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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

1 Timothy 4

 

 

Verses 1-16

The solemn warning here is in startling contrast to the preciousness of what we have considered as to God manifest in flesh. How cold is the heart of man that he will turn deliberately from a faith so vital and valuable! Not that this verse 1 speaks of a general apostasy, as will be true in the last days, for the apostle speaks only of "some" apostatizing. Yet it is a determined effort of Satan to corrupt the truth of the sacred Word of God and to obscure the glory of the manifestation of God in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us observe the unusual expression here, "The Spirit speaks expressly." He speaks certainly in all the Word: but this matter is one of specially serious import, a prophecy to be taken deeply to heart, for it indicates the subtle way in which the truth of God would be glossed over by the introduction of proud human merit, self-abnegation, etc., not an outright denial of the truth, but a cunning displacing of it. Some are greatly attracted by this kind of thing, but the Spirit of God calls it no less than apostasy, that is, an actual giving up of true Christianity. It is direct entertaining of the suggestions of seducing spirits and teachings of demons-that which is spoken of in Colossians 2:23 as "will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body."

This kind of teaching always involves "lies spoken in hypocrisy." Appearing very specious and plausible, the

hypocrisy of it snares unwary souls who have not learned that "the flesh profiteth nothing. But those who propagate such things ignore their own consciences to such a degree that they become seared as with a hot iron, and of course eventually become without proper feeling. We must not dare to treat conscience in this way, but allow it always its true, sensitive activity. Sensitive members of our body are vitally important to warn us against dangers that threaten health and even life. To be deprived of their ability to function may come without warning. If the lens of a lighthouse lamp is covered with grime, the warning light will not be seen.

Notice in verse 3 the negative character of the teachings of such deceivers. "Forbidding to marry" may sound very holy and self-denying, but it is not so. A sect may be easily formed on a basis of this kind, but it is opposed to the truth of Christ. They may justify it by insisting that Christ was unmarried, and Paul was unmarried, which two facts are true. But the Lord Jesus nevertheless confirmed and emphasized what Genesis had declared, that "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh" (Matthew 19:5). And Paul no less strongly declares the truth of the purity of the marriage bond in Scriptures such as 1 Timothy 5:14; Hebrews 13:4; and 1 Corinthians 7:28. He himself had voluntarily made himself a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven's sake (Matthew 19:12), willingly foregoing marriage that he might the more fully serve the Lord. But he would adamantly oppose any suggestion of men to make such a thing a rule: this would be utter evil.

The same may be said of making any rule of abstaining from meats. Paul himself tells us that, "If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no meat while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend" (1 Corinthians 8:13)'

Here is the very real personal exercise of one whose care for souls is such that he will gladly sacrifice his personal rights for the sake of the blessing of another. But this is far removed from making any rule as to abstaining from meats. Nor does he consider that eating or refraining from eating has any effect on the spiritual state of his own soul (1 Corinthians 8:8). These things must be kept clearly distinct. Meats themselves have been created by God to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

Under law it is true that certain meats were forbidden to Israelites (Leviticus 11:1-47); but not because the eating of those meats was in itself sinful. Rather, it was a symbolical lesson to Jews as to their maintaining a distinct separation from the Gentile nations, and impressing upon them the rigidity of the legal covenant. This is plainly indicated in Acts 10:1-48, when Peter was given a vision by God in which every type of animal was depicted in a vessel let down from heaven, and Peter was told to "Rise, slay, and eat." When he objected, God told him, "What God hath cleansed, that call thou not common." This was done three times to emphasize its importance (Acts 10:9-16). The dispensation of law was over: its regulations must not be carried into Christianity. The middle wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles had been broken down by means of the cross; and with it, of course, the regulations concerning the abstaining from meats were done away (Ephesians 2:14-15).

Verse 4. "Every creature of God is good." There is no evil whatever in the fact of eating any of the various meats therefore. The question of what may be harmful to health in specific cases, is not, of course, considered here, but the spiritual implications of eating. If one knows he cannot tolerate certain foods without suffering for it, then it is only sensible for him to avoid these. But eating or not eating makes no spiritual difference. "If it be received with thanksgiving" is an important condition noted here. If I do not thank God for my food, then whatever I eat, the spiritual implications are bad. That which sets the food apart as God's provision is the Word of God and prayer.

These things had been faithfully taught before, but to put the brethren in remembrance of them is a matter that must constantly exercise the servant of God. Timothy was not told to concern himself with teaching new things, but to unweary­ingly go over that which had been known before, to present it as the ever fresh ministry of the Spirit of God vitally needed as food for the soul. In so doing he would be a good minister of Christ Jesus, his own soul not only instructed, but nourished, and therefore fitted to nourish others. For it is surely not because of intellectual ignorance that men give heed to seducing spirits, but because their souls are not nourished satisfyingly with the pure truth of God. "Words of faith and of good doctrine" then are in contrast to "seducing spirits and doctrines of demons." And the measure to which one has attained is in proportion to the nourishment digested in his own soul.

Verse 7. Profane and old wives' fables are of one piece with what is seen in verses 2 and 3: a true connection with God is lacking in it all. People may claim these things are only supplemental to the truth of Christianity; but if it is not Christianity, then in no way does it supplement Christianity: it must be refused. "Profane" is simply secular, as distinct from what is sacred, and in fact in contrast to it. It must be kept distinct: it cannot add one iota to the truth of God. In fact, such fables may sound very flattering and confirming to the truth, but this is one of Satan's most cunning methods: if he can persuade Christians to accept such things, the door is open to any untruth, and the truth itself is soon displaced.

