COMMENTARY

1 Timothy 4:1-8


1 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;

[Now the Spiit speaketh expressly] The Apostle Paul is offering a warning which comes directly from the Holy Spirit and which deserves the utmost attention.

[In the latter times] This does not necessarily imply the last ages of the world, but any time future to when this was written.

[Depart from the faith] They will apostatize from the faith, i.e. Christianity; in effect renouncing the whole system by bringing in doctrines which render its essential truths null and void, or denying doctrines which are essential to Christianity as the system of salvation. A man may hold all of the truths of Christianity and yet render them of none effect by holding additional doctrines which counteract their influence; or he may apostatize by simply denying some essential doctrine.

[Giving heed to seducing spirits] 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.

[And doctrines of devils] Demons, fallen spirits and so on. Doctrines inspired by Satan, by which he promotes his own interest and provides for his own worship.

2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

Persons pretending, not only to divine inspiration, but also to extraordinary degrees of holiness, self-denial, mortification and so on, in order to accredit the lies and false doctrines which they teach. They know, or at least suspect, that their teaching is incorrect but would rather be famous than accurate.

3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

[Forbidding to marry] An example of a teaching which is promoted as a badge of deeper piety, a method of drawing attention to one's "superior commitment" and of establishing control over those of lesser faith. This sentiment was held by the Essenes, a religious sect among the Jews. The apostle Paul, who was himself single, is expressing a negative attitude toward such teaching. See also 1 Corinthians 7:1-9.

[abstain from meats] Another example of controlling behavior which results in deviation from the Word of God. The attitude,"I do not eat meat, therefore I am spiritually superior to you." is not supported by scripture. Make sure you understand God's opinion on a subject before pressing your own opinion upon others.

4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

God himself told Noah Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. (Genesis 9:3). Remember that in the Old English "meat" was a generic euphemism for "food" much the same as the brand name, "Coke", is often used today as a generic term for any carbonated beverage.

Moses, speaking for God, (Deuteronomy 13:18), issued God's commandment refining the list of acceptable meats. (Deuteronomy 14:1-21). While unknown at the time, there were good reasons for avoiding certain meats.

In New Testament times the question arose regarding meat offered to idols. See (Acts 15:29, Acts 21:25, 1 Corinthians 8:1-17, 1 Corinthians 10:25-33).
Meat which was offered by gentiles to their idols was then sold by that religious organization to the public. Such temples became the local meat markets. Paul felt that the idols were figments of the worshippers' imaginations and had no effect upon the meat so he had no problem eating it, but, if and when his eating such meat would cause discomfort or confusion in the mind of a weaker person, he had no problem foregoing that portion. This same principle is useful in many areas of Christian behavior today.

6 If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.

Show the church that even now there is danger of false teaching and apostasy. Put them on their guard against it; for to be forewarned is to be forearmed. By such action you will show that you are a good minister of Jesus Christ and that you have been nourished from your youth up in the doctrines of the faith.

7 But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.

[refuse ... fables] Measure what you hear by the Word of God and, if it does not agree with God's Word, refuse it.

[exercise ... unto godliness] Here the apostle alludes to the gymnastic exercises among the Greeks, which were intended as a preparation for their contests in the public games. They trained themselves in order to obtain a corruptable or fading crown, a chaplet of leaves, which was the reward of those who excelled in the games. Timothy was to exercise himself unto godliness, continually improving until his race on earth was finished.

8 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.

[Bodily exercise] Those gymnastic exercises, so highly esteemed among the Greeks, are but little worth; they are but of short duration; they refer only to this life and to the applause of men; but godliness has the promise of recognition in this life and in the life to come. It is profitable for all things, and for both time and eternity.

[Godliness] By godliness we are to understand the increasing "God-likeness" which the Holy Spirit effects in our life.

[Promise] The man that fears, loves and serves God has God's blessing all through life. His religion helps him avoid the sins which can render life itself a burden. The peace and love of God in the heart produce a serenity and calm which overcome earthly circumstances.


Historical information drawn from Adam Clarke's Commentary, 2nd edition published in New York by Lane and Scott, 1850. More recent editions may be purchased from Amazon.com

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