1 Timothy 4:1-5
Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits…
I. APOSTASY. "But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times some shall fall away from the faith." This was to be properly an apostasy, or movement away from Christ from within the Church. Some who were professed believers were to fall away from the faith. They were unworthily to use their Christian position, Christian enlightenment and reputation, against Christ. This was to take place in "later times," not in the times before the completion of the kingdom of God, but simply in times subsequent to the time that then was, not all in one time but, as pointing to more than one anti-Christian development, in times. This was explicitly foretold, the prophecy being traced, not to the consciousness of the apostle, but to the inflatus of the Spirit. The prophecy had already been made known, but we may understand that it was still already witnessed in the consciousness of the apostle. If the mystery of godliness was operating, there was also, as announced in 2 Thessalonians, already operating the mystery of iniquity.
II. HOW THE APOSTASY WAS TO BE BROUGHT ABOUT.
1. Source. "Giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils." The apostle points to the apostasy as having its origin from beneath. There is the agency of those who are the tools of the devil. These are seducing spirits, their object being to lead away from Christ. And they are demons, hostile to souls, who give rise to soul-destroying doctrines. This is the quarter from which the apostates are to draw their inspiration and their faith. It has been remarked here how we cannot stand isolated. If we are not influenced by the Holy Spirit, we must fall under the power of one or other - for they are a plurality, and do not agree unless in their end - of the deceiving spirits. If we do not give heed to the doctrine of God our Savior - one and thoroughly consistent as well as sublime - we must give heed to one or other of the doctrines of devils, many and inconsistent.
2. Instrumentality. "Through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron." The evil spirits are to be thought of as working in and through these heretical teachers. They are hidden from our view and from the consciousness of the teachers themselves; but there seems no reason to doubt that those who pay no heed to the leadings of the Spirit of truth lay themselves open to be possessed, in an ordinary way, by one or other of the spirits of falsehood whose instruments they become. The heretical teachers are suitably described as speakers of lies. They were to give forth as truth what were lies - what did not agree with the nature of things, what did not agree with the nature of God, with the facts of human nature, that for which they were without evidence, and of which they had no clear conviction. They were to be like men wearing a mask, laying claim to superior sanctity and to show the way to sanctity, but only to conceal their own turpitude. For they were to be branded in their own conscience, branded as criminals were branded, and branded where the marks of their crimes could not be concealed from themselves.
III. TWO POINTS IN THE HERETICAL TEACHING THAT WAS TO BE THE PRECURSOR OF THE APOSTASY. "Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats." This asceticism was already appearing in Essenism. The honorable, and even exaggerated, estimate of marriage which was characteristic of the Jew, and of the Pharisee as the typical Jew, found no favor with the Essene. Marriage was to him an abomination. Those Essenes, who lived together as members of an order, and in whom the principles of the sect were carried to their logical consequences, eschewed it altogether. To secure the continuance of their brotherhood, they adopted children, whom they brought up in the doctrines and practices of the community. There were others, however, who took a different view. They accepted marriage as necessary for the preservation of the race. Yet even with them it seems to have been regarded only as an inevitable evil. They fenced it off by stringent rules, demanding a three years' probation, and enjoining various purificatory rites. The conception of marriage as quickening and educating the affections, and thus exalting and refining human life, was wholly foreign to their minds. Woman was a, mere instrument of temptation in their eyes, deceitful, faithless, selfish, jealous, misled and misleading by her passions. But their ascetic tendencies did not stop here. The Pharisee was very careful to observe the distinction of meats lawful and unlawful, as laid down by the Mosaic code, and even rendered those ordinances vexatious by minute definitions of his own. But the Essene went far beyond him. He drank no wine, he did not touch animal food. His meal consisted of a piece of bread and a single mess of vegetables. Even this simple tare was prepared for him by special officers consecrated for the purpose, that it might be free from all contamination. Nay, so stringent were the rules of the order on this point, that, when an Essene was excommunicated, he often died of starvation, being bound by oath not to take food prepared by defiled hands, and thus being reduced to eat the very grass of the field (Lightfoot). In Gnosticism, which came to its full development after the apostle's day, these points had great prominence, being grounded in the idea of matter as being the principle of evil. The same points come out ver remarkably in Roman Catholicism. The ordinance of marriage, which our Lord honored, is thus depreciated in a decree of the Council of Trent: "Whosoever shall say that the married state is to be preferred to a state of virginity or celibacy, and. that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity or celibacy than to be joined in marriage, let him be accursed." In the same line superior sanctity, or special merit, is connected with abstinence from meats. Thus the prophecy received striking fulfillment.
IV. REFUTATION OF THE SECOND POINT IN THE HERETICAL TEACHING.
1. Position to which it is opposed. "Which God created to be received with thanksgiving by them that believe and know the truth." God has created meats, and he has created them for the use of all. At the same time, it is true that the purpose of creation is only fulfilled in the case of them that believe and know the truth. They alone can appreciate the condition attached to the use of meats, viz. receiving with thanksgiving. "A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this." But those that have experience of the truth as believers are sensible of their mercies, and give God thanks for them.
(1) Broad principle. "For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it be received with thanksgiving." This is one broad principle on which practice is to be based. "And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." We must lay hold - against a false asceticism - of the essential goodness of whatever God has made for food. It may have to be refused on the ground of health, on the ground of moral discipline as expressed in 1 Corinthians 9:27, on the ground of benefit to others as expressed in 1 Corinthians 8:13. But apart from such considerations, to which only their due weight must be attached, a creature-comfort as good in itself has no unholiness to us, if the condition is fulfilled, viz. receiving with thanksgiving. It is a very important consideration, which we must not lose sight of in feeling the claims of abstinence, that by our creature-comforts God is seeking to make us glad, and to attach us to himself in thankfulness.
(2) Elucidation of the good creature of God having no unholiness to us. "For it is sanctified through the Word of God and prayer." By conversing with God through his Word we rise above our own low ideas and aims, and get into the region of his thoughts and purposes. We get at the principles which are to regulate us, and the feelings which are to animate us, in our daily life. We thereby connect God with our daily life, and are prepared for sitting down to the meals of the day. But we are to connect God more immediately with our meals by prayer. We are to ask God, from whom our table mercies come, to bless us in the use of them, and to accept our thankfulness for them. Here is a very old form of grace before meat: "Blessed be thou, O Lord, who hast fed me from my youth, who givest food to all flesh. Fill our hearts with joy and gladness, that, having always what sufficeth, we may abound unto all good works, in Christ Jesus our Lord, through whom be unto thee honor, glory, and power, for ever and ever." By such reasonable acknowledgment of God before our food is it sanctified to us. We can partake of it as a holy thing, as that which we have as a covenant privilege. Nothing is said about the first point in the heretical teaching. But it can be refuted on much the same ground. God has instituted marriage for our happiness. The end of the institution is carried out in the case of them that believe and know the truth, by their thanking God for the happiness which is thus ministered to them. The married life is made holy by being connected with the Word of God and prayer. - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;