The ”strongest” argument used by religious people who say that sport is a sin is written in the first epistle of Paul to Timothy chapter 4 verse 8 in which is written: “for bodily training is just slightly beneficial, but godliness is beneficial for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” The fact is that the expression bodily training in this context does not refer to sports. In this article I want to demonstrate this with the help of the immediate context of the verse. This is how Paul starts the chapter:
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer. In pointing out these things to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the good doctrine which you have been following. (1 Timothy 4:1-6 NASB)
The quoted passage clearly shows that some people will disregard faith as the basis of any man’s salvation and seek to replace it with deceptive teachings of demons. Part of these teachings is sexual abstinence and dietary restrictions. All of these things play no role in godliness, or our relationship with God. Beware, we are not talking about sexual abstinence before marriage, not this kind. I think it is absolutely clear from the context that those people stopped marriage, so that they would not have sex at all and thus be able to inherit eternal life, according to their teaching. Paul further tells Timothy:
But stay away from worthless stories that are typical of old women. Rather, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness. (1 Timothy 4:7 NASB)
So these teachings of the demons called total abstinence from sexual intercourse and food restrictions as godliness. Paul also calls these teachings worthless stories and that are typical of old women that have nothing to do with true godliness, which is the result of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Immediately after this verse, in the same order of ideas and in the same context, the apostle Paul says:
”for bodily training is just slightly beneficial, but godliness is beneficial for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8 NASB)
It is absolutely clear that in this context:
- The expression ”bodily training” does not refer to sports because in the whole passage there was not any mention of sports, absolutely nothing, no reference to sports as we find in 1 Corinthians 8:24-27 etc.
- The expression bodily training refers to sexual abstinence and food restrictions. These are the only kinds of bodily training mentioned in this passage. There is not any other bodily training discussed.
- Through bodily training you cannot inherit eternal life. This can only be inherited through faith in Jesus Christ.
May God help us to seek true godliness through faith in Jesus Christ and stay away from worthless stories that are typical of old women.
Translated by Liza Bîlădeanu