BIBLE STUDY


Paul's Letters To Timothy
by Greg Williamson (c) 2014, 2019
Featuring the text of the New American Standard Bible *
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Intro | 1 Timothy 1:1-11 / 1:12-17 / 1:18-20 | 2:1-8 / 2:9-15 | 3:1-7 / 3:8-13 / 3:14-16 | 4:1-6 / 4:7-12 / 4:13-16 | 5:1-16 / 5:17-25 | 6:1-2 / 6:3-10 / 6:11-21 | 2 Timothy 1:1-7 / 1:8-12 / 1:13-18 | 2:1-7 / 2:8-13 / 2:14-18 / 2:19-26 | 3:1-9 / 3:10-12 / 3:13-17 | 4:1-4 / 4:5-8 / 4:9-22 ** | Articles & Definitions | Sources

A GOOD MINISTER: PREACHING THE WORD
(1 Timothy 4:1-6)

1 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,
2 by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron,
3 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.
4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude;
5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.
6 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. (1 Timothy 4:1-6)

 
Satan is at work spreading false doctrine, and his ministers are already in the church. God’s servants must preach the truth and fight the devil’s lies. Declaring war may not make us popular, but it will keep us faithful. - Warren Wiersbe [ref]
 

QuoteWorthy: Entertaining Devils
By entertaining of strange persons, men sometimes entertain angels unawares: but by entertaining of strange doctrines, many have entertained devils unaware. - John Flavel [ref]

1 TIMOTHY 4:1 - Prophetic Patterns of Apostasy
A PRINCIPLE TO LIVE BY
False Doctrine

When confronting false teachers, we should be specific regarding what makes their doctrine untrue. (see 1 Timothy 4:1-5) [ref]

the Spirit explicitly says (1 Timothy 4:1)
Rather than a particular revelation, Paul may have been referring "to the repeated teaching of the Lord (e.g., Mark 13:22), the other apostles (e.g., 2 Peter 3:1-18), and Paul himself (e.g., Act 20:29; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12)" [ref] [ref] (compare Revelation 2:11; 3:6). [ref] "Explicitly" indicates certainty, the fact that "[t]here was neither doubt nor vagueness about it." [ref] The fact that the source is God's Holy Spirit "lends authority to the explanation of heresy and implies that the conditions in Ephesus were not to be considered as a surprising development or as evidence that the church would ultimately fail in its task (compare 2 Tim 2:19-21)." [ref]

later times (1 Timothy 4:1)
Many (most?) commentators believe "later times" is synonymous with "the last days" -- that is, "the Christian era, which Jesus inaugurated at his first coming and will consummate at his second." [ref] [ref] [ref] And "Paul’s application (vv. 2–6, esp. v. 6) shows that he understands 'later times' to be this present age." [ref] Throughout the Church age there will be professed/so-called Christians who defect from the faith and actively oppose true believers. [ref] This apostasy will reach "a climax shortly before Christ returns (cf. Matt. 24:12)." [ref]

will fall away from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1)
Here Paul refers to those who are misled by the false teachers. [ref] "Will fall away from" (Greek aphistēmi) means "will abandon." "It is a strong Greek verb, which was frequently used in the LXX of Israel’s unfaithfulness to Yahweh." [ref] Just as he did in the OT, there comes a time when God rejects those who repeatedly reject him [ref] -- thus allowing them to wander away into darkness and disaster.

We should be careful to note that those who fall away were not true believers to begin with. [ref] [ref] The same word for "will fall away" (Greek aphistēmi) "is also used in Luke 8:13 in connection with the interpretation of the seed that falls on stony ground. The seed finds a little soil on top of the stone, but it is not enough to take root and so the growth is only seasonal. When testing comes, there is no root to hold it down. The word aphístantai here does not indicate uprooting because there never was a root; the temporary plant stood by itself. The union with the soil was only an apparent union, never a true foundation with roots capable of holding up the plant." [ref]

deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Timothy 4:1)
"On the surface the situation is quite straightforward. Certain teachers begin to spread their erroneous views, and some gullible people listen to them, are taken in by them, and in consequence abandon the apostolic faith. But Paul looks beneath this surface appearance, and explains to Timothy the underlying spiritual dynamic. He refers to three successive stages. The first cause of error is diabolical. ... Secondly, error has a human cause. ... The third and basic cause of error is moral." [ref]

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TOTAL APOSTASY?

1 Timothy 4:1–2 -- Does this verse indicate that the early church would fall into total apostasy, thereby pointing to the need for a restoration?

MISINTERPRETATION: This passage says that in the latter days “some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits, and doctrines of demons” (NKJV). Mormons say this is a prophecy of a total apostasy of the entire church (McConkie, 1977, 205).

CORRECTING THE MISINTERPRETATION: Though this verse speaks of apostasy, it does not speak of a total apostasy of the entire church. Notice that the text does not say, “in the latter times all shall depart from the faith.” Rather it says, “some shall depart from the faith.”

The apostasy of 1 Timothy 4:1–3 is a particular kind of apostasy related to Gnostic dualism. This school of thought said spirit is good and matter is evil. Apparently, there were some false teachers who believed that all appetites relating to the (material) body -- including sex and food -- were evil and should be avoided. Hence these false teachers forbade people to get married and ordered them to abstain from certain foods. The apostasy to which Paul referred occurred specifically in Timothy’s day (see use of present tense in vv. 2–3). The phrase last days often means the period beginning with Christ’s first coming (cf. Acts 2:16–17; Heb. 1:1) and extending to his second coming (2 Peter 3:3–4), or any era of it.

Even if this were a reference to the later apostasy of the whole church, it would not thereby justify the Mormon claims that the text of the Bible was corrupted and/or that Mormonism is the true restoration of the New Testament church.

