Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. (1 Tim. 4:16)

Why would the apostle Paul, who plainly taught that salvation is not by works (Eph. 2:8-9), tell Timothy that he needed to save himself by continually keeping his life and doctrine right? In the Bible salvation is not always about being saved from hell. There are things believers need to be saved from so we must always consider the context.

In this chapter the apostle Paul instructs Timothy, his son in the faith and fellow laborer in the ministry, on how to be saved from deception and apostasy (1 Tim. 4:1). This passage applies to all believers and not just to ministers (1 Tim. 4:11-12). If Timothy needed this instruction in the first century because apostasy (denial and departure from truth you professed to believe) from Paul’s message had already begun, how much more do we need it today (2 Tim. 3:13)?

We must not take the danger of being deceived lightly (Acts 20:28-32). Paul warned about the dangers of false doctrine many times throughout his epistles. Being deceived cannot cause a member of the Body of Christ to lose salvation, but there are serious consequences in this life (1 Tim. 1:18-20) and that which is to come (2 Tim. 2:10-13, 18-19).

Paul was concerned about Timothy’s physical health (1 Tim. 5:23), but he was more concerned about his spiritual health which is far more important (2 Cor. 4:16-18). Timothy was overseeing the work in Ephesus where many were turning from the message of grace and going back to the law (1 Tim. 1:3, 7; 1 Tim. 4:1-5; 2 Tim. 1:13-15). Just as it was apostasy for Israel to depart from following Moses, so it is for the Body of Christ to depart from following Paul as God’s spokesman in this present age of grace (1 Cor. 11:1).

False doctrine is a spiritual disease that eats away at spiritual health like a canker (2 Tim. 2:17). If we are not spiritually healthy, we are vulnerable to deception (Eph. 4:14; 6:10-11). The battlefield in spiritual warfare is the mind (2 Cor. 11:3).

This chapter reveals the secret to spiritual health, but it should come as no surprise since the same principles hold true in the physical realm (1 Tim. 4:6-9). To be truly healthy we must balance proper diet with exercise, and we must do so on a consistent basis (1 Tim. 4:16; 2 Tim. 3:14). There are no shortcuts! It needs to be emphasized (1 Tim. 4:9, “faithful saying”) that both nourishment and exercise are essential to spiritual health.

  • Nourished up – Learning Sound Doctrine
  • Refuse – Leaving False Doctrine
  • Exercise in Godliness – Living by the Doctrine

Since the flesh is prone to extremes, most tend to focus on one over the other.

  • Most churches today put all the emphasis on practical application but neglect sound doctrine (no strength for exercise without nourishment).
  • Others only want to study the Bible and do little to nothing with what they learn (1 Cor. 8:1).
  • There are some who only attack false doctrine and never build up anybody in the faith.

How is your spiritual health? As to our standing (unchangeable position in Christ), all believers are complete in Christ (Col. 2:10) and accepted in the beloved (Eph. 1:6), but as to our state (changeable condition) we may be weak and even DEAD (1 Tim. 5:6; Eph. 5:14). The goal in spiritual growth is to get our state lined up more and more with our standing. Sadly, most professing Christians stay on a milk diet all their life and never grow to the spiritual maturity to handle the meat of the word. They remain babes in Christ instead of becoming a man of God. By the way, the meat of the word has to do with more than just what we know, it concerns how we live (1 Cor. 3:1-5; Heb. 5:12-14).

The word of God is our spiritual food (Jer. 15:16; Matt. 4:4; 1 Pet. 2:2). How’s your appetite? We must be nourished up in the words of faith (the “mystery of the faith,” 1 Tim. 3:9) good doctrine (revealed through Paul, 1 Tim. 1:3-4; 6:3; 2 Tim. 3:10). We must have all scripture given by inspiration of God to be spiritually strong (2 Tim. 3:16-17) and to fight the good fight of faith (Eph. 6:17). Is it any wonder that Satan attacks the word of God as he does?

It is one thing to read and hear the words of God, it is something else to be “nourished up” in them. If we are not living by the doctrine and sharing it with others, we have not been nourished up in it. Nourishment requires digestion. Meditation is to the spirit what digestion is to the body. Meditation is referred to 20 times in the Bible (7x’s in Ps. 119). The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “to muse over or reflect upon; to consider, study, ponder.” We are meditating in God’s word when we give ourselves “wholly” (1 Tim. 4:15) to it (spirit, soul, and body – Rom. 6:17; 1 Thess. 5:23). It has become a lost art in our distracted society, but if we are faithful to meditate in God’s word (Phil. 4:8; Col. 3:16), we will profit greatly from it (2 Tim. 3:16) and the resulting godliness (1 Tim. 4:8) will be obvious to those around us.

Every believer has a personal responsibility to the word of God (2 Tim. 2:15). The word “attained” (1 Tim. 4:6) means to reach by EFFORT. Too many Christians put no personal effort into Bible study, and base what they believe on what others teach them. Faithful Bible teachers are helpful, but there is no replacement for personal Bible study! We must personally prove what we believe by the authority of God’s word (1 These. 5:21).

We need to both study the word of truth (positive) and shun (negative) the profane and vain babblings of false teachers (2 Tim. 2:15-18). False doctrine is profane because it is not in the HOLY Bible. There have been many old wives that Satan has used (1 Tim. 2:12) to deceive people, such as Ellen White (Seventh Day Adventist) and Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Science). Sadly, he is still using many of them today (e.g., Joyce Meyer, Beth Moore). We must refuse the junk food of religious fables (stories, 2 Tim. 4:4), philosophy, and traditions of men (Col. 2:8).

Just as false doctrine produces ungodliness in the lives of those who believe it (1 Cor. 15:33; 2 Tim. 2:16), sound doctrine produces godliness (1 Tim. 6:3). It is not enough to learn the truth; we must also live by it. Paul’s epistles are perfectly balanced with practical application of sound doctrine.

The bodily exercise Paul was referring to in the context is religious discipline (v.3; Col. 2:20-23). Religion teaches you can be godly by the efforts of the flesh. Why did Paul say it profits even a little? Obeying the dietary law might make you more healthy, but it won’t make you more holy.

Many professing Christians do not enjoy the Christian life because they are on the treadmill of religion (activity but getting nowhere). They don’t enjoy a real walk with God, but they boast in their church attendance, tithing, door knocking, etc.… Activity does not equate to godliness. On the other hand, there are those who think they know a lot but do little to nothing with it. Doctrine without godliness is like a tree without fruit but having a mere form of godliness (2 Tim. 3:5) without doctrine is like a tree without roots. Paul is clear throughout his epistles concerning the good works that we are to walk in (Eph. 2:8-10; Titus 3:8).

We are to exercise daily in godliness (Phil. 2:12-13). What is godliness (10x’s in this epistle)? Webster’s 1828 Dictionary wrongly defines it as being a religious life. Dictionaries can be helpful, but they are not authoritative in understanding Bible words. God is not using religion in this present age. The main point that the apostle Paul was making in the context is that true godliness is produced by a spiritual union with Christ (1 Tim. 3:14-16) and not by the religious exercise of the flesh (1 Tim. 4:1-5). Godliness is God living His life through us (Gal. 2:20).

Living godly is not the easiest way to live (1 Tim. 4:10), but it is the best and most fulfilling way (1 Tim. 6:6). It will bring persecution in this life (2 Tim. 3:12), but it will be well worth it in the life to come (eternal reward).