Summary: In part 2 of the introduction of the spiritual disciplines we want to look at first what is discipline as Paul telling Timothy about and secondily we need to set and to see what the goal is that we are striving for in doing the disciplines of a Christian
Paul was instructing Timothy in how to be a faithful and profitable servant of Jesus Christ. In the first five verses of First Timothy 4 Paul was pointing out to Timothy some of the errors and false teachings or doctrines that was being spread around the church. Then in verse 6, Paul says to Timothy that when he points these false doctrines out to the brethren then he will be a good servant of Jesus. And that we receive our nourishment from the words of faith and the sound doctrine which we have been taught from the Word of God. He then tells Timothy to discipline himself for the purpose of godliness. He goes on to say that bodily discipline or exercise profits for a time but does not bring lasting results but, spiritual discipline that brings godliness profits us not only now but on into the future.
Today, we need to look at what spiritual discipline is and also to set a goal that we what to reach in our Christian life. Without a purpose or goal to shoot for we will become discouraged and give up on the whole endeavor, we need to have a purpose in mind so that we will know that it is worth all the effort and time that we put in to acquiring the spiritual disciplines.
When you hear the word discipline, what do you think of?
Most of us think of correction or of being punished. This is the most familiar meaning of the word discipline—punishment. Also, some think of the control gained by enforcing obedience or order on others. But is this what Paul meant here in 1 Timothy 4:7?
The word Paul uses here for discipline comes from the Greek "gumnazo„" from which comes our words for "gymnasium" and "gymnastics." It means to train or to exercise. This word conveys the idea of rigorous, strenuous, self-sacrificing training an athlete undergoes.
In Paul’s day, physical fitness was the rage like it is today. No matter what Greek city you went to you would find a gymnasium and Ephesus was no exception. Youths in that city from the ages of sixteen to eighteen spent much of their time at the gym in physical training. There was great emphasis in the Greek culture on physical training and in gaining glory from the winning of athletic events. Sound familiar? Today, we find the same emphasis on physical training and physical fitness. A growing industry is the physical fitness centers; they seem to be popping up all over.
Paul, with his awareness of the Greek culture of his day, used a term that they were familiar with to get a more important concept across to his audience. He takes the word gumnazo„ from the physical realm and applies it the spiritual realm. "Paul urged Timothy to discipline himself for the purpose of godliness. The present tense of the verb indicates that was to be Timothy’s constant pursuit. Timothy was to train his inner man for godliness." (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 1 Timothy [Moody Press, Chicago, 1995], 164) What is godliness? Godliness (from the Greek – eusebeia) expresses the reality of reverence, piety, and true spiritual virtue.
John MacArthur states in his commentary on 1 Timothy—"That concept (talking about godliness) carried over into Christian faith. Godliness is a right attitude and response toward the true Creator God; a preoccupation from the heart with holy and sacred realities. It is respect for what is due God, and thus the highest of all virtues." (Ibid., 164) In 1 Timothy 6:11—Paul tells us to pursue godliness. Peter tells us to grow in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18).
John MacArthur further states—"In Paul’s day, as in our own, there was a great emphasis on bodily discipline. While helpful, such discipline is only of little profit. Paul is showing that it is limited both in extent and duration. Bodily discipline affects only the physical body during this earthly life. On the other hand, godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. Unlike bodily discipline, godliness is profitable for the soul as well as the body. Its positive effects are also not limited to this life, because it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. Cultivating godliness will bring benefits in the present life (cf. Prov. 3:7-8), but it will primarily bring blessedness for all eternity." (Ibid., 165)
"Eternal life in the future tense is eternity in heaven with God. Eternal life in the present tense is knowing God personally now. Eternal life in the present breaks through limitations and experiences the best that life can offer. Many Christians miss that. We do our duty as believers, but no passion drives us; no power enables us. Sometimes our very busyness for God masks the emptiness we still experience. And we feel guilty for being Christian and having those feelings.