The Promise of Life
July 27th, 1958 @ 10:50 AM
1 Timothy 4:8-9
THE PROMISE OF LIFE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-27-58 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing with us, the eleven o’clock hour, in the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor, bringing the morning message entitled The Promise Of Life or The Profit of Godliness. In our preaching through the Word, we are in the first letter of Paul to Timothy, the fourth chapter, and now the eighth and ninth verses. 1Timothy 4:8,9:
For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation.
Now, I have seen that before. “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all,” And they have the old archaic form, “acceptation,” acceptance. Four times in these pastoral letters does Paul use that expression: “This is a faithful saying,”
In 1Timothy, 1:15: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” The second one, this text: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, then that godliness is profitable, in this life and in the life which is to come.” [1 Timothy 4:8,9] The third one is in 2 Timothy, 2:11: “It is a faithful saying: If we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.” And the fourth one is in Titus, the third chapter and the eighth verse: “This is a faithful saying, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works.”
We have in those four, a whole summary of the Christian life. The first one is the foundation upon which our life is built. The second one, my text, is the double blessedness of the one who builds his life in the Christian covenant, that Christ saves us who are sinners. The third one here is our ultimate triumph: “If we die with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him.” And the last one is, our life of devoted service in this world, that we might be careful to maintain good works. These four faithful sayings ought to be written on the four corners of every Christian house. This is the way God would have us in the earth.
Now, our text is the second: “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance – then he starts off – bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”
I can easily understand why Paul would start off like that: “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things,” He lived in a Greek world, and the Greek world was colored by, overshadowed with, a positive worship, an adoration, of symmetry – beauty. They sought it in architecture. They sought it in literature. They sought it in philosophy and poetry. And they sought it in the human body. Everywhere that you went in the Greek world, there you would find the gumnasia. And that word is the exact word in this text; somatikos, bodily, gumnasia. The Greek word for “naked,” for “to be bare” is gumnos. And the Greeks so worshiped the beauty of the human body – so sought to develop symmetry in line, and muscle, and figure. You couldn’t look at pictures of Greek sculpture and not sense that immediately. They were so given to admiration for the beauty of the body that all over, wherever Greek civilization followed there, you would find those gymnasiums.
Now, Paul says that bodily exercise – which is so much emphasized by the Greeks – physical culture – profiteth a little, pros oligon, toward a little. He doesn’t deny the value of a beautifully developed body. It profits a little, for a little. But he’s contrasting that with the infinite profit of eusebeia.
Now, eusebeo means to worship God, the worship of God. So by “godliness,” he means the man who loves God, who reverences the Lord. The godly man in the sense that he’s God’s man: He loves God; he worships God; he follows God. God’s worship, the love of God, the love of Christ is profitable pros panta, to all things); pros oligon, toward a little; pros panta, toward all things, everything.
Bodily exercise has its recompense, a little. But the following of the Lord has a recompense beyond even this life. Not only the recompense we receive now, but the recompense God gives us in the wonderful life that is to come.
Now may I pause here to say a word about the Christian faith? One glorious thing of the Christian religion is, it has at its heart, the “golden mean” of Aristotle in everything. The Christian faith does not undervalue this present life, does not look upon it with scorn and contempt as though it were nothing; nor does it overvalue it as though the only object in life is to live it up now – like people who give everything for this life, but would give nothing for the love of God. But the Christian faith values both lives: This one that we now live in this earth, and that one which is to come. And in the evaluation of those two, the Christian faith places the first in a noble, but in a secondary, position.
Like Jesus would say: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; then all these things shall be added unto you.” [Matthew 6:33] Paul would say a beautiful thing like this: “For this present life is not worthy to be compared with the glory of the life which shall be revealed in us.” [Romans 8:18]
We are not to scorn, or despise, or to look with contempt upon this life. Christianity ennobles this body, the temple of the Lord, but it is still not to be compared with the wonder, the sublimity, the supernal light that shall shine in our souls in the life that is to come. So in his comparison of that: “Bodily exercise profiteth a little. Godliness, though, is profitable, ah, so much more, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”
Now, when Paul says things, he says them in such different ways than what one might expect – “having promise of the life that now is.” “Having promise:” Well, what he means by that is this: “Having promise,” to the Christian, to the man who worships God, who loves the Lord – he’s called the godly man here; godliness – to the man who loves God and worships God, all things come to him by promise from the divine faithfulness, from the hands of the great goodness. He is a child, not like Ishmael to be cast out, but he’s a child like Isaac, a child of promise. And everything that comes to him, and everything that happens to him, happens in the promise of the divine goodness and His care and protection.
