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.

cropped-mp900443601.jpgThe 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>.


(A study in 1 Timothy)

1 TIMOTHY 1:1-20

Paul addresses his personal letter to Timothy “my true son in the faith” <1 Tim.1:2 (NIV)> his spiritual son. Each believer in Christ can look back to a time in life where an individual, male or female, guided you to the acceptance of salvation. You now have a Christian mother or father in the faith. Paul then proceeds to instruct Timothy as to his previous assignments in the Church at Ephesus: “I urged you …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.” <1 Tim.1:3-4 (NIV)>, since such teaching only promotes controversies and impedes the work of God which is achieved by faith only, and continues to explain why. First, he states that “The goal of this command is love” <1 Tim.1:5 (NIV); cf 1 Cor.13:4-7> and must be the underscoring objective of any Church leader when correcting false teaching.

Secondly, because false teaching has led to controversies, “Some have wandered away” <1 Tim.1:6 (NIV)> from the faith; primarily because they are ignorant of the facts that are taught in the very Law that they are persistently teaching in error. “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.” <1 Tim.1:8 (NIV); cf Gal.3:3, 10-13>; they want to be teachers of the Law but they do not know what they are teaching <1:7>. The Law is good, says Paul, and was not given to condemn the righteous but to condemn the lawbreakers and rebels <1 Tim.1:8-10>, “and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine” <1 Tim.1:10b (NIV)>, and this conforms to the gospel message entrusted to Paul.

Paul then digresses from his instructions to Timothy to express his own experiences of the gospel that he so faithfully preached <1 Tim.1:12-17>. He commences by giving thanks to “Christ Jesus our Lord” who considered him faithful and appointed him to serve in preaching the gospel <cf Gal.2:7; 1 Thess.2:4; 2 Tim.1:14>, and that he has faithfully guarded his responsibility. He also speaks to the fact that “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” <1 Tim.1:14 (NIV)>; and what was true of Paul is also true of every believer in Christ. None of us are worthy of God’s favour, but He freely and abundantly poured out His grace upon us, even though we were rebellious, and even though in our self-righteousness we claimed to live by the Law and commandments <cf Rom.1:32; 3:20-24; 5:1>. This was made possible because “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” <1 Tim.1:15 (NIV)>, reminding Timothy of the fact that our salvation and justification is by faith in Christ only and not by observing or keeping of the Law <see Gal.2:16>. So, Paul concludes this section with praise to God for His wonderful grace to all mankind; “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” <1 Tim.1:17 (NIV)>.

Paul now gives Timothy his first directive <1 Tim.1:18-20>, consistent with the predictions made about him. Nothing is said as to what these prophecies were, but consistent with other instances where men were ordained for specific duties, we can assume that there were some specifics revealed to Timothy at his ordination <cf 1 Tim.4:14; Acts 13:1-3>. “I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight” <1 Tim.1:18 (NIV)>: Timothy is expected to fight the good fight of faith, and the same expectation is required of all Christ’s disciples today.

What does it mean to fight the fight of faith? God expects us to live by faith in Him; this means that we should follow His commands even though we do not know the outcome, acknowledging that whatever happens, God is in control. He does not allow us to see the outcome, but He expects us to follow His leading <Matt.10:39>. “I have vivid memories as a kid of my father taking me to an auction sale, telling me, “Don’t scratch your nose at the wrong time, son.” He said to me, “Always remember this: whenever you go to an auction sale, make sure you know your upper limit price.” That is ingrained in me. The great danger for us is that we walk into the Christian life knowing clearly our upper limit price. Jesus does not allow us to set that. “If you save your life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake and the gospel’s, you will keep it,” said Jesus [Mark 8:35]. Our calling is to a life of unconditional obedience where the price is unknown.” [from Perfect Illustrations; Citation: Colin Smith, pastor of Arlington Heights Evangelical Free Church, Arlington Heights, Illinois; source: Preaching Today #204]

So, like Timothy, we are expected to fight, for that is exactly what it is. Paul, writing to the Ephesian Church reminds them that our struggle is not against the enemy that we know or can see, but against the enemy that is unknown and unseen <Eph.6:12>; and this was what Timothy encountered in carrying out Paul’s charge to him; he was to do so by “holding on to faith and a good conscience.” <1 Tim.1:19 (NIV)>; that is the outcome from the love, pure heart, good conscience and sincere faith that Paul had referred to earlier <see 1 Tim.1:5>. It is unfortunate that some believers in Christ then, and presently, have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.” <1 Tim.1:19 (NIV); cf. 1 Tim.1:6-7; 6:21; 2 Tim.2:18>. It is extremely important that all believers in Christ be cautious of false teaching, avoiding meaningless discussions of subjects that do not pertain to, or are not taught by scripture.  We do so by individually educating ourselves in studying the Bible and not being entirely dependent upon what others teach.

Paul then closes this section by making reference to two men, Hymenaeus and Alexander <1 Tim.1:20>, and very little is said as to who they were, but they are used here as examples of church discipline; he states, “whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.” <1 Tim.1:20 (NIV); cf 1 Cor.5:5, 13>. Being handed over to Satan is a figure of speech where the individual is expelled from the Church fellowship and left in Satan’s “territory” in an attempt to destroy the sinful nature of that individual.

