1 Timothy 4:7
But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.
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(7) But refuse profane and old wives’ fables.—Here Timothy—who has been previously (see 1Timothy 4:1-6) warned against a false asceticism, against putting an unnatural interpretation on the words of Christ, against sympathising with a teaching which would unfit men and women for practical every-day life—is now urged to guard himself against the temptation to give himself up to the favourite and apparently enticing study of the sayings of the famous Jewish Rabbis, in which every book, almost every word—in many cases the letters of the Hebrew Scriptures—were subjected to a keen but profitless investigation. In such study the spirit of the holy writers was too often lost, and only a dry and barren formalism—commands respecting the tithing of mint, and anise, and cummin—remained, while the weightier matters of the law—judgment, justice, and truth—were carefully sifted out. Round the grand old Jewish history all kind of mythical legends grew up, till for a Jewish student of the Rabbinical schools the separation of the true from the false became in many cases impossible—through all this elaborate and careful but almost profitless study. The minister of Christ was to avoid these strange and unusual interpretations, this vast fantastic collection of legends, partly true and partly false. He was to regard them as merely profane and old wives’ fables, as being perfectly useless and even harmful in their bearing on practical every-day life.

And exercise thyself rather unto godliness.—Instead of these weary profitless efforts—the painful, useless asceticism on the one hand, and the endless and barren Rabbinic studies of the Law on the other—Timothy, as a good minister of Jesus Christ, was to bestow all his pains and labour to promote an active, healthy, practical piety among the congregation of believers, as we have seen in 1Timothy 4:6, in the words, “ever training thyself.” To lead such a life required ceaseless pains and efforts, for true godliness is ever a progressive state. Surely exercising himself unto godliness would be a task hard enough to satisfy the most ardent, the most enthusiastic soul! The “godliness,” or “piety,” here alluded to, as the end toward which Timothy was to direct all his efforts, was that practical piety which influences for good, which leavens with a holy leaven all classes of society, all life, of the slave as well as of the patrician.

1 Timothy


1 Timothy 4:7.

Timothy seems to have been not a very strong character: sensitive, easily discouraged, and perhaps with a constitutional tendency to indolence. At all events, it is very touching to notice how the old Apostle--a prisoner, soon to be a martyr--forgot all about his own anxieties and burdens, and, through both of his letters to his young helper, gives himself to the task of bracing him up. Thus he says to him, in my text, amongst other trumpet-tongued exhortations, ‘Exercise thyself unto godliness.’

If I were preaching to ministers, I should have a good deal to say about the necessity of this precept for them, and to remind them that it was first spoken, not to a private member of the Church, as an injunction for the Christian life in general, but as having a special bearing on the temptations and necessities of those who stand in official positions in the Church. For there is nothing that is more likely to sap a man’s devotion, and to eat out the earnestness and sincerity of a Christian life, than that he should be--as I, for instance, and every man in my position has to be--constantly occupied with presenting God’s Word to other people. We are apt to look upon it as, in some sense, our stock-in-trade, and to forget to apply it to ourselves. So it was with a very special bearing on the particular occupation and temptation of his correspondent that Paul said ‘Exercise thyself unto godliness’ before you begin to talk to other people.

But that would not be appropriate to my present audience. And I take this injunction as one of universal application.

I. Notice, then, here expressed the ever-present and universal aim of the Christian life.

Paul does not say ‘be godly’; but ‘exercise thyself unto’--with a view towards--’godliness.’ In other words, to him godliness is the great aim which every Christian man should set before him as the one supreme purpose of his life.

Now I am not going to spend any time on mere verbal criticism, but I must point to the somewhat unusual word which the Apostle here employs for ‘godliness.’ It is all but exclusively confined to these last letters of the Apostle. It was evidently a word that had unfolded the depth and fulness and comprehensiveness of its meaning to him in the last stage of his religious experience. For it is only once employed in the Acts of the Apostles, and some two or three times in the doubtful second Epistle of St. Peter. And all the other instances of its use lie in these three letters--the one to Titus and two to Timothy; and eight of them are in this first one. The old Apostle keeps perpetually recurring to this one idea of ‘godliness.’ What does he mean by it? The etymological meaning of the word is ‘well-directed reverence,’ but it is to be noticed that the context specifically points to one form of well-directed reverence, viz. as shown in conduct. ‘Active godliness’ is the meaning of the word; religion embodied in deeds, emotions, and sentiments, and creeds, put into fact.

