1 Timothy 4:7-10; Titus 3:1-9: February 17—The practice of godliness
Feb 10, 2013

Wiley Richards is a retired professor of theology and philosophy at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.
Back in the days of my youth, my father and I would drive down to Innerarity Point, rent a boat, and row across to what we called Keys Island. On the way to the fishing camp we stopped at a country grocery store to buy some hoop cheese, crackers, and coffee. On one stop, the owner made an observation as he addressed  my father. “Mr. Walt,” he said, “We’ve got a brand new product called instant coffee. All you do is take hot water, pour in the instant coffee, and presto! You have coffee.” That sounded simple enough to Pa, and he bought some. Later on during the night, we took a break, built a fire, and put water in a can to boil. When it reached the boiling point, Pa poured the total contents of the instant coffee into the container. We wound up with coffee strong enough to put a Cajun to shame. My father’s memorable description was, “Sonny, this stuff will never make it on the market!” How wrong he was. We now live in a throw away society, expecting products and services to be delivered quickly and effortlessly, including spiritual realities. Becoming godly can require practice.

First, we must strive to become spiritually fit (1 Tim. 4:7-8). I think I have an insight into the prohibition against bodily exercise. For anyone growing up in a farm environment, the question, or even the need, for exercise never came up. In my teens when I weighed little more than a sack of cow feed, I could lift the feed from the back of the truck and carry it into the feed room of the barn. Paul would understand manual labor because he was a tent maker. In his environment, those involved in exercise regimen did not relate the effort to one’s survival. In today’s sedentary world, a regular program is necessary for physical fitness.

Finding short cuts to spiritual fitness is a rarity. I have known seekers who go from meeting to meeting trying to “get baptized” in the Holy Ghost. Even so, the scriptural path to spiritual maturity has its practical side. To cite a scriptural aspect do not succumb to the temptation to get the best of someone in questions about the importance of avoiding “old wives fables.” Family histories do not automatically establish one’s standing in the church or community. We should exercise “unto godliness” (v. 7). But, how?

A good beginning is to build your faith on a solid foundation (vv. 8-10). As we noted in a previous study, the Bible accepts the validity of biblical truth, embodied in the phrase “a faithful saying” (v. 9). Godly people do not arise on the scene fully matured. At the base of all truth is the reality of “the living God.” This became a radical statement in a culture which erected monuments made of stone, placed in public places throughout the Roman empire. Our God is alive.

The Book of Titus sets forth another aspect of practical godliness, the importance of being a good citizen (Tit. 3:1). Three books, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus are known as the pastoral epistles, consisting of advice to Timothy and Titus on pastoral roles and duties. Paul had left Titus on the island of Crete to supervise the work there. It was a daunting task. Paul quotes a Cretan prophet (1:12), whom we know to be Epimenides, that Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons. Yet, Paul was led to put Titus as overseer of the Christian churches on the island.

Some of the success would depend on the ability of Titus to be a good neighbor (vv. 2-3). In spite of the poor reputation of the Cretans, Christians there would have to build confidence among the people of the transforming power of Jesus Christ, being gentle with them, remembering the Christians had acted foolishly (v. 3).

The message to them must be consistently clear, based on being born again (vv. 4-9). It came about by “the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (v. 5). This knowledge becomes abundantly clear through Jesus Christ, our Savior.” This “faithful saying” is worthy of being preached unto all men. In the meanwhile, do not be distracted by useless wrangling about words (v. 9).

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