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August 7, 2022
“First Epistle of Timothy: Part Ten”
1 Timothy 4:1-10 (RSV)
1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 through the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving; 5 for then it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. 6 If you put these instructions before the brethren, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the good doctrine which you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with godless and silly myths. Train yourself in godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.
O God, our heavenly Father, strengthen our wills this day. Give us clear sight, that we may
recognize the things that matter and the things that do not matter; Give us a sense of
proportion, that we may see which things are worth getting excited about, and which things
are not important; Bless us with wisdom from your holy word, that in all of life’s choices we
may be enabled to choose aright: Grant us these things, O God, in Jesus name, Amen and
The New Testament writers continued in that understanding. Being Jews, they had been brought up in it. One of the expected features of the last age was heresies and false teachers.
Matthew 24:11 (RSV)
11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.
Mark 13:22 (RSV)
22 False Christs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.
2 Thessalonians 2:3 (RSV)
3 Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition,
In these last days Paul looks for the emergence of "the man of sin, the son of perdition," who would set himself up against God...
Into the Church at Ephesus such false teachers had come. The way in which their false teaching is regarded in this passage should make us think very seriously. At that time men believed in evil spirits who haunted the air and were out to ruin men. It was from them that this false teaching came. But though it came from the demons, it came through men. It came through men whose characteristic was a smooth hypocrisy and whose consciences had been branded by Satan. It sometimes happened that a slave was branded with a mark identifying him as belonging to a certain owner. These false teachers bear upon their consciences the very brand of Satan, marking them out as his property.
Here is the threatening and the terrible thing. God is always searching for men and women who will be His instruments in the world; but the terrible fact is that the forces of evil are also looking for men and women to use as well. Here is the terrible responsibility of humanity. People may accept the service of God or the service of the devil. Whose service are they to choose?
The heretics of Ephesus were propagating a heresy with very definite consequences for life. As we have already seen, these heretics were Gnostics; and the essence of Gnosticism was that spirit is altogether good and matter altogether evil. One of the consequences was that there were men who preached that everything to do with the body was evil and that everything in the world was evil. In Ephesus this issued in two definite errors. The heretics insisted that men must, as far as possible, abstain from food, for food was material and therefore evil; food ministered to the body and the body was evil. They also insisted that a man must abstain from marriage, for the instincts of the body were evil and must be entirely suppressed.
This was an ever-recurring heresy in the Church; in every generation men arose who tried to be stricter than God. When the Apostolic Canons came to be written, it was necessary to set it down in black and white:
"If any overseer, priest or deacon, or anyone on the priestly list, abstains from marriage and flesh and wine, not on the ground of asceticism (that is, for the sake of discipline), but through abhorrence of them as evil in themselves, forgetting that all things are very good, and that God made man male and female, but blaspheming and slandering the workmanship of God, either let him amend, or be deposed and cast out of the Church. Likewise a layman also" (Apostolic Canons 51).
Irenaeus, writing towards the end of the second century, tells how certain followers of Saturninus,
"declare that marriage and generation are from Satan. Many likewise abstain from animal food, and draw away multitudes by a feigned temperance of this kind" (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1, 24, 2).
This kind of thing came to a head in the monks and hermits of the fourth century. They went away and lived in the Egyptian desert, entirely cut off from men. They spent their lives mortifying the flesh. One never ate cooked food and was famous for his "fleshlessness." Another stood all night by a jutting crag so that it was impossible for him to sleep. Another was famous because he allowed his body to become so dirty and neglected that bugs dropped from him as he walked. Another deliberately ate salt in midsummer and then abstained from drinking water. "A clean body," they said, "necessarily means an unclean soul."
The answer to these men was that by doing things like that they were insulting God, for He is the creator of the world and repeatedly His creation is said to be good.
Genesis 1:31 (RSV)
31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.
Genesis 9:3 (RSV)
3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.
Genesis 1:27-28 (RSV)
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."
