The Integrity and Health of the Pastor and His Church.

At worst, the doctrine of legalism teaches we can save ourselves. At best, it teaches what we can do ourselves to gain favor with God. Either way, the source is one of darkness. Those who know the Lord Jesus as their Savior no longer have to worry about pleasing God. Because of our position in Christ, pleasing God becomes natural to us.

In 1 Timothy 4:1-5, Paul has explained legalism's attempts to earn approval with God. Next, he outlines the contrasting virtues of godly servants.


Legalist Godly Servant
focuses on externals focuses on the heart
striving resting
seeking merit knowing God and loving people
earthly wisdom heavenly wisdom
demonic source sourced in Christ

The true disposition of a servant is a godly one. Paul is not just describing what Timothy should be; he is describing what every believer should be as a fellow servant and minister in the church. These verses name four disciplines we develop for the purpose of godliness:


Paul again emphasizes the need to rehearse sound doctrine and point out that which is false. Knowing about the enemy is always helpful. We must be warned about the motives, methods and dangers of falsehood.

Loving Nourishment

From the point of salvation on, believers are constantly nourishing themselves with the Word of God. Paul uses two phrases to describe this nourishment. The "words of the faith" means the whole of the Bible. We may like to study certain topics, but a healthy Christian needs a balanced diet. We must progressively learn all the doctrines as God has communicated them in His Word.

Paul uses another phrase, "the sound doctrine." The proper interpretation of Scripture is as important as studying the whole Bible. Four principles for being well-nourished come from the grammar of this verse:

  • Be consistent.
  • Be balanced.
  • Be honest.
  • Be determined.
Avoiding Falsehood

Godly servants reject any doctrine that is unholy. Paul refers to "old women" in this passage not to make an issue of age. In first-century Jewish and Roman culture, women were intentionally excluded from formal and religious education. As a result, they lacked training in reason and logic because they were uneducated. They more easily embraced messages and activities that sounded good but had no basis in sound doctrine. As a pastor, Timothy cannot be distracted by well-intentioned saints who want to support a social, political, or pragmatic agenda. These may not be bad but are unnecessary for the mission God has given the church. They can threaten its core and progress.

Paul's tone is not harsh but conversational. He wants Timothy to be patient with uneducated people in his flock and train them as co-heirs of the gospel. Women are equally capable of learning and teaching in the church.

Standing as Hopeful Workers

Paul uses two intense words to describe the pursuit of godliness. "Labor" means to toil to the point of exhaustion. This word was used when someone worked so hard and for so long that they could not physically stand. "Strive" has the same roof as our word "agonize." The Word is worth toiling over.

If we are unwilling to pay the price of fatigue for our leadership in the church, it will always be mediocre. True leadership always exacts a heavy toll on the whole of the man, and the more effective the leadership, the higher the demand on a leader.

This effort is always worthwhile because of the hope we have in a returning Savior. The benefit of godliness overflows to a person's whole life and on into eternity.

When godly souls move into their new heavenly environment and climate, their godliness will bloom like an ever-unfolding flower for all of eternity. Godliness will continue its occupation begun on earth, and that is serving God to His glory.

Application Points

  • A godly minister in the local church will be informed about the dangers of falsehood. Do you know what dangers to avoid? Take advantage of the many teaching opportunities at Grace to educate yourself about false doctrine. Study and rehearse the truth of Scripture on your own so you will be protected.

  • Are you well-nourished in the whole Word and its proper interpretation? Don't be distracted by favorite biblical topics at the expense of others. Be like your pastors and have a balanced diet of the whole Word of God. This will influence the longevity of your walk with the Lord.

  • Do you toil in the pursuit of godliness? Do you strive personally and in corporate service? Without the effort of people serving in our own church, we would not have what we enjoy at Grace. Godliness is always worth the investment.

  • Will you commit to exercise yourself unto godliness? Will you join your leaders and pastors in remembering the doctrine of the Word? Will you let your leaders teach you to stand against false doctrine? Don't leave it just to the leaders' shoulders; we must stand and strive together.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Acts 20:17-31 – Paul taught the Ephesian church to guard against falsehood.

  • 2 Timothy 4:2, 2:15 – Timothy could nourish the flock well by being a student of the Word himself.

  • 2 Timothy 3:15-16 – The need to continually learn the whole Word of God.

A Hymn to Encourage: "Close to Thee"

Thou my everlasting Portion,
More than friend or life to me,
All along my pilgrim journey,
Savior, let me walk with Thee.

Close to Thee, close to Thee,
Close to Thee, close to Thee;
All along my pilgrim journey,
Savior, let me walk with Thee.

Not for ease or worldly pleasure,
Not for fame my prayer shall be;
Gladly will I toil and suffer,
Only let me walk with Thee.

Lead me through the vale of shadows,
Bear me o’er life’s fitful sea;
Then the gate of life eternal
May I enter, Lord, with Thee.