This noble and pregnant word teaches us, first of all, that all true religion finds its ultimate sphere and best manifestation in the conduct of daily life. That sounds like a platitude. I wish it were. If we believed that, and worked it out, we should be very different people from what the most of us are; and our chapels would be very different places, and the professing Church would have a new breath of life over it. Religion must have its foundation laid deep in the truths revealed by God for our acceptance. And does God tell us anything simply that we may believe it, and there an end? What is the purpose of all the principles and facts which make up the body of the Christian revelation? To enlighten us? Yes! To enlighten us only? A hundred times no! The destination of a principle, of a truth, is to pass out from the understanding into the whole nature of man.

And if, as I said, the foundation of religion is laid in truths, principles, facts, the second story of the building is certain emotions, sentiments, feelings, desires, and affections, and ‘experiences’--as people call them--which follow from the acceptance of these truths and principles. And is that all? A thousand times no! What do we get the emotions for? What does God give you a Revelation of Himself for, that kindles your love if you believe it? That you may love? Yes! Only that you may love? Certainly not. And so the top story is conduct, based upon the beliefs, and inspired by the emotions.

In former centuries, the period between the Reformation and our fathers’ time, the tendency of the Protestant Church was very largely to let the conception of religion as a body of truths overshadow everything else. And nowadays, amongst a great many people, the temptation is to take the second story for the main one, and to think that if a man loves, and has the glow at his heart of the conscious reception of God’s love, and has longings and yearnings, and Christian hopes and desires, and passes into the sweetnesses of communion with God, in his solitary moments, and plunges deep into the truths of God’s Word, that is godliness. But the true exhortation to us is--Do not stop with putting in the foundations of a correct creed, nor at the second stage of an emotional religion. Both are needful. Number one and number two are infinitely precious, but both exist for number three. And true religion has its sphere in conduct. ‘Exercise thyself unto godliness.’ That does not mean only --for it does include that--cultivate devout emotions, or realise the facts and the principles of the Gospel, but it means, take these along with you into your daily life, and work them out there. Bring all the facts and truths of your creed, and all the sweet and select, the secret and sacred, emotions which you have felt, to bear upon your daily life. The soil in which the tree grows, and the roots of the tree, its stem and its blossoms, are all means to the end--fruit. What is the use of the clearest conceptions, and of the most tender, delicate, holy emotions, if they do not drive the wheels of action? God does not give us the Gospel to make us wise, nor even to make us blessed, but He gives it to us to make us good men and women, working His work in our daily tasks. All true religion has its sphere in conduct.

But then there is another side to that. All true conduct must have its root in religion, and I, for my part--though of course it is extremely ‘narrow’ and ‘antiquated’ to profess it--I, for my part, do not believe that in the long-run, and in general, you will get noble living apart from the emotions and sentiments which the truths of Christianity, accepted and fed upon, are sure to produce. And so this day, with its very general depreciation of the importance of accurate conceptions of revealed truth, and its exaltation of conduct, is on the verge of a very serious error. Godliness, well-directed reverence, is the parent of all noble living, and the one infallible way to produce a noble life is faith in Christ, and love which flows from the faith.

If all that is so, if godliness is, not singing psalms, not praying, not saying ‘How sweet it is to feel the love of God,’ still less saying ‘I accept the principles of Christianity as they are laid down in the Bible’; but carrying out beliefs and emotions in deeds, then the true aim which we should have continually before us as Christians is plain enough. We may not reach it completely, but we can approximate indefinitely towards it. Aim is more important than achievement. Direction is more vital in determining the character of a life than progress actually made. Note the form of the exhortation, ‘exercise thyself towards godliness,’ which involves the same thought as is expressed in Paul’s other utterance of irrepressible aspiration and effort, ‘Not as if I had already attained, either were already perfect, but I follow after,’ or as he had just said, ‘press towards the mark,’ in continual approximation to the ideal. A complete penetration of all our actions by the principles and emotions of the Gospel is what is set before us here.

