1 TIM. 4:1-13 COMMENTARY
CONTEXT: First Timothy is one of Paul's three ''Pastoral Epistles.'' Paul's other letters, such as Romans, Ephesians, and Colossians, are meant for a broader audience. First Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus are written to specific people whom Paul is advising on how to best lead their local churches. These three letters present a close look at the form and function of church leadership. First Timothy, like 2 Timothy and Titus, is less formal and systematic, and more personal. This gives great insight into the way pastors, deacons, and elders ought to prioritize their time and energy.
OVERVIEW OF CHAPTER: First Timothy chapter 4 serves as a bridge from Paul's introduction into the later part of his letter. Prior chapters indicated the qualifications for church leaders, and some instructions on the proper way for church members to conduct themselves. Now, here, in chapter 4, Paul reminds Timothy not to be swayed by the false teachings of others. This combination of encouragement and warning sets the stage for the rest of Paul's message. The final two chapters will provide a means for Timothy to identify and avoid errors in his spiritual life. Chapter 4 marks a major transition in the focus of Paul's letter. First Timothy chapters 1 through 3 emphasized personal matters related to church worship. Here, the primary topic is dangers posed by false teachers and the specific responsibilities of various groups. Chapter 4 is often viewed as being written in two parts: a description of the false teachers in Ephesus (1 Timothy 4:1-5) and practical steps for defense against these false teachers (1 Timothy 4:6-16).
Verses 1-5 begin with a focus on what the Spirit says will happen in the end times (1 Timothy 4:1). As we wait for the return of Christ, many will fall away from the faith. Some of these people will attempt to enforce false rules as conditions for following God. One early example of such people, present when Paul wrote these words, was the Gnostics. This group taught that all physical matter was evil, leading them to denounce many foods, as well as marriage. However, according to Paul, "everything created by God is good" (1 Timothy 4:4; Genesis 1-2), and should not be rejected out-of-hand. Anything used as God intended, and with a thankful spirit, has been sanctified or "set apart" through the Word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4:5).
Verses 6-16 shift to a focus on combating these false teachers and their teachings. Paul's advice here is extremely practical. For the most part, these directions involve what Timothy needs to accomplish in his own life and teachings. Timothy is to point out these truths to others (1 Timothy 4:6) and discipline himself for godliness (1 Timothy 4:7). He is especially commanded to set an example for the believers (1 Timothy 4:12), persist in sound teaching (1 Timothy 4:13), and fulfill his unique spiritual calling (1 Timothy 4:14). Paul also instructs Timothy to be totally focused on this work (1 Timothy 4:15) in order to help both himself and the people to whom he is ministering (1 Timothy 4:16).
A. False doctrine in the end times
1. (1 Tim. 4:1) A warning from the Holy Spirit.
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,
a. Now the Spirit expressly says: Paul especially marked this as a revelation from the Holy Spirit; either as a spontaneous word given as he wrote or quoting from a previous prophecy. Paul knew certain dangers would mark the latter times.
i. It has been more than 1900 years since Paul wrote to Timothy about the latter times, but he did not misunderstand his time or our own. History is not, and has not, been rushing towards a distant brink that would end this current order; even in apostolic times, history had reached that brink - and has run parallel to it since. As it turns out, the latter times describe a broad era, not a couple of years.
b. Some will depart from the faith: Because of the danger of the latter times, if Timothy were to remain a faithful minister to God's people, he must keep a dead reckoning on the truth - the faith. If this were lost, not much else really mattered.
i. "A man may hold all the truths of Christianity, and yet render them of none effect by holding other doctrines which counteract their influence; or he may apostatize by denying some essential doctrine, though he bring in nothing heterodox." (Clarke)
ii. A June 1997 article in U.S. News and World Report described a Virginia pastor who "Would rather preach on 'Bosnia, justice, or world peace' than on Bible stories or personal salvation." This is an example of a man who departed from the faith and followed his own direction.
c. The faith: This doesn't mean losing the ability to believe, but losing the content of what Christians should believe. It describes the essential teachings of the Christian faith. When some... depart from the faith, they are abandoning the essential teachings of Christianity.
i. The Bible uses the phrase "the faith" in this way many places: Acts 6:7 and 14:22 , Colossians 1:23 , 1 Timothy 1:19 , and Jud
d. Deceiving spirits: This refers to demonic spirits (angelic beings who have rebelled against God), who seek to deceive men and women and to entice them away from the truth.
i. Some lies are so powerful that they have an evident spiritual dynamic behind them. These are lies crafted and promoted by deceiving spirits.
e. Doctrines of demons: This speaks of the specific teachings of these deceiving spirits. Demons are theology majors, and have systems of doctrine.
i. We find the first demonic doctrine in Genesis 3. There Satan, speaking through a serpent, taught Eve: You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God (Genesis 3:4-5 ). Since then, every demonic doctrine has found its way back to this root: the idea that we can be gods, and operate independently from God.
ii. "Many MSS. and the chief of the fathers have... spirits of deceit; which is much more emphatic than the common reading. Deception has her spirits, emissaries of every kind, which she employs to darken the hearts and destroy the souls of men. Pretenders to inspiration, and false teachers of every kind, belong to this class." (Clarke)
f. Deceiving spirits... doctrines of demons: These have been around since man first walked the Garden of Eden. But we should expect that more and more people in the church would depart from the faith in the latter times and accept these false teachings.
i. It is hard to say if there is more false teaching today, or if it is merely a case of modern technology being able to spread the lie better. But the old saying is certainly true today: a lie travels at top speed while the truth goes on foot - and more people within the church are following these doctrines of demons.
