A study of 1 Tim.4:1-16
“The notion that there are many truths might seem well suited to a diverse society. But when everyone is free to define truth as he or she prefers, as at present, the result is an intellectual and moral shouting match in which the people with the loudest voices are most likely to be heard.” (Citation: Mary Lefkowitz, a professor of classical studies at Wellesley College, in New York Times Book Review (January 23, 2000) [Perfect Illustrations – ‘Many Truths’])
False teaching (doctrine) was not only a problem that faced the early Christian Church, it has been a problem from the beginning of time, for it was Satan’s way to bring sin into the world <see Gen.3:1-5>, and this has continued down through the ages to the present time. The major difficulty we have in the Church today is that Church members do not know what the Bible teaches because it has not been faithfully taught, and most Church members are reluctant to learn for themselves by faithfully reading and studying the Scriptures, for they prefer to only hear it from the pulpit. At the trial of our Lord Jesus Christ, Pilate asked “What is truth?” <Jn.18:38 (NIV)>. The New Testament is filled with Christ’s words “I tell you the truth…” for we learn that Jesus Christ is TRUTH <see Jn.1:17; 14:6a>, also that the Church “is the Church of the Living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” <1 Tim.3:15b (NIV)>; and for this very reason it is required of God that the truth be preached and taught to the members of His body – the Church! There is also a warning to those who do not faithfully preach and teach the truth <see Rev.22:18-19>.
“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” <1 Tim.4:1-2 (NIV)>. False teachers are described as deceitful liars having no conscience, causing insidious harm or ruin, they are evil (demons) and are wicked, all because they follow deceiving spirits, and their end is judgment by God <see 2 Pet.2:4; Jude 6>. Paul had already warned the Ephesian Leaders to expect this <see Acts 20:28-31>, and here he reminds Timothy that they will attempt to creep into the Church causing spiritual harm and ruin. They will introduce such false teachings as relating to marriage and eating certain foods; “They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods” <1 Tim.4:3 (NIV)>; which is an extreme form of Gnosticism taught by the Nicolaitans. Unfortunately, this doctrine was a major problem facing the Ephesian Church and is quite rampant today. There are those that hold to the belief that Priests and Bishops should remain unmarried (celibacy), but this is not what Paul is teaching here. He has already addressed this by saying that a Bishop must be the husband of one wife (not a polygamist) <1 Tim.3:2>, and a Deacon should abide by the same rule, addressing the subject of the “wives” of Deacons <1 Tim.3:8, 11>. The Scriptures teach that marriage is ordained by God <see Gen.2:20-24; Mal.2:15; Heb.13:4>. Another subject relates to the consumption food, we find that Scripture declares all food in whatever form is provided by God for mankind’s good and nourishment <1 Tim.4:4; cf. Gen.9:3; Mk.7:18-19; Acts 10:14-15; 1 Cor.10:25-26>. Here then, we are warned that such false teaching is, and will always be a threat to the Church, so Elders, Bishops, Deacons and all members should be on guard, and where such teaching, or any other falsehood is introduced, it must be immediately rejected, and the misleading teachers dismissed from the membership.
In order to be a competent teacher in our secular society, one must know the content of the course, what is covered, what is expected to be understood, how is the content going to be processed, what is the “take-away”, how is it going to be evaluated. This is also a requirement for the True Teacher of God’s Word <1 Tim.4:6-10>, and Paul communicates this to Timothy; “If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.” <1 Tim.4:6 (NIV)>. Timothy is to be a good minister of Christ in the Truth of the faith inspired by the good teaching that he has received; and to do so he must “Have nothing to do with godless myths” <1 Tim.4:7 (NIV); cf 1 Tim.4:1-2>, for these have no place in the Truth of the gospel; individually we must “train yourself to be godly” <1 Tim.4:7 (NIV)>. In order to become more efficient in any profession one must commit to constant training, and so it is with the teacher of God’s Word; this requires self-discipline; we must constantly be a student of the Scriptures. In so doing, the teacher will be able to maintain godliness which has a greater value than anything physical or secular since godliness ensures “promise for both the present life and the life to come” <1 Tim.4:8 (NIV); cf Heb.11:1>; meaning that godliness is eternal. Godliness in this present life is possible because “we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.” <1 Tim.4:10 (NIV)>. God does not save every person from eternal punishment, only those individuals that believe in Christ as Saviour and come to Him in faith; to such, godliness is possible. This then, must be the message of the True Teacher.
The faithful teacher must “Command and teach these things.” <1 Tim.4:11 (NIV)> and also live by example in: speech, love, faith, and purity; so often what is preached from the pulpit is not practiced in the pulpit or in the pews. We hear what the Word of God teaches: “…set an example for believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” <1 Tim.4:12 (NIV)>; but sometimes it is difficult to put these instructions into practice. Paul emphasizes that Timothy should commit himself <1 Tim.4:13> to three forms of public worship: public reading of the scriptures, preaching and teaching, and this should be done by all teachers as this was the practice in the early churches <see Lk.4:16; Acts 13:14-16; Col.4:16; 1 Thess.5:27>. The faithful teacher should “not neglect your gift” <1 Tim.4:14 (NIV)>; and like Timothy, all teachers must continually update themselves otherwise negligence of the Word of God can lead to preaching and teaching that has no depth or truth. Therefore, the faithful teacher must “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them” <1 Tim.4:15 (NIV)>, so that progress and maturity can be evident in the lives of the teacher and the students; and both teacher and students should “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them” <1 Tim.4:16 (NIV)>, otherwise the teacher has failed to teach or the students have failed to learn <see 1 Cor.9:27>.