Series Introduction: Recently our new Associate Pastor, Nigel Shailer, challenged us to be “Community Listeners” as we hear God’s Word taught each week. Focus, the ministry to seniors at FBC, has been working through this topic following Ken Ramey’s excellent book Expository Listening. This series of six articles comes from that study.
The church is constantly in danger of being exposed to false teaching. It is important that listeners be able to discern whether the teaching they hear is biblical. We saw the reason for preaching the word last time in 2 Timothy 4:3-4. People want to be entertained and feel good. They will reject sound teaching, turn away from the truth, and turn toward false teaching, so it is important for preachers to preach the Word as well as for listeners to listen to the Word in a way that helps them become strong in their faith. In this post, we will focus on 1 Timothy 4:6-7 as we discover the importance of our own work in listening to the Word.
First, we have a need for NOURISHMENT. Here is the context of the verses we are studying. Paul has just stated that there will be people who will “fall away from the faith” in what he calls “later times.” This will happen as the result of false teaching, so he tells Timothy that he will be a good servant when he shows the Church what will be happening.
The next phrase says he is “constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.” Timothy was a student of the Word! God was feeding Him.
The word used for nourish is the opposite of atrophy, a wasting away of part of the body due to a lack of nourishment or feeding. So Paul is saying that Timothy has been nourished by continuing to follow the teaching he had been given while growing up and working with Paul (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15).
By the way, the word for “good” (describing servant) and “sound” (describing doctrine) are the same, and it speaks of the quality of something. He was an excellent servant because he was following excellent teaching. That sounds like good advice. We need to always look for good spiritual nourishment rather than spiritual junk food!
Paul talks to Timothy and Titus about “sound” doctrine or teaching several times, but usually with another word that means healthy (hygiene is the Greek word for “sound” in 1 Timothy 1:10; 6:3; 2 Timothy 1:13; 4:3; Titus 1:9, 13; 2:1-2). It is obvious that Paul was concerned about the kind of teaching the church was receiving. There has always been a great need for discerning listeners as well as sound teachers.
Second, we have a need for EXERCISE. The nourishment we receive from God’s Word does not come easily, however. In verse 7, Paul tells Timothy to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” Other translations use the word “train.” But probably the best way to understand this word is from the King James Version, where it is translated “exercise.” In English, the word gymnasium is derived from this Greek word. It has the idea of a constant, strenuous workout. You would be working up a good sweat! We need to go to God’s gym, where the equipment we need for our workout is the Word of God.
Just as most people have a goal in mind with their physical exercise, we also want to focus on a GOAL when we listen to God’s Word. Paul tells us that the goal is GODLINESS, the opposite of what was being produced by false teachers based on what Paul says elsewhere (1 Timothy 6:3; 2 Timothy 2:14-18). Jerry Bridges defines ungodliness as living your life with little or no thought of God. You don’t think of His will, His glory, or your dependence on Him. So the Christian who is getting good spiritual exercise is going to be working towards Christlikeness. Sometimes we seem to be working more towards the goal of worldlikeness (a new word I made up! Think Romans 12:1-2). God needs to be the focus of our life.
Think about the nourishment and exercise you need, not just as a listener of the Word, but also as a student of the Word. That’s not just a once-a-week deal, but a constant, serious, in-depth time to dig into what God has revealed to us in Scripture.