite Love and Reason, and Law and Power, seeks to unfold Himself in man. More, He can only reveal Himself to men and women, as He unfolds His powers in them. He has revealed Himself, He is now revealing Himself, and He will be for ever revealing Himself to humanity. Whether in the heavens, or on the earth, humanity is the throne and the kingdom of His manifestation.
III. Godliness is not gloom, nor asceticism. It makes no man a monk, no woman a nun. To enjoy with God, all that God has created, is godliness. Godliness despises no good thing, no beautiful thing, but rather freely receives all good things in thanksgiving and turns them into gladness. In the enjoyment of this world's blessings, cherish the confidence that they are shadows, and only shadows, of richer blessings—the perfectly human blessings and delights of our Father's Home-kingdom.
J. Pulsford, Our Deathless Hope, p. 115.
The Twofold Promise.
Paul's words are often quoted as if he meant that through godliness we might make our fortune here and hereafter, and as if a skilful Christian man might find life a sort of palatable soup, pleasant to the hungry and even to the dainty, by the due mixture of earthly and heavenly ingredients. The wages Christ earned of a wicked world were paid Him in full at Calvary. He entered into glory afterwards. His disciples, indeed, carried a wallet which was never without generous alms; and so godliness paid its way, as it always will do, but that way led it by the Cross. And so Christians may find that godliness is profitable for a livelihood and little more: a little more here, and much more hereafter. Here, a livelihood and afflictions; hereafter, rest and Divine riches; and so godliness with contentment is great gain.
I. We were born to advance and increase; and, therefore, to seek a higher place and a broader field may be, not only natural but godly. But God, who is highest of all, and in whom there can be no ambition, when He comes down to commence an ascending career, carries upward the world of sinners and sufferers in His own progress. As He rises, we rise. If, then, we set our affections on things above, they must be things where Christ is, not where Satan is.
II. The promise of godliness for the life to come is rest, satisfaction with God in that rest, and enjoyment of the results of our labour in that satisfaction. Rest is a sweet and necessary thing: so necessary that without a day of rest our days of work would be unendurable: so sweet, that it is the first thought of the wearied earthly traveller that he will find it at the end of his journey. In the heavenly Canaan, the land of promise, we shall be rich and happy. Yes, but we shall find rest. Two things must have our care in exercising ourselves unto godliness; and these will be one sure test of our advancing proficiency—(1) We must pray; (2) we must revise our estimate of things temporal that are things desirable; (3) our proficiency will be shown in the ready, unprompted movement of our mind towards God in times of common or special activity.
T. T. Lynch, Three Months' Ministry, p. 25.
The Promise of Godliness for the Present Life.
The Apostle meant by godliness life under God's direct personal guidance, inspired by love to God, led in obedience to God and in personal communion with God. The Apostle means, further, to say, that to such a life God promises good and profitable things, not only in heaven, but here upon earth. That godliness has its possibilities of joy, of usefulness, of attainment, of victory, of knowledge, of social good, of spiritual stature, in this world as well as in the heavenly world.
I. And it seems to me that this must be true from the nature of the case. For if godliness consists in being loyally under God's administration, then it follows, of course, that a godly man is under that administration no less on earth than in heaven. A sovereign whose kingdom embraces mountain ranges and valleys, does not impose one law on the mountaineers and another on the men of the plains. The administration is one, and the loyal subject at the foot of the hills shares its privileges with the mountaineer. Conditions are different, but the king is the same, the law is the same; and whatever privileges of that administration are possible to the dweller in any part of it, are freely his.
II. I wonder if we all realise how much the Bible has to say about this life as compared with the next. Whatever the Bible may be, it is preeminently something to live by here. The more the significance that attaches to the future life, the stronger is the reason for giving us a manual for this life. Christ brings life to light by bringing immortality to light. Instead of turning away our thoughts from earth to heaven, He makes earth lighter and earthly life more significant with the light of heaven. There is too strong a tendency to make escape rather than victory the keynote of life. But the kingdoms of the world are promised to Christ. Sin is mighty, but Christ is mightier. God did not make this world to lose it. He did not make you and me to be dwarfs in holiness and weaklings in holy effort.
