1 Timothy 4:8
For bodily exercise profits little: but godliness is profitable to all things, having promise of the life that now is…
I. "BODILY EXERCISE" IS OF CONSIDERABLE PROFIT. St. Paul is speaking of the training in the gymnasium. He allows it profits a little. Yet it is not all. No man is necessarily better in heart and life for having the muscles of his arm increased in girth half an inch or an inch. A sound constitution does not necessarily involve goodness in character. If so the Kaffir or Zulu would be the best man upon earth, which he is not. "Bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." The discipline of godliness does make a man better inwardly. And the goodness passes from the centre outwards. It includes even that measure of advantage which may be derived from the culture of the body.
II. There is another view of this phrase, "bodily exercise," which we ought to notice before passing on. A large class of writers understand by it not so much athleticism as ASCETICISM. The soul should bear empire over the body; but it should also reverence and care for the body. The laws of the body, of health, of sustenance are equally laws of God, with those of the soul. The perfection of manhood is attained when the laws of both, according to their kind and function, are duly observed. Asceticism is immoral, because it violates wantonly the law of God in one of the fairest provinces of His creation — viz., the delicate, sensitive, serviceable body of man. Yet even asceticism, in certain forms, profiteth a little. "Allow not nature more than nature needs," says Shakespeare. Self-denial in bodily indulgence might put some of us into more robust mental health, and impart to us a finer spiritual tone. I am not sure but that "bodily discipline" might (as St. Paul says) "profit a little." If any bodily appetite or habit rises into mastery over the mind or soul, it must be put in check with a firm hand, and with patient self-denial. So far "bodily exercise," discipline, is not only profitable, but imperative.
III. THE HIGHER PRINCIPLE INCLUDING ALL THAT IS SERVICEABLE IN BOTH ATHLETICISM AND ASCETICISM, AND IMMEASURABLY MORE BESIDE, IS GODLINESS. It grows also by use. "Exercise thyself unto godliness." We grow patient by being patient. We become industrious by refusing to be indolent and by working hard. We learn to love best by loving. We become religious by praying and communion with God. Begin to make God's law a ruling influence and power in your life. Think out what His will is about, say, that temptation which is coming to you to-morrow; then keep to His will, and pass the temptation by. That is the discipline of godliness.
IV. THIS IS PROFITABLE FOR ALL THINGS — unlike athleticism, which profits only for soundness of health and toughness of muscle.
1. For the body itself godliness is profitable. Disease, weakness, morbidness are far more the devil's work than God's.
2. For the mind. He who ordered the planets in their orbits, and the seasons in their unvarying round, has not left the human mind without its law; Godliness brings man into harmony with the Author of his being.
3. For faith. But godliness advances faith. The more godlike we grow, the simpler, clearer, stronger is our faith in God. Live holier lives, live less selfish lives, and you will believe more in God and His Son.
4. The affections. This great reverence for the God who is great and good and loving enlarges our heart and our affections. Godliness is instinctive chivalry. If by your evil passion and harshness, your self-indulgence, your weakness and wanton folly, you blight the lives of others, I tell you, you are ungodly men. Godliness is profitable to the home.
5. Business. Be a godly man. Fear God rather than turns of fortune or than opinion. De like God — true, reliable in your word and deeds.
(A. J. Griffith.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.