And that is the only aim that corresponds to what and where I am and to what I need. I fall back upon the grandly simple old words, very dear to some of us, perhaps, by boyish associations, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and {so} to enjoy Him for ever.’ ‘Unto Godliness’ is to be the aim of every true life, and it is the only aim which corresponds to our circumstances and our relations, our powers and possibilities.

II. Notice the discipline which such an aim demands.

‘Exercise thyself.’ Now, I have no doubt that the bulk of my hearers know that the word here rendered ‘exercise’ is drawn from the athlete’s training-ground, and is, in fact, akin to the word which is transported into English under the form ‘gymnasium.’ The Apostle’s notion is that, just as the athlete, racer, or boxer goes through a course of training, so there is a training as severe, necessary for the godliness which Paul regards as the one true aim of life.

You Christian people ought to train your spirits at least as carefully as the athlete does his muscles. There are plenty of people, calling themselves Christians, who never give one-hundredth part as much systematic and diligent pains to fulfil the ideal of their Christian life as men will take to learn to ride a bicycle or to pull the stroke oar in a college boat. The self-denial and persistence and concentration which are freely spent upon excellence in athletic pursuits might well put to shame the way in which Christians go about the task of ‘doing’ their religion.

I suppose there never was a time, in England’s history at any rate, whatever it may have been in Greece, when modern instances might give more point to an old saw than to-day does for this text, when athletic sports of all kinds are taking up so much of the time and the energy of our young men. I do not want to throw cold water on that, but I do say it is a miserable thing to think that so many professing Christians will give a great deal more pains to learn to play lawn tennis than ever they did to learn to be good, Christian people.

‘Exercise thyself unto godliness.’ Make a business of living your Christianity. Be in earnest about it. A tragically large number of professing Christians never were in earnest about mending themselves. And that is why they are so far, far behind. ‘Exercise thyself.’ You say, How?

‘Well, I say, first of all, concentration. ‘This one thing I do.’ That does not mean narrowing, because this ‘one thing’ can be done by means of all the legitimate things that we have to do in the world. Next Friday, when you go on ‘Change, you can be exercising yourself to godliness there. Whatever may be the form of our daily occupation, it is the gymnasium where God has put us to exercise our muscles in, and so to gain ‘the wrestling thews that throw the world.’ ‘Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.’ The concentration for which I plead does not shut us out from any place but the devil’s wrestling-ground. All that is legitimate, all that is innocent, may be made a means for manifesting and for increasing our godliness. Only you have to take God with you into your life, and to try, more and more consciously, to make Him the motive-power of all that you do. Then the old saying which is profoundly true as it was originally meant, and has of late years been so misused as to become profoundly false, will be true again, ‘ Laborare est orare .’ Yes! it is; if worship underlies the work, but not else.

Again I say, exercise yourselves by abstinence. How many things did the athlete at Corinth do without in his training? How many things do prizefighters and rowing men do without when in training to-day? How rigidly, for a while at any rate, they abstain--whether they recompense themselves afterwards or not has nothing to do with my present purpose. And is it not a shame that some sensual man shall, for the sake of winning a medal or a cup, be able gladly to abandon the delights of sense--eating, drinking, and the like--and content himself with a hermit’s Spartan fare, and that Christian people so seldom, and so reluctantly, and so partially turn away from the poisoned cups and the indigestible dainties which the world provides for them? I think that any Christian man who complains of the things which he is shut out from doing if he is to cultivate the godliness which should be his life need only go to any place where horse-jockeys congregate to get a lesson that he may well lay to heart. ‘Exercise thyself,’ for it is unto godliness.