2. (1 Tim. 4:2-3) The nature of their departure from the faith and embrace of the 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.
a. by means of the hypocrisy of liars: This describes those who depart from the faith. This certainly points to the ones who willingly embrace falsehood to justify their sin or pride; but it also refers to those who claim to teach the Bible, while just using it to support their own ideas or agendas.
b. seared in their own conscience: Their conscience, which at one time would have convicted them of their departure from the truth, now doesn't reply at all. It is as if the nerve endings of their conscience have been burnt over and are dead to feeling.
i. Paul here refers to the ancient practice of branding a criminal on the forehead with a distinguishing mark. But for these, it was not their forehead that was branded but their conscience ..
ii. "They bear the marks of their hypocrisy as evidently and as indelibly in their conscience in the sight of God, as those who have been cauterized for their crimes do in their bodies in the sight of men." (Clarke)
iii. Paul knew what it was to have a dead, burned conscience. Before he surrendered his life to Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, he felt completely justified in his persecution of Christians and hatred of Jesus. He could feel justified because his conscience was seared and needed a wake-up call - which the Lord graciously provided.
c. men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods: This describes the legalistic teaching of those who have departed from the faith. They taught that it was by following this list of man-made rules that one was justified in God's sight - that you would be more holy to God if you didn't marry, and if you did not eat certain foods.
i. There have always been those in the church who regard themselves as more spiritual than God Himself, and have a stricter set of rules for living than God does.
ii. In the early centuries of the church, there were monks who went out to desolate desert places to show how spiritual they were by torturing themselves. One never ate cooked food. Another stood all night leaning on a sharp rock so that it was impossible for him to sleep. Another neglected his own body and allowed it to become so dirty that bugs dropped dead from his body. They did this because they thought it would win favor with God and show everyone how spiritual they were.
iii. We often think that if we sacrifice something for God (such as the right to marry or to eat certain foods), then He owes us something. This is legalism at its worst; trying to manipulate God into giving us something. The idea is that we can make God indebted to us, make Him our servant and make ourselves His master. In this we fulfill the original doctrine of demons - that we should be gods.
iv. Countless millions through the centuries have sought to sacrifice something, and make God owe them blessing, or forgiveness, or mercy, or whatever. That is the religion of self-flagellation; it is not the relationship with Jesus Christ described in the New Testament: being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24 ).
v. "The controversy is not about flesh or fish, or about black or ashen colours, or about Wednesday or Friday, but about the mad superstitions of men who wish to obtain God's favour by such trifles and by contriving a carnal worship, invent for themselves an idol in God's place." (Calvin)
vi. Forbidding to marry: "They hold that it is far better for a priest to keep many whores than to have a wife." (Trapp)
3. (1 Tim. 4:4-5) A refutation of the legalism that marks those who have departed from the faith.
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.
a. For everything created by is good: Regarding what we eat, we can eat all things. We receive things rightly when we receive them with thanksgiving, with an abiding sense of gratitude towards God. We receive the blessings of food, shelter, and comfort as gifts, and not as rights.
b. Nothing is to be rejected: We are not limited by any kind of diet; what we eat does not make us more righteous before God (though what we eat may affect our health).
i. This issue was settled once for all when God spoke to Peter in Acts 10:9-16 .
ii. "Both among the pagans, Jews, and Romanists, certain meats were prohibited; some always, others at particular times. This the apostle informs us was directly contrary to the original design of God; and says that those who know the truth, know this." (Clarke)
c. It is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer: Paul here has in mind prayer before a meal. Notice that the emphasis is not on asking God to bless the food; but on thanking God for the blessing of providing food to eat.
i. The word of God sanctifies food in the sense that God gave two general commands to mankind to eat the good things of the earth, e.g.: "And God said, "See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food." (Gen. 1:29) and Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. (Gen. 9:3)
ii. It is good and proper for us to pray before eating a meal but it should not be done in a ritualistic, superstitious way. Nor should it be done to show others how spiritual we are - which is imitating the prayer practices of the Pharisees (Matthew 6:5).
B. Instruction in ministry for Timothy.
1. (1 Tim. 4:6) How to tell you are fulfilling your call.
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.
a. In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus: Notice that the pastor's job is primarily instruction of the brethren. If the minister does not instruct the brethren in these things, then he isn't really a good minister of Jesus Christ.
i. It is also important to say that instruction should be understood in a broad sense, not only as classroom-style teaching or Sunday preaching (i.e., speaking and lecturing), but as Jesus instructed His disciples, with His presence, His life, and His practice as well as with His words.
b. Nourished in the words of faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following: But, if Timothy will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, he himself must remain anchored in God's word, carefully following the good doctrine.
2. (1 Tim. 4:7-10) Keeping your priorities straight.
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; 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. 9 It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. 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.
a. But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women: The priority must be on God's Word, not on the words of man. Paul cautioned Timothy to keep focused on the Word, not on things that come from man. The greatest effort must be put into God's Word, not man's word. This is the negative aspect of the command. In the positive aspect, the priority must be kept on eternal things, not temporal things.
b.. discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness, 8 for bodily discipline is only of little profit: Ancient Greek and Roman culture put a high value on physical exercise. Paul tells Timothy that the same work and commitment that others put towards physical exercise should be put toward the pursuit of godliness.
i. "Here is an intentional paradox. Timothy is to meet the spurious asceticism of the heretics by exercising himself in the practical piety of the Christian life." (White)
ii. The word godliness comes from the old English word Godlikeness; it means to have the character and attitude of God. This was a worthy goal, much more worthy that the potential attainments of physical exercise.
iii. bodily discipline is only of little profit in that it has some value. Or, the idea can be translated bodily exercise is good for a while, while exercising unto godliness is good for all eternity.
iv. Spiritual development and physical development share some similarities. With each, growth only comes with exertion and proper feeding.
c. Godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life: Paul here explains the value of godliness, both in the present sense and its eternal sense. Godliness makes the present life better, and we should not hesitate to believe it and to tell people this.
i. Though godliness does not make this life the most comfortable, or richest, or most pleasurable, or easiest in the present life, it undeniably makes it the best, the most contented, and the most fulfilling life one can live in this world.
ii. "I assure you, and there are thousands of my brethren who can affirm the same, that after having tried the ways of sin, we infinitely prefer the ways of righteousness for their own pleasure's sake even here, and we would not change with ungodly men even if we had to die like dogs. With all the sorrow and care which Christian life is supposed to bring, we would prefer it to any other form of life beneath the stars." (Spurgeon)
d. and also for the life to come: At the same time, godliness is the only guarantee of a profitable life which is to come. There are many pleasures or achievements in this world that do not even pretend to offer anything for the life to come. Main point: only godliness is the path to eternal life and happiness.
ii. "Vice dares not say, it never has had the effrontery yet to say, 'Do evil and live in sin, and eternal life will come out of it.' No, the theater at its door does not proffer you eternal life, it invites you to the pit. The house of evil communications, the drunkard's bottle, the gathering-place of scorners, the chamber of the strange woman - none of these has yet dared to advertise a promise of eternal life as among the boons that may tempt its votaries. At best sin gives you but bubbles, and feeds you upon air. The pleasure vanishes, and the misery is left." (Spurgeon)
e. It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance... because we have fixed our hope on the living God: This is to be the great motto of the Christian life. Even as David challenged Goliath in the name of the living God (1 Sam. 17:26, 36), so our trust in the living God empowers us to accomplish great things for His glory.
