1 Timothy Chapter 4
Verses 1-5: After already noting the presence of false teachers at Ephesus (1:3-7; 18-20), and countering some of their erroneous teaching with the positive instruction of chapters 2 and 3, Paul deals directly with the false teachers themselves in this passage, focusing on their origin and content.
1 Timothy 4:1 “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;”
“Expressly” means clearly. To “depart” means to apostatize. Apostasy is the deliberate and permanent rejection of Christianity after a previous profession of faith in it. “Doctrines of devils,” that is, doctrines taught by demons.
Paul repeats to Timothy the warning he had given many years earlier to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:29-30). The Holy Spirit through the Scriptures has repeatedly warned of the danger of apostasy (Matthew 24:4-12; Acts 20:29-30; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12; Hebrews 3:12; 5:11 – 6:8; 10:26-31; 2 Peter 3:3; 1 John 2:18; Jude 18).
“In the latter times”: The period from the first coming of Christ until His return (Acts 2:16-17; Hebrews 1:1-2; 9:26; 1 Peter 1:20; 1 John 2:18). Apostasy will exist throughout that period, reaching a climax shortly before Christ returns (Matthew 24:12).
“Shall depart from the faith”: Those who fall prey to the false teachers will abandon the Christian faith. The Greek word for “fall away” is the source of the English 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 notes on 1 John 2:19; Jude 24).
“Seducing 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” (John 8:44; 1 John 4:1-6).
“Doctrines of devils”: Not teaching about demons, but false teaching that originates from them. To sit under such teaching is to hear lies from the demonic realm (Ephesians 6:12; James 3:15; 2 John 7:11). The influence of demons will reach its peak during the Tribulation (2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 9:2-11; 16:14; 20:2-3, 8, 10). Satan and demons constantly work the deceptions that corrupt and pervert God’s Word.
Expressly speaks of something that is beyond question, or definite. “Spirit”, of course, is the Holy Spirit of God. There has been so much discussion about when the latter times come into reality. Actually, the beginning of the latter times was at the resurrection of Jesus.
When we look at “giving heed to seducing spirits” we see that the people are willingly listening to these spirits that draw people away from God’s teachings. We read in a previous lesson, that before the coming of the Lord, there will be a great falling away from the church. We are also, told that in the latter days, it will be like it was in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah.
This means that the homosexual lifestyle will be practised. That is the reason Sodom was destroyed. The word sodomy comes from that name.
In the instance of this verse, there is a specific false doctrine that is being widely accepted. Notice with me, before we get into the details, it is a doctrine of devils. This doctrine goes directly in opposition to God’s teaching.
Demons are real, incorporeal beings, probably fallen angels who rebelled against God in heaven and were cast out of His presence. Thus, much of what is true of angels is also true of demons. They however, appear to be evil in nature and loyal to Satan. Underestimating their immense power would be a grave mistake.
Christians who believe they can “wrestle” with demons without using “the whole armour of God” are seriously deluded. While apparently, some demons are currently confined (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6), most are not and will not be finally punished until the Millennium (Revelation 20:3).
After a brief period of freedom at the end of the Millennium (during which they inspire a final rebellion), they will be eternally confined to hell, which was originally prepared for them (Matthew 25:41; also see 2 Peter 2:4; 1 Tim. 4:1; Ephesian 6:12).
1 Timothy 4:2 “Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;”
“Speaking lies in hypocrisy” (or, “by the hypocrisy of liars”): These are the human false teachers who propagate demon doctrine (1 John 4:1).
“Seared”: A medical term referring to cauterization. False teachers can teach their hypocritical lies because their consciences have been desensitized (Eph. 4:19), as if all the nerves that make them feel had been destroyed and turned into scar tissue by the burning of demonic deception.
“Conscience” (see note on 1:5).
The demons of (verse 1), further described as “having their conscience seared with a hot iron,” that is, branded (scarred), in their conscience. Permanently defaced, the moral life of these hypocrites is scarred by sin as they carry around the awareness of their guilt, yet continue preaching to others.
These people must have been at some time believers and have turned away from that teaching because they are hypocrites. They are actually lying about God’s teachings. The worst thing of all, they feel no guilt for what they are teaching.
Since their conscience is not working properly, it appears they got into this false doctrine gradually. Each falsehood made them a little less conscious of their sin.
