1 Timothy 4
Warning: heretics ahead
It’s wrong to forbid marriage and certain food1 God’s Spirit clearly warns us that in the last days some believers will give up their faith and join the other side. They’ll take their cues from lying spirits. And they’ll buy into teachings inspired by demons.
2 The people doing the lying are hypocrites. They don’t have a conscience anymore. The one they used to have has been cauterized—seared senseless. 3 These liars tell people not to get married. And they’ve created a list of forbidden foods, even though God created everything on that list for us to gratefully enjoy. Those of us who are devoted to God know that this is the truth.
4 We know that everything God created is good. We shouldn’t say it isn’t. Instead, we should accept what he has given us and say, “Thank you very much.” 5 We know the food is fit to eat because God said so. We can personally confirm it when we talk to him in prayer.
Preach it, teach it, live it6 If you pass along these teachings to the church family, you’ll be doing what a good servant of Jesus the Messiah should do. Also, you’ll find yourself growing stronger in the faith as you continue to follow the true teaching you’ve been taught.
7 Ignore those myths and other ridiculous stories that have nothing to do with the truth or goodness. Instead, work on becoming more devoted to God. 8 Physical exercise is good. But spiritual exercise is better because the good it does lasts longer. It’s good for the here and now, like physical exercise. But it’s good for the hereafter, too. 9 You can count on that. So should everyone else.
10 This is the reason we work hard and keep struggling. We’ve put our trust in the God who’s very much alive. He’s the Savior of the world, especially of those who believe. 11 Teach what I’ve been telling you. Pass these things along as commands, not suggestions. 12 Don’t let people tear you down by saying you’re too young to know what you’re talking about. Show them you know what you’re talking about. Become an example for believers in what you say and do, and in how you show your love, your faith, and your devotion to God.
13 I want you to do something for me until I get there. When you worship with the believers, read the Bible to the people. Preach to them. Teach them. 14 Don’t hide that gift you have. It’s the gift you received during that prophecy, when the group of church leaders put their hands on you.
15 Concentrate on doing these things. Dive right in. I want people to see how this helps you grow spiritually. 16 Be careful about what you do and what you say when you’re teaching folks. That way, you’ll save yourself and the people who listen to you.
“Peter…slipped into a trance…The voice spoke…‘What God has cleaned is kosher. So don’t think it’s not’” (Acts 10:10, 15).
“Spiritual exercise” is sometimes translated as “godliness” (New American Standard Version), “serving God” (New Century Version), “holy living” (Common English Version).
The Bible Paul was talking about was the Jewish Bible, which Christians usually call the Old Testament. The New Testament hadn’t been written yet. And it wouldn’t be until the late AD 300s that church leaders agreed on which books and letters to include in the Christian addition to the Jewish Bible. An Easter letter from a bishop to church leaders in AD 367 contains the first known list of New Testament books as they now appear in the Bible.
The Greek word for “gift” is charisma. It can mean “free gift,” or “spiritual gift.” And it can refer to a God-given skill set for spreading the story of Jesus.
Paul condemns a heresy he describes as “warped teachings inspired by demons” (4:1). Based on what little he says about it, the teachings sound like a movie title: “A Monk and a Jew.” The people doing the talking are apparently trying to convince Christians they shouldn’t get married (A Monk) and they should eat only kosher food (A Jew). Bible experts call this mysterious teaching the Ephesian Heresy. What’s wrong with it? How do you think the rules hurt anybody?
Paul says spiritual exercise is better than physical exercise because it lasts longer than a lifetime on earth (4:8). It lasts forever. We know what physical exercise is. What do you think Paul had in mind when he talked about “spiritual exercise,” a phrase that some Bible versions translate as “godliness”?
Paul tells Timothy not to let people “tear you down by saying you’re too young to know what you’re talking about” (4:12). How do you think people might have done that to Timothy, while he tried to lead the church at Ephesus?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul described some people he called hypocrites this way: “They don’t have a conscience anymore. The one they used to have has been cauterized—seared senseless” (4:2). What do you think it takes to sear a conscience senseless?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul was dealing with a heresy that featured rules forbidding people from enjoying some of the good stuff of life: marriage and certain foods (4:3). What rules have you heard churches require their members to obey that sound like cousins to those ancient rules?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul said, “If you pass along these teachings to the church family, you’ll be doing what a good servant of Jesus the Messiah should do. Also, you’ll find yourself growing stronger in the faith” (4:6). How do we know what’s true? Even with the Bible, Christians don’t agree on how to interpret some teachings.
LIFE APPLICATION. “Don’t hide that gift you have,” Paul told Timothy. “Dive right in” (4:14-15). God gives a wide variety of gifts to people. Of the people you know, what gifts would you say they have, even if they might not recognize it as a gift?