1 Timothy 4 – God’s Man of Truth and Integrity
A. False doctrine in the end times.
1. (1) A warning from the Holy Spirit.
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.
a. Now the Spirit expressly says: Paul especially marked this as a revelation from the Holy Spirit; either as a spontaneous word given as he wrote or quoting from a previous prophecy. Paul knew certain dangers would mark the latter times.
· The danger of apostasy (some will depart).
· The danger of deception (deceiving spirits).
· The danger of false teaching (doctrines of demons).
i. It has been more than 1900 years since Paul wrote to Timothy about the latter times, but he did not misunderstand his time or our own. History is not, and has not, been rushing towards a distant brink that would end this current order; even in apostolic times, history had reached that brink – and has run parallel to it since. As it turns out, the latter times describe a broad era, not a couple of years.
b. Some will depart from the faith: Because of the danger of the latter times, if Timothy were to remain a faithful minister to God’s people, he must keep a dead reckoning on the truth – the faith. If this were lost, not much else really mattered.
i. “A man may hold all the truths of Christianity, and yet render them of none effect by holding other doctrines which counteract their influence; or he may apostatize by denying some essential doctrine, though he bring in nothing heterodox.” (Clarke)
ii. A June 1997 article in U.S. News and World Report described a Virginia pastor who “Would rather preach on ‘Bosnia, justice, or world peace’ than on Bible stories or personal salvation.” This is an example of a man who departed from the faith and followed his own direction.
c. The faith: This doesn’t mean losing the ability to believe, but losing the content of what Christians should believe. It describes the essential teachings of the Christian faith. When some… depart from the faith, they are abandoning the essential teachings of Christianity.
i. The Bible uses the phrase “the faith” in this way many places: Acts 6:7 and 14:22, Colossians 1:23, 1 Timothy 1:19, and Jude 1:3.
d. Deceiving spirits: This refers to demonic spirits (angelic beings who have rebelled against God), who seek to deceive men and women and to entice them away from the truth.
i. Some lies are so powerful that they have an evident spiritual dynamic behind them. These are lies crafted and promoted by deceiving spirits.
e. Doctrines of demons: This speaks of the specific teachings of these deceiving spirits. Demons are theology majors, and have systems of doctrine.
i. We find the first demonic doctrine in Genesis 3. There Satan, speaking through a serpent, taught Eve: You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God (Genesis 3:4-5). Since then, every demonic doctrine has found its way back to this root: the idea that we can be gods, and operate independently from God.
ii. “Many MSS. and the chief of the fathers have… spirits of deceit; which is much more emphatic than the common reading. Deception has her spirits, emissaries of every kind, which she employs to darken the hearts and destroy the souls of men. Pretenders to inspiration, and false teachers of every kind, belong to this class.” (Clarke)
f. Deceiving spirits… doctrines of demons: These have been around since man first walked the Garden of Eden. But we should expect that more and more people in the church would depart from the faith in the latter times and accept these false teachings.
i. It is hard to say if there is more false teaching today, or if it is merely a case of modern technology being able to spread the lie better. But the old saying is certainly true today: a lie travels at top speed while the truth goes on foot – and more people within the church are following these doctrines of demons.
2. (2-3) The nature of their departure from the faith and embrace of the doctrines of demons.
Speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.
a. Speaking lies in hypocrisy: This describes those who depart from the faith. This certainly points to the ones who willingly embrace falsehood to justify their sin or pride; but it also refers to those who claim to teach the Bible, while just using it to support their own ideas or agendas.
b. Having their own conscience seared: Their conscience, which at one time would have convicted them of their departure from the truth, now doesn’t reply at all. It is as if the nerve endings of their conscience have been burnt over and are dead to feeling.
i. Paul here refers to the ancient practice of branding a criminal on the forehead with a distinguishing mark. For these, it was not their forehead that was branded with a hot iron, but their conscience instead.
ii. “They bear the marks of their hypocrisy as evidently and as indelibly in their conscience in the sight of God, as those who have been cauterized for their crimes do in their bodies in the sight of men.” (Clarke)
iii. Paul knew what it was to have a dead, burned conscience. Before he surrendered his life to Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, he felt completely justified in his persecution of Christians and hatred of Jesus. He could feel justified because his conscience was seared and needed a wake-up call – which the Lord graciously provided.
c. Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods: This describes the legalistic teaching of those who have departed from the faith. They taught that it was by following this list of man-made rules that one was justified in God’s sight – that you would be more holy to God if you didn’t marry, and if you did not eat certain foods.