***But all God's gifts have to be used in a certain way.
(i) They have to be used in the memory that they are gifts of God. There are things which come to us so unfailingly that we begin to forget that they are gifts and begin to take them as rights. We are to remember that all that we have is a gift from God and that there is not a living thing which could have life apart from Him.
(ii) They have to be used in sharing. All selfish use is forbidden. No man can monopolize God's gifts; every man must share them.
(iii) They are to be used with gratitude. Always there is to be grace before meat. The Jew always said his grace. He had a grace for different things.
*When he ate fruits he said: "Blessed art thou, King of the Universe, who createst the fruit of the tree."
*When he drank wine he said: "Blessed art thou, King of the Universe, who createst the fruit of the vine."
*When he ate vegetables he said: "Blessed art thou, King of the Universe, who createst the fruit of the earth."
*When he ate bread he said: "Blessed art thou, King of the Universe, who bringest forth bread from the ground."
The very fact that we thank God for it makes a thing sacred. Not even the demons can touch it when it has been touched by the Spirit of God.
The true Christian does not serve God by enslaving himself with rules and regulations and insulting His creation; we serve Him by gratefully accepting His good gifts and remembering that this is a world where God made all things well and by never forgetting to share God's gifts with others.
This passage is close—packed with practical advice, not only for Timothy, but for any servant of the Church who is charged with the duty of work and leadership.
(i) It tells us how to instruct others. The word used for laying these things before the brothers is most suggestive, hupotithesthai. It does not mean to issue orders but rather to advise, to suggest. It is a gentle, humble, and modest word. It means that the teacher must never dogmatically and pugnaciously lay down the law. It means that he must act rather as if he was reminding men of what they already knew or suggesting to them, not that they should learn from him, but that they should discover from their own hearts what is right. Guidance given in gentleness will always be more effective than bullying instructions laid down with force. Men may be led when they will refuse to be driven.
(ii) It tells us how to face the task of teaching. Timothy is told that he must feed his life on the words of faith. No man can give out without taking in. He who would teach must be continually learning. It is the reverse of the truth that when a man becomes a teacher he ceases to be a learner; he must daily know Jesus Christ better before he can bring him to others.
(iii) It tells us what to avoid. Timothy is to avoid profitless tales like those which old women tell to children. It is easy to get lost in side-issues and to get entangled in things which are at best embroideries. It is one of the great central truths that a person must ever feed our minds and nourish our faith.
(iv) It tells us what to seek. Timothy is told that as an athlete trains his body, so the Christian must train their soul. It is not that bodily fitness is despised. The Christian faith believes that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. But there are certain things in Paul's mind. First, in the ancient world, especially in Greece, the gymnasia were dangerous places. Every town had its gymnasium; for the Greek youth between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, gymnastics were the main part of education. But the ancient world was riddled with homosexuality and the gymnasia were notorious as hotbeds of that particular sin. Second, Paul is pleading for a sense of proportion. Physical training is good, and even essential; but its use is limited. It develops. only part of a person; and it produces only results which last for so short a time, for the body passes away. Training in godliness develops the whole person in body, mind and spirit, and its results affect not only time, but eternity as well. The Christian is not the athlete of the gymnasium, we are the athlete of God. The greatest of the Greeks well recognized this. Isocrates wrote:
"No ascetic ought to train his body as a king ought to train his soul." "Train yourself by submitting willingly to toils, so that when they come on you unwillingly you will be able to endure them."
(v) It shows us the basis of the whole matter. No one who is honest has ever claimed that the Christian life is an easy way; for it’s goal is to glorify God and our desire is to make God happy... It is because life is lived in the presence of God and ends in His still nearer presence to us and through us, that the Christian is willing to endure as we do....... The greatness of the goal makes the toil worth while.
Jesus Himself said,
Luke 14:28 (RSV)
28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?
As His children we MUST COUNT THE COST!!!
"The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self--all your wishes and precautions--to Christ.” C.S.LEWIS
Submitted by: Dr. Harold Chris Smith, sbc