Today’s chapter is really a sermon to myself. This chapter is mostly or all about how to be an excellent minister of Christ Jesus, and I invite you to participate, because we are ALL called into service of the Lord. Let’s begin with verse 1.
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,
- The Spirit explicitly says – The spirit here is by the use of the definite article in Greek referring to the Holy Spirit, who had likely spoken directly to Paul. Explicitly is the Greek rhetos, meaning to state as a matter of fact. Say is the Greek lego, to say.
- That in later times – later times refers to the later times that Jesus declared when He inaugurated them with his coming. This is a “last days” reference, meaning that this is for the season [husterois kairois, later season] that Jesus named the last times – from His resurrection to His return. That includes today.
- Will fall away – some translations say “apostatize.” The Greek is not apostasia but aphistemi, to lead away, to depart from. There is more of a willingness component to the latter, and that is what I think we are seeing today. This is not the Great Apostasy of 2 Thess. 2, as we discussed in our study there, although in my opinion this is a related phenomenon. Remember how 2 Thess. 2 talks about THE apostasy and that is something specific, rather than the great choice of people to turn away from the faith – we are always seeing that – but rather when this “man of sin” or “man of lawlessness” commits the most serious act of apostasy of standing in that holiest of holy places and sits down in that place and declares himself to be God. This is referring to the associated departure that will allow that lawless one to rise.
- From the faith – THE faith, that is that firm persuasion or opinion held that Jesus died in our place on the cross as the penal substitutionary atonement for our sins. This isn’t a non-biblical idea – all of Scripture speaks of this, beginning in Genesis 3 and culminating in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the last book in Scripture. THAT faith.
- Paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons –
- Paying attention to – prosecho, turning toward, attending to.
- Deceitful [planos, wandering, roving, by implication one that misleads or seduces] spirits [pneuma, wind, breath; the idea of motive (and motivating) force]
- Doctrines [didaskalia, instruction] of demons [daimonion, evil spirit, demon]. These evil beings give people instruction, they teach them. Sometimes it is very clear, and sometimes it is incredibly subtle. Sometimes it is difficult to spot at first.
2: by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron,
- By means of the hypocrisy of liars – Hypokrisis, acting under a feigned part, i.e., deceit, condemnation, dissimulation; the acting of a stage player. Liars, pseudologos, literally false words; mendacious, i.e., proomulgating erroneous Christian doctrine! JWs, Mormons, Scientology, all others that go off of Biblical Christianity (and I am NOT saying there is no room for interpretation here) – they all are energized by something. Scripture tells us that these heresies are doctrines of demons. These lies are spoken by men, who often want something or have their own agenda. In the case of someone like Emmanuel Swedenborg, the founder of the religion called “Spiritualism,” which he felt was entirely the true version of Christianity, I believe his erroneous doctrines came from daddy issues that were never resolved (his father was a Lutheran Pietist who believed in angels and demons being present in everyday life), and a reliance on science as a theological tool. The combination, at age 53, started to cause hallucinations that he called visions and questionable dreams. Is this not a ripe fruit for such seducing spirits mentioned in verse 1 to pick? This is just one example.
- Seared in their own Conscience as with a branding iron – [kausterizo, to sear, as with a branding iron] Medically, it also kills nerves, and deadens feelings. Some commentators have suggested that this branding is Satan, the ruler of these demons placing his mark on his servants. While this is likely true, I think there is even more here. A surgeon will relieve chronic pain sometimes by a process called cauterization, the deliberate burning of nerve tissue, so as to kill it, and make the nerves non-conductive. I believe that these people (and I’ve heard a number of them in my Christian walk in 33 years, some of them within the church) are deadening their conscience, that part of us that is left over from the fall, that tells us right from wrong. If these men and women, who are usually cult leaders like Joyce Meyer or Ken Copeland (and there are too many others to name), kill their conscience, they can preach lies without pain and without worry about people’s souls! Thus they become true hypocrites, and as Paul says, “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
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.