1 Timothy 4:3 “Forbidding to marry, [and commanding] to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.”
“Forbidding to marry … abstain from meats”: A sample of the false teaching at Ephesus. Typically, it contained elements of truth, since Scripture commends both singleness (1 Corinthians 7:25-35), and fasting (Matthew 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 Colossians 2:21-23; see notes there). Neither celibacy nor any form of diet saves or sanctifies.
Two examples of demonic doctrines are cited here:
(1) Prohibition against marriage, and
(2) Abstaining from certain foods.
Now we get into the specifics of the doctrine of devils. God made male and female to marry, and with Him, create Him a family. You can see why it would be wrong to teach people not to marry. They would not fulfill their reason for being males and females in the flesh.
There are many people in our society today who have elevated animals up to a position where they do not belong. It is almost animal worship. God created animals for man. He intended men to eat the flesh of animals. That was their purpose for being.
We will see, as we go along, that meats here is referring to the flesh of an animal. The only restriction for eating even the animals that were classified as unclean in the Old Testament, is that you pray over the food before you eat it.
When Jesus raised the 12 year old girl to life, He said, feed her some meat. This was the flesh of an animal. There is a movement going through our land not to use the hide of an animal for coats. The first thing God did for Adam and Eve, after their fall, was to kill an animal and make clothing for them of the hide of the animal.
We should not get away from using the animal for the purpose God made him for. He has a purpose that fits in with the plans of God. God does not need our help to decide what the animal is used for. Animals are not people. People are made in the image of God.
1 Timothy 4:4 “For every creature of God [is] good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:”
“Every creature of God is good” The false teacher’s asceticism contradicted Scripture, which teaches that since God created both marriage and food (Genesis 1:28-31; 2:18-24; 9:3), they are intrinsically good (Genesis 1:31), and to be enjoyed with gratitude by believers. Obviously, food and marriage are essential for life and procreation.
(or, “Everything created by God is good”): This substantiates the remark (in verse 3), that God created foods to be eaten, not abstained from.
The word “creature”, in the verse above, lets you know that this is animal flesh they are speaking of. Everything God created was followed by saying, and it is good. Remember though, whatever you eat, must be prayed over, thanking God before you eat it.
1 Timothy 4:5 “For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”
“Sanctified”: Set apart or dedicated to God for holy use. The means for so doing are thankful prayer and an understanding that the Word of God has set aside the temporary Mosaic dietary restrictions (Mark 7:17; Acts 10:9-15; Romans 14:1-12; Colossians 2:16-17). Contrast the unbeliever whose inner corruption and evil motives corrupt every good thing (Titus 1:15).
By divine statements (“By the word of God”), declaring all foods fit for man, and by the believer’s giving of thanks before means (“by … prayer”), food “is sanctified.” This means food is set apart (reserved), for consumption by Christians.
“Sanctified”, in this particular sense, means made holy. It is very important for us to remember that God made the earth and everything on it, and all the animals, fishes, and fowl, before He made man. He made all of this for the use of man.
He made it not to use as we see fit, but as He planned for us to use it. It was the Word of God that made all of it. It was made good from the beginning.
1 Timothy 4:6 “If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.”
“Nourished up in” (or, “being trained in”): Continual feeding on the truths of Scripture is essential to the spiritual health of all Christians (2 Timothy 3:16-17), but especially of spiritual leaders like Timothy. Only by reading the Word, studying it, meditating on it, and mastering its contents can a pastor fulfill his mandate (2 Timothy 2:15).
Timothy had been doing so since childhood (2 Timothy 3:15), and Paul urged him to continue (verse 16; 2 Timothy 3:14). “Words of the faith” is a general reference to Scripture, God’s revealed truth. “Good doctrine” indicates the theology Scripture teaches.
As Timothy teaches “the brethren” God’s word, he also instructs himself. Good doctrine helps make a “good minister. Whereunto thou has attained”, (or “which good doctrine you have followed”). Timothy has faithfully conformed to the truth Paul taught him.
Timothy needs to remind these people of the falsehood of teaching doctrines of devils. Any use of anything on this earth for other purposes than what God made them for in the beginning, would be as if we were saying God made a mistake. You can see the error in this.