What is Blasphemy as is used in the Scriptures? It signifies speaking evil of God or to curse the Name of God <cf Psa.74:18; Isa.52:5; Rom.2:24>. There are two general forms: (1) Attributing some evil to God, or denying Him some good; (2) Giving the attributes of God to a human being <cf Lk.5:21; Matt.26:65; Jn.10:36> which was the accusation of the Jews given to Christ. The punishment given under the Mosaic Law was either atonement, when committed in ignorance or thoughtlessness; but if when in rebellion against God the punishment was by stoning <see Lev.24:11-16>. In the New Testament Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is also referred to as the “unpardonable sin” <see Matt.12:31-32; Mk.3:29; Lk.12:10>; where it appears to have been based on attributing Christ’s miracles to the power of Satan, and it is questionable whether it may be extended beyond this one limited and special sin [source: Unger’s Bible Dictionary].

In the case of Hymenaeus and Alexander, the punishment was separation from the fellowship and care of the Church, having been sent back into the outside world where they would learn not to blaspheme.

From the very beginning of the Church age false teaching was a problem for the Church elders. During the early years of the Church, Paul and the Apostles were constantly harassed by Judaizers who insisted that all converts to Christ must adhere to the Mosaic Law; that is, a Gentile could not become a Christian unless he or she first became a Jew; further adding that Gentile converts should practice physical rituals of the Law such as circumcision, for faith in Christ alone was not sufficient <see Acts 15:7-11>.  Judaizers caused much turmoil which affected the evangelical work of the apostles and for the Church leadership. Church leaders also had to be careful of Gnostic teachings that crept into the Church; teaching such things as Jesus wasn’t really God’s Son, and that Christ and God could not have united in the person of Jesus; they professed to have special insight to the secret truths of life. There were also those that taught the beliefs of the Nicolaitans, which was a more extreme form of Gnosticism, they claimed that only what their spirits did was important and because their physical bodies were evil, they had freedom to indulge in indiscriminate sexual relationships, that they could do anything they pleased with their bodies, and were free to practice idolatry <cf Rev.2:14-16>. Such doctrines have been combined and modernized in today’s society and have affected the Church in all forms of worship; Satan has duplicated our worship and praise to God and introduced false worship into our Churches and we must be constantly examining anything new that is introduced to our practice of worship to God.

False doctrine in the Church must be swiftly and severely reprimanded!



Flawless doctrine must be taught by all leaders of the Church <Titus 2:1-10>, and Paul emphasizes that sound doctrine and a holy character should be the distinctive of all God’s people regardless of age or social standing, instructing Titus; “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.” <Titus 2:1 (NIV)>; and wherever this is the practice the Church will show evidence of godliness to the community of unbelievers. Unblemished doctrine, doctrine that is not diluted or “watered down” to please the false teachers is absolutely necessary, for it stipulates the right conduct of all believers; and this teaching is required for all ages, from the children to the older members of the Church; older men and women, younger men and women. The older members should demonstrate self-control and teach the younger members “what is good” <Titus 2:3>, and this characteristic should also be displayed by the younger men and women; and all, including Titus, should live by example <Titus 2:7>. Paul also instructs Titus that his teaching should show inflexible regard for truth, understanding the seriousness of the issues he is addressing, his speech should be sincere and understandable, so that his critics may be silenced; “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.” <Titus 2:7b-8 (NIV)>

Paul also addresses Slaves. It may be difficult to appreciate what slavery means today, but we should remember that slavery was a basic element in Roman society and many Christian masters had slaves who were converted to Christianity, these slaves had no legal rights and their destiny was entirely in the hands of their masters. The same “sound doctrine” is also applicable to them for they are to show respect to their masters and be pleasing in all their work and not to steal. How then is this applicable today? We are all members of the workforce in some way or form, and we too as followers of Christ are expected to demonstrate our Christianity in all of our actions in our workplace; not only in words but also in our behaviours! “Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” <Titus 2:9-10 (NIV)>. It should be observed that when “sound doctrine” is taught in the church the results will be, “no one will malign the word of God.” <Titus 2:5 (NIV)>; “those who oppose you may be ashamed” <Titus 2:8 (NIV)>; “they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” <Titus 2:10 (NIV)>. No one will be able to slander God’s Word; our opponents will be silenced and ashamed, and God’s teachings will be attractive to a world that is lost in sin. It is unfortunate that this has not been fully achieved in our society today! <cf 1 Pet.2:11, 15; Phil.1:27a>.

Paul now concludes by showing that after our salvation take place, there are two sides to the change that comes into a person’s life. First there must be rejection of all that is evil; “say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions” <Titus 2:12 (NIV)>; secondly, we are to live holy lives guided by the “sound doctrine” that we have been taught; “live self-controlled, upright and godly lives” <Titus 2:12 (NIV)>. He stresses that our sincere objective should be to do what is good; “a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” <Titus 2:14 (NIV); cf Prov.16:7; 2 Cor.8:21; 1 Pet.2:12, 15>. He states that our salvation is based entirely upon the grace of God that is available to all mankind; “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” <Titus 2:11 (NIV); cf Rom.1:20; 5:8>; and that through God’s grace and His Word we are taught to live godly and self-controlled lives while we await Christ’s return to take us away from this present sinful world to live with Him for all eternity, for that was the reason He offered Himself as our atoning sacrifice; “It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” <Titus 2:12-14 (NIV); cf Heb.9:24-28; 1 Jn.3:2-3>. Sound doctrine will encourage us to anticipate the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ <Rev.22:17, 20>.

Good sound doctrine based entirely on scripture is what needs to be taught from all our church pulpits!