Paul had a beloved disciple whom he instructed in the ways of God in a unique manner. Timothy was a man of God who came to the Lord at a young age. Timothy was not perfect, and the sins of his youth can be seen as being addressed by Paul. However, Timothy was a servant, and Paul guided Timothy under his wing.
The book of 1 Timothy has much to say concerning the ways in which a church should operate. We see in the book of 1 Timothy instructions for elders and deacons, instructions for the church, ways to detect a false teacher within the church, the need to be a servant, and more.
We also see a somewhat strange passage found in 1Timothy 4:1-5 that seemingly misses the mark with the modern reader. But let us not believe that the Word of God is outdated and that we cannot glean something from Paul’s instruction.
Departing from the faith
At the outset, we can find a platform upon which the modern Christian can stand. We see that Paul is referring to people who live in the latter days. Paul says, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith…” (KJV, 1 Tim. 4:1) . The latter days are the days in which the Christian finds himself today. Paul tells us that people will depart from the faith during these days in which we find ourselves.
But what does it mean to depart from the faith? Paul likely had what John the apostle also had in mind when John wrote the Gospel of John. During the ministry of Jesus, Jesus had many followers. John reported in the his Gospel that many people believed in Jesus.
When John uses the word “believe” or “belief” in his Gospel, he is often speaking of a natural belief, rather than a supernatural faith. Many people “believe” in Jesus, but Jesus has said that during the judgment, He will say “I never knew you: depart from me…” (Mat. 7:23) . To depart from Christ is evidence that someone has not ever truly known Christ.
John tells us in the book of 1 John that there were some that went out of the church. John does not say that these people were true Christians who departed from the faith. Instead, John tells us that they went out from the church because they were not truly of the church.
Where does the problem arise when someone departs from the faith? Paul goes on to tell us that the people departed from the faith by, “giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:1) . Thus, the ones who departed from the faith were ones who had been led astray through false teaching.
The world is filled with lies. Lies infiltrate the church and the mind of the believer. Satan is the father of lies; therefore, it is neither imaginative nor speculative to say that false teaching is from seducing spirits and devils. Every lie that has ever been told finds its origin in the devil.
Here, we see a clear warning to the church. Simply because someone is in a church does not make him saved. However, if someone is in a church, he is in the best place that he can be. He needs to stay within a church. It is likely that if someone stays in a church and among other Christians, he will come to know the Lord.
Nevertheless, Paul tells us that in the latter days, there will be many that go to church and that will be led astray through false teaching. He tells us there will be many who have expressed a natural belief in Christ, but they will be convinced there is another way in which they ought to live.
But what was the false teaching that Paul spoke of? Paul tells us, “Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving…” (1 Tim. 4:3) . We will venture to discuss Paul’s words concerning meats rather than marriage.
Here, we see a point in Paul’s words that seem difficult for the modern reader of the Word to understand. What did Paul have in mind when he spoke of false teachers’ commanding people to abstain from meat? Furthermore, in what ways does such a verse find application in our lives?
When Paul wrote these words, there were a number of false teachers that had been infiltrating the church. These false teachers have been deemed to be some of the forerunners of the Gnostic heresy that took place in the 2nd century. The Gnostics were known for a dualism in which they taught that matter was evil and the spirit was good.
Thus, the false teachers taught the people that the body was bad, and as a result, the people should abstain from certain foods. Not only that, it is likely that the false teachers would have been teaching forms of asceticism, which teaches self-denial as a works-based system.
Paul looked upon God’s creation and called it good, as God had once done. Paul knew that God created food and meat and that the food which God had created was to be received with thanks. Thus, the Christian must look upon the food that God has provided and give thanks to the Lord.
Believing and truth
Paul goes on to highlight those “… which believe and know the truth” (1 Tim. 4:3) . Paul told us at the outset that some would depart from the faith. He then went on to tell us that the people would be led astray through false teaching. Finally, he tells us the false teaching will consist of lies concerning meat.
But here we see that the true believer is the one who knows the truth and the one who will stand firm on the day of testing. The one who believes and knows the truth will not depart from the faith. Instead, the one who believes and knows the truth will receive his food with thanksgiving and recognize that it is God Who has created food.
A classic example of such a practice of thanksgiving can be seen when Jesus fed the multitudes. When Jesus gathered the fish and the loaves, He looked toward heaven and gave thanks for the Father’s provision. So must the Christian look upon the food that God has provided and give thanks, as well.
Paul goes on to tell us, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:4-5) . The abuses of God’s blessing should not be equated with a refusal of the blessing. In other words, God’s blessing can be seen through His provision of food. To avoid gluttony is a command against idolatrous and sinful overeating habits. However, simply because gluttony is a sin does not mean that man should refuse to eat what God has provided. The Jews had many feasts and festivals, and these days were days of much celebrating and eating.
This Thanksgiving, enjoy the goodness of God in His gracious provision. Thanksgiving should be a time of worship, and even the most mundane of activities (eating and drinking) are to be done for the glory of God.
When activities become commonplace, they are deemed ordinary. When activities or events are grand, they are deemed extraordinary. The eating of food is, for many, an ordinary event. However, the Christian must sanctify his times of eating through the Word of God and prayer, thereby turning his times of eating into extraordinary times of worship, appreciation, and thanksgiving.
Father, I thank You for the many blessings that You have given me. I thank You for the gift of food, and I pray that You would help me to make my meal times moments of worship. You are worthy to be praised. You have given me much more than I deserve. You have been good to me, and I am forever grateful. In Jesus’ name, Amen.