1 Tim 4:7-10: “…Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”
As Paul is writing to Timothy, he is revealing the level of discipline required of all believers. The goal, he says, is godliness; a word with ambiguous meaning today. Other English versions use words like righteousness, devotion, truly religious, piety. The Greek word is actually a compound of “well” and “venerate, pay homage.” So, to “well-venerate” implies a reverence and respect for God in all things.
Both Peter and Paul conveyed this concept throughout their writings:
Titus 1:1 – Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Yeshua Messiah, for the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness,
2 Peter 1:3 – His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
1 Timothy 2:1-3 – First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, 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…
Paul cautions Timothy that some people may appear to be godly, but will only appear that way. These types of hypocrites are to be avoided.
2 Timothy 3:2, 5 – For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, … holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people.
Paul also says the teaching that promotes godliness is somehow connected or equated with the teaching of Yeshua. My personal belief is that the Sermon on the Mount goes into vivid detail on Yeshua’s view of the godly life that is sincere and reverent toward God and others.
Additionally, according to Paul, any doctrine that does not agree with with this teaching of godliness is to be considered false doctrine.
1 Timothy 6:3-6 – If anyone teaches false doctrine and does not agree with the sound teaching of our Lord Yeshua Messiah and with the teaching that promotes godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing..;.
But the key aspect of the godly, reverent lifestyle that Paul is conveying to Timothy is that training oneself in godliness is to be commended and practiced on a regular basis. Paul uses the phrase “…to this end we toil and struggle…”(literally, agonize) to convey the importance and dedication of his own efforts to attain the goal of godliness.
One of the study resources available online, the Discovery Bible’s Helps Word Studies, provides further insight into the word for training:
- “…to train with one’s full effort, i.e. with complete physical, emotional force like when working out intensely in a gymnasium.”
- exert intensely, like a pro-athlete
- full discipline, necessary to be in “top working condition”
- constant, rigorous training (exercise).
- acquiring proficiency through practice – regular exercise with graduated resistance
Whatever this training is, it is intense and continual. It is to be practiced at all times and in all aspects of living. Having godly, reverent interactions with others at all times takes extreme effort and involves unceasing vigilance. The word also implies that the more it is practiced, the better one gets at exhibiting it.
Paul also reveals how and why he stays focused on this training in godliness: “because we have our hope set on the living God…” The key to any training program is to have a clear goal before you at all times, and if your goal, your hope, is on the living God, your life will, by default, become more godly and reverent in all aspects.
This is the struggle of believers everywhere: to become more godly. However, the more we succeed and grow toward that goal, the more that God and his kingdom becomes revealed to those around us. The more evident that God becomes, the more people can be drawn to him.
That is a goal worthy of intense and ongoing training, indeed.
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