Monday, January 04, 2010

1 Timothy 4:1-5

V1-5 – 1The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Paul is adamant about refuting false teaching, and here he does so in regards to marriage and food, acknowledging that both are good if received with thanksgiving. The false teachers were encouraging abstinence on both accounts. But Paul shows that their character is flawed along with their teaching.

Paul begins by claiming the Spirit’s clear revelation (v1). He could be writing in the ilk of Old Testament prophecy, in which the prophets commonly took their own setting and related it eschatologically; if so, it’s no surprise that Paul mentions the apostasy of some, following deceiving spirits and demons. Rather than abandoning their salvation (they never had it), we ought to see this as their abandoning of their only means of salvation, the sound doctrine of the gospel (“the faith”). He could also be writing as a recipient of direct revelation from the Spirit, which happened perhaps frequently in Paul’s holy life of fully devoted ministry. Or he could be referring to the revelation given and passed on from other inspired teachers, such as that of Agabus in Acts 21:11. Regardless, Paul goes on to detail the negatives of the false teachers.

The teachings of demons and deceiving spirits (1 Kings 22:21-23; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 John 4:1-2) come from the false teachers, “hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared” (v2). Paul is concluding that there is no hope for their repentance (Ephesians 4:19; Titus 1:15); they have been branded with Satan’s mark (Revelation 13:16,17; 14:11; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4). One commentator says, “Because these men have refused to see truth, they are now incapable of seeing truth (2 Corinthians 4:4). This is the unpardonable sin of the Gospels and the sin unto death of 1 John 5.”

In v3, Paul comes to a pair of teachings they give that are false – “they forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods.” These false teachings were common not only of Gnosticism, but also of the pre-Gnostic mixture with ascetic Judaism that was likely the false teaching Paul and other New Testament writers were refuting. On the contrary, Paul says, God created these things (marriage and food/drink) “to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth” (v4). Notice that we believe and also know the truth; and notice that even though all things are permissible in this sense, since God’s word says all things are clean, not all things are beneficial for Christian edification (1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23). We must be discerning for the sake of weaker brothers without allowing our own freedom, especially cultural traditions, to be “rejected” (Romans 14). This is not easy, perhaps the hardest implementation of the Christian faith in community with other believers, and we must do it prayerfully.

No comments: