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. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.
Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
- 1 Timothy 4:1-16
Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments
On ‘abandoning the faith’: “Those who fall prey to the false teachers will abandon the Christian faith. The Gr. word for ‘depart’ is the source of the Eng. Word ‘apostatize,’ and refers to someone moving away from an original position. These are professing or nominal Christians who associate with those who truly believe the gospel, but defect after believing lies and deception, thus revealing their true nature as unconverted. See 1 John 2:19; Jude 24.”
On ‘deceiving spirits’: “Those demonic spirits, either directly or through false teachers, who have wandered away from the truth and lead others to do the same. The most defining word to describe the entire operation of Satan and his demons is ‘deception’ (cf. John 8:44; 1 John 4:1-6).”
On ‘forbidding to marry, and abstaining foods’: “A sample of the false teaching at Ephesus. Typically, it contained elements of truth, since Scripture commends both singleness (1 Cor. 7:25-35) and fasting (Matt. 6:16, 17; 9:14, 15). The deception came in making such human works a prerequisite for salvation – a distinguishing mark of all false religion. This ascetic teaching was probably influenced both by the Jewish sect known as the Essenes, and contemporary Greek thought (which viewed matter as evil and spirit as good). Paul addressed this asceticism in Col. 2:21-23. Neither celibacy nor any form of diet saves or sanctifies.”
On rejecting profane and old wives’ fables: “In addition to be committed to God’s Word (see 1 Tim. 4:6), believers must avoid all false teaching. Paul denounced such error as ‘profane’ (worldly; the opposite of what is holy) ‘fables’ (muthos, from which the Eng. Word ‘myths’ derives), fit only for ‘old wives’ (a common epithet denoting something fit only for the uneducated and philosophically unsophisticated). See 2 Tim. 2:14-18.
On ‘exercise toward godliness’: “’Godliness’ (a proper attitude and response toward God; see 2:2) is the prerequisite from which all effective ministry flows. ‘Exercise’ is an athletic term denoting the rigorous, self-sacrificing training an athlete undergoes. Spiritual self-discipline is the path to godly living (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24-27).”
On ‘trust’: “Or ‘hope.’ Believers are saved in hope (see Rom. 8:24), and live and serve in light of that hope of eternal life (Titus 1:2, 3:7; see Rom. 5:2). Working to the point of exhaustion and suffering rejection and persecution are acceptable because believers understand they are doing God’s work – which is the work of salvation. That makes it worth all of the sacrifices (Phil. 1:12-18, 27-30; 2:17; Col. 1:24, 25; 2 Tim. 1:6-12; 2:3, 4, 9, 10; 4:5-8).”
On ‘letting no one despise your youth’: “Greek culture placed great value on age and experience. Since Timothy was in his thirties, still young by the standards of that culture, he would have to earn respect by being a godly example. Because he had been with Paul since a young teenager, Timothy had much experience to mature him, so that looking down on him because he was under 40 was inexcusable.”
- John MacArthur, One Faithful Life
1 Timothy 4:8 ‘godliness has value for all things’: “They overvalue this life who consider it to be a better thing than divine love, for the love of God is better than life – his loving-kindness is better than life itself. Some would give anything for their lives, but they would give nothing for God’s love. If their lives were in danger, they would hasten to the physician; but though they do not enjoy the love of God, they yet sit at ease and seek not the priceless benefit. They who feel rightly think it a cheap thing to die but an awful thing to live apart from God. They recognize that life would be but death unless God were with us and that death itself is but the vestibule of life while God is our joy and our strength.”
1 Timothy 4:13 ‘devote yourselves to public reading of Scriptures’: “Read and depend on the Spirit of God. How often do we open the sacred book and read a chapter through – perhaps at family prayer or perhaps in our own private devotion – and having read from the first verse to the last, we shut up the book thinking we have done something right and proper indeed, and yet right and proper as the thing is, we may really have gained nothing thereby. We may, in fact, have only drilled ourselves in the merely external part of religion and may not have enjoyed anything spiritual or anything that can be beneficial to our souls if we have forgotten the divine spirit through whom the word has come to us.”
- Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes
This chapter of 1 Timothy is packed full of small nuggets. I think MacArthur adequately discussed the evil spirits or demons concept as being the source of false doctrines. Some Christians would argue that Satan would never encourage people to go to church, but Satan has no problem, in fact he encourages people to flock to churches where you get a feel-good story that takes the focus off Jesus and places it on simply “feeling good.”
As for the abstaining from certain foods, I am concerned toward the younger generations’ eating habits. Is it healthy or horribly misguided, leading to poor health at a faster rate? My mother liked vegetables. She never really liked meat that much. When there were no more kids to take care of, meat became less a part of their diet, until their diet became meatless. When my parents retired and my Dad developed type 2 diabetes, my mother put both of them on a starvation diet. My Dad withered away to skin and bones. When he developed some food poisoning from the cole slaw at a local restaurant (my brother-in-law also getting sick – the only two who ate the cole slaw), his underlying congestive heart failure caused him to die in less than two months. For seemingly healthy to passed away in two months. There was no reserve of fat to provide energy during the illness, and when you have little muscle left, what will fail next?