i. There have always been those in the church who regard themselves as more spiritual than God Himself, and have a stricter set of rules for living than God does.
ii. In the early centuries of the church, there were monks who went out to desolate desert places to show how spiritual they were by torturing themselves. One never ate cooked food. Another stood all night leaning on a sharp rock so that it was impossible for him to sleep. Another neglected his own body and allowed it to become so dirty that bugs dropped dead from his body. They did this because they thought it would win favor with God and show everyone how spiritual they were.
iii. We often think that if we sacrifice something for God (such as the right to marry or to eat certain foods), then He owes us something. This is legalism at its worst; trying to manipulate God into giving us something. The idea is that we can make God indebted to us, make Him our servant and make ourselves His master. In this we fulfill the original doctrine of demons – that we should be gods.
iv. Countless millions through the centuries have sought to sacrifice something, and make God owe them blessing, or forgiveness, or mercy, or whatever. That is the religion of self-flagellation; it is not the relationship with Jesus Christ described in the New Testament: being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).
v. “The controversy is not about flesh or fish, or about black or ashen colours, or about Wednesday or Friday, but about the mad superstitions of men who wish to obtain God’s favour by such trifles and by contriving a carnal worship, invent for themselves an idol in God’s place.” (Calvin)
vi. Forbidding to marry: “They hold that it is far better for a priest to keep many whores than to have a wife.” (Trapp)
3. (4-5) A refutation of the legalism that marks those who have departed from the faith.
For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
a. For every creature of God is good: Regarding what we eat, we can eat all things. We receive things rightly when we receive them with thanksgiving, with an abiding sense of gratitude towards God. We receive the blessings of food, shelter, and comfort as gifts, and not as rights.
b. Nothing is to be refused: We are not limited by any kind of diet; what we eat does not make us more righteous before God (though what we eat may affect our health).
i. This issue was settled once for all when God spoke to Peter in Acts 10:9-16.
ii. “Both among the pagans, Jews, and Romanists, certain meats were prohibited; some always, others at particular times. This the apostle informs us was directly contrary to the original design of God; and says that those who know the truth, know this.” (Clarke)
c. It is sanctified by the word of God and prayer: Paul here has in mind prayer before a meal. Notice that the emphasis is not on asking God to bless the food; but on thanking God for the blessing of providing food to eat.
i. The word of God sanctifies food in the sense that God gave two general commands to mankind to eat the good things of the earth.
· And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.” (Genesis 1:29)
· Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. (Genesis 9:3)
ii. It is good and proper for us to pray before eating a meal but it should not be done in a ritualistic, superstitious way. Nor should it be done to show others how spiritual we are – which is imitating the prayer practices of the Pharisees (Matthew 6:5).
B. Instruction in ministry for Timothy.
1. (6) How to tell you are fulfilling your call.
If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.
a. If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ: Notice that the pastor’s job is primarily instruction of the brethren. If the minister does not instruct the brethren in these things, then he isn’t really a good minister of Jesus Christ.
i. It is also important to say that instruction should be understood in a broad sense, not only as classroom-style teaching or Sunday preaching. Jesus instructed His disciples, but with His presence, His life, and His practice as well as with His words.
b. Nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed: But, if Timothy will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, he himself must remain anchored in God’s word, carefully following the good doctrine.
2. (7-10) Keeping your priorities straight.
But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for 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 acceptance. For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.
a. Reject profane and old wives’ fables: The priority must be on God’s Word, not on the words of man. Paul cautioned Timothy to keep focused on the Word, not on things that come from man. The greatest effort must be put into God’s Word, not man’s word.
b. Reject profane and old wives’ fables: This is the negative aspect of the command. In the positive aspect, the priority must be kept on eternal things, not temporal things.
c. Exercise yourself toward godliness: Ancient Greek and Roman culture put a high value on physical exercise. Paul tells Timothy that the same work and commitment that others put towards physical exercise should be put toward the pursuit of godliness.
i. “Here is an intentional paradox. Timothy is to meet the spurious asceticism of the heretics by exercising himself in the practical piety of the Christian life.” (White)
ii. The word godliness comes from the old English word Godlikeness; it means to have the character and attitude of God. This was a worthy goal, much more worthy that the potential attainments of physical exercise.
iii. Bodily exercise profits a little in that it has some value. Or, the idea can be translated bodily exercise is good for a while, while exercising unto godliness is good for all eternity.
iv. Spiritual development and physical development share some similarities. With each, growth only comes with exertion and proper feeding.
d. Godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is: Paul here explains the value of godliness, both in the present sense and its eternal sense. Godliness makes the life that now is better, and we should not hesitate to believe it and to tell people this.
