1Timothy 4.1-8 Lying Legalists

June 13, 2010 Series: 1 Timothy

Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Timothy 4:1–4:8

1Timothy 4.1-8_demonic departures

June 13, 2010

Sam Ford


Intro:  The Test 

The book of Revelation begins with John recording Jesus’ letters to seven actual churches. In them, Jesus’ words both criticize and comfort.  The first is to the church in EPHESUS, Pastor Timothy’s church: Revelation 2.2-5 2 “ ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.  False teachers appear in all kinds places—most connected in someway to the church.  They are on the radio, TV, and the internet.  Some like the some of the characters on TBN are louder than others, while others are more subtle.  Some write books endorsed by Christian-celebrities, and others sit in their pajamas and blog and create authoritative looking websites full of half-truths or false depictions.  It is only a matter of time before our Church, your home, and your faith will encounter a false teacher.  We all must test what they teach and to never grow weary in doing so.   


Hating and Loving

Jesus letter to the church AT EPHESUS shows the danger of becoming Doctrinal Mercenaries.  In other words, there is a danger in getiing very good at fighting false teachers while failing to actually fight for Jesus.  Just as Paul taught in the first chapter, our goal is sound doctrine that accords with the gospel.  A charge to defend the truth is not merely a call to become more polished theologians and apologists; it is a charge to see Jesus as supremely better than anything else, to give Jesus central priority in our lives, and to find our ultimate joy in him.   Sadly, in this passage, Paul warns Timothy that there will be those who not only stop fighting for Jesus, but in fact fight for false saviors. READ 1TIMOTHY 4.1-8


v. 1a What will happen  Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith 


Holy Spirit says so

The Holy Spirit expressly, or clearly, speaks.   Today, there are a lot of “spirits” that seem to talk, and I have always been somewhat leery of the people claiming a “leading” of the Spirit.  I believe the Spirit leads us toward Jesus and helps us remember what Jesus taught.  It’s one thing for THE SPIRIT to lead us toward the Word of God, but it’s an entirely different thing for A SPIRIT to lead us away from Scripture.  In 2Corinthians 11.4 says that people will come and preach a different Jesus, a different spirit, and a different gospel.  John warned us not to believe every Spirit, but to TEST THEM.  


Later Departures

Paul warns that, in later times, people will depart from the faith.  Later times, or last days, is the time that began with Jesus 1st coming and ends with His 2nd Coming.  Until then, bad leaders teaching the same lies will come and go.  Back in Acts 20.28-30, by the Holy Spirit, Paul had warned the elders of Ephesus, along with Timothy, that THIS WOULD HAPPEN saying:  fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise speaking twisted things to draw away the disciples after them.  When people abandon faith, we are SAD, but NOT surprised. We must expect that church leaders, close friends, even family depart from the faith and pursue false truth.  


Depart from Faith

How will you know if someone has departed from the faith?   The technical term for someone who abandons or departs from faith is to APOSTATIZE.  It is when an individual, for whatever reason, is separated from God after once appearing to pursue Him.  I do not mean that believers who have been saved by Jesus can suddenly lose Jesus—or accurately, can be lost BY Jesus.  What it means is that, someone who once claimed to be a Christians has renounced the true Gospel—what Paul refers to as “the faith” or “sound doctrine in accordance with the gospel” as he explained in chapter 1.   1John 2.18-19  Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come.  Therefore we know that it is the last hour.  They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. (cf. v.22,23).  We must be careful.  I’m not talking about being scared for anyone who leaves a church.  That is a common cultic false teaching tactic—“you’re leaving the ONE church.”  There is a difference between leaving the church AS a WOLF and leaving the church OF a WOLF. 