- Norman L. Geisler & Ron Rhodes [ref]

1/3 The Diabolical Cause
"Speaking himself under the infuence of the Spirit of truth [Paul] declares the false teachers to be under the influence of deceiving spirits. We tend not to take this fact sufficiently seriously. Scripture portrays the devil not only as the tempter, enticing people into sin, but also as the deceiver, seducing people into error. Often he does both together, as when in the Garden of Eden he prevailed upon our first parents to doubt and then to disobey God’s word." [ref]

The basic idea behind "deceitful" (Greek planos) is "wandering, roving" and then "misleading, leading into error." Thus it can mean "a vagabond, 'tramp', imposter; corrupter, deceiver." [ref] [ref] [ref] "Doctrines of demons" is "literally 'teachings of (that is suggested by) demons'" (2 Corinthians 11:15; James 3:15). [ref] "Satan is the father of lies, deception is his great work. His tools are his victims." [ref]

Some will abandon the truth in favor of "[t]eachings proceeding from or inspired by demons. The working of these evil spirits is here specially concerned with striking at the true teaching which underlies godliness." [ref] Rather than mere innocent mistakes, spiritual error "is more often due to the conscious strategies of God’s spiritual enemies (cf. Ephesians 6:12)." [ref] Hence "these seducing spirits or demons make use of men who speak lies, and who talk piously and learnedly in order to cover up their own arrogance or immorality." [ref]

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BEWARE OF FALSE TEACHERS

False teachers were and still are a threat to the church. Jesus and the apostles repeatedly warned against them (see, for example, Mark 13:21-23; Acts 20:28-31; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 2 Peter 3:3-7). It is not enough that a teacher appears to know what he is talking about, is disciplined and moral, or says that he is speaking for God. If his words contradict the Bible, his teaching is false.

Like Timothy, we must guard against any teaching that causes believers to dilute or reject any aspect of their faith. Such false teaching can be very direct or extremely subtle. Believers ought to respond quickly when they sense false teaching being promoted. The truth does not mind honest questions. Sometimes the source may prove to be ignorant of the error and appreciate the correction. But a firm warning may at least keep potential victims from the disastrous results of apostasy that Paul described.

- Life Application Study Bible [ref]


LIARS' TACTICS

Paul revealed several tactics of the "liars" who were false teachers:

  • They corrupt the simplicity of the gospel with "meaningless talk" (1 Timothy 1:6).
  • They pervert preaching from its purpose to instruct others in the truth to gathering influence for themselves (1 Timothy 1:7).
  • They burden believers with needless controversies and endless rules (1 Timothy 1:4; 3:3-5).
  • They reject God and twist the evidence of his character by naming as evil what God has called good (1 Timothy 3:3-5).

- Life Application Commentary on the New Testament [ref]


FALSE FRONTS

It is not enough that a teacher appears to know what he is talking about. He may be disciplined and moral, and even claim that he speaks for God. But if his words contradict the Bible, his teaching is false.

Like Timothy, we must guard against any teaching that causes believers to dilute or reject any aspect of their faith. Such false teaching can be very direct or extremely subtle. We must not be unduly impressed by a teacher's style or credentials; we must look to his teaching about Jesus Christ. His conclusions about Christ show the source of his message.

- Life Application Commentary on the New Testament [ref]


THE EVIL NATURE OF THIS LAST AGE

In our era the believing church cannot afford to be ignorant of the evil nature of this last age. Terms such as "heresy" and "apostasy" have fallen on hard times, due largely to the "witch-hunt" connotations associated with them. And indeed through the years (and in the present day) a great deal of injustice has been done to believers in the name of orthodoxy. Nevertheless, the presence of the cults alone recommends that we heed Paul's instruction here. A clear understanding of these "last days" and of the aims of the Enemy will prevent our being taken by surprise and may aid in maintaining a healthy church.

- Philip H. Towner [ref]

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DEMONS / EVIL SPIRITS

Demons seem to hold a strong fascination for some of us -- as well as for the makers of horror movies. Although the Gospels contain many references to demonic activity, both the OT and the NT epistles are almost silent on the subject.

Common beliefs about demons
The Hebrew word for demon is borrowed from the Babylonian. In Babylon, demons were thought to be supernatural powers, neither particularly evil nor particularly good. Demons were distinguished from the gods only by being somewhat less powerful than they.

In Greek thought, demons (daimonion) were supernatural powers that inhabited the air close to earth -- an order of beings between men and gods. But the Greeks believed that demons had an evil influence on human affairs. They caused misery and disasters; they were agents of madness and the cause of many sicknesses. The Greeks viewed demons as hostile beings that must be appeased or controlled by magic.

Later Judaism showed considerable interest in demons. Demons were thought of as malignant beings distinct from angels, and a number of theories were suggested to explain their existence. One theory held that demons were the offspring of a primeval mating of fallen angels with human women (Ge 6:1–4). The rabbis thought of demons as beings eager to lead humanity into sin. They were also believed to be the cause of much but not of every sickness.

Demons in the OT
In view of the common beliefs about demons in most ancient cultures, it is striking to find only two specific references to demons in the OT (Dt 32:17; Ps 106:36–37). ... Both of these passages suggest that real demonic beings existed behind the gods and goddesses of the pagans. This is in fact something that Paul affirms in 1 Co 10:20, saying that “the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons.”

There are other OT passages that may allude to the demonic. The OT contains prohibitions against all spiritism and magic, which were linked with the demonic in every ancient culture (cf. Dt 18:9–12). There are other hints in such passages as 1 Sa 28:13 and Isa 8:19.

But still, very little attention is paid to demons by the OT. The OT concentrates instead on God, the Creator and Redeemer, who is sovereign over every power -- natural and supernatural.

Demons in the Gospels
Although the OT is relatively silent about demons, the Gospels are full of references to demonic activity. This is possibly because Jesus, in his ministry of healing and restoring, exposed many demons as he expelled them from those they oppressed. Or it may be that Satan’s kingdom concentrated unusual forces on Palestine when Jesus walked that land. The level of demonic activity was unusual. The religious leaders’ charge that Jesus must be in league with the prince of demons was probably based on the unusual level of demonic activity associated with his earthly ministry (Jn 7:20; 8:48–52; 10:20).

Gospel references to demons show them possessing or oppressing human beings (e.g., Mt 8:16, 28, 33; 9:32; 12:22–28; Mk 1:32; 5:16–18; Lk 4:33–35; 8:27–29, 36; 9:42). Such demonic influence was expressed in various sicknesses and in madness. When some observers argued that Jesus was mad or in league with Satan, others said, “Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” (Jn 10:21). The Gospels also show Jesus driving out demons whenever he met them (Mt 9:33; 17:18; Mk 7:26, 29–30; Lk 11:14). Jesus’ own defense against the charge is based on this fact. How could Satan’s kingdom stand if Jesus drove out demons by demonic powers? Any divided kingdom must soon fall (Lk 11:14–22).

So the Gospels do picture demons as living beings with malignant powers. Demons are personal beings, not impersonal influences (Mt 8:31). Jesus demonstrated his total mastery of demons, expelling them with a word. He is the “stronger” being of his own illustration, able to “attack and overpower” the demons in their own realm (Lk 11:21–22). However fearsome demons may be, the person who walks with Jesus has nothing to fear.

Demons in the Epistles
After Jesus returned to heaven, little demonic activity is reported by the Bible. Acts 5, 8, and 19 mention evil spirits. The Epistles do not. Yes, there is some teaching. Ro 8:38 establishes a dichotomy between angels and demons. In 1 Co 10:20–21 Paul warns that demonic beings are the spiritual realities behind the facades of idolatry. In 1 Ti 4:1 he suggests that demons distort truth and encourage the spread of twisted doctrines of their own. Aside from brief views of increased demonic activity at history’s end, given in the Book of Revelation, this is all that the NT has to say about demons!

Of particular note in the Epistles’ comparative silence on the demonic is the fact that in the many passages that deal with Christian life and ministry, none speaks of demons. There are no guidelines for exorcism. There are no warnings against demon possession. There is no hint of terror or awe, no suggestion that we should fear or pay special attention to these unseen evil powers.

Why this silence? Perhaps it is because Jesus truly is the Head over all things for the church, which is his body. He is “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion” (Eph 1:21). Perhaps he personally restrains the activity of demonic powers that would seek to touch his church.

Demon possession and exorcism
There is no doubt for those with a high view of the Bible that demons do exist. There are evil spiritual beings who can and do influence events on the earth. We learn from the Gospels that they can possess -- or perhaps more accurately, oppress -- human beings. They can bring misery and cause sickness. The Gospels show that some madness, though surely not all, may be related to demon oppression.

There is also no doubt that Jesus has total power over demons. He exercised that power in NT times and cast out demons. Jesus relied on no rite or magical words. He simply commanded, and the demons obeyed. Even later, when the disciples cast out demons, they apparently commanded the demons in Jesus’ name. But the name was not enough: a personal relationship with Jesus was also essential (Ac 16:16–18; cf. 19:13–16).

An important question remains: Can a believer be demon possessed or oppressed today? And is exorcism something normal, to be commonly experienced in the modern church? Opinions differ considerably -- and heatedly! But the relative silence of the Epistles regarding demons and healing, both emphasized in the Gospels and in early Acts, suggests that we should not expect open warfare with demonic powers today.

It may well be that John’s comment in his first letter is also something of a promise: “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 Jn 4:4). It is hard to imagine a demon, or Satan himself, settling comfortably into any association with a person indwelt by the very Spirit of God!

Origin and fate of demons
It seems most likely that the demons and evil spirits of the NT are the angels who fell with Satan. The NT speaks of real spiritual powers and real forces of evil operating in our dark world (Eph 1:21; 6:12). The Devil and his fallen angels are the only evil spiritual beings about which we have any information in Scripture. Surely if the demons of the Gospels were different from the fallen angels, there would be some mention of them when Jesus describes hell as “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt 25:41). Even as Satan is free to trouble humanity, so too are the fallen angels.

If demons and fallen angels are the same, then their origin, their place in the ordered realm of created beings, and their fate are all defined in the Scriptures.

- Lawrence O. Richards [ref]

BackToText

1 TIMOTHY 4:2 - Behavior Patterns of Apostasy (vv. 2-3)

2/3 The Human Cause
the hypocrisy of liars (1 Timothy 4:2)
"Although the apostle clearly underlines the demonic element in apostasy, he does not minimize the accountability of the apostates themselves." [ref] Those "who are led into promulgating these occult doctrines know they are undermining the true Christian faith, but they must pretend they are merely introducing a more spiritual form of religion, using Biblical terms invested with different meanings, deceiving the unwary." [ref]

Satan "does not usually deceive people direct. ‘Demon-inspired doctrines’ (REB) gain an entry into the world and the church through human agents. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars (1 Timothy 4:2a), or literally ‘by means of the hypocrisy of liars’. It is a terrible combination of words, since hypocrisy is a deliberate pretence and a lie a deliberate falsehood. So then false teachers, although seduced by deceiving spirits, are themselves intentional deceivers, however misleading their mask of learning and religion may be. They do not themselves believe what they are teaching." [ref]

3/3 The Moral Cause
seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron (1 Timothy 4:2)

