What does 1 Timothy 4:9 mean?
ESV: The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.
NIV: This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance.
NASB: It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance.
CSB: This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance.
NLT: This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it.
KJV: This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation.
NKJV: This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance.
Verse Commentary:
The prior verse encouraged Timothy, and other Christians, to pursue spiritual "training." This process of learning, teaching, and living out the word of God is critical for the health and growth of the church. To emphasize this importance, Paul has just indicated that this spiritual "exercise" is more useful than the exercise an athlete gives to their physical body. Bodily fitness is temporary, but spiritual fitness lasts for eternity.

So, here the statement Paul is encouraging Timothy to fully accept is the prior verse. Believers are to strive for godliness, because it has impact both in this life and the next. The phrase "the saying is trustworthy," is unique to the Pastoral Epistles in the New Testament, used five times by Paul. He also uses the phrase in 1 Timothy 1:15 and 1 Timothy 3:1, as well as 2 Timothy 2:11 and Titus 3:8. Each time, the phrase emphasizes a particular point or quote Paul wants Timothy or Titus to remember.

The second part of this phrase, "deserving of full acceptance," is repeated elsewhere only in 1 Timothy 1:15, where Paul emphasized that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I [Paul] am the foremost." Just as Timothy was to fully accept the fact that Paul was a sinner saved by God's grace, he was also to accept that godliness or spiritual training was important now and for eternity.
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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