V. 1b-2  Who will make this happen  by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,


Devotion to Demons

People may leave the church because of a particularly emotional experience or difficult leader, but that is not why the “depart” from the faith.  APOSTASY comes from bad theology.  A devotion to JESUS truth is replaced by a real devotion to DEMON truth.  Now, some theology is SO TERRIBLE that it is obvious to everyone.  But most false doctrines have a sprinkling of truth in them, hiding the bad theology, so as to make them incredibly dangerous.   False teaches can easily hide bad theology behind good works, behind claims of powerful signs and wonders, or just behind a really cool Sunday experience.  False truth is deceptive and blinding AND not every “Christian” author, preacher, or speaker who uses the Bible actually teaches the truth of the Bible.  Paul says that behind every false teaching is some level of demonic activity. 


Human Tools

Satan has his human tools to communicate false truth.  As the “father of lies” he produces children who are liars—really good ones.  Demon-inspired doctrines are most often spoken directly through the mouths of men and women that are likable.  Members of the flock devote themselves to LYING spirits taught by liars. Paul says the false teachers are insincere (some trans. hypocritical)—they do not actually believe what they teach.   Paul says that these lying teachers have CAUTERIZED CONSCIENCES. False teachers are men who have had their consciences “seared” like a nice piece of meat, literally cauterized with a hot iron.  When you “cauterize” something, you burn it to render it insensitive.  They no longer listen to the warnings of a God-given conscience.  I have much more grace for Sheep, than I do for Shepherds who are wolves.  One needs to be taught, and one needs to be shot.  


V. 3-5 What will they teach

Paul now gets specific about what the some of the false teachers in Ephesusare probably teaching.  3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.


Legalists and Legalisms

With as strong as he has charged Timothy to defend the truth, you’d expect him to bring up teaches about some essential truth.  He explains how these men have perverted the gospel by connecting it with self-righteous legalisms—that their acceptance by God is predicated on rules like NOT having sex or not eating RED MEAT.  Those have to be the most stupid legalism one could imagine.  There is nothing inherently wrong with “rules” or “laws”.  Some people are gifted with celibacy and others choose to be vegetarians, others hold to rules that help their faith.  But Romans 14 speaks about such differences: One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.  Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.  The problem occurs when those decisions are made to be essentials to the gospel—Jesus + program.


Walls are always well intentioned, like a parent and a child.  And though well-intentioned, I’m convinced that constantly building up fences (or tearing them all down) isn’t the best way to live like Jesus.  Others will disagree and say, “If I’m going to fall on an extreme side, I’ll fall on extremely fundamental—better safe than sorry.”  Just because you have a fence, doesn’t mean you’re safe. Consider the electric fence.  It seems like there are a lot of them that are never on.  They have signs warning that you’ll be fried with 10,000 volts, but that never seems to hinder young boys from challenging those signs.  Eventually, after their unrine rest succeeds, they climb over the fence because it’s not on.  Then they come to another fence.  This time they don’t even test it but they climb write over.  If we depend on well-intentioned but unbiblical fences to keep us close to God, when we finally encounter God’s fence, we’ll jump right over it.   


False Teachers

False teachers are notorious for connecting particular behaviors with righteousness because it is an easy way to CONTROL people.  Instead of acceptance based on the work of God, they persuade and manipulate their sheep by having them focus on their own work.  That is the very opposite of the gospel.  Though Paul wrote in Galatians that NO ONE is justified by the law, in order to prove our righteousness, people will set up “new laws”.  The only possible result of building new laws is either PRIDE or DESPAIR.  If you satisfy the law, then you become prideful and ignore the work of Jesus.  If you fail to meet the standard you have set, you despair because you’re not righteous enough—and again ignore the work of Jesus.  False teachers and false churches can created an unhealthy dependence on the church to make decisions for the individual.  Legalism draws us away from the truth of Scripture rooted in the gospel, and toward the words and approval of men.   


People believe false teachers because…LEGALISM IS EASY.  With rules, we don’t have to think. Just give me the rules, the rights, wrongs, forbidden, commanded, I’ll follow.   Without rules, we have to discern every moment and every decision.  We walk the line between Self-Righteousness (LAW) and Self-Indulgence (LAWLESSNESS), living a life like Jesus, a life of self-denial (not self-deprivation), where we study, pray, and engage with a living God NOT asking, “What can I do and not get in trouble”, rather, “What must I do, or not do, to bring the most glory to God.” 


