09 July 2007

That's Why We Labor and Strive

Five themes trace through our next paragraph: (1) promise vs. (2) temporality; (3) labor in and responsibility to the (4) apostolic tradition (5) against which the false teachers spread their myth.

If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 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. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.

Always Believing.As we saw in the first paragraphs of the letter godliness is intimately connected with the “truths of the faith” and “the good teaching.” Godliness in these texts involves fulfilling our responsibilities as recipients of the apostolic tradition. It is proclaiming and living the gospel.

Some have understood the phrase “physical training” as a reference to the ascetic practices of the false teachers. This does not make poor sense of the context. If you’ll remember (from way back) the previous paragraph dealt with the prohibition of marriage and meats. However, it seems unlikely that Paul, immediately after proclaiming the goodness of all God made, would say that abstaining from certain kinds of meat “is of some value.”

Instead, Paul is doing what he often does in pulling an example from the athletic realm. Striving and laboring for godliness is similar to the training of an athlete—in American idiom, “No pain, no gain; no guts, no glory.” The message is consistent with what Jesus and Paul teach us elsewhere, “No cross, no crown.” These mottos state negatively what Paul is saying positively in this paragraph.

Godliness holds forth promise for the life to come. Our efforts will not be in vain, for our hope is set on the living and saving God.