|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:6-10 Outward acts of self-denial profit little. What will it avail us to mortify the body, if we do not mortify sin? No diligence in mere outward things could be of much use. The gain of godliness lies much in the promise; and the promises to godly people relate partly to the life that now is, but especially to the life which is to come: though we lose for Christ, we shall not lose by him. If Christ be thus the Saviour of all men, then much more will he be the Rewarder of those who seek and serve him; he will provide well for those whom he has made new creatures.
Verse 7. - Unto godliness for rather unto godliness, A.V. The R.V., by putting a full stop after "fables," disturbs the natural flow of the thought. The two imperatives παραιτοῦ and γύμναζε connect and contrast the thoughts in the two clauses of the verse, as the A.V. indicates by the insertion of "rather." Profane (βεβήλους; 1 Timothy 1:9, note) Old wives' (γράωδεις); only here in the New Testament; not used in LXX.; rare in classical Greek. Exercise thyself unto godliness (γύμναζε σευτόν). The verb γυμνάζειν occurs in the New Testament only in this place, twice in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 5:14; 12:11), and once in 2 Peter (2 Peter 2:14). In the LXX. it occurs only once (2 Macc. 10:15), but is common in classical Greek. The metaphor is drawn from training for gymnastic exercises. As regards the whole passage, it seems that there were current among the Jews at this time many "fables" (1 Timothy 1:4; 2 Timothy 4:4; Titus 1:14; 2 Peter 1:16), childish legends and doctrines, some of them directed especially to enforcing certain rules about eating and drinking, and other "bodily exercises," which St. Paul utterly discountenances, and contrasts with that "good doctrine" which he directs Timothy continually to teach. This would account, naturally, for the introduction of the phrase, γύμναζε σεαυτόν.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But refuse profane and old wives' fables,.... Either Jewish ones, the traditions of the elders; or those of the Gnostics, concerning God, angels, and the creation of the world; or those doctrines of demons, and which forbad marriage, and commanded abstinence from meats before mentioned; which are called profane, because impious and ungodly, and old wives' fables, because foolish and impertinent; and which were to be rejected with abhorrence and contempt, in comparison of the words of faith and good doctrine.
And exercise thyself rather unto godliness; either to the doctrines which are according to godliness, and tend to godly edification, which the above fables did not, study these, meditate on them, digest them, and deliver them to others; or to a godly life and conversation, exercise thyself, to have a conscience void of offence to God and men; or to internal religion, inward godliness, the exercise of the graces of faith, hope, love, fear, reverence, humility, &c. or rather to the spiritual worship of God, according to his will, not in a formal, cold, and customary way, but with the heart, in truth and sincerity, in faith, and with fervency and purity.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
7. refuse—reject, avoid, have nothing to do with (2Ti 2:23; Tit 3:10).
old wives' fables—anile myths (1Ti 1:4, 9; Tit 1:14). They are "profane," because leading away from "godliness" or "piety" (1Ti 1:4-7; 6:20; 2Ti 2:16; Tit 1:1, 2).
exercise thyself—literally, "exercise thyself" as one undergoing training in a gymnasium. Let thy self-discipline be not in ascetical exercises as the false teachers (1Ti 4:3, 8; compare 2Ti 2:22, 23; Heb 5:14; 12:11), but with a view to godliness or "piety" (1Ti 6:11, 12).
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