 
The third and basic cause of error is moral. For the hypocritical lies of the false teachers are now traced back to the violation of their consciences, which have been seared as with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:2b). The verb kaustēriazō, which occurs only here in the New Testament, means to ‘brand with a red-hot iron’ (BAGD). It was used of the branding of cattle and slaves, in order to establish their ownership. Most commentators opt for this interpretation and suppose that somehow the false teachers have been branded as the property of Satan. But how can their conscience bear a mark of identification which is visible to others? It seems more probable that kaustēriazō is used here in its alternative, medical sense of to ‘cauterize’. When skin, a nerve or a superficial tumour is cauterized, it is destroyed by burning and so rendered insensitive. Just so, a cauterized conscience has been ‘anaesthetized’, even deadened. ‘By constantly arguing with conscience, stifling its warnings and muffling its bell’, its voice is smothered and eventually silenced. In that state of moral insensibility false teachers easily fall prey to error. Paul has already mentioned Hymenaeus and Alexander as examples. By rejecting their conscience they ‘shipwrecked their faith’ (1 Timothy 1:19). [ref]
 

An apostate is wrong both doctrinally and morally. "His personal life became wrong before his doctrines were changed. In fact, it is likely that he changed his teachings so that he could continue his sinful living and pacify his conscience. Believing and behaving always go together." [ref]

The conscience connects vertical faith to horizontal godliness. Since the false teachers' "concept of the faith was distorted, their ideas about godly living were equally distorted." [ref] They locked themselves into a tragic cycle: grieving the Holy Spirit => resisting the Holy Spirit => quenching the Holy spirit => a seared/callous conscience. [ref] They "perpetrate demon doctrines of deceit and lies while their own conscience is rendered incapable of feeling even a misgiving." [ref]

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THE DOWNWARD PATH

The grim sequence of events in the career of the false teachers has now been revealed. First, they turned a deaf ear to their conscience, until it became cauterized. Next, they felt no scruple in becoming hypocritical liars. Thirdly, they thus exposed themselves to the influence of deceiving spirits. Finally, they led their listeners to abandon the faith. It is a perilous downward path from the deaf ear and the cauterized conscience to the deliberate lie, the deception of demons and the ruination of others. It begins when we tamper with our conscience. Instead, we need to say with Paul: ‘I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man’ (Acts 24:16).

- John Stott [ref]


OUR CONSCIENCE

Conscience is a little understood human endowment. Literally, the Greek word means “to know with.” The idea is that the conscience is a moral faculty of perception which operates within the human spirit to aid man in decision making. However, never does the conscience operate in splendid isolation. Rather, it operates within a context. If that context is the world, then the conscience becomes distorted and is only partially, if at all, reliable, being “seared with a hot iron” and, therefore, insensitive to the things of God. If, on the other hand, the conscience functions within the context of the word of God and the Holy Spirit’s application of that word in various situations, then the conscience becomes an invaluable assistant to the man who seeks a spiritual walk.

- The Believer's Study Bible [ref]

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HYPOCRITE

The Greek words hypokrinomai (appears once in the NT), hypokrisis (6 times in the NT), and hypokritēs (20 times in the NT) denote someone acting out the part of a character in a play. In Greek drama the actors held over their faces oversized masks painted to represent the character they were portraying. In life, the hypocrite is a person who masks his real self while he plays a part for his audience.

What characterizes the religious hypocrite? In Matthew’s Gospel (where 16 of the 27 occurrences of these Greek words occur) we note these things:

  1. A hypocrite does not act spontaneously from the heart but with calculation, to impress observers (Mt 6:1–3).
  2. A hypocrite thinks only of the external trappings of religion, ignoring the central, heart issues of love for God and others (Mt 15:1–21).
  3. A hypocrite uses spiritual talk to hide base motives (Mt 22:18–22).

Jesus gives this warning that to the hypocrites of every age: “Woe to you” (Mt 23:13, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29).

- Lawrence O. Richards [ref]

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1 TIMOTHY 4:3 - Behavior Patterns of Apostasy (vv. 2-3) ... The Divine Pattern: Thanksgiving (vv. 3-5)

forbid marriage ... abstaining from food (1 Timothy 4:3)
Marriage and food

 
relate to the two most basic appetites of the human body, sex and hunger. They are natural appetites too, although both can be abused by degenerating into lust and greed. Yet from the beginning of church history some teachers have gone further, and have argued that sex and hunger are themselves unclean appetites, that the body itself is a nasty encumbrance (if not actually evil), and that the only way to holiness is abstinence, the voluntary renunciation of sex and marriage, and, since eating cannot be given up altogether, then at least the renunciation of meat. In rejecting this, we do not forget that according to Jesus and Paul some people are called to remain single, or that fasting has a place in Christian discipleship, but these are special cases. The point is that celibacy and vegetarianism are not God’s general will for everybody; to forbid marriage and meat-eating is to be guilty of serious error. [ref]
 

These were recurring issues within the NT Church (Acts 15:19-20, 28-29; Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 5-7, 8-11; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6). [ref] The particular situation in Ephesus may have

 
stemmed from the false teachers' mistaken notion that the resurrection (of believers) had already occurred (2 Tim 2:18). Their view of the resurrection involved a misunderstanding of the times and led to a too-realized concept of the spiritual life. ... It is possible that both marriage and the eating of certain foods were considered part of the old order (the order of things that they believed had passed away with the resurrection of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit) and therefore to be avoided. The asceticism alluded to in Colossians 2:16-23 bears a striking resemblance, especially where foods are concerned. But it is also possible that this behavior reflected the attempt to enact the life of resurrection paradise by following the model given in Genesis 1 and 2, before the fall into sin—after all, Jesus taught that there would be no marriage in the resurrection (Mt 22:30), and vegetarianism seems to have been the rule in Eden/paradise. The negative view of marriage seems quite similar to sentiments held by some in Corinth (1 Cor 7:1-7). In any case, whether to cope with the evil material world or to implement the new theology, the heretics enforced a regimen of denial. [ref]
 

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POST-MODERN DEMONIC TEACHING

A false asceticism is promoted as more spiritual than normal Christianity. Two key heresies are emphasized, a pseudo-love and vegetarianism. The Christian doctrine of permanent monogamous marriage is replaced by various forms of erotic "love" and "loving relationships." True marriage is considered by them as an outmoded and even repressive burden imposed by the Genesis myth of creation and its legalistic paraphernalia. The word "forbidding" can properly be translated as "discouraging" here. With the modern propaganda against the traditional family, Christian marriage may actually come to be forbidden in the foreseeable future. This latter-day trend is certainly in that direction.