i. "But our God, in whom we trust, is a God with a great, warm, loving heart, a thinking God, an active God, a working, personal God, who comes into the midst, of this world, and does not leave it to go on by itself. Although he is a stranger in the world, even as his people also are strangers and foreigners by reason of the revolt that men have made against their liege Lord and Sovereign, yet it is still his world, and he is still in it." (Spurgeon)
f. who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers: This emphasizes the idea that the priority must be kept on the message of Jesus Christ. It isn't that all men are saved in a Universalist sense; but that there is only one Savior for all men. It isn't as if Christians have one Savior and others might have another savior.
i. But notice Paul's point: especially of those who believe. Jesus' work is adequate to save all, but only effective in saving those who come to Him by faith.
ii. "What God intends for ALL, he actually gives to them that believe in Christ, who died for the sins of the world [1 John 2:2 ], and tasted death for every man [Hebrews 2:9 ]. As all have been purchased by his blood so all may believe; and consequently all may be saved. Those that perish, perish through their own fault." (Clarke)
3. (1 Tim. 4:11-13) Personal instructions.
11 Prescribe and teach these things. 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. 13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.
a. Prescribe and teach these things: This has the note of authority. Timothy was not to enter the pulpit with speculations and opinions and theories of men. He was to fearlessly proclaim God's Word as a prescription-an order-and not give into the fear of man.
b. Let no one look down on your youthfulness: Because Timothy was young, he was vulnerable to the errors of youth which bring the often justified criticism of those older. To address this, Paul called him to live a life so that was so godly that no one could object to his youthful appearance.
i. The word youth in the ancient Greek was "Used of grown-up military age, extending to the 40th year" (Lock, cited in Earle). It seems that Timothy was about 30 years old at this time; but Paul was around 70, and youth is a relative thing.
ii. "Paul shows Timothy 'a more excellent way' than self-assertion for the keeping up of his dignity: Give no one any ground by any fault of character for despising thy youth." (White)
c. , show yourself an example of those who believe: The King James Version has be thou an example of the believers. Some believe this is a more accurate translation, with the idea being that Timothy was to be the best representation possible of the Christian community.
i. "The rendering of the King James, an example of believers is better." (Hiebert)
ii. This meant that Timothy, and every godly servant of God, should be an example:
iii. These are the criteria by which to assess a pastor. If he is smart, if he is funny, if he is cool, if he dresses well, if he is popular, or if he is any number of other things matter little. You must look for a pastor who is an example in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
iv. "Thus we learn how foolish and ridiculous it is for people to complain that they receive no honour, when in fact there is nothing about them that is worth honouring, but rather they expose themselves to contempt by their ignorance, the example of their impure lives, their lightmindedness and other faults. The only way to win respect is by outstanding virtues which will protect us against contempt." (Calvin)
d. public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching: These are the things that Timothy must give attention to. Each of these things are centered on God's Word. He must give attention to these things in both his private life and in his public ministry.
1 Tim. 4 - Cole - Bible.org
I. 1 Tim. 4:1-5
We all know people who have fallen away from the Christian faith. These are people who at one time made a profession of faith in Christ. They may have joined a Bible-believing church. I know some who were seminary graduates, active in ministry. But either they drifted from the Lord or deliberately turned away. They may have become ensnared in a cult or entangled by worldly values or have fallen into moral problems. But they are no longer living as Christians.
If you think such a thing could never happen to you, take heed lest you fall! We're all vulnerable and we are at war with a cunning, deceptive enemy. We need to understand how not to fall away. Paul gives us an answer in 1 Timothy 4:1-5. It is not a complete answer, of course. A complete answer would entail all the New Testament teaching on the spiritual life. But it is nonetheless a solid answer that will help us be on guard so that we do not fall away.
Paul refers to an explicit prophecy by the Holy Spirit that in later times some will fall away from the faith. He may be referring to Jesus' prediction concerning the apostasy during the end times (Mark 13:22), or to other prophecies Paul made (2 Thess. 2:1-12; Acts 20:29). Or Paul may have received a new revelation from the Holy Spirit on this matter as he wrote this letter. "Later times" refers to the entire church age; but there will be a major apostasy just before the Lord's return (2 Thess. 2:1-3). Apparently, some in Ephesus were already turning away from the faith. Paul is telling Timothy these things so that he will be on guard as the problems grow worse. He is saying that ...
To avoid falling away, we must persevere in God's truth with thankfulness.
First he shows the problem of these times-those who fall away from the faith (4:1-3a). Then he reveals the perspective for these times-the outlook we need to persevere (4:3b-5).
1. The problem of these times: Apostasy (falling away).
Those whom Paul describes as falling away are people who are not enjoying God and the blessings He provides, but rather have fallen into an outward form of religion in which they deny themselves things, such as marriage and certain foods. In order to see how they got to that point, we need to trace Paul's flow of thought:
C. We are engaged in spiritual warfare.
The Scriptures teach that God not only created the material world, but that He also created spiritual beings. We normally cannot see or hear them, but they are nonetheless real. Some of these beings, called angels, are servants of God. The other beings, demons or evil spirits, are under Satan's leadership. He and they were once angels who served God. But Satan rebelled and a great number of angels followed him. He is now their general and they serve in his army to thwart God's purpose.
Paul says that these false teachers and those who follow them were actually following deceitful spirits and the doctrines of demons. The errors came through men in the church, but behind these professing Christians were demonic forces (see 2 Cor. 11:13-15). We are sometimes surprised when the enemy comes from within the church. We think the enemy is "out there," not in here. But Scripture is clear that men in the church, recognized as leaders, who seem to be men of righteousness, will sometimes rise up to lead God's people astray. Often behind such men are demonic forces.
Scripture shows that demonic influence can be blatant and obvious (for example, the Gerasene demoniac). But also demonic influence can be subtle enough to draw the unsuspecting into its grip. If you've ever been ripped off by a con artist, he didn't walk up and say, "I'm going to steal your money!" He earned your trust, but his intent was to use you for his own selfish ends. That's what was happening in Ephesus, and these deceitful evil spirits continue to work in churches to thwart God's truth by their demonic doctrines.
So often we see things only on the natural plane. But it is crucial that we understand that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12). We are engaged in spiritual warfare!
B. Spiritual warfare involves the mind.
Apostasy (or falling away) always begins in the mind. These spirits are "deceitful" and they teach doctrines that sound biblical but are just slightly off. They are out to fool you in your thinking. But God's people "believe and know the truth" (4:3).