Everything Created By God

Paul says that .everything created by God is good.  We must not confuse creation and fall, what was formed and what became deformed.  GOD CREATED a world that he called “good.” Marriage, language, work, food, drink, all good—people, very good.   BECAUSE OF SIN, the world and all that is in it (including people) is cursed.   All that God formed in Genesis 1 & 2 was deformed in Genesis 3 through the disobedience of our first parents Adam and Eve.  All creation is broken, it has fallen short of God’s standard, and it’s in rebellion.  Enslaved to sin, creation’s default mode is to reject God’s design and purpose.  BUT, BOTH PEOPLE and CREATION are redeemed from sin and death to freedom and life by the proclaiming the truth of Jesus.  Therefore, we redeem by proclaiming the gospel TO people and THROUGH creation. 


Everything Received and Made Holy

PEOPLE are redeemed and freed from their sin when they believe the gospel (lived, died, resurrected) to become worshippers of God.  CREATION is redeemed when redeemed PEOPLE free it from sin by restoring it to God’s design through it bring glory to God.   We don’t just say grace at dinner, we say grace in all that we do, when we eat, work, and play!  We approach the culture humbly and with caution knowing that we can fall into sin very easily, but with the intent to glorify God in all things.   1Corinthians 10.31 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 


V. 6 – 8   How to Respond 6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.   In the end, Paul directs the entire conversation away from rules or no rules, and towards a healthier view of godliness.  He tells Timothy what makes a good pastor.  


A good pastor teaches - A good servant, a solid pastor, puts the truth before the church, openly, boldly, without compromise, without apology, that they might be equipped with the truth.   You want your pastor to preach and not placate.


A good pastor studies -  A good pastor is trained and nourished by the Word. He doesn’t draw lines or denounce false teachings for personal reasons.  A good servant of Jesus loves Jesus Word more than he loves the words of men.  You want your pastor to love Jesus more than he loves you.


A good pastor has nothing to do with silliness - A good pastor does not waste of time or energy speculating about what is NOT taught in Scripture because there is enough THAT IS.  There are countless things that pastors put before churches, from Christian living to Cultural engagement.  Most of them distract us from plain gospel-centered truth.  You want your pastor to make what is most important, important. 


A good pastor never stops going to the gym

To guard against false teachers, stupid arguments, and meaningless rules, all Christians (esp. pastors) should devote themselves to training their souls so that they are spiritually healthy, strong, and not easily led astray.  Timothy is charged to IGNORE that which is futile, and devote himself to training, a verb which comes from the English “gymnasium.” A pastor, a Christian, never stops going to the GYM—never in shape.



No one like the discipline of training at first, but everyone enjoys the results—and eventually grow to be satisfied with the entire experience.  My guess is we’ll feel the same about training for godliness.  If you don’t go to the gym, you’ll grow weak, fat, and be willing to eat anything and do nothing.


Of the fifteen occurrence of the greek word for “godliness” and “godly”, 13 are in the pastoral letters, nine of them in 1st Timothy.  The pursuit of godliness is essential to the health and protection of the church.  Reformer John Calvin called godliness the “beginning, middle, and end of Christian living.”  Godliness is not our ability to reform our behavior.  A godly person disciplines himself, but not in his pursuit of Jesus-like behavior, but in his pursuit of Jesus himself.  Our genuine adoration and affection for Jesus changes our behavior.  So we train, like an athlete or a solider, disciplining ourselves to spend time with Jesus, to study the words of Jesus, to talk with Jesus, to know Jesus, to think about Jesus, and FIGHTING to place Jesus at the center of all we do—even when we don’t “desire to”—because we know that the health and  growth of our faith, growth of our marriage, the growth of our family, the growth of our church, that all of our JOY IN LIFE is dependent upon being fully satisfied in Him alone.