Similarly, the animal veneration practiced in the eastern pantheistic religions is being vigorously promoted today among nominal Christians, in the name of animal rights, holistic health, and evolutionary kinship with our animal "brothers and sisters." The word "commanding" here is not in the original, but has been added by the translators. Both traditional marriage and eating of meat is being widely opposed today by almost all New Age cults and movements, as supposedly based on the scientific "fact" of evolution. All this is aimed at the disintegration of true Biblical faith.

- The Defenders Study Bible [ref]

to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth (1 Timothy 4:3)
"Those who believe are described as those who have a precise and experiential knowledge of the truth. ... [T]hese things were created for those who believe in order that they may participate in them." [ref]

QuoteWorthy: Joy & Peace
The biblical picture of the Christian life in this present age, confirmed by a long span of church history, is one of struggle and steady opposition. It is not that there is no joy and peace for the Christian, but that until Christ returns, joy and peace are found within the believer and within Christian fellowship, often in stark contrast to the actual circumstances of life. - Philip H. Towner [ref]

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TRUTH

“Truth” is a most significant concept. Our view of truth shapes our societies and our personal lives. It also shapes many aspects of our relationship with God and our view of Scripture.

Old Testament
[T]he best English rendering of the Hebrew concept may be “reliable.” That which is true is reliable, can be counted on, and thus is trustworthy. As The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology ... points out, “The Hebrews recognized the logical truth that others also recognized, that a true word can be relied upon because it accords with reality, and that both for a God of truth and for a man of truth, word and deed are one” (3:882).

In the context of reliability, “true” and “faithful” are used to describe God (Ge 24:27; Ps 31:5; Jer 42:5) and God’s Word (1 Ki 17:24; Ps 43:3; 119:43, 142, 151, 160). Those who walk in God’s truth (Ps 26:3) accept as trustworthy God’s view of moral realities and act in harmony with the divine revelation. “Truth in the inner parts” (Ps 51:6) is probably best interpreted by 1 Jn 1. It is living honestly with God and self, confessing failures and yet struggling to choose the path God has laid out in revelation.

New Testament
Both Paul and John use the concept of truth to make distinct theological affirmations. Other occurrences may contrast truths and falsehoods or serve to underline the reliability of what is about to be said. Distinctive meanings of “truth” are found in the Epistles.

Paul’s use of “truth”. There are a number of everyday uses of “true” and “truth” in Paul, as in Ro 9:1 (“I speak the truth in Christ -- I am not lying”). There are also theologically sensitive uses. Paul spoke of “the truth,” meaning all of reality as God has revealed it -- in creation (Ro 1:18) and in the gospel (Eph 1:13; Col 1:5; 1 Ti 2:4). Paul’s conviction is that God has cleared away humanity’s illusory beliefs and notions and in the gospel has provided a clear perspective on reality. Through revelation we at last have reliable knowledge about God, about ourselves, about the nature of the universe, and most importantly about how to live in intimate relationship with the Lord.

Paul wrote the truth (2 Co 12:6) and so described reality, but, beyond that, it is vital that his listeners respond to and obey the truth (Gal 5:7). Paul often referred to his own way of life among those to whom he ministered. He operated with a heart open wide (2 Co 6:3–13), in a relationship so transparent that no one had any reason to suspect his motives (1 Th 2:3–12). He emphasized to Timothy not only the younger man’s full acquaintance with Paul’s lifestyle but also the need for Timothy to be a living example of the words Paul spoke (1 Ti 4:12–13; 2 Ti 3:10–11). This aspect of Paul’s approach to ministry is reflected in several uses of “truth.” The truth is not only reality as God has revealed it. The truth is reality as believers are able to experience it by making choices guided by God’s reliable Word. Paul’s lifestyle illustrated the reality his words described and to which he called his listeners.

John’s use of “truth”. Over half of the NT’s alētheia family of words (“truth,” “true”) appear in John’s writings. At times the uses are commonplace, as in contrasting truths and falsehoods (Jn 4:18). But while different shades of emphasis can be distinguished, it is helpful when reading of truth to keep in mind that concept’s relationship to reality. What is said in God’s Word is reliable, for God’s Word is truth, ever in harmony with reality (Jn 17:17). But even more than that, we can be sanctified by the Word; for it strips away our illusions, then takes us by the hand to guide our steps. Jesus is “the truth” (Jn 14:6), for all of reality finds its focus in him. He, who created and sustains the universe, is also man’s Redeemer and the goal toward which all history strains (Col 1:15–23).

We can “know the truth” and thus be set free only by keeping Jesus’ words (Jn 8:31–32). Only by following his teachings, which unveil reality, can we experience reality and so find the freedom in Christ to be who God knows us to be.

This view of “truth” is important in grasping the teaching of 1 Jn 1 on fellowship with God. We have fellowship when we “live by the truth” (1 Jn 1:6). This is clearly not sinlessness, for the context immediately speaks of Christ’s blood purifying us “from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7). The focus of the passage, then, is squarely on reality, and 1 Jn 1:8 deals with the claim of some to be “without sin.” Such a claim is self-deceit, and if we hold such a view, “the truth is not in us.” The reality is that even though we are redeemed beings, sin finds expression in our lives. We are unable to deal with sin, but God is able. When we confess our sin, God forgives us and continues his purifying work within us.

In short, John constantly calls us to adopt the divine perspective provided for us in Christ and in God’s Word. As we refuse to live self-deceiving and deceitful lives, but rather commit ourselves to act by faith on those things that God says are real, we will personally experience truth and find our heritage of freedom.