We need to be careful here. On one extreme, there is a wide movement in the American church that minimizes truth. This side says, "They will know we are Christians by our love," and so they adopt a "peace at any cost" position that dilutes and ultimately destroys essential Christian truth. They emphasize tolerance and doctrinal diversity. If you speak out against error, this side accuses you of being unloving and divisive. But if you go down that road, you end up with the unbiblical view that truth doesn't matter and that there is no such thing as sound doctrine (a major theme in this epistle).
On the other extreme, we can be so zealous for the truth that we shred relationships and end up falling into spiritual pride because we hold to "The Truth." I get a newsletter from a man who attacks and separates himself from many well-known evangelicals because he finds errors in statements they have made in print or in taped messages. If you go far enough down that road, you end up in a church of one member, because you'll never find another person who agrees with you on every minor point of doctrine.
So you have to determine how serious a matter is and what the consequences will be if people follow this teaching. In the situation Paul is correcting, you might think, "What's the big deal about forbidding marriage and the eating of certain foods?" But Paul saw behind these practices to the heart of the teaching, which was to put a relationship with God on an outward basis. This fosters hypocrisy and pride and leads people away from seeking to please God from the heart. So, Satan is out to influence your thinking. Spiritual warfare involves the mind. But it never stops there.
C. The mind affects our morals.
These men who gave heed in their thinking to the doctrines of demons ended up being hypocritical liars, seared in their consciences (4:2). When God's truth confronted their guilty consciences, instead of dealing with it through repentance, they put on a good front to others as hypocritical liars. Their wrong thinking led them to wrong morals.
The conscience is not an infallible guide. If you violate your conscience and don't repent, your conscience becomes hardened or callused. If that process continues unchecked, you reach a point where your conscience is seared (the word means "cauterized"). You have grown insensitive to sin. You can lie and not even realize you're doing it, because your conscience is seared.
A person who falls away from the faith can go one of two directions, morally speaking: Legalism or licentiousness. Second Peter and Jude describe men who fell away from the faith into licentiousness. They once made claim to be Christians. But their brand of false teaching led them and their followers into immoral behavior (2 Pet. 2:1-3, 18-20). That's one route apostasy can take.
But the doctrines of demons can also lead to legalism, which Paul is addressing here. These men were forbidding marriage and advocating abstaining from certain foods. This was probably an early form of Gnosticism. The Gnostics claimed to be Christians, but they adopted a number of wrong doctrines, one of which was that all matter is evil and spirit is good. This wrong thinking led them into these two wrong extremes morally of legalism and licentiousness. Some of the Gnostics concluded that since matter is evil, we must control the body through asceticism or denying oneself any physical pleasure. Others concluded that since matter is evil and spirit is good, there is a wide division between the two. What you do with your body doesn't matter, since it's all evil anyway. It's your spirit that counts. This led them into gross immorality and indulgence of the flesh.
Legalism and licentiousness are not opposed to one another, with grace being the balance between the two. Rather, legalism and licentiousness are two sides of the same coin. Both are devoid of a personal relationship with the living God in which all areas of life are brought under His lordship as a response to His grace. Neither legalism nor licentiousness focus on inner righteousness. The legalism Paul is attacking is as demonic in origin as licentiousness. It is the end result of wrong thinking which stems from deceitful spirits. It leads to pride, not to godliness in the inner person. The attraction of legalism is that it builds up the self.
I say this kindly, but it needs to be said, since the error is so widespread and it is the same error Paul confronts here. I'm referring to the official teaching and common practice of the Roman Catholic Church on the crucial matter of how a person gets right with God. Many Catholics, including some priests, are coming to faith in Christ as Savior. "But according to the most thorough poll of American clergy yet made, over three-quarters of Roman Catholic priests reject the view that our only hope for heaven is through personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. They hold instead that 'heaven is a divine reward for those who earn it by their good life.'" (Christianity Today [10/23/81], p. 14.)
Those priests are in line with official Catholic dogma as set forth in the Council of Trent (which denied the Reformation teaching of salvation by grace through faith) and the more recent Vatican II, which affirmed the doctrines of Trent. Vatican II teaches that Christ's death was not sufficient for our salvation. We must also keep the sacraments and earn salvation through our suffering and good deeds. Vatican II condemns with anathema those who say that indulgences are useless or that the Church does not have the power to grant them for the task of winning salvation (these and other Catholic teachings are documented by Dave Hunt in "The Berean Call," 4/92.)
Any time a church or an individual teaches that we merit heaven by our good works, they are nullifying Christ's finished work on the cross. Teaching that a person will gain merit with God by abstaining from marriage (as with priests), by following dietary laws, or by keeping man-made rules leads people into outward religion apart from a relationship with the living God. These are the doctrines of demons. Those who follow such teaching fall away from the truth revealed in God's Word.
This is important for you to understand because recently many evangelical churches in Flagstaff met with the Catholics in a service intended to "proclaim our Christian unity." I want you to know why I and the elders could not in good conscience join such a service and why I stand opposed to the trend among American evangelicals to minimize any differences between Protestants and Catholics. Until the Catholic Church officially recants the Council of Trent, Vatican II, and many other corrupt doctrines, the differences are irreconcilable.
After presenting the problem of falling away, Paul goes on to give the perspective needed to persevere.
2. The perspective for these times: Perseverance in God's truth with thankful hearts.
In contrast to falling away, which in the case of the legalists meant outward religion without the living God, the perspective for perseverance is holding to God's truth with thankfulness. The flavor of verses 3b-5 is that of gratefully enjoying God and His creation. There are several aspects to such perseverance:
C. Make sure you hold to integrity and truth.
These false teachers had become hypocritical liars (4:2). Hypocrisy means maintaining an outward front to look good while you're violating your conscience when others aren't looking. In order to cover your sin, you have to lie, so you let go of truthfulness. To dodge the conviction that comes through God's Word of truth, you don't confront your life with Scripture. To salve your guilty conscience, you add certain outward practices that make you seem spiritual. That's how Satan gets you to fall away.
The antidote is to hold to integrity and truth, both God's Word of truth and personal truthfulness. If you sin, confess and forsake it, don't cover it up. Daily be in God's Word and let it search your heart so that you can confront sin and grow in holiness.
B. Be alert to the spiritual danger that comes through the mind.
Stay on guard to the fact that Satan and his forces are trying to deceive our minds against God and His truth (2 Cor. 11:3). Satan especially appeals to our pride by getting us to think that we can gain merit with God by keeping man-made rules. We start thinking we're better than others because we keep such rules. Remember this: any teaching that exalts self is from the enemy. God's Word humbles us by teaching that every good gift we enjoy comes from God's undeserved favor; thus we must be thankful to God for His blessings.
