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>.



Paul is not advocating that good works are required for salvation <Titus 3:1-11>, instead he is teaching that good works are the result of our salvation <see Jas.2:14-18; Eph.2:10>. All believers are citizens of the Heavenly Kingdom, but we must submit ourselves to our earthly governments so as to assist in the welfare of our communities <see Rom.13:1-7; 1 Peter.2:13-17>. So, he instructs Titus to “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities” <Titus 3:1-2 (NIV)>, and to be ready to carry out whatever suitable action that is deemed necessary. Titus is to remind the believers of what is not considered to be “good works”, “slander no one”; so often we are tempted to speak critically about others especially when we do not have all the facts, and this action must be sternly avoided in the Church. Believers should be “peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility” towards all members of the Church and to all others in the community <cf Jn.8:7; Gal.6:1; 1 Cor,15:9-10>.

Paul reminds us that “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” <Titus 3:3 (NIV)>, and this should be the thought that influences our behaviour and actions, considering the fact that God has forgiven us of our past sins so we now must be considerate in our response to those that are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and to those that are not yet believers in Christ <see Matt.6:12>. He continues by referring to the “kindness and love of God” <Titus 3:4 (NIV); 2:11>, through which God saved us instead of condemning us to eternal punishment, and it is important to understand that our salvation is not the result of our righteous deeds; “he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” <Titus 3:5 (NIV); 1 Pet.1:3>; and we must also understand that our salvation is secured “through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit”; indicating a reference to the “new birth” as seen in the teaching of Christ <see Jn.3:3, 5>, whereby we are not saved by baptism, only by rebirth through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Our salvation is therefore completely based upon the grace of God, “poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” <Titus 3:6-7 (NIV); 1:2; 2:13; Jn.10:10b>; and Paul says that this is a “trustworthy saying”, a reference to his doctrinal statement in verses 4-7.

Titus is to put emphasis on these teachings “so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” <Titus 3:8 (NIV)>; directing us back to the opening statement “to be ready to do whatever is good” <Titus 3:1>; and such should be characteristic of all true believers in Christ. But Paul warns us to “avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.” <Titus 3:9 (NIV)>, these behaviours should not characterize believers in Christ since they contribute nothing to the good works that are expected of us. Paul then concludes with a stern warning: “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time.” <Titus 3:10 (NIV)>; how often do we encounter such an individual in the Church today? Doctrinal differences, worship music and songs, decisions made by our church leaders, and such, often cause divisiveness, and when this occurs within the Church it must be dealt with immediately, otherwise it will ferment like yeast. Paul further says that if the individual will not listen and cooperate then have nothing to do”with that person because such a stubborn refusal to listen to correction reveals an inner perversion (NIV Study Bible).

Paul further determines that “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.” <Titus 3:14 (NIV)>. The primary characteristic of each and every believer is to be faithful in doing what is good, and Paul has addressed this previously; he has cautioned us as to what should be avoided <see Titus 3:9-11> as opposed to what we should be doing <Titus 3:1-2>. This behaviour will then lead to the secondary factor in that we will take care of the daily essentials, physical and spiritual, not only for ourselves but also for other members of the community of believers, and outsiders, as is deemed necessary. We should not be consumed with the idea of Christ’s imminent return to the extent that we sit back and do little or nothing as we wait for this event <see Titus 1:12; cf 2 Thess.3:6-13; cf Rom.15:1; Gal.6:2>. He also speaks to an attitude in the lives of some believers when he comments on “unproductive lives”; where often we attempt to sit back at various periods of our Christian life and think that there is nothing left to do, but we must always remember that we are to continually work for our Master until He returns, even if it involves only our praise and adoration for Him <see Psa.92:12-15>. So, let us live our lives always doing good so that others will benefit as we contribute to their physical and spiritual needs.



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!