Conclusions
“Truth” and “true” emphasize reliability in the OT and reality in the NT. However, the two concepts are interwoven in each Testament. God is reliable because his words and works faithfully portray who he is, and they are in full harmony with reality. God’s reality can be known and experienced because his reliable words and actions unveil it to a blinded humanity, which must respond to him with faith.

The biblical concept of truth is particularly important in an age in which agreeing with what the Bible teaches is more closely associated with truth than is living out the teachings of Jesus. God’s words unveil a reality that we certainly ought to agree with, but that reality can never be experienced until we grasp God’s reliable words by faith and put them into practice.

- Lawrence O. Richards (condensed/extracted from longer article)

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ASCETICISM

The term is derived from Gk. askēsis (‘exercise’, ‘training’) already applied by the Greek philosophers to moral training, often with the connotation of voluntary abstention from certain pleasures; it denotes (1) practices employed to combat vices and develop virtues and (2) the renunciation of various facets of customary social life and comfort or the adoption of painful conditions for religious reasons. It is found in one form or another in many of the world’s religions, esp. those of the Indian subcontinent. In the NT the word occurs only once -- as a verb, askein, ‘to strive’ -- at Acts 24:16. In 1 Cor. 9:25 the Christian life is compared to the games in which ‘every man that striveth … is temperate in all things’. But the idea, present already in the OT, esp. in the Wisdom books, is prominent throughout the NT. It is summed up in the Lord’s call to His disciples: ‘If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me’ (Mk. 8:34), with its emphasis on the two sides of Christian asceticism, the negative one of self-denial and the positive one of the following of Christ. This invitation to practice self-abnegation is frequently reiterated, mostly in very strong terms (Mt. 10:38 f., Jn. 12:25), being shown to involve constant watchfulness (Mt. 24:42, 25:13, etc.) and fasting (Mt. 6:16–18; Mk. 2:18–20) and, in many cases, renunciation of all earthly possessions (Mt. 19:21, Mk. 10:28, Lk. 9:57–62) and perpetual chastity (Mt. 19:12). St Paul counsels the same ideal, repeatedly inculcating the necessity of keeping up the struggle against the inclinations of the ‘old man’ (e.g. Rom. 8:13 and 1 Cor. 9:26 f.).

In the early Christian centuries many ascetic practices seem to have become fairly widespread, the chief of them being renunciation of marriage, home, and property; some ascetics practised extreme forms of fasting and self-deprivation. In the popular mind there seems to have been an association between the abandonment of human comforts and the acquisition of miraculous powers. Clement of Alexandria and Origen appear to have been the first Fathers to study the theoretical foundations of asceticism. Taking over from the Stoics the idea of ascetic action as a purification of the soul from its passions, they see in it a necessary means for loving God more perfectly and for attaining to contemplation. Origen also stresses its value as preparation for martyrdom. The Desert Fathers from the late 3rd cent. and the subsequent monastic tradition increasingly tended to favour a more temperate external asceticism and laid more stress on interior abnegation and the cultivation of the virtues. The monks came to be regarded as the leading representatives of asceticism and it is from them that the most influential ascetic treatises come, such as the ‘Conferences’ of Cassian and of Dorotheus.

With the growing devotion to the humanity of Christ, esp. to His Passion, in the Middle Ages asceticism underwent a certain modification in that it became increasingly inspired by the desire for conformation to the sufferings of the Redeemer. This desire, often coupled with a strongly penitential attitude and a rather pessimistic view of human life, led to the adoption of rather more violent forms of asceticism, such as flagellation and the wearing of hair shirts and chains. This devotional, penitential asceticism was popularized esp. by the Mendicant orders, whose members produced many treatises on the ascetic life. Early in the 15th cent. the ‘Imitation of Christ’ developed a new doctrine of the inner life on the basis of an exacting asceticism.

At the close of the Middle Ages there appeared a twofold reaction against the late medieval ascetic ideal. On the one hand a variety of movements, some of them inspired by the humanism of the Renaissance, stressed the interior life and called into question the value of external ascetic practices; on the other hand the Protestant Reformers, with their insistence on justification by faith, denied the propriety of many conventional works of penance, though they did allow a certain value to some works of self-discipline, such as fasting, provided these were not seen as in any way contributing to justification. Despite these challenges the ascetical ideal, upheld by the Council of Trent, continued to find its champions in such austere saints as Peter of Alcántara, John of the Cross, and later in the Curé d’Ars, as well as in new congregations and reformed branches of old orders such as the Passionists or the Trappists. At the same time a more exclusively interior and hidden asceticism of complete renunciation of the will found expression in other modern Institutes, e.g. the Jesuits and the Visitation nuns. Among the Puritans asceticism, in the negative sense of abstinence from particular pleasures or recreations, was widely upheld and practised. In a more positive sense it also found an important place in Methodism and esp. among the Tractarian divines and their successors. It led to the wide revival of religious communities in England in the 19th cent. An exaggerated asceticism has been the mark of some sects, e.g. of the Montanists, Gnostics, and Manichaeans of the patristic period, and of the medieval Cathari and Waldenses, where it was usually combined with dualistic tendencies in theology.

Acc. to its classical Christian exponents asceticism is a necessary means of fighting the concupiscence of the flesh, of the eyes, and the pride of life, mentioned in 1 Jn. 2:16. It is also of great value as an imitation of the sacrificial life of Christ and as a means of expiation of one’s own sins and those of others, in virtue of the doctrine of the Mystical Body. It springs from the love of God and aims at overcoming all the obstacles to this love in the soul. It is thus not an end in itself but essentially a preparation for the life of union with God, since, in its positive aspect, it seeks to foster the interior tendencies that serve to develop the life of charity.