Especially we need to be alert to the danger of doubting God's goodness. In the original temptation, Satan appealed to Eve's mind and got her to doubt God's goodness: "C'mon, Eve! God is trying to hold back something good from you. This fruit will make you like God!" (see Gen. 3:1-6). The serpent was pulling God down ("He's not really good") and building Eve up (exalting self, "you can be like God"). He's still using that false teaching to cause many to fall away.
You must be especially careful to guard yourself from wrong thinking when you're going through a difficult trial. Satan comes along and sows doubts about God's goodness: "If He were really good, He wouldn't let this happen to you. It's okay to be angry at God; He wasn't faithful to you by letting this happen." It's in the context of trials that Peter tells us to humble ourselves under God's mighty hand and then says, "Be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith" (1 Pet. 5:8-9).
C. Remember that God wants us to enjoy Him and His blessings with thankful hearts.
Christians are the only people who can truly enjoy life, because we're right with the Creator through faith in Jesus Christ. We know that God is for us and is working all things together for good for those who love Him (Rom. 8:31, 28). Thus Paul directs us to give thanks in everything (Eph. 5:20; 1 Thess. 5:18), to be overflowing with gratitude to God because of His great salvation so freely given (Col. 1:12; 2:7).
Paul mentions gratitude twice in our text (4:3, 4). If you're bitter toward God or if you're grumbling about His dealings with you, you're vulnerable to Satan's attacks. Mark it well: The path away from God is the path of ingratitude, of doubting the goodness of God (Rom. 1:21; Jude 16). God's people who persevere believe in the goodness of God, even in trials, and thus are filled with gratitude.
And we not only can be thankful for spiritual blessings, but also for physical joys. When Paul says that everything created by God is good, he means, in the context for which God created it. God created marriage and the pleasure of the sexual relationship in marriage. He created good food for us to enjoy. (You can say "Amen!") God has created the beauty of this world for us to enjoy. He has made human beings in His image. Although marred by the fall, we can enjoy the unique people of this world. We can enjoy the creative abilities God has given to people, such as literature, art, and music. In all these things, we don't just enjoy the gift, but also we enjoy God who has given them for our enjoyment.
I'm not talking about overindulgence or self-centered living. (Paul deals with the need for discipline in the verses immediately following.) I'm saying that the spiritual is not just a segment of life. Rather, all of life is spiritual and sacred, because we live it in a relationship with the Creator who designed it all for His glory and our enjoyment. The Puritans had it right: "What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever."
We make all of life holy ("sanctified," 4:5) "by means of the word of God and prayer." Paul is referring to prayer before meals. We thank God for His provision. When Paul mentions "the word of God," he is referring to God's pronouncement in the creation that everything He made is good (Genesis 1:31). So this extends beyond table grace to all of God's creation which we are to enjoy. When we hike in the mountains or enjoy the company of family or friends, when we enjoy a concert or a good book, we do it with thankfulness to God, the Creator and giver of every good gift (James 1:17). If we know Him, we can enjoy Him through all that He has made.
To avoid falling away, we must persevere in God's truth with thankful hearts. It's not always easy, but even in times of trial, we need to affirm God's goodness and thank Him for His many blessings.
II. I Tim. 4:11-16
Since that is the clear teaching of the New Testament, it ought to be of great concern to every Christian to know how to fulfill the ministry God has entrusted to him or her. It seems as if there are droves who are either burning out on ministry because they are exhausted, or bombing out of ministry because of moral failure. Timothy's danger was that he would just fade out of the ministry because his timid personality had a tendency to want to avoid conflict. The fact is, you can't preach God's truth without confronting error and offending some people. So Timothy was in danger of neglecting his ministry (4:14).
Some of you are not involved in any kind of ministry for the Lord. Maybe you burned out, bombed out, or just faded out. Frankly, ministry is battle, and who likes war? The tendency of the flesh is to let someone else do it, especially if it's a hassle. Maybe you justify your lack of involvement by thinking, "I'm not all that gifted anyway." But remember, in the parable of the talents, it was the guy with only one who buried it and was rebuked by his master because he didn't use it to further the master's interests. If you know Christ as Savior, you're called to serve Him in some capacity. In our text, Paul gives us a basic lesson of Christian service that will enable us to fulfill our God-given ministries:
Your walk with Christ is the necessary basis for your work for Christ.
"Pay close attention to yourself [your walk] and to your teaching [your work]" (4:16). It's the same principle Paul imparted to the Ephesian elders when he said, "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock" (Acts 20:28). First, your walk; then, your work. Your work for the Lord must always be the overflow of your walk with the Lord. I define ministry as being full of Jesus Christ and slopping over onto others. That means that your ministry will be backed by a life of integrity; you are imparting to others what you have because you walk in reality with Christ. If we all would learn this simple but profound principle, that our walk with Christ is the necessary basis for our work for Christ, we would avoid burning out, bombing out, and fading out in the work He has given us to do.
1. Pay attention to your walk with Christ.
One reason the church is often short of workers is that so many who attend church are not walking in daily reality with the living Lord. They have fallen into the American self-centered way of life. They attend church because it meets some of their personal needs. If it fails to meet their needs, they either shop around for another church that does meet their needs or they stop going altogether. They are living for self and using God and the church to help self be more fulfilled. Sometimes volunteering to serve in the church helps meet a need to feel useful, so they sign up. But even their service has a self-focus. They do it because it meets their needs.
If I have just described you, I say to you in love, you are not living the Christian life. The Christian life is not living for self and using God and the church to meet your needs. The Christian life involves denying yourself daily and living under the lordship of Christ. We are no longer our own; we have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus. We no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose again on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:15). As we live each day with our hope fixed on the living God, He shapes our character in conformity to Christ and then uses our changed lives as a witness of His saving grace so that others come to know Him and grow in Him.
So ministry is not volunteering for Jesus, or doing a job because the pastor or the church needs your help. Ministry is based on dying to self and living to please Jesus. God never calls us primarily to a task. Rather, He calls us to Himself. Before I can do something for God I must be something in relationship with God. I can only impart to others in ministry what I possess from my walk. Therefore, the primary responsibility of every believer is to develop godliness through the daily discipline of a walk with the Lord Jesus.
Timothy was relatively young when Paul wrote this, about 35 (a mere youth from my perspective now!). Some of you think 35 is ancient, but in that culture age was more highly regarded than in ours. Paul wrote, "Let no one look down on your youthfulness" in part for the church, so that they would not shrug off Timothy's teaching with the excuse that he was too young to know what he was talking about. But Paul also wrote it for Timothy. He's saying that even if you're younger in years, you can have a ministry if your message is backed by a godly life.