I will never be convinced that my Dad could not have lived longer if he had eaten a balanced diet in his last 10-15 years of his life. There were practically no sources of protein in his diet, all veggies, and those overcooked, removing any vitamin benefit.
But, the gluten-free craze has positive and negative effects. Wheat is almost completely hybridized and not like the wheat that our ancestors ate just 100 years ago. Some scientists think that the nation’s weight gain is partially due to genetically altered wheat consumption. But grains form a food group. Eliminating them across the board, puts us out of balance. I cannot eat wheat on my diet due to an IBS issue, the complex carbohydrates in wheat, not the gluten (protein). I substitute corn, rice, and some exotic grains on occasion.
The beauty of God’s perfect design is that everything was designed to be in balance, and it has been man’s rebellion against God that throws things out of balance. For those with medical issues, they need to avoid certain foods, while carefully substituting other foods to keep their diet balanced, but healthy people should just eat a regular balanced diet. Following diet fads could be very dangerous. I know someone who went to a holistic ‘doctor’ for a diabetic diet, thinking a pill or insulin shots could be avoided. Six weeks later, this person was in the hospital with a blood sugar well over 500 (I think a few hundred over, but I cannot remember the number). This person was unaware that the strange foods that were on this holistic diet were throwing their entire system out of balance, and suddenly they are in the emergency room.
A final word on diet. If we follow the latest fad and become ill as a result, we will be “worshipping” the latest fad, in a way, but more importantly, in becoming sick, we limit our witness of the risen Christ in our world. You must believe Satan uses such things.
Next is the ideas of old wives’ tales. I mentioned one yesterday in the often repeated story telling of Elijah going up to heaven, riding in a chariot of fire, but the Scripture says that the chariots of fire separated Elijah and Elisha, then a whirlwind lifted Elijah. Some would say this is a technicality, but it points to the problem. It is the old game where everyone sits in a circle. One person whispers a prepared statement into the next person’s ear, and then each following person whispers what they think they heard to the next person. The final message becomes total gibberish. We cannot let our understanding of the Bible become gibberish due to sloppy retelling of stories. Don’t get me started on Christmas mythology. I wrote a post on that a couple of years ago. Hardly anything of what we understand of the Christmas story is absolutely true.
And the key to good Christian doctrine is the Bible. I am Presbyterian and they have their confessions, the longer and shorter catechisms, and other such statements. But these have been carefully written by Biblical scholars, for the most part, to organize clear statements of what the denomination believes – directly from the Bible – not out of thin air. Yet, even so, there is a certain “modern-time bias.” The last couple of confessions, written in the previous century, are incomplete statements with underlying agendas that I totally distrust. But why do I distrust them? I go back to Scripture and compare that with the worldview bias of the time when the confession was written. The writers of the last couple of confessions had an agenda. We must always return to the Scriptures to discern whether the “new idea” is a restating of Scripture or false doctrine.
And for a church leader who does not examine these new ideas against the Bible, he or she is in the grip of one of those deceiving spirits when that church leader guides more church members away from Christ and Christ alone. The examining of Scriptures is not just a church leader’s mandate. Everyone in the congregation must be so educated to prevent being deceived. Too many people blindly trust their pastor due to the pastor’s many years of education. That is lazy Christianity. Our Founding Fathers started the education system in the USA for the purpose of preventing pastors and lawmakers from deceiving the people. We are being deceived from both, to a great extent. We need to take advantage of our ability to read by reading the Bible ourselves.
And as we study the Bible, we must rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance.
Some Serendipitous Reflections
“What were you raised to believe a Christian can and cannot do? If a friend was being swayed by these teachings today, what would you say? Do?
“If you were to design a spiritual fitness training program comparable to the one you use to keep physically fit, what would it consist of? Why?
”What ‘rites of passage’ would you set up for a young Christian aspiring to lead?”
- Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups
Note that the first question is more than a double-edged sword. Some of those old silly rules were really good rules, both the do and don’t rules. So, which rules would you wish we could return to versus which would you avoid passionately? But you must consider the secular culture change. Secular culture is moving further from the Truth of God’s Word. How does that affect the answer to this question, understanding that God does not change? Remember that one of Satan’s favorite questions is “Does the Bible really say that? Or Are you really understanding what the Bible is really saying?”
As for the second Serendipity question, you may not follow a physical fitness routine, so you may consider what you should do with physical fitness rather than what you are doing when considering the design of a spiritual fitness routine. And then really do it.
A ’rite of passage’ may conjure the wrong idea, but how does a young Christian prove himself/herself?
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
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