Reflections on 1 Timothy – chapter 3: 14 – 4: 16: The “mystery” of godliness


The study translation Bible 2009

There are many books and articles about godliness. Most seem to put forward a list of things that we should emulate or sins we should avoid. And while there seems to be an element of that here, Paul’s focus in 1 Timothy 3: 14 – 5: 16 is that if God is passionate about the Gospel of salvation through Christ alone as taught by Paul God’s appointed spokesman (see previous reflections on 1 Timothy below) then godliness (being like God) will mean that that we will be passionate about those things too as we live to love and please Him.

We know that has been what Paul has been all about in 1 Timothy so far. In chapter 1 we saw that if God is passionate about salvation through Jesus only then so should we be. In chapter 2 we saw that God’s passion should be reflected in our prayer and lives. And in chapter 3 we saw that God’s passion should influence the kind of leaders we choose.

Perhaps this could not be more strongly shown than when at the end of telling us about choosing godly leaders Paul in 1 Timothy 3: 16 (isn’t it interesting how many critical verses in the Bible are 3: 16?) poses this, “Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:” and then instead of a list of things to do or not do he inserts a piece of poetry about Jesus, the gospel and salvation! There is much to reflect on here!

But as usual there will always be false teachers who are more concerned about people following them and their ministries which reflect their passions and not God’s passion. And in 4: 1 – 5 there is some detail about the kind of false teaching that’s risen from within at Ephesus. Unsurprisingly it seems to be some kind of legalism in particular rules about whether to marry and what to eat. There is always some “Christian guru” on these kinds of things – it drives me nuts. Clearly it drives Paul nuts too because he takes off the gloves and talks directly about where all this nonsense comes from in 4: 1 “…deceiving spirits… demons…”

The detail is not so important for us here, what is important is that these “hypocritical liars” will always be around and we must swat them away with the truth! That is essentially what Paul says in 4: 6 – 7. And then Paul says “train yourself to be godly” 4: 7 – 8. Which as we know from the rest of 1 timothy means…? Well unless you think I am trying to make Paul say something he is not look at 4: 9 – 10!

And so Paul says in 4: 11 – 16 teach and command these things! Live out these things. Disciple others in these things. That is what godliness is all about! You might want to have a look at my article below entitled “The way that Jesus saved you is the way He will grow you” (https://mikeemslie.wordpress.com/2010/07/09/the-way-that-jesus-saved-you-is-the-way-he-will-grow-you/) as further insight to Paul’s thinking on this.

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