M. R. Vincent, The Covenant of Peace., p. 33.
References: 1 Timothy 4:8.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi., Nos. 937, 946; G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons to English Congregations in India, p. 66; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 99; Ibid., Plymouth Pulpit Sermons, 3rd series, p. 355; J. Pulsford, Our Deathless Hope, p. 115; J. Tinling, Ibid., p. 338; Ibid., vol. iv., p. 104; A. J. Griffith, Ibid., vol. xv., p. 348; H. P. Liddon, Ibid., vol. xx., p. 353; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. v., p. 27; vol. x., p. 84.
1 Timothy 4:10I. Whether we take the words, "the living God," in our text to apply to Christ Himself, or to the Father acting by Christ, it is equally asserted that Christ is the Saviour of all men, that the salvation which He wrought is, in and of itself, co-extensive with the race of man. What He did, He did for, or in the stead of, all men. Christ, being the Divine Son of God, and having become the Son of man, was no longer an individual man, bounded by the narrow lines and limits of His own personality, but was and is God manifest in the flesh: a sound and righteous Head of our whole nature, just as Adam was its first and sinful head. Hence it is that, whatever He does, has so large a significance. Hence that, when He fulfils the law, His righteousness is accepted as ours. From the vicarious work and sacrifice of the Redeemer, consequences not only possible, but actual, flow forth to every member of our common race, in virtue of that common membership, in virtue of their physical union with Christ in their common humanity. Whether these consequences will be to them an advantage or a disadvantage, a gain or a loss, must, from the very constitution of our nature, both physical and spiritual, depend on further considerations, involving the exercise of their own spiritual faculties and capacities. "Christ is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe."
II. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." He is the Saviour of all men, in that He included them all in that nature which He took on Him, and bore the whole world's sin, and made a way for all to God. He is specially the Saviour of them that believe, in that in their case only does this His salvation become actual and come to its ripeness and perfection; in them only does His Spirit dwell; they only are changed into His image; they only shall be with Him and behold His glory where He is and be perfectly like Him, seeing Him as He is.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. vi., p. 108.
References: 1 Timothy 4:10.—R. W. Dale, Discourses on Special Occasions, p. 121; W. C. E. Newbolt, Counsels of Faith and Practice, p. 88; J. T. Stannard, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 136. 1 Timothy 4:12.—J. Thain Davidson, Sure to Succeed, p. 207; R. Tuck, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 224; Ibid., vol. xxxii., p. 18. 1 Timothy 4:13.—C. Babington, Church of England Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 20; W. G. Horder, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 107.
1 Timothy 4:16Self-discipline.
I. What, as regards man, guilty man, is the final cause of the atoning Cross, the red altar of the all-blessed substitute of the sinner? It is the creation, in the penitent who embraces that one hope set before him, of a character in harmony with that God, equally absolute in grace and in "severity," who spared not His own Son. I do not say that this is the immediate purpose of the Cross, as set out in Scripture. No, it has first to effect, not transfiguration of character, but acceptance of person. It has to effect the objective reality of a righteous pardon. But that sacred pardon, or call it rather acceptance, a nobler word, is all the while a means and not an end. Its end, as far as the justified are concerned, is the transfiguration of character. The millstone of condemnation is lifted away, on purpose, above all things, that the penitent may be made effectually willing, with a will disengaged from the fears and the repulsions of the unpardoned state, to be trained into a character in harmony with God and capable of His heavenly presence.
II. We inhabit a period full of subtle tendencies to self-indulgence. I mean the moral self-indulgence which, in plain words, abhors not evil; the temper that can tolerate what ought to be intolerable to the conscience, even if it be some elaborate romance of sin, it only it comes in a garb that commends it to the intellect and the imagination. Too often the soul that has grasped personal justification yet forgets to grasp what should be its direct result; no negligent repose in sacred privileges, but the real and glorious work of the will in the strength of the peace of God. The assured and gladdened disciple too often needs to be reminded that his liberty is the liberty to observe, and love and do every detail of his Redeemer's will; that in his happy faith he is to find the nerves of his unwearied virtue; that from his whole plan of life down to its minutiae of daily personal habits, public, private, and solitary, aye, down to his sleep, his table, and his dress, he must habituate himself to the moral and spiritual consciousness of being under discipline. For he is being trained under his Lord's grace and guidance, into the character of the Gospel.
H. C. G. Moule, Christ is All, p. 175.
The Teacher and the Taught (Sermon to Sunday School Teachers).