And then what I said in a former part of this sermon about the various stages of religion may suggest another view of the method of discipline proper to the Christian life. The strenuous exercise of all our powers is called for. But if it is true that the godliness of my text is the last outcome of the emotions which spring from the reception of certain truths, then if we work backwards, as it were, we shall get the best way of producing the godliness. That is to say, the main effort for all men who are in earnest in regard to their own growth in Christlikeness is to keep themselves in touch with the truths of the Gospel, and in the exercise of the sentiments and emotions which flow from these. Or, to put it into other words, the ‘gymnastic’ is to be, mainly, the man’s clinging, with all his might of mind and heart, to Christ, and the truths that are wrapped up in Him; and the cultivation of the habit of continual faith and love turned to that Lord. If I see to number one--the creed, and to number two--the emotions, they will see to number three--the conduct. Keep the truths of the Gospel well in your minds, and keep yourselves well in the attitude of contact with Jesus Christ, and power for life will come into you. But if the fountain is choked, the bed of the stream will be dry. They tell us that away up in Abyssinia there form across the bed of one of the branches of the Nile great fields of weed. And as long as they continue unbroken the lower river is shrunken. But when the stream at the back of them bursts its way through them, then come the inundations down in Egypt, and bring fertility. And there are hundreds of professing Christians whose fields lie barren and baked in the sunshine, because they have stopped with weeds, far away up amongst the hills, the stream that would water them. Clear out the weeds, and the water will do the rest.

And ‘exercise thyself unto godliness’ by keeping the crown and the prize often and clear in view. ‘Paul the aged’ in this very letter says: ‘I have finished my course, henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of glory.’ He had said, in the midst of the strife: ‘Not as though I had already attained--I press toward the mark for the prize.’ And the prize which gleamed before him through all the dust of the arena now shone still more brightly when his hand had all but clasped it. If we desire to ‘run with perseverance the race that is set before us’ we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, and see in Him, not only the Rewarder, but the Reward, of the ‘exercise unto godliness.’

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.But refuse - That is, refuse to pay attention to them, or reject them. Do not consider them of sufficient importance to occupy your time.

Profane - The word here used does not mean that the fables here referred to were blasphemous or impious in their character, but that they had not the character of true religion; 2 Timothy 2:16.And old wives' - Old women's stories; or such as old women held to be important. The word is used here, as it is often with us, in the sense of silly.

Fables - Fictions, or stories that were not founded on fact. The pagan religion abounded with fictions of this kind, and the Jewish teachers were also remarkable for the number of such fables which they had introduced into their system. It is probable that the apostle referred here particularly to the Jewish fables, and the counsel which he gives to Timothy is, to have nothing to do with them.

And exercise thyself rather unto godliness - Rather than attempt to understand those fables. Do not occupy your time and attention with them, but rather cultivate piety, and seek to become more holy.

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).

But refuse profane and old wives’ fables; all impertinent discourses, which tend nothing to promote either faith or holiness, which he disdainfully calls old wives’ fables, tales of a tub, as we say, discourses having no bottom in the word of God, are not fit for pulpits.

And exercise thyself rather unto godliness; let thy constant study be things that may promote godliness, impart those things unto people, and live up to them in thy conversation.

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.

{10} But refuse profane and old wives' fables, {11} and exercise thyself rather unto {g} godliness.

(10) He contrasts again true doctrine not only with the false and apostate doctrine, but also with all vain and curious wiles.

(11) It is not only necessary that the minister of the word be sound in doctrine, but also that his life is godly and religious.

(g) In the true serving of God.

1 Timothy 4:7. The exhortation to Timothy in the previous verse, that he should continue faithful to sound doctrine, is followed by an injunction to keep from heresy.

τοὺς δὲ βεβήλους καὶ γραώδεις μύθους παραιτοῦ] παραιτοῦ· τὴν τελείαν ἀποφυγὴν αἰνίττεται, Chrysostom; “have nothing to do with.” Here, as in 1 Timothy 1:4, the apostle calls the heresies μῦθοι, in reference to the fictions they contained; but at the same time he describes them more precisely by the adjectives βέβηλοι and γραώδεις. On the former, comp. 1 Timothy 1:9 (Luther: “unspiritual”). It is in contrast with ὅσιος, and would be manifestly too strong, if the μῦθοι were only “things which bear no moral fruit,” which “have an innocent aspect,” and only “possibly lead to apostasy” (against Wiesinger).[158] ΓΡΑΏΔΗς (occurring only here) is equivalent to “old-wifish” (Luther), i.e. antiquated; comp. 2 Timothy 2:23. Otto regards “the μῦθοι γραώδεις on the formal side as myths, such as are told to children by old fathers;” but the passages quoted by him from Plato (Republic, i. 350 E; ii. 377 C, and 378 D) do not support his opinion. These merely say that nurses, mothers, and more generally old wives, are to tell myths to the children, from which we can infer neither that γραώδεις refers merely to the form of the story, nor that Paul had any thought of a reference to children.