- Paul begins to list off some of the doctrines that Timothy was facing in Ephesus. Remember, Ephesus was a hotbed for the cult of Artemis. Something that is peripherally related to that was that Greek society in general had placed physical fitness on the same level as serving the Gods, and you have an explosive situation in terms of sexual contact and dietary restriction. It made it your religious duty to seek activity and subsequent satisfaction in these activities.
- Men who forbid marriage – interesting. What particular religion forbids its servants to marry? Did you Catholic? Yes. You are correct. Paul says that is a doctrine of demons. It was initially done to gain property by controlling inheritances of those in priestly service, and sold to the world as devotion to God. This is a perfect example of someone with an agenda, is it not? And it worked, too. What is the richest religious institution in the world today? The Catholic church. I’m not trying to slam anyone here – but this is a matter of historical record! In Greek society, because of the worship of physical perfection, every city had a gymnasium where every boy from the age of about 12 and up went to train physically for hours every day. And these men who forbid marriage – where do you think they hung out? The gymnasium. Do you see what is being set up here? Or do I have to tell you the meaning now of “Greek love?” Sodomy. All the time. Older, stronger men forcing their will on younger, weaker boys. That is called rape. Do you now understand WHY sodomy is spoken against in Scripture? Is there a clue from the cultural context perhaps? Arsenekoites. Compound word. First word – arsen: Anatomical reference to the thing you sit on, also known as your rump. Second word – koites: sexual contact. There is no mistaking what the word means. Sodomy is a polite term given by the city in which it first became Biblically significant. Do you think now that God looks with pleasure on such activity? Not according to Paul in this letter.
- Advocate abstaining from foods – You know, every major world religion (and most of the smaller or splinter ones) advocates abstinence from certain foods. For Judaism and Islam, it is pork. For Hinduism and its splinters and offshoots, it is beef. All of these abstinences, either partial or whole, are wrong today. Jesus told Peter to “rise, kill, and eat” in Acts 10. Before you tell me that was a vision that Peter understood to allow gentiles into the Church, he already knew that part. The point of the parable was to say what God has called clean, not to call unclean. And God chose in His sovereignty to show Peter a vision of unclean animals. I can take this as “no dietary restrictions” since God said so after the resurrection. To restrict this in any way – for any reason other than one’s own health (ostensibly this is only your own personal choice) or taste – is to be listening to a seducing spirit, a demon’s teaching.
- Which God created – it is GOD that created them. HE created them for a REASON! And that reason is right here in the text!
- To be gratefully shared in – The Greek phrase is metalempsin meta eucharistias – The first word means a participation, a taking; partaking, sharing. The second word is modifying the third word. Meta is a Greek preposition that means accompanying, or goes with something, that something being the third word, eucharistias. That means gratitude, and active, grateful language to God as an act of worship. Interestingly, we get our English word Eucharist from this word, meaning the elements of communion, and that is a form of worship as well, and one that is far older than the Mosaic law, and belonging to a different priesthood than the Levitical priests. You have to come to our study in Hebrews when we get there to learn more about it. That’s going to be in the New Year at the pace we’re moving. This concept is that everything God has us eat is to be received thankfully.
- By those who believe and know the truth – And who are those people? Well, those who believe, used in this sense as a descriptor – those who hold the opinion or persuasion that Jesus is our expiation (the one that makes amends with God for our sin) and our propitiation (makes us right before God). I have introduced those words, I know, but when we talk about the faith, that is what we mean. Jesus paid for our sinning and made us right before God. That sounds like us! We are the ones that know the truth [aletheia, truth, both objectively, we know the doctrines, and subjectively, we experience it in our lives!
4: For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude;
- Paul is reinforcing the last bit. Those who believe understand that God created everything, and that he said at the very beginning that it was good, good, and very good! Check out Genesis 1 and 2. This is in contradistinction with the heretical thought that was being taught in the church in Ephesus where Timothy was. It has become one of the core doctrines of Gnosticism, and states that all matter is evil. In fact, God didn’t create it, because there is no evil in God. Everything has been created by other divine beings (gods who are less than God?) and these are the beings we need to worship for our survival. You know, the thought occurs to me – who writes this bad script? This can’t be what God, who created everything good, intended. No, it sounds like these “teaching demons” again, doesn’t it.
- Nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude. You hear that? NOTHING! Pork. Beef. Chicken. Fish. Frogs! Insects – all of them! You have to understand the reason behind why the Jews had dietary laws. God said, but why did He say? Many have suggested that God said these things to keep the people safe. That may have validity, but God didn’t say that to all the other peoples of the world. The dietary restrictions were about separation from the world. Christians are to go into the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, according to Mark 16:15. We have no such dietary restrictions. Unless your doctor gives them to you – that’s about your health, not about your spirituality.
5: for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.
- For it is sanctified – hagiazo – that is made holy, separated, set apart – how? By the word of God – He said all things were clean – and prayer, that earnest communication with God and asking Him to sanctify it and believing that He does – because He said He would and that He already did!
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.
- Paul here is beginning a different thought, though it is related. “In pointing these things out” relates it to the context of what Paul has thus far been discussing. Who is Timothy supposed to point these things out to? Well, the brethren. There is an insight here into the main job of the pastor within the church if he wants to be a good one – he is to point out what? Timothy is to point out what Paul has been writing to him from the start! About what Christians are supposed to be and do! What constitutes a faithful servant of Christ! And when it arises, what and who does NOT constitute a faithful servant of Christ.
- The second half of the verse talks about the benefit of being a faithful minister, who clearly is to be a man of the word! How do we know? Paul is telling Timothy that he must be nourished. Constantly! On THE words of THE Faith. The article is there in the Greek in both places. This means that Timothy needs to be a student of Scripture. And of the sound doctrine [kalos didaskalia]. That means the beautiful or noble teaching. And Timothy has already been following it.
7: But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness;
- Paul tells Timothy not to listen to old wives tales. This is the modern equivalent phrase. What are fables fit only for old women? In Greek, the phrase is bebelous kai graodies muthous, roughly meaning unhallowed myths of old women. Crone-like, silly according to my lexicon. And they are anything but hallowed.
- Rather, Timothy is to discipline himself for godliness. And a pastor or leader would have a disciplined lifestyle! The should have times where he studies. He should have times set aside for prayer. For reading. For preparing his sermons. You get the idea, I’m sure. This means that he should become at least proficient at time management, regardless of how much interruption comes. And if you ask me, this should be a daily thing. Why? We’re going to see in a few verses that the pastor is to be the model for everyone else.
8: for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
- And it isn’t necessarily just getting enough exercise. Remember, timothy in in Ephesus, in a culture that worships physical perfection. Paul is saying here that contrary to then-popular belief, this should not be the main priority. In fact, it should be one’s spiritual pursuit that is of the highest priority. Paul is also not knocking getting enough exercise! I’m supposed to walk 5000 steps every day (yes, that’s about half of what everyone else should do, and that’s because of my health issues! But I know that!). And the really kind of sad bit is that I don’t every day. It averages out over the week, but I have so little time to just walk unless I make it…you get the idea
- Why is Paul placing the emphasis on the spiritual instead of the physical? Because the physical is temporary! When we die, it’s over! But godliness? That’s good forever. That’s what Paul says right here. And I would add, to those that have told me that I’m so heavenly-minded that I’m no earthly good – being heavenly-minded is the only way I can be of any value in an earthly sense! Maybe that doesn’t make sense to you. Consider this – maybe that’s because your focus is on you, your thing, and your agenda. Isn’t that what we’re talking ab out here? It seems to me that those that would try to limit my spiritual calling and progress are the backwards ones, not me.
9: It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance.
- The context of this is from the Greek sentence construction, and it is referring to the previous verse. Remember what I said about this phrase? Paul used it 5 times in all of his letters – and it’s his phrase for, “This will be on the test.” Pay attention, take special notes on this. And WHY will this be on the test? How do we KNOW? Because of what comes immediately after.
10: For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.