The brethren” speaks of all believers in Christ. Notice, he is a minister of Jesus Christ. He is under direct orders of Jesus. Paul just reminds Timothy that he had been taught correctly from the beginning, now stay with that teaching.
1 Timothy 4:7 “But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself [rather] unto godliness.”
“Refuse profane and old wives fables”: In addition to being committed to God’s Word (see note on verse 6), believers must avoid all false teaching. Paul denounced such error as “worldly” (the opposite of what is holy). “Fables” (muthos, from which the English word “myths” derives), fit only for “old women”. A common epithet denoting something fit only for the uneducated and philosophically unsophisticated (see notes on 2 Timothy 2:14-18).
“Exercise … godliness”: “Godliness”, a proper attitude and response toward God (see note on 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 (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
We may read the verse, “But avoid profane and fabricated myths, and exercise yourself to be godly.” These false doctrines, called “myths,” are described as “profane” because they promote ungodliness. And “fabricated” because they, like modern-day soap operas, are silly and flighty in character.
Not only must Timothy avoid false teaching, but he must also spare himself no pain and effort to be pious. Godliness does not come automatically. To attain holiness, he must be diligent in prayer, Bible study, obedience, fellowshipping with other believers, and Christian service.
Some of the writers spoke of the Talmud as fables. I do not think that to be what Paul is saying here, however. He is saying, don’t listen to people but learn from the Word of God. The best exercise a person can get is in the Word of God.
Perhaps, there was a great deal of small talk in the church. It is best to stick to the study of God’s Word in the church, and not have profane parties there.
1 Timothy 4:8 “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”
“Profiteth little”: Bodily exercise is limited both in extent and duration; it affects only the physical body during this earthly life.
“Profitable unto all things” In time and eternity.
The verse may be paraphrased, “For physical exercise is of limited value, but godliness, the result of spiritual exercise, has unlimited value, since it brings blessings for both now and eternity.”
The most a person can do with bodily exercise is to improve the flesh of man a little. The study of God’s Word builds up the spirit of man. The flesh will pass away, but the spirit is eternal. The best preparation that we can make, is for the everlasting life.
1 Timothy 4:9 “This [is] a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation.”
“Faithful saying” (see note on 1:15).
This is just saying to Timothy, I am saying this in all good faith. It will be beneficial to you.
1 Timothy 4:10 “For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those that believe.”
“Trust”: Believers are saved in trust and live and serve in the light of that trust of eternal life (Titus 1:2; 3:7; see note on Romans 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 the sacrifices (Philippians 1:12-18, 27-30; 2:17; Colossians 1:24-25; 2 Timothy 1:6-12; 2:3-4, 9-10; 4:5-8).
“The Savior of all men, especially of those that believe”: Paul is obviously not teaching universalism, that all people will be saved in the spiritual and eternal sense since the rest of Scripture clearly teaches that God will not save everyone. Most will reject Him and spend eternity in hell (Matthew 25:41, 46; Revelation 20:11-15).
Yet, the Greek word translated “especially” must mean that all people enjoy God’s salvation in some way like those who believe enjoy His salvation. The simple explanation is that God is the Saviour of all people, only in a temporal sense, while of believers in an eternal sense.
Paul’s point is that while God graciously delivers believers from sin’s condemnation and penalty because He was their substitute (2 Corinthians 5:21), all people experience some earthly benefits from the goodness of God. Those benefits are:
(1) Common grace, a term that describes God’s goodness shown to all mankind universally (Psalm 145:9), in restraining sin (Rom. 2:15), and judgment (Romans 2:3-6). Maintaining order in society through government (Rom. 13:1-5), enabling man to appreciate beauty and goodness (Psalm 50:2), and showering him with temporal blessings (Matthew 5:45; Acts 14:15-17; 17:25);
(2) Compassion, the broken-hearted love of pity God shows to underserving, unregenerate sinners (Exodus 34:6-7; Psalm 86:5; Dan. 9:9; Matthew 23:37; Luke 19:41-44; Isaiah 16:11-13; Jeremiah 48:35-37);
(3) The admonition to repent, God constantly warns sinners of their fate, demonstrating the heart of a compassionate Creator who has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:30-32; 33:11);
(4) The gospel invitation, salvation in Christ is indiscriminately offered to all (Matthew 11:28-29; 22:2-14; John 6:35-40; Revelation 22:17; John 5:39-40).