Now, the man who is not a Christian, the man who does not love God, the ungodly man, to him, everything comes to him under the shadow of judgment and of condemnation – a dark and foreboding future, a perdition that is promised, inevitable.
Now then, I say that in so many words, but I can illustrate that exactly. I want you to think of – you can see them in your mind – two men. One is seated in a death cell. He’s to be executed; judgment is upon him and he awaits death. By his side is standing a free man, a fine Christian man. To the man seated in the chair who is to be executed, everything that comes to him, comes under a shadow, in foreboding, death unto death. He makes a request for food. I understand that insofar as is humanly possible, when a man faces execution, he can have any request that he makes.
So he requests food – the very food that he eats is a promise of condemnation. He would request drink – everything that he drinks is a harbinger of execution. He would ask for clothes to be buried in – then the raiment that he wears is a promise of final judgment and death. Everything is overshadowed by an execution! The ungodly man is condemned already because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. He is condemned already! And everything in his life is a promise of, and a harbinger and leads to that final perdition and judgment. He’s a condemned man!
Now, the Christian man who stands by his side, he has the promise, that is everything that comes to him is a promise of the divine goodness and the heavenly faithfulness. He has bread to eat. That’s the sign, a token, that God is giving him each day, daily bread; he’s in the loving care and protection of God. The water that he drinks, God takes it out of the river of life and it’s a sign of everlasting blessedness. And the clothes that he wears, these are tokens of the heavenly garments that someday He shall give us in glory. He sleeps at night under the divine protection and love. He falls into affliction: “In the world ye shall have afflictions: be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33] “If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him.” [2 Timothy 2:12]
Everything that comes to the Christian man is a promise that God shall keep us; is taking care of us, loving us. And everything that comes to the ungodly man is just a harbinger, a promise of an ultimate condemnation yet to come. O, Lord, how God, how Christ changes a man’s life – his outlook. That will appear much, as we go in the text, because he’s following it through, “having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”
He says that this loving God, worshiping God, following Jesus, has the promise, all of these blessednesses of the life that now is; having, echousa, having. You have it now. Not some other day, not some other time, but now; have, having, got it now, it’s with us now.
I do not know of an easier sermon than this. You can just stand here and illustrate it and speak of it by the hour, having promise of the life that now is, the profitableness of the love of God in the life right now. Now! Why, I think of the peace of heart and quietness of mind that comes to the man who can rest in God.
You know I read a thing a longtime ago and I have been trying to reconstruct it in my mind. I cannot quite do it but it goes like this. Ther was an executive, a big businessman and he had opportunity by pulling a big, shady deal to make lots and lots of money in a shady way. Somehow he lived with his mother. Maybe he was not married. I cannot reconstruct the story. Anyway, he went to his old mother about it and asked her about that shady deal; that it would bring to him lots of money.
And his old mother replied and this is what she said. She said, “Son, you know in the morning when time comes for you to get up, I go to the head of the stair and I say, ‘John,’ and there is no answer. I call again, ‘John,’ no answer.” She said, “I go up to the head of the stair and look in. I walk over and I take you by the shoulder and shake you and I say, ‘John, it is time to get up!'” She said, “Son, I would hate to come to the head of the stair some morning and call my son and find him staring wide awake.”
That stayed and I cannot quite reconstruct the story right but that stayed in my mind. It isn’t worth it. It isn’t worth it. How much better, the man who follows God and can rest in the Lord?
Quietness of heart – “It is profitable,” the apostle says, “in this life – profitable. It is profitable in this life.” Ah, the ableness, the might, the stature, would God I could attain to it of the man who can find yieldedness to God in this life – to be poor if it pleases Him, to be sick if it pleases Him, to be unknown if it pleases Him.