- The word “For” here at the beginning is a conjunctive word, joining this to what comes before, and even indicates a little causality here – Paul is saying “It is for this reason” that we labour [kopiao, to be fatigued, to work hard, to be worn out to the point of exhaustion] and strive [agonizomai, to compete for a prize, to fight for, to contend with an adversary]. This is for those of you that think the Pastor has an easy job. NO! This is an overwhelming task! Remember the reason for this letter? Timothy was thinking of leaving Ephesus! Why? Because he was burning out! The pressure Timothy faced there was intimidating! Overpowering! He had to contend with men who were older than him, smarter than him, more eloquent than him, and he was unable to deal with their arguments apologetically, perhaps! Paul ran into this in Corinth. The advice he gives Timothy here? Where you would expect a rally cry and encouragement along with “win one for the Gipper” type language, what does Paul say? Hey, Tim, it’s all part of the job to feel inadequate and burned out. In fact, it’s a good thing, because it means you’re doing it right! But this is not without reason.
- “Because we have fixed our hope on the living God!” Paul reminds Timothy, the worn-out, burned-out, inadequate, depressed, overwhelmed Timothy, that our hope [elpizo, the verb form, our expectation, our assurance] comes from the “God the Living!” Look for a minute at Revelation 1:17-18. “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.'” He is God the Living! He is the Living God! And Paul further reminds us that this living God is the Saviour of ALL men, especially of believers!
- What? Is that universalism? NO! Paul is not saying that all people will be saved in eternity. That is called proof-texting, and we don’t do that, remember? Scripture has to not contradict itself. So in examining the Scriptures as a whole, we find that some will be saved, and some will reject salvation. What this means is that the benefits of God are extended to the entire human race in terms of common grace, compassion, an admonition to repent, and the invitation to salvation through the Gospel. However, the salvation of the Gospel, that comes by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone, seen in the Scriptures alone, to the glory of God alone will all only apply to those who truly believe it and allow that Jesus has set us free from the penalty and power of sin by becoming our substitute. In this, he expiates us (makes amends for us to God) and propitiates us (makes us favourable to God). All fall under those first four. Believers accept the last and gain the further two.
11: Prescribe and teach these things.
- Here it is – the job of the pastor. I don’t like that first word translation. It makes the pastor sound like a pharmacist. I know I used to work in one, but I was the receiver, not the pharmacist. The Greek here is paraggello, to transmit orders, to give commands. Teach – that’s didasko, to instruct. That’s the job of the pastor – command and teach. Says so right here. Now there may have been reasons that Timothy may have been less than successful. Paul addresses a bit of a list next.
12: Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.
- History or classics people will tell you that the nations of Greece worshipped physical perfection, some more than others. Sparta were known for being rough and tumble. Athenians were known for prowess with the spear. Ephesians were known for archery (no surprise, Artemis was the local deity). But no matter what they were known for, all of Greek society practiced physical fitness until at least age 30. Think of it as one long phys-ed class. Timothy at this time is probably no older than 35 or 36, just out of that, and young compared to some of the leaders in the Ephesian assembly. Paul’s encouragement? Don’t allow people to tell you who you are. You set the pace. How does one do that?
- By practicing a righteous lifestyle. This is the piece that makes the pastor’s job have power – a pure life in all of these places. Speech [logos, words]. Conduct [anastrophe, behaviour, manner of life]. Love [agape, divine, self-giving, self-sacrificing]. Faith [pistis, a firm persuasion or opinion held]. Purity [hagneia, from the root hagnos, ceremonially pure, related to holiness or sanctification. I have seen it before – any assault on a pastor will ultimately compromise one of these areas. The power of a righteous life makes everything the pastor says have real power – and is therefore an example – or what some have called pace setter – for everyone else in the church.
13: Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.
- Paul is referring to his intention to come and see Timothy. But until Paul gets there, he is giving Timothy a list of approved activities. [Smirk.]
- The public reading of Scripture. These gentlemen were likely from the old School. They would both have known that this wasn’t just reading passages and sitting down. The reading involved expositional preaching after the reading. We saw this in the life of Jesus when He stood as a guest Rabbi and taught from the Scroll of Isaiah. The passage says he read from the scroll, and then sat – in a specially provided chair according to Jewish tradition – and then it says that every eye was fixed on Him. Why? Because they knew he was going to exegete the passage! And he must have done more than just read from the scroll – they said that he taught with authority, not like the other Rabbis. This actually started in the days of Nehemiah when they found the book of the law. The scribe Ezra stood to read, and then gave the sense, or the meaning of the passage. Our tradition of preaching comes from that, by the way – as a direct line from that. The public reading of Scripture.
