By Forrest D. Moyer
Godliness is a beautiful trait that must be added to our lives (2 Pet. 1:6). Paul wrote to Timothy: “But have nothing to do with worldly fables only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:7-8). In order for godliness to have a fertile field in which to develop, it is necessary that we keep such things as would corrupt and uproot the growth of the pure fruit. Thus, Paul tells Timothy to avoid “worldly fables fit only for old women.” Fables, myths, or tales that are “profane” or “worldly” must be avoided since they are side-issues and have nothing to do with sound doctrine. Rather, they detract from the faith.
On the other hand, we must “discipline” ourselves for the purpose of godliness. The word discipline (gumnazo) is defined “to exercise vigorously, in any way, either the body or the mind . . . of one who strives earnestly to become godly, 1 Tim. 4:7” (Thayer, p. 122). We do not have time for fables; our time is to be consumed in the exercise of self for godliness. The ardent, strenuous efforts are to be put forth with respect to godly living. The reason stated is “for bodily discipline is only of little profit.” This passage is usually applied to the taking of physical exercise such as calisthenics, etc. It is emphasized that there is some profit in physical exercise. It is sad, though, that it is limited in that it develops only part of a person – the outer man which, regardless of how much we care for it, will pass away. However, the context would indicate that the exercise or discipline to which Paul here referred would be in the realm of following rigid rules regarding the body that were advocated by the Jewish ascetics. Such things as abstaining from certain foods and any extreme form of bodily discipline has little profit, indeed. In Colossians 2:20-23 as Paul discussed some of the Gnostic’s rules about the body, he said that such rules “are of no value against fleshly indulgence.” The point is that there is no particular godliness involved in following such rules. Godliness does demand that we discipline our bodies to refrain from that which is sinful (Rom. 8:13,19). The reason is that we might be servants of righteousness.
But the main point that we want to talk about is the statement in v. 8: “but godliness is profitable for all things.” So we must ask, “What is godliness?” It is from the word eusebia of which Thayer says, “in the Bible everywhere piety towards God, godliness” (Thayer, p. 262). This form of the word is found 15 times in the NT and, in the KJV, is translated “godliness” 14 times and “holiness” once (Acts 3:12). “Eusebia is the right attitude of God and to things divine, the attitude which does not eliminate God altogether, and which gives God the place he ought to occupy in the life and in thought and in devotion . . . eusebia gives God the right place, and worships God in the right way” (Barclay, New Testament Words, p. 107). Thus, godliness involves the right attitude of mind toward God and right kind of action toward God and divine things. It involves believing God (taking him at his word) that leads to full obedience to him in whatever he requires. This is what Paul says is profitable! Let us look to see in what ways godliness is profitable for us today.
I. Godliness Is Profitable For All
1. Godliness is profitable for all races. The gospel is designed to ave both Jews and Greeks (Rom. 1:16). Among the Gentiles it is for the “Greeks and barbarians, the wise and the foolish” (v. 14). The reason is that “there is no partiality with God” (2:11). Thus, “God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right, is welcome to him” (Acts 10:34-35). Thus, when one is baptized into Christ, he becomes a child of God and the spiritual descendant of Abraham and “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26-29). God is totally color blind as he looks upon his creatures. (We, too, must have this characteristic of godliness.) The gospel is for all, and godliness is profitable for people of all nations, races, and colors. In our striving to be like God, we must seek to carry the Word to peoples of all nations everywhere.
2. Godliness is profitable for all ages. There is no one too young to begin to learn about God, and there is none too old to be saved.
a. The young need the profit that comes from godliness. “Remember also your creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, ‘I have no delight in them… (Eccl. 12: 1). Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matt. 19:14). Thus, there is some pointed teaching in God’s word concerning the conduct of the young. “Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22). The application is to all, but those who are young are especially indicated in this passage. The young person must “flee youthful lusts” – those desires that are common to the young person. But it is not all negative; the young person must
avidly pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace from a pure heart. Let us instruct the young in such areas as this from the time that they can know what we are talking about.
The great value for godliness in the lives of the young is seen in Ephesians 6:1-3 where Paul pointed out that obedience to parents has a promise attached to it. That promise is “that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth” (v. 3). This is quoted from the Lord’s requirement of Deuteronomy 5:16. The wise man indicated the profit of godliness by saying, “The fear of the Lord prolongs life. But the years of the wicked will be shortened” (Prov. 10:27). He further said, “The fear of the Lord leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil” (Prov. 19:23). The young person who is godly is promised a longer life. He is going to profit in every way by his godliness. Later !n our study we shall observe how we profit by the living of a godly life. Brethren, let us look to the very fertile fields of young people as those who will profit by godliness. I feel that so often we overlook the great work that can be done here. I have found in my work that the most receptive age group to the gospel is those of college age. We have had more baptisms from that group than from any other. Our “Crossroads” brethren have seen the tremendous opportunity among young people and have concentrated their work in college areas. All of us should learn the value of the young person to the cause of Christ. What a great and rewarding work this can be!