But besides "profane" these are called "old wives' fables," that is, they are perpetuated and disseminated by idle gossip, not by the pure energy of the Spirit of God. This type of thing is to be resolutely refused, and the positive exercise of godliness cultivated. This calls for a constant stirring up of the heart in concern for the glory of God and conformity to His own character. As physical exercise promotes the health and vigor of the body, so this spiritual exercise is necessary for the normal health of the soul.

Bodily exercise, it is conceded, does profit for a little while, that is, it is of value temporarily (therefore not to be ignored): but godliness has both present and eternal value: this life is benefited by it inestimably, and it has in it a character that reaps eternal results. How well worth cultivating!

Verses 9 to 11 emphasize the importance of these things, for these are matters of more importance than we are naturally likely to attribute to them, and Timothy is urged to keep in mind the fact that for these very things the true servant of God both labors and suffers reproach, his trust being in the Living God. Unfeigned faith is to be a consistent motivating power in all this, and this same spirit of faith is that which the servant seeks to cultivate in the hearers. The eye is to be undividedly upon the Living God, and if this is true, then the servant's labors will certainly bring reproach, but will gain the approval of God, who is Himself the Preserver of all men, specially of those who believe. All men are dependent upon His preserving care in the very details of their lives: if so how much more believers should depend on Him fully; for whatever the reproach they may bear, they will be unfailingly preserved of God.

Timothy was to command and teach these things: Divine authority was behind them: they must not in the least be compromised. He was not to allow men to despise his youth. This could only be accomplished through what follows. Young man though he was, he was to be an example of the believers, not one merely following passively the example of others. "In word" is first mentioned, for it is this that others will first observe. "By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." Words reveal that which most occupies the heart.

"In conversation" is rightly translated "in conduct," (Darby Trans.), and refers to conversing not only audibly, but in our actions. This too will claim the observation of others, who should see in it a godly example. "In love" is a precious addition to conduct, for this is the warming, attracting character that draws souls, and does require true cultivation. "In faith" is surely no less important, for the soul must learn to always look out from mere circumstances to the Living God, with unfeigned confidence in His truth and faithfulness, drawing from Him the grace to meet the many problems of the way. If this is true, how precious an example for others! "In purity" evidences a single heart that allows no admixture of principles, no adulteration of truth, but honestly keeps separate the precious from the vile. This certainly will be noticed too, not always appreciated by men, but valuable in the eyes of God, and a necessary example for others.

Verses 13 and 14 have direct reference to Timothy's service to others, while the last two verses are personal to him. His giving attendance to reading then is doubtless reading in public for the sake of others. It is evident, however, that if he was to do this effectively, he would first have to read privately. Reading would provide food for the mind: exhortation would stir the heart and conscience as regards what has been read: doctrine, or teaching, would give the accurate, clear significance of what has been read.

The danger was present too of Timothy's neglecting the use of the gift God had given him. The timidity of his nature was evidently such that he needed this exhortation. In fact, one is saddened to think that he did not sufficiently take to heart this admonition; for in the second epistle (ch. 1:6) the apostle uses a much stronger expression, "That thou rekindle the gift of God which is in thee" (Darby Trans.). If we pay close attention to the first, we shall not need the second. Yet the grace of God is still available should we have so neglected our gift that it requires the more radical energy of rekindling.

The way in which Timothy's gift was given was evidently exceptional, for we read of nothing like this of others. "By prophecy" seems to indicate that God revealed beforehand to at least one other what character of gift Timothy was to have. 2 Timothy 1:6 appears to show that this exercise of prophecy was on the part of Paul, for the gift was given, he says, "by the putting on of my hands." It is not "by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery," but "with"; so that apparently the actual gift was given by God by means of Paul's putting on of his hands, but accompanied by the same gesture of fellowship on the part of elders, simply as expressing their concord with this. It does not, of course, deny the fact that "one and the selfsame Spirit divides to every man severally as he will" (1 Corinthians 12:11), but in this exceptional case the Spirit used the apostle Paul as the medium of the communication of the gift. The general rule is Plainly the free and independent action of the Spirit of God in giving gift according to His own will.

In caring for the needs of others, Timothy must not neglect the inward prosperity of his own soul. Indeed, how can service for others be right if the laborer is not enjoying personal communion with his Lord? And meditation is the means whereby the precious truth of the Word is worked livingly into the heart, of which chewing the cud is an apt symbol. These things were to be Timothy's very life, he himself completely given to them. This surely is not asking too much, yet alas, how far short we fall of such simple, single-hearted devotion! If it were true of us, others would certainly see the value of it in our lives.

He must "take heed," be concerned and watchful as to his own spiritual state and conduct, and also as to "the doctrine," the teaching of the truth of God. This cannot be maintained in its truth and purity apart from an exercised heart and conscience. These two things were imperative in order that he might save himself and those who heard him, from the subtle snares of the enemy of souls. For it is, of course, a present, practical salvation of which the apostle speaks, a salvation from the dangers that would work spiritual harm to saints of God. Let us weigh well here both the serious question of our own preservation from the horrible pitfalls of evil on almost every side; and the influence of our own lives upon others also.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 4:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/1-timothy-4.html. 1897-1910.

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