The word of the day is “training.” In our reading of 1 Timothy 4:4-8, 16, St. Paul motivates Timothy to train vigorously, in piety and holiness. He states, “For bodily exercise profits a little but godliness is profitable for all things…” (vs. 8).
In our reading, Paul recommends “exercise” to combat the spiritual depravity that his opponents are fostering through their “old wives tales” (vs. 7). But he promotes spiritual over physical workouts. The word “exercise” refers to vigorous training for the Greek games (Strong’s #1128, 62). As a professional athlete, he must dedicate himself in mind and spirit to developing his spiritual condition.
Godliness: an Inner State of the Heart
His training should be in “godliness.” This term combines the terms of “well” with that of “devotion” It means an attitude that directs one’s whole being to God and to pleasing Him (Strong’s #2150, 106). Godliness is not outward but an inner state of the heart. One can display an outward “form” of godliness, that is, visible piety. But those who seek to be admired for their religiosity lack its spiritual dynamism (2 Timothy 3:5). The spiritual power of godliness is a gift of God. The Apostle in 2 Peter writes, “as His divine power has given to us all things pertaining to life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3).
Timothy is to train himself in godliness because it is profitable. It offers the “promise of the life that is now and of that which is to come” (vs. 8). Paul expresses the same thought in his second letter to Timothy. He writes, “according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:1). It is the hope of eternal life that believers have in part now but will receive in its fullness when Christ returns.
The Routine of the Spiritual Workout
What then is the workout routine for “training in godliness”? Paul promises that if Bishop Timothy delivers the teachings that Paul gives to his flock, he will be a “good minister of Jesus Christ” (vs. 6). He adds you will be “nourished in the words of faith and of good doctrine” vs. 6). The word “nourished” is in keeping with Paul’s metaphor of training. In the original Greek, its basic meaning is “to bring up.” It refers to “rearing,” “feeding,” and “training” as well.
Therefore Bishop Timothy is to train himself in the words (logoi) of the faith. In the plural, this rich word refers here to the statements (Strong’s #3056, 152) of “the faith”. Paul uses the term “faith” as a collective noun, the sum of the message of salvation. The Apostle also directs that Timothy develop himself in “doctrine.” The word in the original Greek means “teachings.” We might add that it expresses the connotation of “official instruction.” Paul affirms that Timothy has “followed” these things closely. The word “followed” in Greek refers to “following closely.” It has the sense of not only understanding but conforming to what is imparted (Strong’s #3877, 196). Now the young bishop should redouble his efforts to practice them.
Paul’s instructions to his pupil Timothy should motivate us to commit our time in this fasting season to “training in godliness.” The Apostle in 2 Peter sums up the goal of our spiritual exercise. He states that God has provided “all things that pertain to life and godliness “through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.” In conclusion, we must “learn Christ” as Paul says in Ephesians 4:20.
In the Philokalia, St. Philotheos of Sinai writes: With all our strength let us hold fast to Christ, for there are always those who struggle to deprive our soul of His presence; and let us take care lest Jesus withdraws because of the evil thoughts that crowd our soul (cf. John 5:13)… Above all, let us unhesitatingly trust in Him and in what He says, and let us daily wait on His providence towards us… If we do all these things, we are not far from God; for godliness is ‘perfection that is never complete,’ as one who was divinely inspired and spiritually perfect has said” (G.E.H. Palmer 1981, “Forty Texts on Watchfulness” [VE 3] 24.).
G.E.H. Palmer, et. al. Trans. 1981. The Philokalia: the Complete Text Vol. 3. New York: Farber and Farber
1 Timothy 4:8 Training in Godliness, Spiritual Workout, An Inner State of the Heart, The Form of Godliness, Godliness Is Profitable, Nourished in the Words of Faith and Good Doctrine, “Learn Christ, St. Philotheos of Sinai, Perfection Never Complete