i. Though godliness does not make this life the most comfortable, or richest, or most pleasurable, or easiest in the life that now is, it undeniably makes it the best, the most contented, and the most fulfilling life one can live in this world.
ii. “I assure you, and there are thousands of my brethren who can affirm the same, that after having tried the ways of sin, we infinitely prefer the ways of righteousness for their own pleasure’s sake even here, and we would not change with ungodly men even if we had to die like dogs. With all the sorrow and care which Christian life is supposed to bring, we would prefer it to any other form of life beneath the stars.” (Spurgeon)
e. And of that which is to come: At the same time, godliness is the only guarantee of a profitable life which is to come. There are many pleasures or achievements in this world that do not even pretend to offer anything for the life which is to come.
i. Only godliness is the path to eternal life and happiness.
· Sin and vice offer nothing for the life to come.
· Genealogies and pedigrees offer nothing for the life to come.
· Worldly success and wealth offer nothing for the life to come.
· Personal fame or beauty offer nothing for the life to come.
· Achievements in learning or the arts offer nothing for the life to come.
ii. “Vice dares not say, it never has had the effrontery yet to say, ‘Do evil and live in sin, and eternal life will come out of it.’ No, the theater at its door does not proffer you eternal life, it invites you to the pit. The house of evil communications, the drunkard’s bottle, the gathering-place of scorners, the chamber of the strange woman – none of these has yet dared to advertise a promise of eternal life as among the boons that may tempt its votaries. At best sin gives you but bubbles, and feeds you upon air. The pleasure vanishes, and the misery is left.” (Spurgeon)
f. We trust in the living God: This is to be the great motto of the Christian life. Even as David challenged Goliath in the name of the living God (1 Samuel 17:26 and 36), so our trust in the living God empowers us to accomplish great things for His glory.
i. “But our God, in whom we trust, is a God with a great, warm, loving heart, a thinking God, an active God, a working, personal God, who comes into the midst, of this world, and does not leave it to go on by itself. Although he is a stranger in the world, even as his people also are strangers and foreigners by reason of the revolt that men have made against their liege Lord and Sovereign, yet it is still his world, and he is still in it.” (Spurgeon)
g. The Savior of all men: This emphasizes the idea that the priority must be kept on the message of Jesus Christ. It isn’t that all men are saved in a Universalist sense; but that there is only one Savior for all men. It isn’t as if Christians have one Savior and others might have another savior.
i. But notice Paul’s point: especially of those who believe. Jesus’ work is adequate to save all, but only effective in saving those who come to Him by faith.
ii. “What God intends for ALL, he actually gives to them that believe in Christ, who died for the sins of the world [1 John 2:2], and tasted death for every man [Hebrews 2:9]. As all have been purchased by his blood so all may believe; and consequently all may be saved. Those that perish, perish through their own fault.” (Clarke)
3. (11-16) Personal instructions.
These things command and teach. Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
a. These things command: This has the note of authority. Timothy was not to enter the pulpit with speculations and opinions and theories of men. He was to fearlessly proclaim God’s Word as a command and not give into the fear of man.
b. Let no one despise your youth: Because Timothy was young, he was vulnerable to the errors of youth which bring the often justified criticism of those older. To address this, Paul called him to live a life that was so godly that no one could despise his youth.
i. The word youth in the ancient Greek was “Used of grown-up military age, extending to the 40th year” (Lock, cited in Earle). It seems that Timothy was about 30 years old at this time; but Paul was around 70, and youth is a relative thing.
ii. “St. Paul shows Timothy ‘a more excellent way’ than self-assertion for the keeping up of his dignity: Give no one any ground by any fault of character for despising thy youth.” (White)
c. Be an example to the believers: The King James Version has be thou an example of the believers. Some believe this is a more accurate translation, with the idea being that Timothy was to be the best representation possible of the Christian community.
i. “The rendering of the King James, an example of believers is better.” (Hiebert)
ii. This meant that Timothy, and every godly servant of God, should be an example:
· In what they say (word).
· In what they do (conduct).
· In their love.
· In their attitude (spirit).
· In their faith (in the sense of faithfulness).
