Church Weekly
22 Nov 2020



Dear Members in Christ,

Exercise in godliness
(Exhortation from 1 Timothy 4:6-9)

Just this week, whilst we were at the exercise and play area in the neighbourhood, we saw people exercising and keeping fit. There was a group of young people at the basketball court shooting hoops, a few senior citizens were doing their walk and stretch routine. We observed some very energetic young men running a circuit, and it appears that they were training for a marathon or a road race. This brings to mind a thought about a bible verse which says, 

“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. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation.” (1 Timothy 4:8, 9)

Is bodily exercise any good for us? Or are we simply wasting time by exercising, time which could be better spent on other pursuits? The Bible verse cited above comes from an epistle (1st Timothy) in which the Apostle Paul gave some important reminders for Timothy as the overseer of the church at Ephesus. The context of Apostle Paul’s message in the above verse is the exhortation for Timothy to cultivate a life of godliness. 

The exhortation to exercise in godliness

Paul’s exhortation is written in 1 Timothy 4:6,7 which reads, “If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.”

The word for “exercise” has a root word from which we have the modern word “gymnast.” A person who develops skill or bodily strength by repeated practice. The intent of this verse is to instruct the reader to work on or practice a life of godliness. Timothy is instructed to focus his ministry on teaching good doctrines, and he is warned to shun profane or vain babblings. The Church in Ephesus had been infiltrated by false teachers who had taught false doctrines, preaching celibacy and abstinence from meats (1 Timothy 4:1-4). Apostle Paul’s reminder to Timothy is to teach and keep the brethren well-nourished on the pure doctrines from the word of God.

The lesson for Timothy is to focus on teaching and to practice a life of devotion and godliness. But what exactly is “godliness”? The word is often used by Paul and Peter in their writings, and it appears several times in the epistles to Timothy, Titus and 1st and 2nd Peter. It has several practical implications, such as shunning profane talk, fleeing lust, avoiding covetousness, increasing in the knowledge of God, following after righteousness, faith, patience and meekness, etc. etc. Why then did the Apostle Paul compare this with bodily exercise? Just as an ancient wrestler exercise his body rigorously to keep fighting fit, keeping a life of godliness takes effort and practice.

Bodily exercise is profitable within limits

The passage mentioned at the start of the article explains that bodily exercise is profitable. There is no doubt about the statement Paul makes, “godliness is profitable unto all things” (1 Timothy 4:8). The qualifier is that the benefit from bodily exercise is “little” compared to the exercise in godliness. Not that bodily exercise is of no use, rather, its benefit is limited compared to the benefit derived when one expends time and effort to exercise godliness. And why is this so? Paul explains that whilst bodily fitness benefits in this life, godliness benefit both the present life as well as the life to come. 

There is a lesson here for all of us. The exercise for the body and the spiritual exercise in godliness are not mutually exclusive. We do not have to forego one form of exercise in exclusion of the other. What it bears upon us as good Christians is to exercise responsibility and wisdom in our use of time. We need to maintain a physically fit body in order to serve God effectively. We need also to spend time in prayer, the study of the scriptures, in devotion and spiritual exercise for a life of godliness. 

Are there spiritual exercises which foster godliness?

The Apostle Paul has said, “godliness is profitable unto all things.” If that is the case, are there spiritual exercises that he is referring to which do build up godliness? The answer can be found in the scriptures. In fact, it is within the epistle of 1st Timothy. In a few verses further down from this passage, Paul writes in 1 Tim 4:12a and 13, 

“… be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” 

The constant practice of holy and godly living, coupled with maintaining purity in thought and speech are important exercises. Keeping the faith by constant meditation upon God’s word is also an important part of keeping spiritually healthy. The Apostle Paul tells Timothy how to maintain that spiritual fitness – give attention to the study and indoctrination in the word of God. 

Dearly beloved, let us pray for wisdom to know how to conduct ourselves. One who is obsessed with endless hours in the gym for the purpose of vanity is foolish. On the other hand, the neglect of healthy and appropriate exercise which results in illnesses and inability to serve effectively is also undesirable. 

While we are reminded that bodily exercise maintains our body for the rigors and service, it is only temporal. At the same time, the exhortation from God’s word is that exercise in godliness benefits us both in this life and the next. Let us remember that we also need spiritual exercise, which comes by the study of God’s word, by prayer, and by fellowship. Or in the Apostle Paul’s words, “nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:6). We strongly urge all to be diligent in the study of God’s word. Make it a point to embark on the study of Scriptures. There are bible study groups such as the Agape group which you can join and study the word of God. Also, very soon, a new semester will begin for FEBC. 

I hope we will all be encouraged to enroll for online courses. May God grant us wisdom to do what is good and right before Him. Amen.


In Christ,

Dn. Lim Seh Beng