1 Timothy 4
Concerning False Teachers (4:1-5)
1 All false teaching comes from Satan and his DEMONS. Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). The main danger in false teaching is that men are deceived by it. Here Paul calls Satan’s demons deceiving spirits. Their teaching has the appearance of truth; therefore, men are deceived into following it (see 2 Timothy 2:17-18 and comment).
The later times mentioned here are the times following Paul’s time. From Timothy’s time until this present time, false teachers and false prophets have been trying to deceive Christians and lead them astray. Jesus Himself clearly warned that this would happen (Mark 13:22). In other New Testament verses also, we are given warnings about false teachers (Acts 20:29-31; 1 John 4:1-3).
2 These deceiving spirits mentioned in verse 1 teach through human teachers; Paul here calls such teachers hypocritical liars. Such men do not have clear consciences. Rather, their consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. When a hot iron first touches the skin, the pain is very great. But after a while the pain grows less, because the pain nerves are being destroyed by the heat. In the end, the hot iron causes no pain at all. Our consciences are, in a way, like skin. At first our conscience can detect and “feel” every sin. But if some sin remains in us for a while, then our conscience gradually stops “feeling” that sin. Eventually our conscience no longer feels anything; it is destroyed—seared. When that situation occurs, a man can no longer tell right from wrong—and no longer cares. He thus goes deeper and deeper into sin.
3 These false teachers teach that in order to be acceptable to God one should not get married or eat certain foods. But this teaching is completely false. First of all, man is made acceptable to God only through faith in Christ. Second, marriage and food are given to us by God for our benefit; thus it is right for us to receive and enjoy these gifts with thanksgiving. God has created these things for all men; certainly, therefore, God’s own children—those who believe and who know the truth—can rightfully partake of them.7
4 But we must partake of God’s gifts with thanksgiving, remembering that God is the creator of all things. Everything created by God is pure and good (see Mark 7:18-19; Romans 14:14).
5 Everything Christians do should be done with thanksgiving (verse 4), and with prayer and the reading of the word of God. The word of God cleanses us and all things (John 15:3). Whatever we do (except for sin) and whatever we eat is consecrated or cleansed by prayer and by God’s word. This is one reason why Christians pray before eating.8 Some scholars say that in Paul’s time the Christians also read from the Old Testament before they ate.
Instructions to Timothy (4:6-16)
6 If Timothy warns the brothers (believers) about these false teachers and faithfully continues to teach the truth, he will be a good minister of Christ Jesus. It is not enough only to refute false teaching; it is also necessary to teach the truth clearly and forcefully.
Paul here calls Timothy a minister. Today in many churches the pastor is called a “minister,” which means servant. This is appropriate, because Jesus Himself taught that in order to be a leader one had to become a servant (see Mark 10:43-45). All true Christian leaders are the servants of the people they lead.
7-8 In verse 7, Paul calls false teaching godless myths and old wives’ tales (see 1 Timothy 1:3-4). These false teachings are like the stories and gossip that ignorant and unbelieving women like to listen to. Timothy must reject all such teaching.
Instead, Timothy must concentrate on the truths of the faith in which he was brought up (verse 6). He must not only teach these truths to others, but he must follow them himself. Timothy must train himself to be godly (verse 7). Christians need spiritual training and exercise. Following Christ is not like taking a leisurely stroll! At times our Christian life is like a military battle; at other times it is like a race (see 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:7). If physical training makes our bodies healthier, then spiritual training in godliness will make us completely healthy in body, soul, and spirit—both in this life and also in the next.
9-10 Paul here reminds Timothy that Christians have put their hope—not in myths and old wives’ tales (verse 7)—but in the living God. It is because of that hope that we labor and strive.
Here again Paul calls God the Savior (see 1 Timothy 1:1; 2:3). In this verse, however, the meaning is different. Here “savior” means the preserver and sustainer of all living things (Matthew 5:45; 6:26). But as far as believers are concerned, God not only preserves and sustains them physically; He also gives them spiritual life that lasts forever.
11-12 In every generation, older people are inclined to look down on younger people. Young people are not respected. But among Christians, says Paul, let this not happen. Let Timothy earn the respect of his elders by his good life and example.
There are five areas in which Timothy must set a good example: in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity (verse 12). Leadership in the church is not given to a person according to his age, but rather according to the quality of his character in these five areas. Let any young man who aspires to leadership first examine himself in these five areas.
Paul not only admonishes Timothy; he also encourages him. Paul tells him: Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young. Timothy was a timid person;
Paul knew that he needed encouragement and support (see 1 Corinthians 16:10-11).
13 Paul describes here three important parts of the job of overseer or pastor: first, the reading of Scripture, which in Paul’s day meant the Old Testament (the New Testament had not yet been written); second, preaching—that is, giving a sermon on the subject of the Old Testament reading; and third, teaching true Christian doctrines. The first two of these activities took place every Sabbath day (Saturday) in the Jewish synagogues of Paul’s time, a custom that the new Christian churches also followed (Luke 4:16-21; Acts 13:14-15). But the third activity, the teaching of Christian doctrine, became a new and distinctive feature of Christian worship services.
Paul instructs Timothy to devote himself to these three activities; that is, Timothy must “give himself’ to these activities. A pastor or other church leader must give himself totally to the service of Christ and the church (see verse 15).
14 Timothy had been given a gift, the gift of preaching, teaching, and leading. Although the gift was given freely by God, Timothy must now take it and use it (2 Timothy 1:6). If we do not use the gifts that God gives us, they will produce no fruit (see Matthew 25:14-18).
At the time Timothy was first called to serve in the church, prophecies were spoken concerning him (see 1 Timothy 1:18). At that time elders laid their hands on him and appointed him to be a leader (see Acts 6:6; 13:1-3 and comments).
15-16 Now Paul tells Timothy how he can nurture and increase his gift. Timothy must be diligent to use his gift (2 Peter 1:10). He must give himself wholly to the reading of Scripture, to preaching, to teaching (verse 13), and to being godly (verse 7). Even though he is a leader, there must be progress in his Christian life that can be seen by others (verse 15). Not only must Timothy be skillful in preaching, but his character and behavior must agree with what he preaches.
Watch your life and doctrine, Paul tells Timothy (see 1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 Peter 5:8). Persevere in them; that is, remain firm in the faith (1 Corinthians 15:58; 16:13; Galatians 6:9; 2 Thessalonians 5:21). If Timothy does this, not only will he bring his hearers to salvation, but he will also save himself—that is, he will work out his own salvation (see Philippians 2:12 and comment). Even Paul had to remain watchful, lest after preaching to others he should himself be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:27).