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, 1st Timothy 4:8.
I am often amused by those who see bodily exercise as mentioned in the above verse to be some kind of physical regimen to build up muscle or to tone the body. In the context of 1st Timothy 4, Paul is warning against men who would teach us be godly by abstaining from marriage and imposing dietary restrictions.
Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer, 1st Timothy 4:3-5.
It is interesting and instructive to look into the contrast between Leviticus 11 which lists all of the animals God declares to be unclean, and Paul's declaration in 1st Timothy that every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused. When did that happen? How did we get from declaring; Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean unto you, Leviticus 11:8, to declaring that nothing is to be refused?
The lazy answer is to chalk it all up to a dispensational change. The dispensationalist just seems to see an angel stand on a balcony and blowing a horn signifying a change of rules. There is indeed a change and to the student of the word of God that change is in Acts 10:15, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. When did God cleanse the swine?
God cleansed the swine when he cleansed all animals. He cleansed all animals when he took the curse of the earth and hammered it onto the head of Jesus Christ as a crown of thorns. Man was given dominion over the entire earth; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth, Genesis 1:28.
The fall of man complicated much. Surely my readers don't believe that these animals were created unclean. Their uncleanness was revealed with the fall of Adam. They are cleansed when the second Adam took of the thorns of the earth which came forth as a curse and bore them on his own head. God cleansed the unclean animals of Leviticus 11 when the second Adam bore the curse of this earth upon his brow.
To exercise bodily is to attempt to be holy through bodily disciplines. Abstaining from meats or marriage may profit a little. It may be that to eat shrimp is not as healthy as eating trout and certainly the Apostle Paul himself outlined some benefits from the single life (1st Corinthians 7:24-40). To think that you are earning brownie points in heaven because of your physical exertions is wrong. It profiteth little. Godliness is a far better exercise.
The Apostle Paul talked about his transition from knowing both the coming Messiah and knowing men after the flesh; Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more, 2nd Corinthians 5:16. In my early days, I used to think that he was speaking of having seen Jesus Christ in the flesh here on this earth. The context forbids such a meaning.
He is speaking of knowing a man in regards to whether he is a Jew or a Gentile. Obviously, he still knows men in the flesh in the sense that he eats with them and greets them in the market. What he does not do is distinguish whether they are Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised. He does not know them after the flesh.
Likewise, there was a time when he knew the coming Messiah through his circumcision, his keeping of the sabbaths and his careful separation from unclean things. He declares that henceforth he will never know him that way again. Now he knows him through a spiritual revelation. Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven, Matthew 16:17. The Apostle Paul came to know Jesus Christ in the same way that Peter came to know him, not by flesh and blood (bodily exercise), but by a spiritual revelation in the inward man.
To exercise in scripture means to use something that you possess. The Gentiles exercise power, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, Matthew 20:25. The Lord exercises; But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD, Jeremiah 9:24. He is using attributes that he already possesses. Paul talks about having a clean conscience and exercising himself therein; And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men, Acts 24:16.
Let us exercise ourselves unto godliness. It is a good life.