1 Timothy
by Francis Foulkes ©


'If you put these instructions before the brethren, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the good doctrine which you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless and silly myths. Train yourself in godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God who is the Saviour of all men especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things' (4:6-11)

A good man or woman for any job is a man or woman who is fit in body and mind. Three things help to achieve that fitness - food, exercise, and work to do. Paul gives these three qualifications a spiritual application as he tells what it means to be 'a good minister of Christ Jesus'. As we think of these qualifications, let us realize that they apply not only to those whom we call 'ministers' in the church, but to all who want to serve Christ well.

a. Spiritual food

Nobody can keep strong without daily food, the food that his body needs. Nobody can be strong in spirit unless he is 'nourished on the words of the faith', feeding himself with the Word of God. Paul could say to Timothy, 'You have followed the good doctrine. You have known God's word in the scriptures from childhood' (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15). Now he says to Timothy: 'Keep on following God's Word, let it nourish you daily.' God's Word is spiritual food for us, too; and to be strong Christians we must take it daily into our lives. 'A man must feed his own mind before he can feed the minds of others; he must daily know Jesus Christ better before he can bring Christ to others' (Barclay). God's Word is like food that we must take and eat. There are other forms of teaching which are 'godless and silly myths' (compare 1:4 and 6:20). That is teaching which is either untrue or unprofitable. It will not satisfy our minds and souls, nor the minds and souls of others.

b. Spiritual exercise

This is exercise in godliness. Bodily exercise is a good thing. The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19), and we should want our bodies to be the best that they can be for God. Paul was often impressed by the athlete or boxer who would give hours in the day and months in the year to train his body for thy best possible performance. What an example for the Christian who wants body, mind and spirit to be used to the full for God! Athletes train like this, says Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:25, 'to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable'. Their training is for this life only. That is important, but there is training for the Christian which is far more significant, training that matters both for this life and for the life to come. It is training in 'godliness', training in the God-centred life. It is training by prayer, by Bible reading, by disciplined obedience to God's Word, training for a life in which God is put first. That is the life that qualifies us for God's service now, and that will enable us to stand before Him unashamed in the life that is to come.

c. Spiritual work

Spiritual work means toil in spreading the gospel. Every fit man or woman has work to do in this world, and does that work to the best of his (or her) ability. The Christian's work is done with an eye on 'the present life' and also 'the life to come'. The Christian knows that God is 'the living God' (see 1:15). He is the Saviour of all the world in that He desires to save all mankind (see 2:4), and 'he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him' (Hebrews 7:25), whether they be young or old, educated or uneducated, to whatever tribe or nation they belong, But He is Saviour 'especially of those who believe'. It is only those who believe who enjoy this salvation. They accept it, while others may refuse it, although it is offered to them with such love. This, then, is the Christian's life-long work - to bring others to believe in the living God and to receive Jesus Christ as Saviour. Paul uses here two special words to describe that work. The first is 'toil', the long, hard, tough work that makes a person tired. It is the word that describes weariness in John 4: 6. It reminds us that work for the kingdom of God will be difficult, strenuous and wearying. You cannot speak for God without careful preparation. You cannot witness effectively without thought and care and much prayer. Such a thought leads to the second word 'strive': this translates the Greek word from which we get the English word 'agony'. The spiritual work of the Christian includes agonizing over others. This is how Paul thought of his work to bring others to faith in Jesus Christ. His words in Acts 20:18-35 show us this well. He says more briefly in Colossians 1:28-29 that he proclaims Christ, 'warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ. For this I toil, striving with all the energy which he mightily inspires within me.' 'I toil, striving...' he says, and he wants Timothy to do the same. Timothy must, therefore, pay attention to his spiritual food, his spiritual exercise, and then to his spiritual work. And so must we.


We praise Thee, Lord, for your Word of truth. May our lives grow strong as we read it, meditate on it, and obey it. Teach us to live the God-centred life, and to be the best that we can be for Thee. Give us love for others, and help us to work and pray, speak and act, so that through us they may know Thee, the living God, through Jesus Christ the only Saviour. AMEN.

Note. Verse 9 is like 1:15 and 'the saying is sure' may refer to the words of verse 10 or of verse 8. It is more likely that the phrase refers to verse 8. People may often have used this saying about bodily exercise and the much greater importance of spiritual exercise.

Further Study. 1. Study other passages in the Bible which speak of God's Word as food - such as Jeremiah 15:16; Ezekiel 3:1-3; 1 Corinthians 3:1,2; and Hebrews 5:12-14; 1 Peter 2:2. 2. Consider those passages in the New Testament which show that although God's saving love is for all the world, only those who believe in Him actually receive His salvation - e.g. John 1:12; 3: 16-18, 36; Acts 16:30, 31; Romans 5:1; Galatians 3:27,28; Ephesians 2:8,9; 1 John 5:11-12.