Guidance of Timothy
1 Timothy 4:6-10
If you put the brothers in remembrance of these things, you shall be a good minister of Jesus Christ…


1. Positively. "If thou put the brethren in mind of those things, thou shalt be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished in the words of the faith, and of the good doctrine which thou hast followed until now." The apostle has been referring more immediately to the principles of asceticism which were to have their development in subsequent times. That Timothy should put the brethren (not excluding holders of office like himself) in mind of these things, was the condition of his being a good minister of Christ Jesus. Whereupon Paul takes occasion to give his idea of "the good minister," under a particular aspect. He is one who makes the Divine words his continual nourishment. As there are foods which are nutritive for the body, so what is nutritive for the soul is what God says to us, especially about himself and his feelings toward us. These Divine words are words of faith, or words which require faith for their apprehension. They are also words of good doctrine, or words in which instruction is given. It is well that there are infallible words for faith, and that we are not left to the unreliable guidance of reason. It is upon these that teaching must be founded, if it can be called good. The good minister is one who has his own soul nourished in words which he cordially believes, and in which he is well instructed. Paul had been the instructor of Timothy, and he testifies that his instructions had hitherto been followed by him.

2. Negatively. "But refuse profane and old wives' fables." The apostle, we may understand, refers to such doctrines of the current philosophy (mystic in its character) as, mingling with Christianity, would form what was known as Gnosticism. These doctrines, such as that of emanations (endless genealogies), were myths, or what had no foundation in reality. They were profane, or fitted to shock religious feeling. They were also anile, or only fit for mindless and credulous old women. Timothy was to resist all tendency to incorporate Eastern mysticism with Christianity. And, when we consider the danger that arose to the Church from this quarter, we must recognize the wisdom of the apostolic advice.

II. AS TO THE HIGHER GYMNASTIC. "And exercise thyself unto godliness." There was a straining in connection with ascetical exercises. Timothy was also to strain himself, but in such exercises as prayer and meditation, which lead to godliness, or the cherishing of right feelings toward God and the practice that is pleasing to him.

1. Bodily gymnastic. "For bodily exercise is profitable for a little." The apostle apparently has in his eye such bodily exercise as was associated with asceticism; but it is as separated from asceticism, not as part of asceticism, that he says it is profitable to a small extent. Of asceticism in this century the most notable example is Lacordaire. "Once in the convent at Chalais, after having delivered an affecting sermon on humility, he felt irresistibly impelled to follow up precept by example. He came down from the pulpit, begged the assembled brethren to treat him with the severity he deserved, and, uncovering his shoulders, received from each of them twenty-five strokes." "The chapter-room of the convent at Flavigny was supported by a wooden pillar; he made of it a column of flagellation, to which, after confession, he would cause himself to be bound." "In the ancient church of the Carmelites at Paris, there is a certain crypt or subterranean chapel, in which, one Good Friday, he raised a cross, and, bound to it with cords, remained upon it three hours." The apostle views asceticism in respect of bodily exercise. For, although it may not always exalt it into a religion, yet it lays great stress on it as a means of suppressing the corruption of the heart, of entering into sympathy with the crucified Savior, and of making atonement for the sins of men. The apostle lays hold upon this, and says that it is profitable to a small extent. It is profitable for the health of the body, for the improvement of its powers, for the obtaining of a living. It may even be allowed to have a bearing, not by itself, but in connection with right principle, on holy living (1 Corinthians 9:27).

2. The gymnastic that is universally profitable. "But godliness is profitable far all things." The apostle regards it as recommended by its profitableness. "It is that which will exceedingly turn to account, and bring in gains unto us exceedingly vast; in comparison whereto all other designs, which men with so much care and toil do pursue, are very unprofitable or detrimental, yielding but shadows of profit or bringing real damage to us. Godliness enables a man to judge of things in their true nature and proportions, and to fulfill his duties in all his relations. It enables him to act uniformly, so that he understands what he is doing, and can make himself understood. It enables a man to act in his own best interest." "If we mark what preserveth the body sound and lusty, what keepeth the mind vigorous and brisk, what saveth and improveth the estate, what upholdeth the good name, what guardeth and graceth a man's whole life - it is nothing else but proceeding in our demeanor and dealings according to the honest and wise rules of piety." It fits a man for all conditions, makes him humble, grateful, and faithful in prosperity, makes a man trustful, and full of comfort in adversity. It furnishes us with fit employment, "alone fasteneth our thoughts, affections, and endeavors upon occupations worthy the dignity of our nature, suiting the excellency of our natural capacities and endowments, tending to the perfection and advancement of our reason, to the enriching and ennobling of our souls." It furnishes us with the best friendships. It is said even, "Thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field, and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee." It unites us to good men in holy communion. It makes our friends doubly precious to us.

