Todays readings.. (Joshua 9), (Isaiah 13), (1 Timothy 4), (1 Timothy 5)
What is godliness? Is the answer obvious? It should be, but in a world that increasingly does not believe in God, let alone read the Bible, few have a clear idea of what godliness is! Do we? We are reading Paul’s letters to “Timothy, my true child in the faith” (1 Tim 1:2). Paul had urged him to stay in Ephesus and set an example of “love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” [v.5]
There were some there “who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good … (and) is to be received, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” (1Tim. 4 :3-5)
Human nature always seems to be inclined to make rules, such as to abstain from this or that, or worship on a specific day or way (Colossians 2:8-19) and then think they are ‘better’ people in God’s sight as a result.
Paul tells Timothy, “If you put these (good) things before the brothers (and sisters), you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.” [v.6] He then stresses “… train yourself for 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” [v.7-8]
Paul tells him to “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” [v.12,13]
Imagine living 400 years ago, when people were in church every day to read or hear read the Bible that had been chained to a reading stand! What value was placed in those days on the word of God – what a comparison to today!
Paul’s words summarise the main factors in true godliness. Given the way in which our minds are so easily distracted we must note the stress that Paul makes in his letter to his “true child in the faith” to “keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” [v.16]
We are not ‘hearers’ – instead we are ‘readers’ – what a wonderful blessing to have these words preserved for our guidance – that we can (and must) read every day. After Jesus told the familiar parable of the sower sowing the seed he said, “He who has ears, let him hear” (Matt. 13:9) We can and should ‘translate’ that as, ‘He that has eyes to read, let them read’ – and absorb into their consciences what they read and so develop greater ‘godliness.’