The apostle Paul was poor and worked with his hands. Yet, he said, “We have all things.” The apostle Paul said, “We have the sentence of death in our cells. In Asia, we were sickened to death.” And he spoke of the thorn in the flesh. Yet, he said: “God said my grace is sufficient for thee. Therefore, we take pleasure in afflictions and in infirmities. For when I’m weak, then am I strong!” [2 Corinthians 12:9, 10]
Can you imagine that? Enriched by being despoiled, growing by being sick and infirm, gaining by losing, living by dying. The profit of the God-fearing man in this life, in this world – the profit of the God-fearing man in this life – think of the man who always can have the presence and the company and the fellowship of the Lord – never debarred from the society of glory – all the angels in heaven are his friends! The very stars in their courses fight for him and the Lord walks by his side!
A missionary, one time, said, “You know when I was closest to God? That night I escaped from the cannibals and I climbed up one of those high jungle trees. And those natives, with their torches, were searching everywhere, trying to find me. And I was up there in the top of that high tree.” He said, “I never was so close to God, nor felt God’s presence so in my life, as I did that night when they were searching for me.” He said, “I wish I could go back to that hour.”
And a man remonstrated, “You mean, with those cannibals searching for you, with their torches at night?”
“Yes!” he said, “If I could be near to God like that, I think I’d go back to that hour.”
I heard Dr. Rankin, a foreign missionary, mission secretary, say that the time he felt the nearest and closest to God was the day when the Japanese overran his Christian compound in China. And, with a Japanese soldier on one side, and a Japanese soldier on the other side, he was marched into prison not knowing what any day might bring. But, he said, “I never felt so close to God as I did as I walked into that prison with a Japanese soldier on either side of me.”
The profit of the man who loves God in this life – I don’t know how it is because I’ve never experienced it. But I have read, and I’ve read, and I’ve read, and I’ve read how the martyrs died with the glory of heaven on their faces – burned at the stake – looking up in triumph and in glory. Why, man, we’ve hardly touched the hem of the garment of the possibilities of the presence and glory of God in this life – the profit in this life!
Now – that I had the tongue of an angel to speak of the promise of the life that is to come – the man who loves God “is profitable unto him, not only in this life, but in the life which is to come.” This life is so fleeting. Poets would call it: “Life’s little day, like a mist, like a shadow.”
But there’s another life yet to come. Even those darkened pagans, the heathen, have a sensitiveness toward another life. No tribe, no Patagonian, no clan in Peru del Fuego, no Hottentot, no Australian head hunter, no family on the earth ever that does not have or never had that sense of immortality. And those old, ancient philosophers outlined it the best they could. As they looked at the man, there was something in him above the oxen, the dog. And if they peered across the cold, dark, River Styx, they thought they saw the shadows of those who had once been here.
But it was Christ, in the revelation of God, who brought life and immortality to light [2 Timothy 1:10]. The only thing is, when He did it, it came in a two-fold, two-sided, double revelation. To the godly man, to the man who loves Jesus, the promise of immortality is a supernal glory beyond what I could describe, what the choir could sing, what the poet could write. But to the ungodly man, to the man who is not a Christian, the promise of the life that is to come is dark and heavy; it’s full of terror – it’s perdition; it’s damnation; it’s judgment; it’s loss!
And that brings the profit of godliness. All the loss, loss, loss of the man who faces eternity without God, without Christ: He’s not saved; he’s not a Christian; he’s never given his heart to Jesus! The loss to him – all is lost! Everything is lost!
Is he a learned man? Is he a clever man? – which can certainly hide a lot of unlearnedness. Is he a clever man? In the grave, what is knowledge and cleverness? Beauty of countenance and of form, what does it look like in a shroud – nobility, pedigree, genealogy, lineage in the grave, in the tomb or the mausoleum? A king rots like a slave! There’s no difference between a hero and a swine herder to a worm that eats. The same kind of dust looks alike, whether the dust is the dust of a peasant, or of a duke, or a Lord, or an earl. The loss of the ungodly man – everything, everything! But the infinite, incomparable blessedness, the gain to the man who loves God!