· In their purity.
iii. These are the criteria by which to assess a pastor. If he is smart, if he is funny, if he is cool, if he dresses well, if he is popular, or if he is any number of other things matter little. You must look for a pastor who is an example in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
iv. “Thus we learn how foolish and ridiculous it is for people to complain that they receive no honour, when in fact there is nothing about them that is worth honouring, but rather they expose themselves to contempt by their ignorance, the example of their impure lives, their lightmindedness and other faults. The only way to win respect is by outstanding virtues which will protect us against contempt.” (Calvin)
d. Reading… exhortation… doctrine: These are the things that Timothy must give attention to. Each of these things are centered on God’s Word. He must give attention to these things in both his private life and in his public ministry.
e. Do not neglect the gift that is in you: Timothy was warned to not neglect the gift that God has given. This shows that there was definitely the possibility that gifts and abilities in him could be wasted for eternity. As with the parable of the talents, we should not bury what abilities God has given.
i. Gift is charismatos in the ancient Greek of the New Testament, and it refers to the varying spiritual gifts given to Timothy and to all believers. Do not neglect the gift has the idea that God gave Timothy supernatural gifts, and he should trust that God will do great things through him – learning to flow with the moving and leading of the Holy Spirit.
ii. “God’s gifts groan under our disuse or misuse.” (Trapp)
f. With the laying on of hands: Paul may have in mind Timothy’s ordination service, when church leaders laid hands on him and recognized God’s call on his life to ministry. This was an event apparently accompanied by prophecy.
i. “It is evident that the elders of the church at Lystra and Derbe had met together with the apostle Paul when Timothy was about to launch out into full-time service and had laid their hands on him, commending him to God in prayer.” (Ironside)
g. Meditate on these things: Paul called Timothy to meditation on God’s Word and the work of God in his life. This is not emptying our minds (the goal of Eastern meditation), but filling our minds with God’s Word and truth.
h. Give yourself entirely to them: Timothy was encouraged to give it his all, to put forth a maximum effort, and by doing so, his progress would be evident to all. Often, progress is not evident because we do not give ourselves entirely to the pursuit of God and His will.
i. Often we fall short of all we can be for God because we are passive in our Christian life; we simply do not give ourselves entirely. Jesus warned against this passive attitude in the parable of the talents, where the servant who did nothing was severely rebuked.
ii. Paul could say, in 1 Corinthians 15:10: But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Paul knew spiritual growth didn’t just happen; it is the gift of God, but bestowed on those who actively pursue it.
iii. As Alan Redpath observed that a Christian might have a saved soul but a wasted life – but no follower of Jesus should ever be content with such a place.
iv. At the same time, we are careful to remember that giving our entire effort never earns the blessing or favor of God. Our hard work and heart work never puts God in the place where He owes us something. We give our entire effort out of gratitude and in honor to the God who has already done so much for us.
i. Take heed: Timothy, and every pastor, must examine constantly the two great areas of concern – one’s life and one’s doctrine. Failing to do this would mean danger for both Timothy himself and for those in his congregation.
i. Without giving heed to his life, Timothy might suffer shipwreck (as in 1 Timothy 1:19). Without giving heed to his doctrine, Timothy might lead others astray or leave them short of God’s salvation.
ii. Those who hear Timothy as a pastor should be hearing doctrine. Timothy’s primary call was not to entertain, amuse, or even help with practical things – it was to present Biblical doctrine, and to give heed to that doctrine.
j. Save both yourself and those who hear you: The benefit from taking heed to one’s life and doctrine is remarkable. It is an assurance to the servant of God that they will also be saved, and many of those who hear them. Taken in the opposite, we see that the cost of failing to take heed to one’s life and doctrine is high. The one who fails to take heed should feel no great assurance for either their own life or the lives of those who hear them.
i. “And just as the unfaithfulness or negligence of a pastor is fatal to the Church, so it is right for its salvation to be ascribed to his faithfulness and diligence. It is indeed true that it is God alone who saves and not even the smallest part of His glory can rightly be transferred to men. But God’s glory is in no way diminished by His using the labour of men in bestowing salvation.” (Calvin)
ii. “What a high honour is this to faithful ministers, that they should be styled saviours in a sense!” (Trapp)
iii. “For just as the salvation of his flock is a pastor’s crown, so all that perish will be required at the hand of careless pastors.” (Calvin)
iv. “Years ago Hamburgh was nearly half of it burned down, and among the incidents that happened, there was this one. A large house had connected with it a yard in which there was a great black dog, and this black dog in the middle of the night barked and howled most furiously. It was only by his barking that the family were awakened just in time to escape from the flames, and their lives were spared; but the poor dog was chained to his kennel, and though he barked and thus saved the lives of others, he was burned himself. Oh! Do not you who work for God in this church perish in that fashion. Do not permit your sins to enchain you, so that while you warn others you become lost yourselves.” (Spurgeon)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission