1 TIMOTHY - CHAPTER 4
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2000 James Melough
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall
depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;”
By the explicit revelation
of the Holy Spirit Paul knew that eventually apostasy would come, some would abandon
their professed faith, and since latter as used here can apply to both a
shorter and a longer time, the reference certainly includes, but isn’t limited to,
the end of the age. The departure was
already beginning even while Paul wrote. (Explicit
reference to the apostasy of the Tribulation era is given in 2 Th 2:1-12).
It has to be realized that only an unbeliever can apostatize, i.e., renounce
the faith he once professed, the renunciation itself proving that the original
profession was false.
The cause of the apostasy is
explicitly stated: the false professors will reject the teaching of Scripture, and
accept the teaching of evil spirits and demons.
The reference to evil spirits and demons makes it clear that the two
terms are not synonymous, some scholars believing that demons are the disembodied
spirits of creatures which inhabited the preAdamic earth, hence their intense desire
for embodiment, e.g., their entering into the swine after the Lord had expelled them
from the two afflicted men, Mt 8:28-32. Evil
spirits, on the other hand, do not appear to indwell men, or even to desire
embodiment, but rather to work, as does the Holy Spirit, by influencing their minds
so as to reject truth and believe lies.
“Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot
The word “hypocrisy”
reveals that the men who will attempt to promote wrong doctrine by teaching lies,
will be those professing to be believers, but who are in reality unbelievers.
Their being still amongst God’s people points up the need of care relative
to the doctrine of those seeking fellowship in the local church, and the need of
equal care in teaching sound doctrine, for the well taught believer is less likely to
be led astray by false teaching.
The seared conscience
indicates a deliberate, repeated rejection of the striving of the Holy Spirit, for it
must be realized that He strives, not only with unbelievers, to lead them to trust in
the Lord Jesus Christ, but also with believers to keep them from sin.
There is nothing more dangerous for sinner or saint than to ignore His
striving, for in the case of the sinner it will result in the loss of his soul, and
in the case of the saint, in the ruin of his testimony, and loss of reward at the
Bema. The warning, “He, that being
often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without
remedy,” Pr 29:1, is to saint and sinner alike, though it is emphasized that the
destruction of the saint relates to ruin of his testimony, and sometimes, as in the
Corinthian assembly for example, to loss of his physical life, thus depriving him of
opportunity to earn a greater eternal reward. It
is imperative for all of us to keep a tender conscience which will respond obediently
to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Continued
disobedience, even in small things, gradually hardens the conscience so that it
becomes calloused or seared and incapable of response.
Two alternative translations
of this phrase “...branded with the devil’s sign” and “... as the devil’s
slaves,” combine to present the truth that such men are the servants of the father
of lies, Satan.
“Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath
created to be received with thanksgiving of (by) them which believe and know the
Under the guise of
extraordinary holiness these false teachers would make unholy the very institution
which God had ordained for man’s good, He Himself, in the OT, saying relative to
marriage, “It is not good that the man should be alone: I will make him an help
meet (counterpart, complement, that which makes complete) for him,” Ge 2:18; and in
the NT, adding the further comment that, “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed
undefiled,” Heb 13:4. It is to be
further noted that the Lord Himself endorsed marriage by gracing a wedding with His
presence, and there, by His first miracle, turning water into wine, Jn 2:1-11.
The Bible, in fact, abounds with God’s endorsement of marriage, and for a
very good reason: the godly wife represents the expression of the believer’s new
life; and the ungodly, the expression of what the unbeliever mistakes for spiritual
life: religion, morality, good deeds, etc. God’s
statement, “It is not good that the man should be alone” transcends the physical,
for it is the symbolic announcement of the fact that it is not good that the man
should be without what the godly wife represents, i.e., spiritual life.
It is significant that a
characteristic of Roman Catholicism and most heathen religions is that their priests
are forbidden to marry, an edict clearly intended to invest those same priests with
an imaginary holiness, and which by its very nature impugns the sanctity of marriage
and the wisdom of God. It isn’t
strange therefore that the evil system which is designed to give the impression of
superior holiness on the part of its priests, is itself the fertile breeding ground
of sexual perversion, which in both the Old and New Testaments is a capital offence.
Food is another area which
has been made subject to the control of these same evil systems, the deluded members
who obey the imposed proscriptions being declared virtuous, and all others offenders.
For men to curtail the Christian’s liberty as set forth clearly in Romans 14
relative to food, is to make themselves guilty of the sin of the Pharisees, which
brought the Lord’s scathing denunciation recorded in Matthew 23.
It is to be noted
incidentally that while meat usually refers simply to food, here meats appears to
refer to the flesh of animals.