God is, by all nature, a saving God. That is, He finds no pleasure in the death of sinners. His saving character is revealed even in how He deals with those who will never believe, but only in those 4 temporal ways (see notes on 2:6).
“For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach” (or, “For we both toil and labour to attain this goal”). That is, Paul and associates exercise themselves spiritually to be godly, so they may realize the promise of abundant life and blessings (verse 8). “God … is the Savior of all men” in that He has provided salvation for all. But only “those that believe” are actually saved.
This Scripture is the one many uses to say that all mankind will be saved. That is really not what it is saying. Jesus is the Saviour of all mankind if they accept the salvation He provided for them. Jesus suffered for every individual who ever lived. In that sense, He is the Saviour of us all. How can we receive something we do not believe in?
The key that turns the lock to save each of us, is our acceptance of that free gift of salvation.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Mark 16:16 “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
Paul believed so strongly, he would spend the rest of his life labouring for the gospel. Paul was so thoroughly convinced when he saw the Light of Jesus, that no scorn of man could turn him away. He was willing to suffer anything to be able to bring the gospel message to the lost. Paul admits that he believes Jesus rose from the grave when he calls Him “Living God”.
1 Timothy 4:11 “These things command and teach.”
“Command and teach”: Chronologically, teaching precedes commanding, but “command” is put first to remind timid Timothy, who is eager to teach but hesitant to exercise authority, that this is also one of his responsibilities as a leader.
The command is a strong word that shows it is absolutely necessary to believe, to be saved. You could say, require this of all who accept Jesus as Saviour. Timothy will be acting as the pastor of the church here. One of the duties of the pastor of the church is to teach the people how to apply the Word of God to their daily lives. Christianity is a walk, not a one-time experience.
1 Timothy 4:12 “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”
“Let no man despise thy 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.
“Be thou an example”: Paul lists 5 areas (the better manuscripts omit “in spirit”), in which Timothy was to be an example to the church;
“Speech (Matthew 12:34-37; Ephesians 4:25, 29, 31); “Conduct” (righteous living; Titus 2:10; 1 Peter 1:15; 2:12: 3:16); “Love” (self-sacrificial service for others; John 15:13); “Faith” (not belief, but faithfulness or commitment; 1 Corinthians 4:2); “Purity” (especially sexual purity; 3:2). Timothy’s exemplary life in those areas would offset the disadvantage of his youth.
“Youth”: This Greek word was applied to men 40 years of age and younger.
To help prevent some from despising his “youth,” Timothy is to “be … an example of” [for] “the believers” in the areas of “word” (conversation). “Conversation” (conduct); “charity” (love for those treating him well and ill), “spirit” (proper attitude); “faith” (trusting God in good and bad times), and “in purity” (sexual purity and integrity of life).
Paul is saying to Timothy, do not wander from the teachings, because of your youth and give the Christians any reason to question your teachings. He is saying to Timothy, live above reproach. Do everything like a seasoned man of God. The pastor of any church must live an example before his people. Sin should not be even in his thoughts whether he is young or old.
Notice, that Paul cautions him first about the Word of God. The Word must not be compromised. He is also telling Timothy to be a doer of the Word of God, not just a speaker of the Word. Let Christ in you be so great that they will not be able to find any flaw in your way of life. Be strong in the faith and in the power of the Spirit.
1 Timothy 4:13 “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.”
“Till I come” (see note on 3:14).
“Give attendance to … the doctrine”: These things were to be Timothy’s constant practice; his way of life. “Reading” refers to the custom of the public reading of Scripture in the church’s worship service, followed by the exposition of the passage that had been read (Nehemiah 8:1-8; Luke 4:16-27).
“Exhortation” challenges those who hear the Word apply it in their daily lives. It may involve rebuke, warning, encouragement, or comfort. “Teaching” refers to systematic instruction from the word of God (3:2; Titus 1:9).
In his Ephesian ministry, Timothy is to read and teach the Scriptures and exhort God’s people to obey the truths learned.
Notice, that even Timothy needs to study the Word of God. Paul is saying; spend much time in reading your Bible. Preach (exhort), every time you have the opportunity, and stay with the doctrine we have established.