- The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church [ref]

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1 TIMOTHY 4:4 - The Divine Pattern: Thanksgiving (vv. 3-5)

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude (1 Timothy 4:4)
"Man can abuse what God has created, as adultery is an abuse of the marital sexual relationship, and gluttony is an abuse of a normal appetite for food. Such abuses should certainly be rejected. But God’s creations themselves are all good and should be received with thanksgiving, not with taboos." [ref] [ref]

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CELEBRATE ONLY WHAT GOD CREATED

Notice carefully, however, what Paul writes [in 1 Timothy 4:4]. It is not that ‘everything is good’, but that everything created by God is good. This is an indispensable qualification, since not everything that exists has come unsullied from the Creator’s hand. For the creation was followed by the fall, which introduced evil into the world and spoiled much of God’s good creation. Indeed the creation has been ‘subjected to frustration’ and is now ‘groaning’ in pain (Rom. 8:20, 22). We therefore need discernment to know what in our human experience is attributable to the creation, and what to the fall.

A flagrant current misuse of the creation argument is the claim that the practices of heterosexual and homosexual people are equally good because equally created. Homosexual Christians regularly say, ‘I’m gay because God made me that way, and so I intend to celebrate my homosexuality.’ But no, what God created was ‘male and female’, with heterosexual marriage as the intended consequence.16 It is no more appropriate to celebrate homosexuality than other disordered human tendencies which are due to the fall, like our irrationality, covetousness or pride.

So we must be careful not to confuse creation and fall, order and disorder, but rather to ensure that we celebrate only what God created, and thankfully receive only what he gives.

- John Stott [ref]

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1 TIMOTHY 4:5 - The Divine Pattern: Thanksgiving (vv. 3-5)

for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4:5)
Here Paul may be drawing "a parallel between 'everything created by God is good' (1 Timothy 4:4) and 'word of God.' Both phrases can allude to the Genesis account. There, God pronounced his creation good. Therefore, we are in agreement with God's declaration when we see all creation as suitable for special use. ... [W]e could paraphrase the verse: 'Everything . . . is set aside for special service because of God's declaration, to which we add our declaration of thankful prayer.'" [ref]

"Thanksgiving to God has a sanctifying effect. The food in itself has no moral quality (Romans 14:14), but acquires a holy quality by its consecration to God; by being acknowledged as God's gift, and partaken of as nourishing the life for God's service. Comp. Paul's treatment of the unbelieving husband and the believing wife, 1 Corinthians 7:14." [ref]

As one Bible commentator explains:

 
Thus marriage and food, and all God’s many other creation gifts, are consecrated twice over, first and foremost objectively in themselves, since God made or instituted them, gave them to us to enjoy, and has said so in Scripture. Then secondly they are consecrated to us subjectively when we recognize their divine origin and receive them from God with gratitude. If God made something, calling it into being by his word, and by the same word declared it to be good, and if, as a result of our knowledge of these things, we can thank God for it with a good conscience, then we have a double cause to receive it, enjoy it, and thankfully celebrate it. God’s creative word and our grateful prayer have together sanctified it to our use. Thus Fairbairn wrote of ‘God’s word to man warranting him to use the creation gift, and man’s word to God, acknowledging the gift, and asking his blessing on it’. So ‘the sanctification is complete both ways -- objectively by the word of God, subjectively by prayer’ (Fairbairn, pp. 176–177). [ref]
 

This has the potential to be a life-transforming perspective for believers: "All the seemingly 'ordinary' things of life can then become extraordinary as they are consecrated by the Word of God and prayer. In the light of the Scriptures a Christian recognizes God’s good hand behind the things provided, and offers thanksgiving to the Lord. In this way the ordinary things so easily taken for granted (some of which are forbidden by errorists) become sanctified as occasions for worship and praise." [ref]

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CELEBRATE ALL THE GIFTS

We should determine to recognize and acknowledge, appreciate and celebrate, all the gifts of the Creator: the glory of the heavens and of the earth, of mountain, river and sea, of forest and flowers, of birds, beasts and butterflies, and of the intricate balance of the natural environment; the unique privileges of our humanness (rational, moral, social and spiritual), as we were created in God’s image and appointed his stewards; the joys of gender, marriage, sex, children, parenthood and family life, and of our extended family and friends; the rhythm of work and rest, of daily work as a means to cooperate with God and serve the common good, and of the Lord’s day when we exchange work for worship; the blessings of peace, freedom, justice and good government, and of food and drink, clothing and shelter; and our human creativity expressed in music, literature, painting, sculpture and drama, and in the skills and strengths displayed in sport.

- John Stott [ref]


But all God's gifts have to be used in a certain way.

(1) They have to be used in the memory that they are gifts of God There are things which come to us so unfailingly that we begin to forget that they are gifts and begin to take them as rights. We are to remember that all that we have is a gift from God and that there is not a living thing which could have life apart from him.

(2) They have to be used in sharing. All selfish use is forbidden. No man can monopolize God's gifts; every man must share them.

(3) They are to be used with gratitude. Always there is to be grace before meat. The Jew always said his grace. He had a grace for different things. When he ate fruits he said: "Blessed art thou, King of the Universe, who createst the fruit of the tree." When he drank wine he said: "Blessed art thou, King of the Universe, who createst the fruit of the vine." When he ate vegetables he said: "Blessed art thou, King of the Universe, who createst the fruit of the earth." When he ate bread he said: "Blessed art thou, King of the Universe, who bringest forth bread from the ground." The very fact that we thank God for it makes a thing sacred. Not even the demons can touch it when it has been touched by the Spirit of God.

The true Christian does not serve God by enslaving himself with rules and regulations and insulting his creation; he serves him by gratefully accepting his good gifts and remembering that this is a world where God made all things well and by never forgetting to share God's gifts with others.