Paul mentions five areas (the KJV's "spirit" is based on weak manuscript evidence and should be omitted):
There's a convicting one, for starters! How's your speech? Has your tongue been tamed by the power of God's Spirit? As James 3 tells us, the tongue can be an instrument for great evil or great good, depending upon whether it is under the control of the flesh or of the Spirit. Ephesians 4:29 commands, "Let no unwholesome [lit., rotten] word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear." There is no place for name-calling, sarcasm, profanity, ridicule, gossip, blaming, destructive criticism, angry words of threat and revenge, griping, complaining, lying, filthy talk, or dirty jokes.
Instead a godly person will use words to build up others and show them grace: encouragement, praise, appreciation, gratefulness, cheerfulness, understanding, sympathy, testimony, truth, caring correction and warning, and helpful counsel.
So often, even in Christian homes, family members rip into one another with rotten words and never confess their sinful speech and ask forgiveness. Several years ago Marla and I were at a pastoral couples conference. We had just checked into our room when we could hear through the door into the adjoining room a couple exchanging barbed attacks on each other. This was a pastor and his wife, but they sounded like the kind of destructive speech you hear on the worst TV sitcoms! The man was disqualified for ministry because he was not using godly speech toward his wife. Walking with the Lord Jesus means bringing your speech under His lordship and judging yourself when you sin with your words.
B. Conduct (KJV = conversation)
In modern parlance, your lifestyle. This points to your behavior which should testify to your commitment to Jesus Christ. Honesty, integrity, how you spend your time and money, your priorities, your attitude toward possessions, your personal appearance, the way you maintain your home, the way you treat people-all of these factors should add up to show that Christ is Lord of your life.
This focuses on your relationships. Biblical love is not a gushy feeling, but rather a self-sacrificing, caring commitment which shows itself in seeking the highest good of the one loved. Since the highest good for each person is that they glorify God in their lives, love is committed to help each person grow in submission to Christ's lordship. Paul spells out the qualities of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Each of us should frequently evaluate our conduct toward others, especially in our homes, by that list.
This could point to faithfulness or reliability, a fruit of the Spirit. Or, it could point to the faith we are to have toward God. We call ourselves believers, and yet all too often we are not believing believers! We aren't expecting God to work. We aren't trusting God with our problems. But in order to carry on any significant ministry, we must be men and women of faith. We have leaned upon God in our own trials and have proved Him to be faithful. So we can ask and trust God to work in the lives of those to whom we minister.
This means moral purity, not just outwardly, but in the thought life. Sexual immorality always begins in the mind. Walking with Christ means taking "every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). As soon as a wrong thought pops into your mind, you confess it and turn from it. You "put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts" (Rom. 13:14).
A survey of American pastors revealed that 20 percent view pornographic material at least once a month (Leadership [Winter, 1988], p. 24)! And only 64 percent of evangelical seminary students think that watching pornographic movies is morally wrong (David Wells, Christianity Today [1/15/88], p. 25)! Is it any wonder the American church lacks God's blessing? I believe that a man who yields to viewing pornography at least once a month should not be in leadership until he gains victory. Purity in thought and deed is essential for ministry.
Thus your walk with Christ is the necessary basis of any work you do for Christ. Since the Lord wants every member of His body to function in serving Him, pay attention to your walk. You don't have to have all these qualities in perfection before you start serving the Lord. But you do need to be growing in each area, bringing every aspect of your life into submission to the lordship of Christ. Then, as you relate to others, you slop over what you have of Christ to them; you are ministering.
But ministry doesn't happen automatically. It requires attention and work as well:
2. Pay attention to your work for Christ.
"Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching" (4:16). Since Timothy's spiritual gift was in the area of public ministry of the Word, he was to focus on that. Note the importance of the ministry of the Word in the church assembly: reading it (especially in a culture where many slaves would have been illiterate); applying it to life ("exhortation"); and, teaching it (4:13). Paul exhorts Timothy not to neglect his gift (4:14), to take pains in making progress in it (4:15), and to persevere in it (4:16), which implies that it won't be easy or automatic. There is much more that could be said, but I want to point out five things concerning spiritual gifts:
1 TIMOTHY 4:1-13 - EXTRA NOTES
CONTEXT: First Timothy 4 provides an important perspective in advance of Paul's upcoming instructions. After giving Timothy details on how to choose church leaders, and the proper conduct of church members, this chapter is mostly focused on Timothy's own personal spiritual choices. In particular, Paul instructs him to be diligent, faithful, and prepared. The stakes are high-both for Timothy and those he is called to lead. This chapter emphasizes the importance of good spiritual practice, which is key when considering Paul's advice in the passages both before and after these words. First Timothy 4:1-5 transitions Paul's letter towards a discussion of false teachings. In this passage, Paul is especially concerned with teachers who encourage a practice known as asceticism. This is the rejection of worldly comforts in an effort to become more spiritual. In Paul's day, groups such as the Gnostics taught that sexuality and food were physical, and therefore corrupted. On the contrary, as Paul explains, everything God created can be more than just ''good.'' It can actually be ''holy,'' when used as God intended. First Timothy 4:6-10 provides perspective on the right way to lead, as a church elder. Timothy has already been warned about false teachers. In response, he needs to be diligent in learning, living, teaching, and defending the truth. Paul makes a comparison here with physical training. Fitness is good, since it has benefits. But physical fitness is only temporary. Spiritual fitness, then, is much more beneficial, since its effects last forever.
v. 1: The beginning of chapter 4 transitions from Paul's personal and church policy, which was the focus of chapters 1-3, to the issue of false teachers. Verses 1 through 5 focus on the various dangers presented by these deceivers.
The opening phrase "the Spirit expressly says" is often met with confusion. There is no specific quotation in Scripture which matches this wording. Some believe that Paul was referring to information given directly to Paul in a special revelation. Others believe this might be a reference to some other, non-biblical work. However, the most likely interpretation is also the simplest. This idea that false teachers would arise to deceive Christians is a clear doctrine of Jesus (Mark 13:22), and is seen in other parts of the Bible. So, while the specific words in 1 Timothy 4:1 are not found elsewhere in the Bible, they reflect a truth which the Holy Spirit has "expressly" taught.
Paul's reference to "later times" is similar to that of 2 Timothy 3:1. Paul certainly has in mind the time he actually wrote this letter, since he spoke of these actions as taking place in Ephesus. However, this is a general forward-looking statement, incorporating all time until the eventual return of Christ.
