The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
March 17, 2013


1) 1 Timothy 4:1-6 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


1 Timothy 4:1-6
by Tom Edwards

In 1 Timothy 4:1-3, Paul speaks of a coming apostasy, due to individuals being led astray by false teachers.  He declares: "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men 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."

That there would be an apostasy is not based on the mere surmising of man; but, rather, on what the Spirit Himself had clearly revealed concerning this matter.  The KJV uses the phrase "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly," which E.M. Zerr cites as an example of "verbal inspiration, where the Spirit gives the apostle or other hearer the message in the exact words to be received and communicated to others."

Not everyone believes in the "verbal inspiration" of the Bible.  Some think that the Lord merely gave an idea to an inspired man, which he then was to put into his own words.  However, if that had been the case, would not the Bible then be nothing more than a paraphrase and according to man's own interpretation?  That would certainly conflict with 2 Peter 1:20,21: "But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God."

An example of the verbal inspiration of God's word can be seen in Acts 2.  This chapter records the day the church was established, which was also the Day of Pentecost that under the Law of Moses required male Jews to be in Jerusalem to observe.  Therefore, the crowd was made up of  men "from every nation under heaven" (v. 5); and, therefore, men of different languages.  The Lord had previously instructed His apostles to wait in this city for the "power" they would receive from on high, and that power would be the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4,5,8).  Acts 2:4 states, concerning just the apostles, "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance."  They were declaring "the mighty deeds of God" (v. 11) in different languages, which they did not know, but to which the Jews of those different nations had been born.  On hearing this, and either knowing or rightly assuming the apostles were all Galileans, the multitudes were "bewildered," "amazed," and "astonished" to each hear in their own language (vv. 6,7).  So since the apostles did not know these languages, every word they spoke had been given to them by the Holy Spirit; rather than Him merely giving them an idea to express in words or phrases of their own choosing.  

Of course, we can also say that when the individual spoke or wrote in his own language, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit chose words that were even in a style characteristic of that individual. 

Consider also 1 Corinthians 2:11-13: "For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words."

Paul shows that "some will fall away from the faith."  The phrase "fall away"  is from the Greek word "aphistemi" that can also mean to "become faithless" or "to desert."

Many people today believe that a Christian can never fall away so as to be lost, but the Bible not only shows of the possibility, but also of those who had.  For instance, to those who were seeking salvation by going back to the Law of Moses, Paul declares, "You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace" (Gal. 5:4).  Notice again the past-tense verb phrases in this passage: "You HAVE BEEN SEVERED from Christ...you HAVE FALLEN from grace."

Those who believe that a Christian cannot fall away will often refer to anyone who does so as  being a non-Christian; but how can a non-Christian fall away?  What would he be falling away from?

That Paul speaks of those who had "been severed from Christ" and "fallen from grace" indicates that they had once been in Christ and in His grace.  So, obviously, Christians can fall away.  Peter also makes this clear in 2 Peter 2:20-22: "For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.  For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.  It has happened to them according to the true proverb, 'A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,' and, 'A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.'"

Again, who would be those who had "escaped the defilements of the world"?  Lost souls who have never been forgiven of their sins?  or Christians who had been cleansed by the precious, soul-cleansing blood of Jesus?  That they have become "again entangled...and overcome" also indicates that they had, at least for a while, been set free from those entanglements that would keep their souls lost; but have now gone back into that state.  But how could that "last state" be worse than the "first," if salvation cannot be lost?  For their first "state" is referring to their lost condition as a non-Christian, but now it is even "worse" for them to have fallen away; so it cannot be any better than being lost in sin.  Worse:  For they had been redeemed, but then forfeited that redemption.  They had been on that road that leads to heaven, but then turned back to the world of sin and a road that leads to eternal separation from God.  And of all people, they should have known better: For they had the knowledge of the truth, but ceased their submission to it.  And though a sin of ignorance is still a sin and the penalty will be the same, doesn't it seem worse for one to sin knowingly than for one to sin ignorantly?

In 1 Timothy 4:1, Paul shows what would be causing some to fall away.  They would be "paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons" -- instead of giving their attention to the gospel.  And Paul includes in this group "men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods" (v. 3).  That sounds familiar, even in our time.  

The KJV uses the phrase "doctrines of devils," but there is really only one devil; and that is Satan.  For this reason, many modern translations never use the word "devils" in the plural, but render it as "demons."  And, actually, "devils" in the phrase "doctrines of devils," is not from the Greek word "diabolos," which is translated as "devil"; but from "daimonion."  So two different Greek words.  

As you probably recall, Timothy was in Ephesus when Paul wrote this letter; and he had told the Ephesian elders, before his departure, that "savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them" (Acts 20:29,30).  False teaching, therefore, had been around even in the early days of the church.  So there was a need for Christians to know the truth, lest they be led astray by any of the erroneous beliefs and practices they would encounter.