- William Barclay [ref]

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GRACE NOTES

When we prepare to eat a meal, how important is it to pause for prayer? Some may think of table grace as an irritating delay before eating. Others may think of it as a quaint but outmoded religious tradition. Many don't even think about it, having concluded that prayer before meals is unnecessary and probably meaningless. However, praying before meals is neither a formality, nor a drudgery, but a brief moment of genuine thanksgiving. Christians who give God thanks before their meals do so for very good reasons: l Praying before a meal reinforces a simple, clear, practical habit of acting, at least in one way, just like Jesus (see Mark 6:41; 8:6; Luke 24:30). l Mealtime prayers are one way to obey God's family life commands (see Deuteronomy 6:4-9). l When we offer grace at the table, we continue an unbroken tradition among believers. Paul wrote of it as an established pattern (see Romans 14:6; 1 Corinthians 10:30). l A mealtime prayer reminds us and our children who is the real provider of our food.

- Life Application Commentary: New Testament [ref]

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SANCTIFY/SANCTIFICATION

“Sanctify” is a significant word in Christian theology. It is also a focus of theological debate. That debate will not be solved by a study of the words in the original language, nor even by a study of the texts in which the words are found. But such studies may help us in evaluating the views of differing Christian traditions.

A basic distinction must be made between the OT and the NT doctrines of holiness. In the OT, the holy is that which is set apart from the common so that it is isolated for God’s service. In the NT, holiness is a dynamic process. The holy is actually the common, infused now by God’s Spirit and transformed for his service. Thus, our sanctification has to do with God’s transformation of us into persons whose actions in daily life are expressions of the Lord.

“Sanctify” in the NT
What do we learn when we examine the texts where “sanctify” and “sanctification” are found in the NT?

The first such NT text we meet records Jesus’ prayer for the sanctification of believers (Jn 17:17, 19). The sanctifying agent here is God’s Word. The goal of sanctification is that believers will be prepared to be sent into the world as Jesus was sent, to glorify God by doing his work (cf. v. 4).

In other passages, sanctification is spoken of as being part of each believer’s experience, an essential part of the past aspect of salvation (Ac 20:32; 26:18; Ro 15:16; 1 Co 1:2; 6:11). In the Romans passage, the Holy Spirit is the agent of sanctification (i.e., salvation).

Only one verse in the NT calls an unbeliever sanctified. That verse, found in Paul’s discourse on marriage, states that, in some sense, an unbelieving spouse is sanctified by the believing spouse (1 Co 7:14).

In Paul’s desire that God sanctify the believers “through and through” (1 Th 5:23), God is again seen as the agent of sanctification. Paul adds, “May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here the idea of sanctification is presented as a present and future possibility for believers as God continues to perfect their lives.

Finally, in Heb 10:29, the writer argues that the blood of Jesus sanctifies within, whereas all that the OT’s sacrifices could accomplish was an outward, ritual sanctification (Heb 9:13).

From these passages it is clear that God sanctifies believers and that the blood of Christ provides the basis for this. Divine sanctification is effected by the Holy Spirit, and the Word of God is an active agent in the process.

It is also clear that sanctification, like salvation, has various meanings. “Sanctify” can stand for the accomplished work of God applied to an individual in salvation; in this sense we are sanctified in virtue of our relationship with God. But sanctification also can refer to the working of the Word and the Spirit to equip us to serve God in the world and to be morally blameless until Jesus returns.

- Lawrence O. Richards [ref] ( condensed/extracted from longer article)

Also see: Progressive Sanctification: Growing & Maturing In Our Faith

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1 TIMOTHY 4:6 - Spiritual Priorities (vv. 6-10)
A PRINCIPLE TO LIVE BY
Spiritual Disciplines

As servants of Jesus Christ, we should first and foremost train ourselves to be godly. (see 1 Timothy 4:6-10) [ref]

"A good minister must point out error but he can do so only if he himself has been nourished by the truths of the faith and has himself followed these truths." [ref]

In pointing out these things to the brethren (1 Timothy 4:6)
"'An excellent minister' is one who, in loving devotion to his task, to his people, and above all to his God, warns against departures from the truth and shows how to deal with error. Such a man truly represents (and belongs to) Christ Jesus." [ref]

"In pointing out" (Greek hupotithēmi) "does not mean to issue orders but rather to advise, to suggest. It is a gentle, humble, and modest word. It means that the teacher must never dogmatically and pugnaciously lay down the law. It means that he must act rather as if he was reminding men of what they already knew or suggesting to them, not that they should learn from him, but that they should discover from their own hearts what is right.* Guidance given in gentleness will always be more effective than bullying instructions laid down with force. Men may be led when they will refuse to be driven." [ref] (*Note: This is true so long as "their own hearts" are filled with love for the Lord and his people.)

nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6)
Here Paul appears to be "echoing the dietary concerns of the false teachers by emphasizing to Timothy that what really mattered was the feeding of the soul." [ref]

"Timothy is told that he must feed his life on the words of faith. No man can give out without taking in. He who would teach must be continually learning. It is the reverse of the truth that when a man becomes a teacher he ceases to be a learner; he must daily know Jesus Christ better before he can bring him to others." [ref]

"A minister who neglects to study his Bible and the doctrine based upon it atrophies his powers by disuse." [ref]

This appears to be a general rule. "Behind the ministry of public teaching there lies the discipline of private study. All the best teachers have themselves remained students. They teach well because they learn well. So before we can effectively instruct others in the truth we must have ‘really digested’ it (JB) ourselves." [ref]

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FOR EVERYONE

As [Paul] seeks to counteract the influences of the false teaching here, he emphasizes one of the most important practical lessons of the Pastoral Epistles: the soundness of a church depends on ministers and leaders who are sound in their faith and practice.

But wait! This teaching applies to all Christians. Yes, in this section Paul focuses on Timothy, the paradigm of the good minister or Christian leader, who must pursue spiritual priorities and pay attention to his lifestyle and calling. But we shouldn't be fooled by the term minister -- the principles apply to all believers, just as all believers are to be vitally involved in ministry. The leader or minister is to be a model. In the leader's ministry and life God's Word and its application must be central. Attention to these basics will make a critical difference.

- Philip H. Towner [ref]

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*Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org) | **This outline is from The Bible Exposition Commentary, by Warren W. Wiersbe