Paul's prediction is that certain people associated with the Christian church will "depart." This verse, in and of itself, gives no specific indication whether these people are true believers who were deceived, or unbelievers. In either case, they were part of the church family, but later separate themselves from the faith. The motivation for their departure will be spiritual deception. This might involve actual spirit worship, common in the ancient world. Or, this may be a vague reference to false teachings (1 Timothy 4:3).
Paul often notes that any doctrines which contradict the gospel are inherently evil (Galatians 1:8-9). Saying that these are the teachings of "demons" is a potent way of declaring that their claims are contrary to the "sound doctrine" which was given by Christ (James 3:15).
v. 2: Paul's description of false teachers in Ephesus continues from verse 1. Here, he adds the idea that these dangerous voices are not entirely honest. He describes them using the Greek terms hypokrisei and pseudologōn. These are literally "hypocrites and liars." Upcoming verses will detail the restrictions they place on others. At least some of these are points which the false teachers themselves don't actually ascribe to (1 Timothy 1:7). A true "hypocrite" is not one who teaches something they fail to follow, but one who teaches something they don't really believe.
Paul's phrasing about the conscience comes from a single Greek word: kekaustēriasmenōn. This literally means "to be branded with a hot iron," and is often translated simply as "seared." One of the unfortunate side-effects of a deep burn is the destruction of nerves. A person whose body is branded frequently loses sensation in that spot. In the same way, it is possible for a person to be desensitized to their own sin (Ephesians 4:19).
This can become a dramatic moral numbness, as was the case in Nineveh (Jonah 4:11). In that case, God promised judgment, yet relented when the people repented. God offered the same to those in Paul and Timothy's time. In verse 16, Paul will encourage persistence in correct teaching, to avoid the disasters it invites (1 Timothy 4:16).
v. 3: Paul mentions two specific points in which the false teachers of his day were mistaken. These are both consistent with the heresy of Gnosticism. Gnostics believe that all physical matter is evil; therefore, the human body, all forms of sexuality, and pleasant food were labelled as evil. As a result, the Gnostics rejected marriage and taught people not to eat certain foods.
While Paul was unmarried (1 Corinthians 9:5-6), Christianity has never prohibited marriage. Nor has it upheld celibacy as a "holier" approach than married sexuality. This ascetic practice was a false teaching arising from those at Ephesus who held to early versions of Gnostic teachings (Colossians 2:20-23).
A focus on Jewish law would have promoted kosher dietary restrictions upon Gentile Christians, even though the early church had rejected this (Acts 15). According to Paul, the physical things God created for our benefit should not be rejected. Paul's reference here is not to the early church, but goes all the way back to God's creation in Genesis chapters 1 and 2. No food is to be rejected out-of-hand (1 Timothy 4:4), but should be embraced with a grateful attitude. The ability to thank God for good things, instead of rejecting them, is credited to those with correct understanding of God's Word and His will.
v. 4: Paul repeats his theme from the previous verse: everything God created has some good purpose. Nothing in this world is supposed to be treated as "evil," in and of itself. Of course, good things can be abused. Alcohol has use, but can be abused in drunkenness. Food is good, but can be abused in gluttony. Sexuality is good, but it can be abused if practiced outside of godly marriage. Both verses 3 and 4 refer to the importance of receiving God's creations with a thankful spirit. Christians are to pray and give thanks for food, not reject it based on a false understanding of God's truth.
Elsewhere Paul wrote about food sacrificed to idols, saying, "Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that 'an idol has no real existence,' and that 'there is no God but one'" (1 Corinthians 8:4), though he showed concern for those for whom this could be a stumbling block (1 Corinthians 8:7-13; Romans 14). Mark 7:19 also reveals that Jesus "declared all foods clean." We are to give thanks for our meals and for our marriages (1 Timothy 4:3), knowing that both are "good" (Genesis 1and have been blessed by God.
v. 5: Here, Paul repeats the main theme of the last two verses. Nothing God created is evil, in and of itself. Various false teachers, particularly those adhering to Gnosticism, were teaching that physical matter was sinful. As a result, these people discouraged both marriage and the eating of certain foods. Paul's response appeals to God's role as the Creator (1 Timothy 4:3-4). In fact, everything God created has some good purpose. Nothing given to us by God is meant to be rejected out-of-hand. Rather, we should be thankful for the opportunity to use His creation in a positive way.
Here, Paul extends this teaching even further. The physical creations of this world all have some positive use, but even more so, those things used in a thankful, prayerful, biblical way become "holy"! The food we eat, the materials we build with, the blessing of sexuality within a marriage-everything God gave us in this world can be more than just "good." It can be holy and used for His glory, when used as He intended.
v. 6: Prior verses began Paul's refutation of the false teachers Timothy was facing. Verses 1 through 5 specifically called out those who condemned marriage and eating certain foods.
Here, Paul focuses more on Timothy's pastoral approach to these heretics. A church leader's primary strategy for combatting false teaching is to keep sound doctrine in the eyes and ears of his congregation (Titus 2:1). And, Timothy was to teach what he was given in this letter to others (2 Timothy 2:2). Paul uses a Greek term here, adelphois, which literally means "of the same womb." This is often translated as "brothers" in English, but it is meant to refer to all members of the Christian family.
Those who seek to promote the truth, and combat error (Titus 1:9), are pursuing the primary goal of a follower of Jesus. The same Greek phrase is used by Jesus in Luke 19:17 when He taught, "Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities." The word "servant" here is from doulos, meaning "slave or bondservant," rather than a volunteer. The purpose of this term is its emphasis on a serious commitment and obligation to serving Christ.
Paul also identifies an aspect of a "good servant" as one who is knowledgeable and experienced in the truths of the Christian faith. In order for a person to know the truth, teach the truth, and defend the truth, they have to have experience with the truth. This means a knowledge of the Scriptures, and an understanding of how they are meant to be lived out. This living out of what we study is a core part of what it means to "follow" the teachings of Christ.
v. 7: Verse 6 commanded Timothy to prepare himself, and his church, to defend the truth against false teachings. But here in v. 7, Paul continues to offer practical advice on how to do this most effectively. Paul has previously referred to "myths," as in 1 Timothy 1:4. These superstitions also include the Gnostic heresies mentioned in verses 1 through 5. There, Paul discussed those who condemned certain foods and marriage. These falsehoods are "irreverent," from the Greek term bebēlous, literally meaning "unholy or profane."