I. You are workmen of God. The great Worker has called you to His counsels, and He has assigned to you a task. Much of His purpose and government, of His mercy and judgment, proceeds in utter independence of all human aid or cooperation; but there is a larger portion of His blessedness which He only communicates to men through the human mind and heart. God waits and asks for the cooperation of His children, and finds for every kind of talent, intellect, and moral energy, some work to do. In one sense, indeed, every atom of every world is busily at work for God; and in one sense, every mind has a work to do for God, consciously or unconsciously, which no other mind can accomplish. Surely the highest dignity God could confer on any human being is to use Him for a purpose and work like this.
II. You are students of God's Word. If you are not students, if you are not doing your best to understand God's truth, you will soon exhaust your stock of capital, you will be perpetually baffled when you need not be, by the inquiries of the youngest children; you will not be thoroughly furnished for this great work. If Timothy needed to give himself to reading, exhortation, doctrine, it is equally necessary that you should devote yourselves to the study of revealed truth within your reach, and commune with the Spirit of its Author.
III. You are servants of the Church. One great function of the Church is to teach the world. It may be the function of some to exhort, of some to console. There are some in the Church whose great work seems to be to rule; the work of others is to give. The teaching office of the Church is not and cannot be confined to the pastorate. The Church should regard the school as a portion of its own operations, and the teachers as its own servants or representatives.
IV. Once more, you are watchers for souls. It is a wise and wonderful thing to save souls, to win souls. Are you habitually aware of the grand dimensions of your work? Do you never slip into routine? Are you always alive to its magnitude? Take heed to your doctrine that it be (1) scriptural, (2) comprehensive, (3) connected and ordered upon some plan, (4) appropriate to the class of minds with which you have to deal. "Take heed to thyself." Thou art not only to be free from the blame of others, and from the accusations of thine own conscience, but to be a pattern of purity and honour, of spirit and love, of word and conversation. Thou art to be a specimen of what a Christian ought to be, in the transactions of daily life, at the innermost shrine of earthly affections, on the highways of the world. A pattern to believers. Ordinary believers naturally look to those who teach for the deepest faith and for the highest kind of life. Patient perseverance in such godlike work is a way not only of securing the salvation of others, but our own salvation too. This taking heed to ourselves is, indeed, necessary, in order that we should have any influence with those that hear us. This taking heed to the doctrine is utterly indispensable to our own salvation. Let us continue in them, and remember that when we thus seek the salvation of others, we are seeking our own.
H. R. Reynolds, Notes of the Christian Life, p. 311.
The Comparative Influence of Character and Doctrine.
As a means of moral and religious influence, life should precede doctrine, character be regarded as of even greater importance than verbal teaching. We may perceive this by reflecting—
I. That life tends very greatly to modify a man's own views of doctrine.
II. It affects also his power of expressing or communicating truth to others.
III. It has in many respects an influence which direct teaching or doctrine cannot exert. Actions are (1) more intelligible, (2) more convincing than words, and (3) they are available in many cases in which the teaching of the lips cannot, or ought not, to be attempted.
J. Caird, Sermons, p. 301.
References: 1 Timothy 4:16.—W. Elmslie, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxiv., p. 305; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 257.
The Life to Come.
I. The certainty of the life to come. I admit that our storehouse of proofs is here, in the revelation of God. It is here that life and immortality have been disclosed by the Great Teacher, who came down from heaven, and not only disclosed in His instructions, but set in a most vivid light, by the miracles He wrought, in bringing men back from the grave, and by His own resurrection, the type and pledge of the resurrection of the race. The teaching of the Bible accords with the workings of the human mind, with the analogies of things, as we see them around us, and with the general constitution of nature.
II. What are the characteristics of the life to come? The future is to be but the full development, in different circumstances, and in a different form of life, of the present. The symbols used in the Scriptures, and the analogies they adopt to illustrate and throw light upon the subject, all show that the life which is, is to give shape and form and impart its elements to the life which is to come.
III. While we shall be the same beings, as far as our moral consciousness is concerned, the materials of thought, the objects which shall excite the passions and determine the experience shall be the same. The present is the great storehouse of the future, wherein we are laying up the elements of our future experience. Our emotions in the life to come, whether present or prospective, shall exist in view of the past. He that is holy shall be holy still; and he that is filthy shall be filthy still; rising in holiness or sinking in degradation for ever.
E. Mason, A Pastor's Legacy, p. 186.
Reference: 1 Timothy 5:1-16.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. in., p. 380.
Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.
But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.
For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation.
For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.
These things command and teach.
Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.
Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.
Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.