Life-Study of 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, by Witness Lee


In verse 6 Paul specifically speaks of “being nourished with the words of the faith and of the good teaching.” The words of the faith are the words of the full gospel concerning God’s New Testament economy. The focus of God’s economy is not the image in Daniel 2 or the four beasts in Daniel 7. If you want to see the focal point of God’s economy, study the book of Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. We need to be nourished with the words of the faith, God’s economy, found in these books.

According to verse 6, we should also be nourished with the good teaching which we have closely followed. The words of the good teaching are the sweet words that contain and convey the riches of Christ to nourish, edify, and strengthen His believers. Actually, the words of the faith and the words of the good teaching refer to the same thing. If we would teach others, we ourselves must first follow these words closely. Following them closely and being nourished with them, we shall then be able to feed others. For example, if a mother does not know how to nourish herself properly, she will not know how to feed healthy food to her children. Through her own experience of being nourished, she will know what food is best for her children. This illustrates the fact that as good ministers of Christ, we must first be nourished ourselves with the words of the faith and of the good teaching which we have closely followed, and then we shall be able to nourish others.


In verse 7 Paul goes on to say, “But the profane and old-womanish tales refuse, and exercise yourself unto godliness.” The Greek word for profane means touching and being touched by worldliness, contrary to being holy. If we would exercise ourselves unto godliness, we must refuse profane and old-womanish tales. Much of the teaching and preaching in Christianity today falls in the category of old-womanish tales. We should forget these tales and come back to the pure word of the Bible. In the so-called services among Christians today, there is a great deal of profane, secular, and worldly talk. People discuss politics and how to be successful in business. All this is profane talk, comparable to old-womanish tales.


Refusing the profane and old-womanish tales, we should exercise unto godliness. Such exercise is like gymnastics. The words “unto godliness” mean with a view to godliness. Godliness is Christ lived out of us as the manifestation of God. This very Christ is today the Spirit dwelling in our spirit (2 Cor. 3:17; Rom. 8:9-10; 2 Tim. 4:22). Hence, to exercise ourselves unto godliness is to exercise our spirit to live Christ in our daily life.

In verse 7 Paul uses a Greek term referring to gymnastic exercise with respect to exercise unto godliness. We know from 3:16 that the mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh, is great. By our spirit with the indwelling Spirit we must exercise ourselves unto this goal, unto the expression of God.

In verse 8 Paul continues, “For bodily exercise is profitable for a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the present life and of the life which is coming.” The words “a little” denote a few things to a small extent of our being, in contrast with all things. “All things” refer not only to one part of our being, but to all parts— physical, psychological, and spiritual—both temporal and eternal. The promise of the present life which is in this age is like that in Matthew 6:33; John 16:33; Philippians 4:6-7; and 1 Peter 5:8-10. The promise of the coming life which is in the next age and in eternity is like that in 2 Peter 1:10-11; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:7, 17; 21:6-7. A promise like that in Mark 10:29-30 is both of the present life and of the coming life.

Once again, I would urge you to refuse all profane and old-womanish tales. Even talk about doctrines such as eternal security can be nothing more than an old-womanish tale. People may come to us after a meeting and say, “I have been to the meetings of the church a number of times. But I have not yet heard a message on eternal security. What do you think about this?” Others may want to discuss the seventh-day Sabbath. This also is to talk of old-womanish tales.

In applying the matter of old-womanish tales to the talk common among today’s Christians, I am following the principle established by Paul. Here in 1 Timothy the old-womanish tales probably refer to Jewish tales. Those with a background in Judaism were familiar with many tales. In the same principle, those who have spent years in Christianity also know many tales. Some come to us and ask about healing, speaking in tongues, prophesying, and even the lengthening of legs. I have known many persons who spoke in tongues but who did not exhibit godliness in their daily living. We must be a living testimony of those who refuse the old-womanish tales and who continually exercise themselves unto godliness.

It is of crucial importance that we exercise unto godliness. Inwardly we need nourishment, and outwardly, we should have godliness. From within we should be nourished with Christ, and then we should have a living which is the expression of God.

(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Chapter 8, by Witness Lee)