1 TIMOTHY 4: Don’t Get Sidetracked

1 Timothy 4:1-16

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.  2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.  3 They 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.  4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,  5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.  6 If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.  7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.  8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.  9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance  10 (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.  11 Command and teach these things.  12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.  13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.  14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.  15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.  16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

The Apostle Paul seems to be stating that he and Timothy were living in the days the prophets said would come.  He is directing Timothy to be aware of the presence of false teachers and to not be sidetracked by them.  He not only points out their presence but also how they are in opposition to apostolic authority in how they teach.  These false teachers do not hold firmly to the teaching of those sent by Jesus to lead (Apostles) and so they are not properly submitting to Christ’s kingdom order.

He calls them hypocrites.

He calls them liars.

He says they have damaged consciences.

He wants Timothy to stay his course straight through them.

These people are only claiming Christ as Lord in their words, but not in their actions or their teachings.  Paul writes of their hypocrisy and ties it to their consciences.  They no longer know right from wrong.  They have formerly been convicted by the Holy Spirit, but now ignore Him and so fallen prey to their scarred consciences.  These people have deserted the faith.  They follow rules which give them a sense of morality, but only to rationalize their hypocrisy (see also see 2 Timothy 3:5).  The Apostle Paul points out examples of prohibiting marriage and abstinence from foods.  These are hot-button topics he has dealt with before (see Romans 3:20 and Galatians 2:16).

Hebrews 7:18-19 says, “The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless  19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God” (NIV1984).  I point to these verses from Hebrews because earlier in the latter Paul says they teach the law without understanding.  Regardless of what the false teachers were saying, Paul makes it clear that God’s Law does not make people godly… only one method/manner/way will do that.

Only faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, is the way to Father God.  Paul explains these false teachers are not teaching Christ alone as the means of justification and becoming righteous.  Paul says the prophets warned of this and foretold of what would come to pass.  He sees it developing and is warning Timothy about the dangers.

In verse 7, he specifically commands Timothy towards godliness and away from myths.  Paul teaches a typical lesson about not getting sidetracked… about not getting caught up in worldly teachings and agendas because they can turn one’s of focus from God’s character.  God’s character leads to heavenly eternal unspoiled things.

Verse 10 is an encouragement to guide our lives by hope in Christ.  He is the reason to struggle and never give up.  God the Savior has sent His Son and so we have a living hope with us every step of the way.

Notice how God is “our Savior” in this letter and is the title of the Father.

Notice how Christ is our “living hope.”

Just as in the opening greeting of the entire letter, we again we see order within the Godhead.  This same order is to be reflected in family life and then again in Church life which is rooted in Christ… the Living Hope.

Verses 11-16 are gems and speak for themselves.  We need to absorb and teach these things!  I want to point out that the Apostle Paul seems to be saying that authority is in the Word and not in age or rank.  Timothy is younger and yet carries authority.  Timothy is to undergird that authority he carries by being blameless in what he teaches.  Paul points out it is in living it out that makes the Gospel most useful.  Human beings are called to be in right relationships with God and with each other and not just under rules and boundaries in those areas. The rules are a safety net for those who have entered into the redemptive process provided by Christ,  For those who are rebellious, they slow corruption.

Being watchful and full of love is the order that Paul ends with for Timothy.  This is useful and good for this life and for the life to come.  May we progress each day in love and in faithfulness to God and those around us as we live out the hope given to us by Jesus Christ.  May we not get sidetracked by teachings that draw us away from God.


Some Questions to Reflect On:

How can you develop knowledge and discernment to know a right Christian teaching from a wrong devilish teaching?

How can hypocrisy in one area of your life lead to wrong thinking in a completely different area of your life?

What sidetracks you from God’s will?

What habits and disciplines teach us to be holy and godly and to stay on track (on the ‘narrow path’)?


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