(1) Its profitableness for this life. "Having promise of the life which now is." Godliness has a tendency to promote a man's earthly good, in making him industrious, temperate, prudent. On the other hand, there are respects in which it may be said to hinder his earthly good. It keeps him back from that greed which would lead him to devote his whole time to worldly business, which would forbid him to work for others. It debars him from seeking gain by unworthy means. It may call upon him to make liberal contributions from his income for benevolent objects. It may bring him into a position in which his health is injured. It may call upon him to give up all his goods, and even life itself. Yet it is true that it has the promise of this life. "Although God hath not promised to load the godly man with affluence of worldly things; not to put him into a splendid and pompous garb; not to dispense to him that which may serve for pampering the flesh or gratifying wanton fancy; not to exempt him from all the inconveniences to which human nature and the worldly state are subject; yet hath he promised to furnish him with whatever is needful or convenient for him, in due measure and season, the which he doth best understand. His care will not be wanting to feed us and clothe us comfortably, to protect us from evil, to prosper our good undertakings." He has promised that, if we seek first the kingdom of God, all things that pertain to this life shall be added thereto. With Christ, he has promised to give us all things. He has promised that all things will work together for good to those that love God. It is the godly who stand in a right relation to this life. They put the right value upon it. They regard all that they receive as a gift from God, as what they are unworthy of, as what may be taken away from them, as what they ought to be grateful for, as what they are faithfully to use for God.

(2) Its profitableness for the life to come. "And of that which is to come." If the godly man has the true enjoyment even of this life, to him especially belongs the life to come with its incomparably greater blessings. He has the inheritance uncorruptible, undefiled, never-fading. He has an exceeding, even an eternal, weight of glory. He has the beatific vision of God, the satisfaction of awaking with God's likeness. Formula of confirmation. "Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation." This calls attention to what has gone before as deserving of our best consideration.

III. UPBEARING HOPE. "For to this end we labor and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, specially of them that believe." With a view especially to the promised life to come, the apostle placed himself at worldly disadvantage. Instead of consulting his ease, he toiled. Instead of consulting his popularity, he suffered reproach, as the true reading is. Under this he was borne up by hope, which was set, not on a dead idol which could do nothing, but on the living God who could do all things for him. He who was able to fulfill his promise was also disposed. He is designated "the Savior of all men." There is a universality in his benevolence. He willeth that all should be saved. And what he has performed in Christ has been for all men. He has provided satisfaction for the sin of all men. He has entered into a covenant on behalf of all men. He has procured competent aids for all men. He has thus made all men salvabiles, capable of salvation, and salvandos, that should be saved, though all men are not in effect saved. "As he that freely offers a rich boon is no less to be accounted a benefactor and liberal, although his gift be refused, than if it were accepted; as he that opens a prison is to be styled a deliverer, although the captive will not go forth; as he that ministers an effectual remedy, although the patient will not use it, deserves the honor and thanks due to a physician; so is God, in respect of what he has performed for men and offered to them, to be worthily deemed and thankfully acknowledged Savior, although not all men, yea, although not one man, should receive the designed benefit." While this is true, he is the Savior specially of them that believe. He is our Savior before we believe, but it is when we believe that we realize in our personal experience all that he is and has done for us. It is by hoping in him as our Savior, peculiarly, that we are borne up under toils and reproaches. - R.F.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: If you instruct the brothers of these things, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished in the words of the faith, and of the good doctrine which you have followed.

Counsels to God's Servants
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