1 Timothy 4
“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”
To abandon one’s faith is to: Leave completely and finally; Forsake utterly; to give up; discontinue; withdraw from; a complete surrender to natural impulses without restraint or moderation; freedom from constraint. Why does one abandon the faith? Following deceiving spirits; following things taught by demons: “Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” : “hypocritical”: pretending to have qualities, morals, or beliefs that one does not actually possess: “conscience”: the inner sense of what is right or wrong; an exercise of judgement; the power of feeling: as used with reference to moral truth to discern both good and evil : “sear”: to burn or scorch; cauterize; to deprive of sensation; to make insensible to all feeling.
What did Paul mean by his reference to “in later times”? The time beginning with the first coming of Christ (NIV notes). A time subsequent to the time when Paul was writing (Believer’s Bible Commentary). Evidently occurring during Paul’s lifetime (Expositor’s Bible Commentary). Whichever explanation we choose to accept, it simply means “as time progresses”: and we can all agree that we have seen evidence of this in our own lifetime. There are those who have made a great start in the things of the Lord, and as time progressed they have fallen away. Paul had already warned the Ephesian elders of this at the end of his third missionary journey , that “wolves” would come in and not spare the flock, and that some of these “wolves” would be from among their own congregation. Some evidence of this is seen in John’s letter to Ephesus , where the church is commended for testing those who “claimed to be apostles but were not”, they were also commended for hating the ways of the Nicolaitans.
NICOLAITANS: A sect or party that arose in the apostolic period of the church. An evil influence in early Christianity, especially in the 7 churches of Asia. Their doctrine was similar to that of Balaam, “who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel , to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication”. A teaching of mixing in and encouraging idolatrous worship in the church. They denied that God is the creator of the world. They supported a freedom that became self-indulgence. The problem underlying the Nicolaitan controversy concerned the whole relation of Christianity to paganism and its practice. The Nicolaitans disobeyed the command issued to the gentile churches, by the apostolic council held at Jerusalem in 49-50 AD, that they should refrain from the eating of “things sacrificed to idols” . Such a restriction though seemingly hard, in that it prevented the Christian communities from joining in public festivals, brought upon them suspicion and dislike, was yet necessary to prevent a return to a pagan laxity of morals.
Disapproval of the Ephesian church was also expressed in that they “had left their first love”, no doubt as a result of the influence of these false teachers. Paul now warns Timothy of the coming time of difficulty, and the measures to be adopted to avoid it.
AVOIDING APOSTACY: “Be a good minister of Christ Jesus” Adhere to the truths of the faith and follow the precepts you have been taught . This should be true of all believers, not only the church leadership! God’s truth is our foundation: “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” . Do not be guilty of “twisting” the truth: “‘How can you say, “We are wise, for we have the law of the LORD,” when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?” . The wisdom of the world denies the truth: “Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” . Some would even dare to suppress or change the truth: Quotes from leading clergymen on a very questionable issue: “We will never know what is right or wrong until we open up the issue and look at peoples experiences……” “If the committee has its way, the church will liberate itself from an unsophisticated reading of the Bible, beginning with Adam and Eve, and re-evaluate its definition of sin to reflect “the changing mores of our society” (mores= folkways embodying fundamental moral views of society that are accepted without question) (From Times Magazine)
If truth is to be a standard, how can it possibly change? God’s truth is unchangeable! “Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie” . Christ is unchanging! “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” . The message is unchanged! “See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father.” . There must be integrity in teaching: “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” . The Holy Spirit helps us: “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you– guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” .
Train yourself to be godly for godliness is valuable in all things present and future . How? “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.” (NIV) Godless myths; fables; old wives tales: are all characterized by the absence of a sacred or divine character, and therefore are incorrect or deceptive beliefs. Christian belief is based upon direct knowledge of Jesus Christ, and Timothy is warned to stand against such Jewish mysticism. “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work– which is by faith.” . “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” . Why? Because, “godliness is profitable in all things”. Physical exercise is good, but it does nothing for holiness; exercise should be with a view to excelling in godliness, for godliness has promise for the present life because it also has promise of the life to come. Godliness can only be achieved through spiritual exercise in sound doctrine! If the true minister of Jesus Christ devotes less of his time to bodily exercise and more time for spiritual exercise, then both he and the church will become stronger in their faith. Command and teach the fact that we hope in the living God – the Saviour of all who believe on Him . Sound doctrine must also be evident in the preaching of the gospel! This section does not suggest or teach a “universal salvation”. God is the actualSaviour of those who believe in Jesus Christ, and the potential Saviour of the unbeliever in the sense that He has provided eternal salvation in the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. Therefore all those that call upon Him can and will be saved.
Set an example for all believers (1) Assert the dignity of your office; do not be intimidated by the fact that you are a younger person. (2) Give no one any ground to fault your character or youthful status. (3) Your office must be exemplified in your speech, lifestyle, love, faith, and purity. That is, the true minister of Christ Jesus must be Godlike in all these areas.
Devote yourself to reading, preaching, and teaching the Scriptures . Commit, purpose, be loyal to; the public reading of the Scriptures, teaching, and exhortation of the Scriptures in the church.
Do not neglect your gift . Timothy needs to be reminded of the gift given to him by the Holy Spirit. Paul and the elders at Ephesus had identified this as they laid their hands on Timothy and selected him for the ministry of Christ Jesus. We likewise, should remember not neglect the gift that has been given to us by the Holy Spirit, being called to be a minister of Christ Jesus.
Be diligent in these matters showing evidence of growth . Be constant and earnest in the application of the above matters. This will be evidenced in an obvious progress in godliness and an effective ministry.
Watch your life and doctrine closely, and persevere in them . Keep yourself under careful and constant scrutiny, both what you are and what you teach. Be accountable to God and your fellow believers.
The effective minister of Christ Jesus must understand that the ultimate source of false teaching is the devil himself, and that people who are dead to their consciences promote such teachings.
The true minister must make this clear in his teaching, and such teaching does not stop at his words. His whole life must be exemplified in what he teaches others. He must allow the truth to mould his own life. He must keep spiritually fit. He must always watch himself and his teaching.
The members of the congregation must also be both hearers and doers of the Word. Their whole life must be patterned by what they are taught from the scriptures. They must allow the truth to mould their lives. They must keep spiritually fit. They must always watch themselves and be accountable to God and each other.
Both pastor and congregation will maintain their “first love” if all the above is adhered to.