What does 1 Timothy 4:7 mean?
ESV: Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness;
NIV: Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.
NASB: But stay away from worthless stories that are typical of old women. Rather, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness;
CSB: But have nothing to do with pointless and silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness.
NLT: Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly.
KJV: But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.
NKJV: But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness.
Verse Commentary:
Verse 6 commanded Timothy to prepare himself, and his church, to defend the truth against false teachings. Here, Paul continues to offer practical advice on how to do this most effectively. Paul has previously referred to "myths," as in 1 Timothy 1:4. These superstitions also include the Gnostic heresies mentioned in verses 1 through 5. There, Paul discussed those who condemned certain foods and marriage. These falsehoods are "irreverent," from the Greek term bebēlous, literally meaning "unholy or profane."

Not only are these errors spiritually false, they are ignorant. Paul calls them graōdeis, which literally means "old woman-ish." In the culture of that day, superstition and gossip were rampant. Today, we refer to a superstitious myth as an "old wives' tale," and this is a similar sense of what Paul is saying here. The claims about God which Timothy needs to avoid are "silly:" unreliable hearsay which does not honor God.

Timothy was told to instead focus his efforts on personal godliness. The phrasing used here specifically refers to teaching and instruction. This training was not simply for knowledge, but rather for godly living. This resembles the words of James 1:22, which commands, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." Learning is always meant to lead to action.
Verse Context:
First Timothy 4:6–10 provides perspective on the right way to lead, as a church elder. Timothy has already been warned about false teachers. In response, he needs to be diligent in learning, living, teaching, and defending the truth. Paul makes a comparison here with physical training. Fitness is good, since it has benefits. But physical fitness is only temporary. Spiritual fitness, then, is much more beneficial, since its effects last forever.
Chapter Summary:
First Timothy 4 provides an important perspective in advance of Paul's upcoming instructions. After giving Timothy details on how to choose church leaders, and the proper conduct of church members, this chapter is mostly focused on Timothy's own personal spiritual choices. In particular, Paul instructs him to be diligent, faithful, and prepared. The stakes are high—both for Timothy and those he is called to lead. This chapter emphasizes the importance of good spiritual practice, which is key when considering Paul's advice in the passages both before and after these words.
Chapter Context:
First Timothy chapter 4 serves as a bridge from Paul's introduction into the later part of his letter. Prior chapters indicated the qualifications for church leaders, and some instructions on the proper way for church members to conduct themselves. Here, in chapter 4, Paul reminds Timothy not to be swayed by the false teachings of others. This combination of encouragement and warning sets the stage for the rest of Paul's message. The final two chapters will provide a means for Timothy to identify and avoid errors in his spiritual life.
Book Summary:
First Timothy is one of Paul's three ''Pastoral Epistles.'' Paul's other letters, such as Romans, Ephesians, and Colossians, are meant for a broader audience. First Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus are written to specific people whom Paul is advising on how to best lead their local churches. These three letters present a close look at the form and function of church leadership. First Timothy, like 2 Timothy and Titus, is less formal and systematic, and more personal. This gives great insight into the way pastors, deacons, and elders ought to prioritize their time and energy.
Accessed 6/18/2024 9:40:20 PM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV, NKJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.