Paul speaks of these false teachers as being hypocritical liars.  The term "hypocrite" originally was used to pertain to an actor in a play.  So a hypocrite was playing the part of someone else, rather than being himself or herself.  It is easy to see how that meaning has carried over to our modern usage of it.  

In 1 Timothy 4:2, Paul speaks of those who are "seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron."  James Burton Coffman defines this as "...a description of the 'hardened,' 'blinded,' deadened soul in whom the truth principle has utterly perished.  It begins by rejecting what is known to be true, but in its progression it leaves the 'deluded' totally without moral or spiritual guidelines."

Rejecting what they knew to be true was also the case of many of those whom Paul speaks of in Romans 1:21-25.   It appears they continued to step lower and lower into an immoral state.   Notice their descent: Though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God (v. 21).  They were not thankful; their imaginations became vain "and their foolish heart was darkened."  They "became fools."  They "changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man...."  Steps that lead one farther and farther away from God are certainly not the right steps to be taking.  No wonder repentance is sometimes referred to as "an about-face," a 180-degree turn in the opposite direction.  For in true Bible repentance, there is a need to not only turn completely away from the sin, but to also turn toward God (cf. Acts 26:17,18; 1 Thess. 1:9; Isa. 55:6,7).

As we think of "men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods (meats, KJV)," it reminds us of those who sometimes try to devise their own ways of being more religious; but if it conflicts with God's word, then it certainly is not the right way.  Compare, for instance, Colossians 2:18-23: "Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God. If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 'Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!'  (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)--in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men?  These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence."  How many today base their salvation on some type of "religious experience" they had, rather than on the word of God?  The mind, however, can play tricks; feelings can deceive; but God's word will always be true and faithful, and it is to the Scriptures that the Christian can find assurance in salvation.  As John states, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life" (1 Jn. 5:13).

Paul also gives a good reason for why man doesn't have to religiously abstain from certain foods: "For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer" (1 Tim. 4:4,5).  This might even remind you of how God viewed His creation, soon after making man:  "God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day" (Gen. 1:31).  And concerning the food, this is mentioned in the previous passage: "Then God said, 'Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food'; and it was so" (Gen. 1:29,30).  So in the beginning, man was a vegetarian; and the animals as well.  But after the time of the flood, God allowed man to be carnivorous: "And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.  The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given.  Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant.  Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood" (Gen. 9:1-4).  And even those creatures that we would not include in our diet, here in our nation, are sometimes a food consumed in another part of the world -- and some even as a delicacy.  

Paul speaks of this food as being "sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer." When we truly give thanks for the food we partake of, we are recognizing that the Lord is the one who makes that meal possible -- and that food is being set apart for the nourishment of our bodies and to help us in our service to the Lord.  

In 1 Timothy 4:6, Paul then has another kind of nourishment in mind.  He writes, "In 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."

Just as Timothy did, we, too, can be good servants of the Lord by pointing out His word to the brethren.  We each, therefore, need to continue to realize the responsibility we have in this -- and toward the lost souls, as well.  

God's word is food for the souls of His people, and a lifeline to those who are perishing.  As Paul shows, by continuing to proclaim the gospel, Timothy would be "constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine."  Here, "faith" is used objectively in referring to the gospel itself.  This might also remind you of the Lord's statement in Matthew 4:4 that "...'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'" Jesus not only taught this, but also lived according to it Himself.  For He declares: "...'My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work" (Jn. 4:34).  

Today, there are many religious people who want to "just love Jesus," while ignoring Bible doctrine.  They, apparently, feel that this will lead to more unity among similar believers.  Well, it might lead to more unity -- but unity in what?  To love Jesus is to know His word and keep it (cf. Jn. 14:15,21), and that is also how we are to truly love one another (1 Jn. 5:2).  So it is important to understanding the teachings of God's word, to apply them, and to dwell in unity based on that message.  And since Timothy had a need to continue in "sound doctrine" in order to be "constantly nourished" (1 Tim. 4:6), how could one say that doctrine is not important?  As noted, we are to live on "...every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4).  So may we each always strive to live that way -- and find true fulfillment with thankfulness in doing so.


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians be remembering the following people, and their families, in prayer:

* Linda Blevins' recent renal ultrasound has revealed that she has bilateral renal artery stenosis, which is probably what caused the spike in her blood pressure a couple weeks ago.  She will also be seeing some other doctors and going through more tests.

* Let us also be remembering in prayer: Tom Smitherman (Lee's father) who has been diagnosed with an aggressive prostate cancer; Bill Barfield (Linda Blevins' uncle) whose condition has declined; Pam MacDonald who has serious back trouble; Cheryl Crews who has chronic ailments; Shirley Young who suffers from fibromyalgia; and Jean Calloway who has health problems.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

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evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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