The apostle’s exhortation does not touch so much on Timothy’s teaching as on his own personal conduct; but correctness of conduct is all the more necessary that it is a condition of the right fulfilment of his διακονία.

γύμναζε δὲ σεαυτὸν πρὸς εὐσέβειαν] After telling Timothy what he is not to do, viz. that he is not to give himself up to the ΜΎΘΟΙς ΒΕΒΗΛΟῖς, he tells him now what—in contrast to these things—he is to do. The ΔΈ indicates not only the transition to a new thought (Hofmann), but also the contrast to what has preceded. The figurative expression ΓΥΜΝΆΖΕΙΝ is used also in classic Greek of every straining exercise. This meaning is to be maintained here; Theodoret: ΓΥΜΝΑΣΊΑς ἌΡΑ ΧΡΕΊΑ ΚΑῚ ΠΌΝΩΝ ΔΙΗΝΕΚῶΝ· Ὁ ΓᾺΡ ΓΥΜΝΑΖΌΜΕΝΟς ΚΑῚ ἈΓῶΝΟς ΜῊ ὌΝΤΟς ἈΓΩΝΊΖΕΤΑΙ ἹΔΡῶΤΟς ἌΧΡΙ.

indicat finem, ad quem illa ΓΥΜΝΑΣΊΑ vergat (Leo); this goal is ΕὐΣΈΒΕΙΑ, i.e. Christian piety rooted in faith. Comp. on this verse, 2 Timothy 2:22-23.

[158] Hofmann is right in saying that βέβηλος does not properly mean “wicked” or “godless,” but “unholy.” He, however, overlooks the fact that it denotes not simply the negation, but also the opposite of what is holy. He is wrong, therefore, in maintaining: “the apostle cannot, however, truly describe in this way the doctrines of devilish liars.”

1 Timothy 4:7. W. H. place a comma after παρηκολούθηκας and a full stop after παραιτοῦ; so R.V. nearly. But as παραιτοῦ is an imperative, as in reff. in Pastorals, it is best taken as antithetic to γύμναζε.

γραώδεις: The μῦθοι, in addition to their profane nature, as impeaching the goodness of the Creator, were absurd, unworthy of a grown man’s consideration. See note on chap. 1 Timothy 1:4. Hort’s view (Judaistic Christianity, p. 138) that βεβήλους here merely means “the absence of any divine or sacred character” does not seem reasonable.

παραιτοῦ: refuse, turn away from, as in Hebrews 12:25. Alf. renders excuse thyself from, as in Luke 14:18 (bis), 19. Decline would be a better rendering. In addition to the reff. given above, παραιτέομαι occurs in Mark 15:6, Acts 25:11 (a speech of St. Paul’s), Hebrews 12:19.

γύμναζε: There is here an intentional paradox. Timothy is to meet the spurious asceticism of the heretics by exercising himself in the practical piety of the Christian life. See chap. 1 Timothy 2:2. The paradox is comparable to φιλοτιμεῖσθαι ἡσυχάζειν of 1 Thessalonians 4:11. The true Christian asceticism is not essentially σωματική, although the body is the means by which the spiritual nature is affected and influenced. Although it brings the body into subjection (1 Corinthians 9:27), this is a means, not an end in itself.

7. refuse profane and old wives’ fables] This clause Westcott and Hort connect by a comma with the preceding rather than the following sentence. Surely to connect so closely the future ‘thou shalt be’ and the imperative ‘refuse’ is an unnecessary awkwardness; R.V. taking the same general view of the connexion gives the colon before and the full stop after the clause. It is of less consequence as the subject is continuous either way. If the article with ‘fables’ points back to the ‘doctrines of devils’ and the ‘lies’ of 1 Timothy 4:1-2, yet the ‘godliness’ and the ‘hope in the living God who is the Saviour of all men’ point back also to the ‘truth’ and the ‘mystery’ of 1 Timothy 3:15-16.

refuse] Another of the characteristic words of these Epistles; used as here 2 Timothy 2:23, and of refusing persons, 1 Timothy 5:11; Titus 3:10. In all the other passages of N. T. it has the earlier sense of deprecor, ‘beg off,’ ‘decline;’ Luke 14:18, ‘with one consent began to beg off;’ Acts 25:11, ‘If I have committed anything worthy of death I do not beg off from death;’ Hebrews 12:19 ‘they that heard begged off from any word more being spoken.’