- Exhortation – paraklesis – a calling to one’s aid, a coming alongside, encouragement, comfort. This is more than a cheerleader. This is more like a coach.
- Teaching – didaskalia – instruction. When the pastor is faithful in these ways, he overflows God’s blessings on everyone, and everyone benefits.
14: Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.
- Do not neglect [amaleo, to be careless of, make light of, neglect, be negligent, have no regard] the spiritual gift [charismatos, from charisma, a divine free gift in this sense] within [that God gifted] you. Every real Christian has such a gift. With some, it is for teaching, and this was obviously Timothy’s. Personally, I believe we receive that gift when we become Christians. It might be many years before it is ready, as was my case, but everyone gets one. Some have the gift of service, and are able to do things like wait tables, cook great food, help clean; some have the gift of administration, and are able to organize things. That isn’t one of mine, a promise. I can’t organize my own way out of a paper bag. Everyone has a unique blend of talents that are unique to them that God uses wherever He puts us.
- Which was bestowed [given] to you through [because of] prophetic utterance [propheteia, in this sense of the word foretelling of Timothy’s gift of ministry]. Because of the time it happened, I believe that this was a direct revelation from God to the assembled body of elders [presbytery] that were laying hands on Timothy. I don’t think that really happens anymore, but that’s my anti-charismatic bias, I admit. I don’t know that I’m a full-on cessationist, but this kind of thing doesn’t seem to happen in reality anymore. I know there will be a million people now come and tell me different. Look, I’ve been there and come out of that for a reason.
- This talks about Timothy’s ordination by the way. I’ve seen this and been involved in this kind of meeting recently. We all gathered around the pastor of a new church that was joining our denomination, and we laid our hands on him as elders of the churches in Ottawa, and had a time of prayer and dedication to the Lord for the man. This is what they seemed to be doing for Timothy.
15: Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all.
- Take pains [meletao, care for, practice, study] with these things. What things? The things that Paul has been describing since contextually at least verse 12. The Greek word carries a connotation of devising a plan to do these things, to be deliberate in our approach to them.
- Be absorbed in them is an English expansion of the previous Greek phrase. “Be in them” is the literal Greek. Be involved in them. Why?
- So that your progress will be evident [phaneros, visible, manifest, known outwardly] to everyone!
16: Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
Pay close attention is better translated as “hold fast,” but it’s the same concept if you’re asking me. You can’t hold fast if you aren’t paying close attention.
To yourself is the Greek seatou, and speaks to the convictions of Timothy. Pay close attention to your convictions. Why? Well, because they can change! And not always for the better. If you don’t believe me, try listening to talk radio for an hour or so. See if you are calm and balanced after an hour of that. I don’t care if you are John MacArthur (the most level-headed person I can think of) – you will be unbalanced unless you are paying attention.
And to your teaching. That’s the now-familiar Greek word didaskalia. Instruction. What are you instructing? Is it biblical? Is it God-glorifying? Is it edifying to the saints? Pay attention, make it that way. If you are truly His, it is your choice to walk in the Spirit, and be sanctified, that is, made holy.
Persevere in these things. We are to stick to it. Keep at it. To use a phrase, “it works if you work it.” Why?
Because as we do this, we will literally “save both yourself and those who hear you.” [marginal]
Think for a minute now about what your pastor does for you, and tell me we have an easy job, and only work an hour a week. I tell you, we must become masters of a very specific library that consists of 66 books. Is it any wonder when you see us sometimes away from the pulpit, we don’t always appear as sharp as we could be. Or sometimes in the pulpit we aren’t as on point as we should be. For the last year and a half, I have been learning the ropes, and I can tell you that you don’t know what its like to stand here week after week and be good every time. I am NOT capable of this, just like Timothy must have felt. And so Paul the Aged (he was about my age, actually when he wrote this letter, and that’s how he referred to himself) writes a list out. Timothy – these are the things you need to pay attention to. And any would-be pastor who will take Paul’s advice will benefit from it as well – and everyone who listens to him also!
And that’s chapter 4!