Tuesday, 2 January 2018
But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. 1 Timothy 4:7
Paul had just exhorted Timothy to be “nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine” which he had already carefully followed. In contrast to this, he now implores his young protege to “reject profane and old wives fables.” The word “profane” is used only by Paul in the pastorals, and once in Hebrews. It is derived from words which together mean, “crossing a threshold.” Thus it gives the sense of improper entrance. The idea is that instead of that which is spiritually proper, it is worldly and godless – one has entered into the realm of unreasonable, or even goofy.
There are two Greek words for “old wives’ fables.”The first is graódés. This is its only use in the Bible. It bears the sense of “belonging to an old woman.” The second is muthos (from which we derive our modern word “myth”). It signifies an idle tale or a fanciful story. Just as an aged grandmother might say to her granddaughter, “Don’t eat the watermelon seeds, or you will get pregnant,” so it is a silly or ridiculous explanation of a matter. The idea is that of something which is completely without merit, but appears religious and geared towards explaining a doctrine. In Titus 1:14, Paul explicitly ties these “myths” in with Jewish culture, demonstrating that this is what is on his mind. The Jewish society had inculcated countless such things into its religious life in order to culturally explain things. They had also adapted many such things to explain, or add to, what Scripture taught.
Timothy was warned against such things. There is sound interpretation of Scripture, and then there is that which is completely irrelevant to it. The same is true in the church today. Countless fables have been made up about what the Jews believed in the first century, and then those things are used to explain what Christ meant in His words. One of countless examples of this concerns the folded handkerchief referred to in John 20:7. There have been several totally unscriptural explanations of why this was included by John. The stories have been circulated to the point that they are taken as factual by hosts of believers. And yet, they are based on “old wives’ fables” which are completely bogus. This is but one of countless examples of very poor handling of biblical doctrine because people are unwilling to stick to the facts, letting Scripture interpret Scripture.
Paul implores Timothy to reject such things. Instead, he is instructed to “exercise yourself toward godliness.” Just as he was to “nourish” himself in the words of faith and good doctrine, he is also to “exercise” himself towards godliness. To nourish is to feed upon. To exercise is to take that substance and work it out into that which is productive. One cannot do this when pursuing old wives’ fables. Instead, he must take the sound doctrine, and then use it to rightly divide the word of God. In doing this, he would then be exercising himself towards godliness.
Life application: Have you ever been told that Rosh Hoshana is a day known to the Jews as the time of the year that they say, “Of this day and hour no one knows”? In saying this, the implication is that Rosh Hoshana is the day that Jesus was speaking about concerning the timing of the rapture. This is an old wives’ fable that has no bearing at all on the truth. It is a lie made up by someone in order to justify their prediction concerning the rapture. Be sound in your theology, know your Bible, and don’t believe everything you read. Unless something is grounded in Scripture, it is suspect and should be considered as such.
Lord God, it is so sad that there are so many fables attached to interpreting Your word. When they are included in our study, they can only harm our knowledge of what You actually intended for us to know and understand. Help us to be able to discern that which is biblically sound and that which is just plain goofy. In this, we will be sound in our doctrine and pleasing to You. And thank You that Your word is sufficient for what You desire us to know! Amen.