Some of these days, when the sun is a charred cinder, and the moon doesn’t shine, and the stars fall like withered figs, when the heavens are rolled back like a scroll, like a worn-out vestment, put aside – God lives and Christ lives and God’s child shall live with Him.
Sown a shriveled seed, raised a fair flower; planted in the ground a dull bulb, quicken to the life of a lily of the field; planted like a grain of wheat, here is the leaf, and the stock, and the fruit. 1 John 3:2: “Brethren, it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as he is.”
The profit of godliness to the man who loves God – ah, what glory, what promise, what future! The materialist, numbered with the beasts of the field, exalting in his own wretchedness, in the veil of infidelity, preaching extermination and the promise of annihilation. Oh, oh, to him, to him, Even to some religionists, purgatorial fires, icebergs and furnaces, shuttled between the blazing flame and the freezing ice, that somehow and some mechanical mean sin would be burned out of us, or frozen out of us, or evaporated.
Oh, oh, oh, how much more glorious, the promise of The Book of God! Listen to it: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, Yea, saith the Spirit that they may rest from their labors and their works do follow them, Absent from the body, present with the Lord, Today with Jesus in paradise, And I, John, heard a voice out of heaven saying: ‘Look, the dwelling place of God is with men.'”
Oh, the profit of the man who looks to God, who believes in God, who trusts in God! No purgatorial fires for him. Absent from the body, present with the Lord. No dying, like a beast in the field with him; today with Jesus in paradise. No more, the toil and the suffering and the infirmities of this life. “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. Behold, I make all things new:” The profit of the love of God in the life that is to come.
As you’ve listened on the radio, maybe you have never given your heart to Jesus. Today, would you? Where you sit, as you drive along in that car, maybe pull to the side of the road and bow your head and say, “Lord, I’ve given all of my time and thought to this life, but I’m changing, Lord. I’m opening my heart to Thee. Come and make me a new man now and save me in the life that is to come.”
Maybe you’re at home; you’ve passed by the Lord and passed by his appeal. Would you bow your head where you sit at home and say, “Lord Jesus I open my heart to Thee. Come in, sup with me. Let me live with Thee. I want to be a Christian. I want to be saved.” Go to church tonight. Go down that aisle at some church and tell the preacher, “I was saved today!”
And, in this great throng of people, in this auditorium, somebody you, give his heart to the Lord. Would you come? Somebody put his life in the church? Would you come? In the balcony around, down these stairwells, there at the back, here at the front, on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, “Pastor, I give you my hand. I give my heart to God. The whole family of us are here; we’re all coming.” Or just one somebody you; while we sing, all of us share in this appeal. Quiet, praying, singing, somebody you, into the aisle, down here to the front, “Here I come, pastor, here I am. I make it now!” While we stand and while we sing.
THE PROMISE OF LIFE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Timothy 4:8-9
A. Four times Paul uses expression “a faithful saying”(1 Timothy 1:15, 4:8-9, 2 Timothy 2:11-12, Titus 3:8)
1. In these four we find a whole summary of the Christian life
B. When Paul wrote the text, there was a great emphasis the Greeks placed upon physical culture, beauty of the human body
1. Does not deny value of a beautifully developed body, but contrasts it with the infinite profit of eusebeia, “the worship of God”
C. Christianity does not undervalue this present life, nor overvalue it
1. Values both, but places this life in an honorable but secondary position(Matthew 6:33, Romans 8:18)
2. Godliness profitable for the life that now is and that which is to comeII. Profitable for the life that now is
A. “Having promise” – have it now
B. Everything that happens to the child of God happens in the promise of the divine goodness and His care and protection(John 16:33, 2 Timothy 2:12)
C. The blessings it bestows now
1. Quietness of heart and peace of mind
2. Yieldedness to God’s will(2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
3. The presence of GodIII. Profitable for the life that is to come
A. Another life beyond this fleeting existence
B. Gospel of Christ brought life and immortality to light(2 Timothy 1:10)
1. To the godly, a supernal glory
2. To the ungodly, terror, perdition, damnation
C. The profit of godliness (1 John 3:2)