1 Timothy 4
1But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,
2by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron,
3men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.
There were false doctrines challenging the church in Timothy’s day, and as time has gone on, more and more deceptions have arisen (2 Timothy 3:13). There is no doubt from the Spirit-breathed Scripture that this will continue to happen. Many, including professing believers, will be led away from sound doctrine and truth, choosing rather to believe in the doctrines of demons and deceitful spirits. Anything that is not of Christ is based in a lie, which is from the father of lies, the devil (John 8:44). Thus, any doctrine or theology that is not true to the Bible or to Christ is of the devil. Sadly, some believers are captivated by these lies and are led astray into unfruitfulness, becoming useless for the kingdom. Yet the Spirit can and will reveal truth to them if they will seek Him with all of their hearts (Jeremiah 29:13). They are captive only by the delusion in their mind (2 Corinthians 10:5). Then there are many who profess Christ who never knew Him (Matthew 7:23). All those who do not follow Christ are following the devil, and those who do not know Christ will receive the same condemnation as the devil in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). Even as Paul wrote this to Timothy, it was likely that some teachings of asceticism, which emphasized the spiritual and thought of the physical as sinful, were influencing the church at Ephesus where Timothy was. To forbid marriage or to restrain from certain foods (more likely an influence of Judaism), were not Biblical. These sorts of man-made, extra-Biblical, legalistic, merit-driven systems of human performance are indicative of all world religions besides true Christianity. God says that marriage is good and that all that God has created is good (1 Timothy 4:4). Those who believe and know the truth should be able to joyously marry and eat what God made. Those who lead astray and propagate the doctrines of demons, living out a life and ministry of false teaching, are hypocrites and liars to the core, having their consciences defiled and desensitized and having been branded by the devil and his ways (c.f. Ephesians 4:17-19). Unbelievers who follow in their teaching are likewise defiled and similarly branded (Titus 1:15).
4For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude;
5for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.
God created food and marriage and the other physical aspects of the world. If God doesn’t condemn it, then we need to not condemn it either or restrain from it. Rather, we should receive God’s good provision in finding a mate and in giving us food to eat with thanksgiving. Even if a piece of food had been sacrificed to idols, it could be sanctified by believing God’s Word that it is good and by praying and asking God to restrain any evil influences (c.f. 1 Corinthians 8:4).
6In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.
7But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness;
8for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
9It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance.
10For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.
11Prescribe and teach these things.
Paul wants Timothy to emphasize and teach sound doctrine and to point out the errors of theology which pose a danger to the church. Persevering in sound doctrine and defending it against error will demonstrate that Timothy is indeed a good servant of God and one who is conforming his mind to learn and commit to sound doctrine and the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). As believers learn, believe, study, and obey God’s Word, they are more ready, able, and equipped to know and defend the truth against error. Timothy is to have nothing to do with the abundant variety of false teaching that tends to infiltrate the church. This false and worldly wisdom is nothing but old wives’ tales, myths, and fables. They purport to be true and even might seem to be indicative of godliness, but they are not. Only that which aligns with God’s Word can be considered godly. Disciplining the body against certain behaviors, foods, desires, and so on can be beneficial, but only to a limited point, for such willpower is not beneficial if the discipline is for purposes not intended in God’s Word. There is a place for self-control, but it must be spiritual in nature rather than of the flesh. There is no godliness in beating the body or in setting up legalistic laws as a means of sanctification. Sanctification is by faith, and self-control is a fruit of yielding to the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
Godliness, on the other hand, is not about selfish gain or becoming righteous on our own merit (1 Timothy 6:5, Ephesians 2:8-9). Godliness is yielding to the commands of God in the Bible by the Spirit’s filling and empowering. Godliness that is of the heart and not mere external ritual and exercise is profitable and beneficial to the utmost, for it is the best way to live in this life and it holds great rewards for the life to come. True godliness with contentment is great gain, and this is a very important reality that believers must understand and to which they must commit (1 Timothy 6:6). Those who are in a position of authority and instruction must strive and labor to get the truths about true godliness across to all men. Salvation through faith in Christ is what makes a person godly, and their sanctification in this life by the work of the indwelling Spirit is to daily be the goal of the believer. Believers must fix their hope on God (Hebrews 12:2) and eternity (1 Peter 1:13) with Him each day so that they will desire and live for godliness. God is man’s only hope of salvation because man cannot get himself out of his sinful state. Fortunately, God in great love sent His only begotten Son to die for the sins of the world. He has thus made Himself the Savior of all men, should they receive Him. Only those who respond in faith to the free gift available only in Christ will be saved. Paul again exhorts Timothy to instruct and exhort others to pursue godliness, sound doctrine, and faith in Christ. The ascetics could discipline their bodies all they wanted, but it was an internal regeneration and heart change that they needed by faith in Christ. This alone leads to salvation, true godliness, and the ability to by faith actually walk in uprightness and integrity.
12Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.
Timothy was younger than many of those whom he was given charge over. Thus, some might have been prone to refuse to listen to his admonitions and instruction because of his age. Paul’s admonition to him is not to flaunt his position or pull rank but to show himself an example in all that he says and does so that he demonstrates to all that he knows the Word and obeys it. God will look after Timothy’s ministry, and Timothy needs to take care of his heart and mind. He needs to walk after Christ in his speech, behavior, love, faith, and purity. As his life is holy and indicative of God at work in and through Him, those who respect God will respect him as their shepherd.
13Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.
God’s Word has power in and of itself to judge our thoughts and motives (Hebrews 4:12), to generate faith (Romans 1:16, 10:17), and to edify and equip the believer for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16). Therefore, it is important that we as believers hear the Word of God read publicly as we assemble ourselves together. Those who are in a position of authority in the church as Timothy was must devote themselves to and give themselves to the reading of the Word. The command to “give attention” could literally mean “be addicted to.” The idea is that the Word of God is so important and powerful that we need to hear it. If we hear it regularly, we will be more likely to respect its authority, we will grow in grace and knowledge of Christ, and we will learn to love it. Timothy is also to teach and preach the Word of God, exhorting, admonishing, persuading, and instructing the church according to sound doctrine and in the ways of godliness.
14Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.
15Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all.
16Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
Before the Bible was completed, God revealed truth through prophetic utterances as a regular, normal pattern of learning His ways while the saints were assembled together (1 Corinthians 14:1, 29-40). Evidently, some of the elders recognized Timothy’s qualifications for being an elder, and they appointed him to be an elder as they laid their hands on him. This symbolic gesture demonstrated their confidence and trust in him as a shepherd as they dedicated his ministry to the Lord. We don’t need other believers to bestow gifts upon us, but it is important that those who are elders recognize future elders (Titus 1:5, Acts 14:23). Timothy was gifted to teach the Word of God to the church, and he needed to labor over the Word of God and be intentional about teaching sound doctrine and having the Word of God publicly read. His own study should lead to his own growth which would be noticeable by all, leading to further respect of his calling as elder. Timothy must pay close attention to accurately teaching the Bible and not carelessly saying something that was not true. He must devote himself to accurately presenting the truth, and he must persevere in this task. If he does so, then he will be sure that all hear and understand the gospel and can either be sure of their salvation (1 John 5:13) or have reason to doubt at which point they can repent and be saved (2 Corinthians 13:5). If a clear gospel is not preached, then those who are not saved might remain in darkness and those who are in the light might wander or begin to doubt their own salvation.