Not only are these errors spiritually false, they are ignorant. Paul calls them graōdeis, which literally means "old woman-ish." In the culture of that day, superstition and gossip were rampant. Today, we refer to a superstitious myth as an "old wives' tale," and this is a similar sense of what Paul is saying here. The claims about God which Timothy needs to avoid are "silly:" unreliable hearsay which does not honor God.
Timothy was told to instead to focus his efforts on personal godliness. The phrasing used here specifically refers to teaching and instruction. This training was not simply for knowledge, but rather for godly living. This resembles the words of James 1:22, which commands, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." Learning is always meant to lead to action.
v. 8: In the prior verse, Paul instructed Timothy to ignore silly myths and instead focus on training himself for godliness. Both of these specifically involve proper teaching, and learning, leading to action. Here, Paul compares physical training for an athlete with spiritual training for godliness. He states that physical conditioning is of some importance, but is less important than a godly life.
The reason godliness is more important than physical fitness is due to its eternal value. Physical fitness is a good thing. At the very least, it means taking care of the body God gave us. But physical fitness only benefits us while we have this physical body. On the other hand, spiritual growth impacts eternity. Paul often speaks of the "next life" as the true focus of the believer. Colossians 3:2 reminds us to "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth."
Many believe the words, "Don't be so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good," are in the Bible. They are not, though it is true that we cannot ignore the earthly realities around us. However, a person with a godly perspective on the good things God has given us (1 Timothy 4:4) can be completely "heavenly minded" and still of much "earthly good." Paul sees the promise of heaven as a reason to live a godly, effective life today.
v. 9: The prior verse encouraged Timothy, and other Christians, to pursue spiritual "training." This process of learning, teaching, and living out the word of God is critical for the health and growth of the church. To emphasize this importance, Paul has just indicated that this spiritual "exercise" is more useful than the exercise an athlete gives to their physical body. Bodily fitness is temporary, but spiritual fitness lasts for eternity.
So, here the statement Paul is encouraging Timothy to fully accept is the prior verse. Believers are to strive for godliness, because it has impact both in this life and the next. The phrase "the saying is trustworthy," is unique to the Pastoral Epistles in the New Testament, used five times by Paul. He also uses the phrase in 1 Timothy 1:15 and 1 Timothy 3:1, as well as 2 Timothy 2:11 and Titus 3:8. Each time, the phrase emphasizes a particular point or quote Paul wants Timothy or Titus to remember.
The second part of this phrase, "deserving of full acceptance," is repeated elsewhere only in 1 Timothy 1:15, where Paul emphasized that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I [Paul] am the foremost." Just as Timothy was to fully accept the fact that Paul was a sinner saved by God's grace, he was also to accept that godliness or spiritual training was important now and for eternity.
v. 10: Paul continues the instruction he began in verse 6. The end goal being fought for is godliness, or godly living, as described in verses 7 through 9. Paul and Timothy both focused their lives on spiritual growth that led to godly living. Rather than accepting false teachings (1 Timothy 4:1), or silly myths (1 Timothy 4:7), a church leader is meant to focus on knowing and defending the truth (1 Timothy 4:8-9).
"Living God" was a name often associated with God the Father in the Old Testament. For example, Psalm 42:2 says, "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?" Yet this verse also calls this "living God" the "Savior of all people." Paul acknowledged Jesus and the Father as one (John 10:30).
The phrase "Savior of all people" is unique in the Bible to this verse. It clearly does not mean every person is saved in the sense that every person goes to heaven. Scripture often presents the need for people to be "saved" in order to have eternal life, rather than eternal destruction (John 3:16-18; 2 Thessalonians 1:9). The more reasonable interpretation is that Paul means to highlight the unity between Jew and Gentile (1 Timothy 2:1). Paul was encouraged by the fact that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords (Philippians 2:9-11), the same ruler over all people and for all time. "Especially of those who believe" simply places an emphasis on Jesus as Savior to believers, though He is also the one, true God.
v. 11: This short verse includes only four words in the Greek text and five in English: "Command and teach these things." Timothy was given two imperatives. The Greek word parangelle means to "declare, command, or charge." Timothy is to explicitly instruct people according to these truths. In addition, he is to teach. This follows the instructions Paul has given in the prior verses.
This two-fold command to preach and teach was common in the New Testament (Ephesians 4:12). In 1 Timothy 5:7, Paul will also tell Timothy to "Command these things as well," there referring to instructions regarding the church's treatment of widows. The items Paul has in mind are all the points made in verses 1 through 10. In particular, Paul is referring to the immediate context of verses 6-10. There, he dealt with avoiding myths and pursuing godly living. These words also hold special importance. The next verse will command Timothy to be an example through his life of these commands and teachings.
v. 12: This important verse has often been quoted to youth ministries and young leaders. Though Timothy was likely in his early 30s when this letter was written, the words apply to any church leader, regardless of age. Timothy was not to let anyone look down on him because of his age. For all of human history, there has been a tendency for older generations to dismiss younger teachers, simply because they are young. In order to counter this, the influence of a young leader should come through his example. In this particular context, the "example" is that given to other Christians, not for unbelievers. Though both are important (Matthew 5:17), Paul is focusing on leadership within the church in this verse.
Paul gives five specific areas in which Timothy is to serve as an example. First is his words. Second his actions, which should reflect an example of godliness. Third, his love was to be an example (1 Timothy 1:5, 14; 2:15). Fourth, Timothy was to be an example in faith. This is similar to 1 Timothy 1:5 where Paul said, "The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." Fifth, Timothy's example was to include his "purity," both physically in his behavior around young women (1 Timothy 5:2) and in his spirituality (1 Timothy 5:22).
v. 13: Paul's reference to a later visit suggests he planned to return to Ephesus from Macedonia. Based on what we read in his later letters, Titus and 2 Timothy, it appears unlikely Paul returned to Ephesus. Historically, we are not sure whether or not Paul was able to make his planned trip to Spain (Romans 15:24-28), or to Colossae at Philemon's home (Philemon 1:22). However, he seems to have successfully arrived at Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3), Macedonia (1 Timothy 1:3), and Nicopolis (Titus 3:12), where he planned to spend the winter. We then find him imprisoned in Rome (2 Timothy) where he expected soon to die.
Paul told Timothy to "devote" himself to three areas. First, Timothy is to be committed to the public reading of Scripture, which at that time specifically meant the Old Testament. Second, he is to be faithful to exhortation, meaning preaching. Third, he is to teach others. All three aspects are important in the life of a preacher or pastor. He must be able to publically read Scripture well-an often forgotten practice in many modern churches-as well as proclaim it, and instruct others accurately.