b. Godliness is profitable for manhood and womanhood. Godliness brings real strength to men and women in the promise of life as they face the problems of work, family, and community relationships. Godliness will make one a better husband and father (Eph. 5:25 ff.; 6:4). It will make one a better wife and mother (Eph. 5:21-24; Tit. 2:4-5). It is by godliness that a man and woman form the closest of all earthly ties – the marriage bond. It is only by godliness that this bond can be properly maintained. It is by godliness that we deal properly with others at work and with our neighbors. Truly, godliness is profitable for men and women in the very throes of life.
c. Godliness is profitablefor the elderly. As the years pass and the sight grows dimmer and the body more frail, it is truly comforting to know that our God is with us and will sustain us and carry us through to victory. The wise man says that “the gray head is a crown of glory if it is found in the way of righteousness” (Prov. 16:31). The key to it all is “if it is found in the way of righteousness.” By our godliness we have a deep fellowship with the Father and his son (John 14:23). Nothing can be more rewarding to an older person than knowing “him and the power of his resurrection” (Phil. 3: 10). The psalmist prayed, “And even when I am old and gray, 0 God, do not forsake me” (Psa. 71:18). God promises, “Even to your old age, I shall be the same, and even to your graying years I shall bear you I” (Isa. 46:4) Thus, the psalmist can say, “The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age” (Psa. 92:12-14). How precious to see an older person walking with the Lord with the sweetness of God’s loving kindness reflected in his soul. On the other hand, how sad it is to see one growing old without the Lord. It is heartbreaking! Godliness is so profitable for old age. It takes one by the hand to lead him through the valley of the shadow of death. Godliness is profitable for all ages.
3. Godliness is profitable for people in all financial brackets. In life there may be a great difference in the financial power of people. But there is a final leveling power that is coming to all: death. In death the rich man has no more than the poor man. “For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either” (1 Tim. 6:7). This reminds us of Job’s statement: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb; naked shall I return thither.” When the gospel addresses a man, it addresses the fact that all are sinners – rich and poor alike. The gospel has exactly the same demands of the rich and the poor. Everyone must be saved by faith on the basis of God’s grace. The wealth of a person does nothing to influence God’s treatment of him. All of his benevolent deeds do not buy him any favor with God. James could say, “But let the brother of humble circumstances glory in his high position; and let the rich man glory in his humiliation (‘on a level with the poor,’ Williams), because like flowering grass he will pass away . . . so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away” (Jas. 1:9-11). Therefore, none is so rich as not to need godliness; none is too poor not to be made rich by it. James further said, “Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to those who love him?” (Jas. 2:5).
How does the poor man profit by godliness? James says that he is elevated to a high position (1:9). That position is seen in Ephesians 2. This chapter shows that all are dead in trespasses and sins (v. 1). It also shows us the immense wealth of our God. He is “rich in mercy” (v. 4). He has “surpassing riches of his grace” (v. 7). In chapter one Paul speaks of “riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us” (vv. 7-8). When the poor man comes to Christ, he comes to one who can “supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). Because of his surpassing riches, God takes the poor man and saves him by his grace (Eph. 2:4). But he does something else. He has “raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus” (v. 6). This saved man now has a position of fellowship with Jesus – seated with him. Truly, he is elevated to a high position.
But how is the rich man brought low? Well, before he can come to God, he must empty himself of any self-sufficiency. He must humble himself before God, recognizing that he is nothing and has nothing so far as God is concerned. Thus, he becomes “poor in spirit” in order that he might enter the kingdom of God. He is blessed in this humiliation. So, he is to rejoice in his being made low in order that he, too, might be saved by God’s grace and raised up to sit with Christ in heavenlies. This is the occasion of his rejoicing.
Therefore, to the rich and poor alike Jesus says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:19-21). Truly, godliness is profitable for all financial brackets. We all stand on equal footing as we come before our Lord.
4. Godliness is profitable for people of all educational backgrounds. We must remember that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men” (1 Cor. 1:25) and that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, ‘He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness’; and again, ‘The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless'” (1 Cor. 3:19-20). God has chosen the simple things so that all can understand his way of grace and be saved by it. He also has chosen the “foolish” things in order that we cannot boast of our wisdom and greatness before him. Once again, all men must humble themselves; they must empty themselves of their worldly wisdom in order to allow the Lord to save them. Perhaps the reason that many of those with worldly wisdom never come to the Lord is that they are not willing to cast aside their human achievements and bow at the cross of Jesus so that they can be saved by his grace.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 15, pp. 464-466
August 4, 1988