Devotional # 202. 8/15/16. 1 Timothy 4:1-6.
Intro. Two weeks ago we talked about the requirements for leadership in the church (1 Timothy 3:1-13, Devotional #200), then last week we read that the Church is not ours, but it’s God’s (1 Timothy 3:14-16, Devotional #201). This is important because today we’re going to look at false religious leaders infecting the Church. How do we know what is right and wrong?
vv. 1-3. Religious Leaders Misleading.
The focus is on those calling themselves Christians, especially leaders, we know this because they “will depart from the faith” (v. 1), lie “in hypocrisy” (v. 2) and are contrasted against “a good minister” (v. 6). We see that the Holy “Spirit expressly says” these things. We take comfort in knowing that God the Holy Spirit knows everything; that He has prophesized that religious leaders will teach false doctrine as 2 Peter 3:3 also tells us. In fact Paul will elaborate on this more in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Notice these apostates will “give” heed to false teaching, this implies they had the opportunity to keep correct teaching but “give” it away. So they know the truth but forfeit it and “depart from the faith.” They have their “conscience seared with a hot iron.” This happens to people the more they tell lies (“speaking lies in hypocrisy”) and allow themselves to believe lies and mistrust the Bible.
We learn that there is a “doctrine of demons” which must mean that Satan coaches his demons who have false beliefs and teachings (see James 3:15). C. S. Lewis has a book I recommend called The Screwtape Letters about an elder demon who coaches a younger one. We serve a God who knows all. It is pure foolishness to accept the “doctrine of demons” or listen to false teachers. By now you should know how to tell the difference between true and false teaching. It is matched up to the word of God: the Bible. 1 John 4:6 tells us, “We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”
Paul gives us examples of some false teaching that was prominent in churches around Ephesus, where Timothy is at. The hypocritical church leaders had demanded that people not get married and were still holding to dietary laws. Not marrying was just trying to control the people (Source 1) but the focus of this section is on the food which is very similar to Peter’s epiphany that as a Christian you can eat whatever type of food you want (Acts 10:9-15, Devotional # 51).
vv.4-6. The Word of God and Prayer.
Now to the encouraging part! As we just talked about there was conflict about what types of food were OK to eat. The reason for this was that God had told the Israelites that there were certain animals they were to stay away from, but since Jesus came He broke down those barriers. Now people could eat as long as they were “thankful” for the provision. I like how Paul tucks in the being thankful and praying for the food. He doesn’t just say “all food is fine to eat” and move on, instead he makes sure that the heart is in the right place. In the same way as this was an extension for Peter accepting Gentiles, the church in Ephesus needed to learn this lesson. They were going to have to remove teachers who drove burdens and barriers into the church. If a Gentile or a Hebrew entered their church, that person should be accepted regardless of their heritage.
Paul encourages Timothy (which is the point of this letter) that if he instructs the brothers and sisters in this way then he will be considered “a good minister of Jesus Christ.” Is Paul just telling Timothy to blindly follow his instructions on food freedom? No, he is preparing him (and us) on what we just talked about from 1 John 4:6, here called: “words of faith and of the good doctrine.” We don’t need to fear teachers that have more charisma than biblical teaching. They stand on the “doctrine of demons” and we stand on “the good doctrine.” Notice it says “the good doctrine”, so there is one specific, correct Bible in which we base our foundation. It’s important to see the difference between the Holy Spirit’s prophecy, complete understanding and teaching of true doctrine, versus the demon’s lack of understanding and propagation of false teaching.
Conclusion. Today’s lesson was one that I find I need to hear as often as God brings it to my attention. We have a likelihood to listen to false teaching unless we’re grounded and rooted in correct, Biblically-based teaching. It’s so easy for us to be frustrated and debate others who call themselves Christians but have false beliefs. I would challenge you to consider your own thoughts first, is the teaching you are frustrated about really from the Bible? If so then you should be able to find it and see how it matches up to the rest of Scripture. If in fact it is something that is a false teaching and is driving division in a church, then it should be addressed. As much as the Bible tells us about staying unified through non-essentials it tells us to distance ourselves in perverted essentials (1 Timothy 1:18-20, Devotional # 196).
Source 1: Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/1Ti/1Ti_004.cfm?a=1123001