What does 1 Timothy 4:8 mean?
ESV: for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
NIV: For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
NASB: for bodily training is just slightly beneficial, but godliness is beneficial for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
CSB: For the training of the body has limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
NLT: Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.'
KJV: For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
NKJV: For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.
Verse Commentary:
In the prior verse, Paul instructed Timothy to ignore silly myths and instead focus on training himself for godliness. Both of these specifically involve proper teaching, and learning, leading to action. Here, Paul compares physical training for an athlete with spiritual training for godliness. He states that physical conditioning is of some importance, but is less important than a godly life.

The reason godliness is more important than physical fitness is due to its eternal value. Physical fitness is a good thing. At the very least, it means taking care of the body God gave us. But physical fitness only benefits us while we have this physical body. On the other hand, spiritual growth impacts eternity. Paul often speaks of the "next life" as the true focus of the believer. Colossians 3:2 reminds us to "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth."

Many believe the words, "Don't be so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good," are in the Bible. They are not, though it is true that we cannot ignore the earthly realities around us. However, a person with a godly perspective on the good things God has given us (1 Timothy 4:4) can be completely "heavenly minded" and still of much "earthly good." Paul sees the promise of heaven as a reason to live a godly, effective life today.
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.
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