“For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be
received with thanksgiving;”
“Creature” here refers
to an “original formation: building, creation, creature, ordinance,” Strong’s
Concordance, and thus includes not just the animals created for man’s use, and
for his food, but also the ordinance of marriage, so that it isn’t just food that
is to be received with thanksgiving, but also God’s provision to meet man’s need
through marriage in which the woman meets the need of the man, and the man, the need
of the woman.
The stipulation “...if it
be received with thanksgiving” implies that what meets a bodily need, but which
believers can’t be thankful for in the light of Scripture, is not good. Examples of such things would be food eaten to the point of
gluttony; wine consumed to the point of drunkenness; sex gratified outside of
marriage. Obviously it would be wrong to
give thanks for these things.
The false teachers, by
forbidding what God has appointed for man’s blessing, are thereby depriving Him of
the gratitude which is His due.
“For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”
While “sanctified” means
to be set apart for God, the thought being emphasized here is that anything which He
has provided to meet man’s need is pure, provided it is used legitimately according
to His Word.
“If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a
good minister (servant) of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of
good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.”
This points up the need of
our being reminded frequently of what pertains to our faith and the sound doctrine
which is an inseparable part of it, and of being exhorted to follow it.
Timothy’s having attained
refers to his response to the doctrine which he himself had been taught (with which
he had been fed), which he had studied, followed, and taught.
“But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather
“Refuse” is variously
translated as: leave them alone; reject them; shun; have nothing to do with; steer
clear of, the basic thought being not to become involved in even taking notice of
them or discussing them.
“Profane” is also
translated as: worldly; unholy; godless silly myths; irreverent legends; impure
fictions discussed by senile godless women. In
other words they were to be treated disdainfully as being unworthy even of notice.
The positive side of the
command was for Timothy to continue exercising himself unto godliness, i.e., he was
to continue nurturing his spiritual life by feeding on the written Word, i.e., by
reading, meditation, and prayer. The
profane and silly fables appear to be related also to the activity of seducing
spirits and demons mentioned in verse 1.
“For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all
things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”
Comparison of physical and
spiritual exercise reveals the superiority of the latter, for while the physical
yields some good to the body for a limited time, that which is spiritual yields much
greater benefits, not only here on earth, but what is
more important, in eternity also.
Godliness, as noted already,
is what is characteristic of God in thought, word, and deed, and is profitable
physically as well as spiritually, for it preserves from those excesses which
harm the body. The association with physical exercise is to remind us that
godliness also has to be developed. It
doesn’t just happen. It requires the
discipline of reading, meditation, and prayer, and of living a Christ-like life,
“Promise” as used here
is an announcement, a divine assurance of good, that assurance being that godliness
will bring blessing in this life as well as eternal blessing in heaven.
“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation.”
What is said about godliness
in the previous verse is what is worthy of being accepted or believed by all, just as
in 1:15 where the phrase is used relative to the Lord Jesus Christ, “This is a
faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world
to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”
“For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the
living God, who is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe.”
The “therefore” refers
to the promotion of godliness, a work to which Paul had dedicated his life, and for
which he was willing to labor to the point of exhaustion, and suffer reproach, i.e.,
endure being defamed, railed at, scolded, taunted, reviled, upbraided.
His willingness to do this great work was because he trusted implicitly in the
word of the living God.
Labor is also understood by
some to refer to the strenuous effort of the athlete to win the prize, that prize for
the believer being the reward that will be given at the Bema.
God is the Savior of all men
in the sense that He preserves their lives here on earth by providing for their
physical needs, a provision all are only too willing to accept.
He has in addition provided also for the salvation of all men through the
death and resurrection of His Son, but that is a provision spurned by the majority of
men, so that He is the Savior of the souls of only a relative few: those who believe
His Word and accept His priceless gift of eternal life through faith in the Lord
Jesus Christ. And what provision He has
made for believers! It baffles human comprehension, as it is written, “Eye hath not
seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God
hath prepared for them that love Him,” 1 Co 2:9.
“These things command and teach.”
The cultivation of godliness
is not simply an option. “Command”
is literally translated as “give these orders.”
It is God’s command, and like all His commands, is to be obeyed, obedience
bringing present blessing and eternal reward; disobedience bringing chastisement and
eternal loss, not of salvation, but of reward at the Bema.
Disobedience on the part of the unbeliever will bring eternal torment in the
lake of fire.