1 Timothy 4:14 “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.”
“The gift”: That grace given to Timothy and to all believers at salvation which consisted of a God-designed, Spirit-empowered spiritual ability for the use of ministry (see notes on Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-12; 1 Peter 4:1-11). Timothy’s gift (2 Timothy 1:6), was leadership with special emphasis on preaching (2 Timothy 4:2), and teaching (verses 6, 11, 13; 6:2).
“By prophecy”: Timothy’s gift was identified by a revelation from God (see note on 1:18), and apostolic confirmation (2 Timothy 1:6). Probably when he joined Paul on the apostle’s second missionary journey (Acts 16:1-3).
“Neglect, not the gift that is in thee” (or, “Stop neglecting the spiritual gift which is in you”): Evidently, he had not been fulfilling all the responsibilities (of verse 13). This “gift … was given” Timothy “by prophecy;” that is, through the utterance of some New Testament prophet(s), the church was informed of the divine enablement granted him.
“Laying on of the hands of the presbytery” (see note on 5:22). This public affirmation of Timothy’s call to the ministry likely took place at the same time as the prophecy (2 Timothy 1:6). His call to the ministry was thus confirmed subjectively (by means of his spiritual gift), objectively (through the prophecy made about him), and collectively (by the affirmation of apostles and the church, represented by the elders).
This was accompanied by “the laying on of the hands” of the church elders in recognition of the fact that God had called Timothy to the ministry and had gifted him for it.
This is speaking of the special gift of the Holy Spirit that was given Timothy when he was baptized in the Spirit of God. Paul is reminding Timothy that this gift was given to him to use in the ministry.
1 Corinthians 12:28 “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracle, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.”
This does not specifically say which Timothy received, but we know the purpose of these gifts of the Spirit is to help in the church. The laying on of the hands of the presbytery was to anoint Timothy for the ministry. We do not all have the same gift, but we must use the gift that God has given us to minister with.
The main reason Timothy is not to neglect the gift the Lord gave him, is because that is his individual power to minister. Each ministry is different. He is to minister in the area where the Lord called him.
1 Timothy 4:15 “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.”
“Profiting”: The word was used in military terms of an advancing force and in general terms of advancement in learning, understanding, or knowledge. Paul exhorted Timothy to let his progress toward Christlikeness be evident to all.
“Meditate upon these things” could be rendered, “Take pains with these things.” “Give thyself wholly to them” could be rendered, “Be completely absorbed in them”. Timothy can prevent the neglect of his gift (verse 14), by totally giving himself to carry out the tasks at hand. He is to do this for the purpose “that thy profiting” [spiritual progress], “may appear to all.”
Paul is expressing to Timothy the necessity to give all of his attention to the ministry. Timothy will be a blessing to the people he ministers to if he ministers in the area the Lord has anointed him to minister in. Those called of God are called to serve others, not themselves. Paul wants all to realize that Timothy is called of God, and will do a good job in spite of his youth.
1 Timothy 4:16 “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee.”
“Unto thyself, and unto the doctrine”: The priorities of a godly leader are summed up in his personal holiness and public teaching. All of Paul’s exhortations (in verses 6-16) fit into one or the other of those two categories.
“Thou shalt both save thyself … them that hear”: Perseverance in believing the truth always accompanies genuine conversion (see note on Matthew 24:13; John 8:31; Romans 2:7; Philippians 2:12-13; Colossians 1:23).
“That hear thee”: By careful attention to his own godly life and faithful preaching of the Word. Timothy would continue to be the human instrument God used to bring the gospel and to save some who heard him. Tough salvation is God’s work; it is His pleasure to do it through human instruments.
Timothy is to keep constant watch (“take heed”), over both his own spiritual life (“thyself”) and what he teaches others (“doctrine”). He must “continue in” these two activities, “for in doing” so, he will “both save” himself from the coming apostasy (verse 1), “and them that hear” him.
Timothy, or for that fact, any minister, must know the Truth himself before he can lead others to the Truth. If the blind lead the blind, they both fall into the ditch. Timothy, must not only teach the correct doctrine but live it, as well. The shepherd, who leads the flock, must teach Truth. If he does not, the entire flock will be lost.
The salvation of his own soul has to do with what he believes as an individual, but the salvation of the congregation depends upon what each individual has been taught and accepted as Truth.
Romans 10:14 “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?”