profane] As opposed to the godliness of 1 Timothy 3:16, and characteristic of the phraseology of these Epistles; cf. note on 1 Timothy 1:9. As ‘godliness’ is seen to be more and more bound up with a reverent grasp of true doctrine, so the self-willed fancies of heretical teaching are ‘profane’ as ignoring or denying the present working of the living God.

old wives’ fables] For the justification of this epithet see Introd. p. 49; cf. also Appendix, B. The article, the order of the words, and the present tense, have their proper force by rendering the whole sentence, But those profane and old wives’ fables refuse steadily.

and exercise thyself rather] R.V. omits ‘rather’ of A.V., connecting with what follows. The conjunction itself admits of being taken either as a stronger contrast with preceding, ‘and … rather,’ or as a weaker, taking up a somewhat new point following, ‘and moreover.’ The ‘exercising’ is taken by most commentators to contain an implied rebuke of the corporeal austerities for religion’s sake taught by one school of the earliest Gnostics. But the word has a definitely recognised metaphorical meaning by this time. Cf. the use in 2 Peter 2:14, ‘a heart trained in covetousness’; Hebrews 5:14, ‘by reason of use have their senses trained to discern’; Hebrews 12:11, ‘them that have been trained by chastening.’ And St Paul’s use of strong nervous words of command to brace up his younger comrade should make us lay more stress on this word of vigorous metaphor, and less perhaps on godliness; ‘do more than acquiesce in correct doctrine and godly dispositions; pursue a vigorous course of training; practise well and widely how to teach both Christian truth and Christian life.’ So Theod. Mops. Lat. interprets ‘exercitationem’ as ‘diligentiam doctrinae,’ … ‘ut alios cum omni diligentia ista instruat.’ See Appendix, K.

1 Timothy 4:7. Βεβήλους, profane) The antithesis presently follows, godliness. Whatever is not profitable to this godliness, though specious, is profane, 2 Timothy 2:16.—[33]μὑθους, fables) The antithesis is faithful, 1 Timothy 4:9.—παραιτοῦ) refuse, reject them, so as not to suggest them to the brethren.—γύμναζε δὲ σεαυτὸν, but exercise thyself) A rare expression (as 1 John 5:21[34]) for γυμνάζου; comp. Notes on Chrys. de Sacerd., p. 393. Paul had been accustomed to ‘exercise’ Timothy when present with him; he now commands Timothy to be a Paul to himself.

[33] Καὶ γραώδεις, and old wives’) Both old wives’ fables and youthful lusts are equally to be avoided, 2 Timothy 2:22.—V. g.

[34] The active verb with the reciprocal pronoun (φυλάξατε ἑαυτοὺς, keep yourselves from idols), is elegantly used as expressing more than φυλάξασθε, Be on your guard.—ED.

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. 1 Timothy 4:7Shun (παραιτοῦ)

Comp. 1 Timothy 5:11; 2 Timothy 2:23; Titus 3:10. oP. The primary meaning is to ask as a favor (Mark 15:6; Hebrews 12:19). Mostly in this sense in lxx, as 1 Samuel 20:6, 1 Samuel 20:28. To deprecate; to prevent the consequences of an act by protesting against and disavowing it, as 3 Macc. 6:27. To beg off, get excused, as Luke 14:18, Luke 14:19; 4 Macc. 11:2. To decline, refuse, avoid, as here, Acts 25:11; Hebrews 12:25.


See on 1 Timothy 1:9, and comp. 1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 2:16; Hebrews 12:16.

Old wives' (γραωδεις)

N.T.o. olxx. From γραῦς an old woman, and εἶδος form.

Fables (μύθους)

See on 1 Timothy 1:4, and comp. 2 Timothy 4:4; Titus 1:14; 2 Peter 1:16.

Exercise (γύμναζε)

oP. Only here in Pastorals. Hebrews 5:14; Hebrews 12:11; 2 Peter 2:14. From γυμνός naked. In Class. Of training naked in gymnastic exercises; also, metaphorically, of training for or practicing an art or profession.

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