“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in
word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”
It has been suggested that
Timothy may have been in his mid thirties, so that having apparently been saved at a
young age, and having been exposed all his life to the influence of his godly
grandmother and mother, see 2 Tim 1:5, and having been faithful in his study of the
Scriptures, he was not a novice, so there was no valid reason for the believers to
make little of him. The impression to be
gathered from both of the letters to him indicate that in his knowledge of spiritual
matters he may have been considerably in advance of many of his seniors.
The command for him to be
“an example of the believers” is that he was to be an example of how believers
should live, his godly life being the rebuke of those who might have been tempted to
slight him because of his comparative youth.
“... in word,” has
reference to his speech. His
conversation was to be such as becomes those professing to walk in the footsteps of
the Lord Jesus Christ. Our speech is to
be similar to His. This rebukes the
careless flippancy of much of our own speech.
“... in conversation,”
is literally “in behavior,” reminding us that our behavior is also to be such as
men might expect to see from the Lord were He living in our midst today. It has to do with our deportment, dress, lifestyle, etc., and
again in all of these things men should see what they would see were they observing
the Lord Himself.
“... in charity,” is
literally “in love.” How different
our conduct would be if we fulfilled this command, and acted towards others, saint
and sinner alike, as we do towards those we do love!
Nor is this a command impossible to fulfill, for it is to be noted that we are
not called upon to love them as we do our parents, spouses, children, etc., but to
act towards them in all things as we do towards those we love.
Love for the Lord is to be reflected in thoughts, words, and deeds towards all
men, similar to our thoughts, words, and deeds in relation to those we love.
This conduct, however, is not to be a hypocritical outward show expressed in
kind words and deeds, while retaining unkind, unloving thoughts toward them.
It is to be sincere. What a
difference it would make in our relationships with others were our lives governed by
“... in spirit” is
missing from many manuscripts, but if retained it may imply submission to the Holy
Spirit’s control in every detail of our lives, that control being expressed in
obedience to the written Word. It is,
however, taken by some to mean “spirited” in the sense of being enthusiastic, and
it may well be that this is correct, in which case the injunction is to be
enthusiastic about the things which pertain to the kingdom of God.
Enthusiasm relative to our faith is conspicuously absent from the lives of
many of us.
“... in faith” may refer
simply to the manifestation in his own life of the truth that he had complete faith
in God no matter how much the circumstances attending his life may have seemed to
indicate cause not to have that faith. It
is one thing to walk by faith when everything is going well; quite another to
continue that walk when adversity comes.
It may be understood also as
referring to faithfulness, dependability, or trustworthiness.
“... in purity” probably
refers to purity of mind, for it is in the mind that reformation must begin,
otherwise the life is simply a hypocritical charade in God’s sight, as it is
written, “And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing
of your mind,” Ro 12:2, and “Let
this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus...” Php 2:5.
An impure motive negates the value of the deed as far as reward at the Bema is
“Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.”
While awaiting the arrival
of Paul, Timothy was to devote himself to the reading of the Scriptures, and while
the emphasis is on public reading - a very necessary activity since few in those days
possessed a copy of the Scriptures - we may not exclude the need for the same
devotion to private reading and study on his part.
Nor has time changed that order. He
who would instruct others in spiritual matters must first study the Scriptures
thoroughly, and spend much time in meditation, thus giving the Holy Spirit
opportunity to unfold the meaning; no small part of the formula for edifying ministry
being also to spend adequate time in prayer.
the thought of imploring, entreating, comforting, encouraging to action; while
doctrine is simply instruction or teaching.
The purpose of the reading,
private and public, was that Timothy would be able not only to comfort the believers,
but to teach them how to conduct themselves in obedience to the written Word, and to
encourage them to take the necessary action to put knowledge into practice.
“Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy,
with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.”
“Neglect,” meaning to be
careless or negligent of, reminds us that spiritual gift, like natural gift, will lie
dormant and unrecognized unless developed, e.g., the great artists, sculptors,
musicians, etc., would never have become what they were and are had they not spent
years in intensive, often tedious work developing their God-given talent; and so is
it with spiritual gift: it has to be developed and refined by constant effort
involving countless hours of Bible study, meditation, prayer, and practice.
“Neglect not” is the negative side, the positive being given in 2 Tim 1:6
“Stir up the gift which is in thee....”
It is necessary to recognize
also that God doesn’t give spiritual gift in the same measure to every man. For example, of those who have been given the gift of evangelism,
few are as liberally endowed as was Billy Graham, George Whitefield, the Wesleys, and
others. But God in His wisdom gives to
each man the right measure of gift for the area of service to which He
appoints him. For example, the
man who can evangelize successfully among the uneducated, would be of little use
among the educated classes, and vice versa. He
who may be a very successful evangelist on a one-to-one basis, or in small groups,
wouldn’t necessarily be suited to address large audiences.
And so is it with elders and teachers. God
gives the measure of gift appropriate to the man’s appointed sphere of service.
And in connection with the
development of spiritual gift it is necessary to remember also that as in everything
else, the old adage holds true, “practice makes perfect.”
The older evangelist, elder, teacher will almost invariably be a more skilled
workman than the younger believer who hasn’t had the same time to develop and
refine his gift.
“... the gift
(singular)” seems to confirm what we have already discussed: Scripture does not
indicate that any believer is given more than one spiritual gift, the Apostles, of
course, being the unique exceptions.
“... that is in thee.”
The normal order for the Church age appears to be that each man is given his
spiritual gift at the moment of his conversion; but in Timothy’s case it seems that
he received his gift through the laying on of Paul’s hands, see 2 Tim 1:6 “...
stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.”
And as Timothy’s gift was not to be neglected, but rather, stirred up or
developed, so is every man’s gift.
“... which was given thee
by prophecy,” doesn’t mean that the gift was bestowed through the agency of a
prophet, but rather that in a day when the gift of prophecy was still operative, it
had been revealed to one or more prophets that Timothy had been given this gift,
which according to 2 Tim 4:5, was that of evangelism.
“... and the laying on of
the hands of the presbytery (elders or oversight).”
Again, this may not be construed as meaning that he received the gift by the
laying on of the hands of the elders, but that they by this means signified their
recognition of his being possessed of the gift, that recognition resulting from his
use of it among them. It indicated also
their fellowship with him in the work to which God had called him.
(It is to be noted, incidentally, that the laying on of hands, like many other
things recorded of the early apostolic age, was Jewish, and was for that early day
only. With the ending of Jewish autonomy
in AD 70, what was uniquely Jewish, ceased).
This recognition of Timothy
as one whom God had gifted, and called to a special work, is the scriptural pattern
for the whole Church age. The system
which prevails in Christendom today of having men receive a theological education in
a seminary or Bible school, as enablement to minister, lacks one word of scriptural
support. The Divine pattern is that as
the man develops his God-given spiritual gift in the local assembly, it becomes
apparent to his fellow believers that he has a gift and is using it, and almost
invariably, as God extends his sphere of service, the elders will given him a letter
of commendation testifying to their having observed the development and use of his
gift, and commending him to the larger field of service to which God is calling him,
and in doing so are expressing their fellowship with him in that work.
“Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting
may appear to all.”
means “to take care of, think about,” and is translated as be diligent in; take
pains with; care about; cultivate; practice; make your absorbing interest; give all
your attention and energies to; make them your study.
He who would use his gift to
the full for God’s glory must give himself wholeheartedly to its cultivation and
use. It must be the passion of his life,
as it is written, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might,” Ec
“Profiting” means progress,
improvement. As Timothy obeyed
Paul’s injunction, his spiritual development and his fitness to do the work
entrusted to him, would be apparent to others, and as we too obey the command so will
it be with us. We must note also that
this is to be a lifelong exercise. There
never comes a time when we can say, There can be no further development: there is
nothing more to learn. The more one
studies the Word of God, the more he comes to realize that it is an unfathomable
ocean, an exhaustless mine, limitless in its extent: it is like its Author, infinite.
“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in
doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”
“Take heed unto thyself”
is variously translated as pay close attention to yourself; keep a critical eye on
your own life and on the teaching you give, i.e., he was to be sure that the
doctrine he himself taught was sound. This
is a much needed admonition, for it is very easy to fall into the trap of becoming
knowledgeable in the Word, and then becoming puffed up with that knowledge.
If I fail to apply sound doctrine to my own life, anything I attempt to teach
others will have a hollow ring to it. It is possible to become so involved in service
that I may neglect to nurture my own spiritual life, with the result that my service
will cease to be effective, and my worship become a mere empty form.
While in its general context
“save” relates to what occurs at the moment of conversion, and that salvation can
never be lost, it is obvious that the more direct meaning here has to do with the
protection or preservation of that salvation, not in the sense which would imply
possibility of loss, but rather the preservation of the believer’s testimony as an
effective witness to others. Adherence
to Paul’s admonition would protect Timothy’s own testimony, as well as that of
all who would also live in obedience to the words of sound doctrine.
In view of the need to stop
the attempts of evil men to introduce what was contrary to Scripture, the specific
reference here is undoubtedly to saving himself and others from falling prey to the
false teachers. This does not, however,
exclude an application to the salvation of sinners, for it is to be remembered that
Timothy’s gift appears to have been that of evangelism.
[1 Timothy 5]