Sunday, September 4, 2016

1 Timothy 4:1-5 : “Some will depart from the faith”

Last time,  when  considering  I Timothy 3:14-16  we saw two things:
(i)    the true  nature  of   the church,  the household of God, … the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 
(ii) the  true  nature  of the  great Saviour  of  the church,…manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

This  is  indeed  the way  God sees the church, and it is wonderful  to behold. God sees us  as  His household, His family  through His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ who became a  man  for our sake, who lived and died  for the sake of His  sheep, His people. After  He had  done the work that the Father gave Him to do, He ascended to heaven  and sat down at the right hand of  His  Father in glory, from where He shall come again to judge the living and the dead.   It is  important that we should keep this picture always in mind, for as  we look at  the shocking  state of our world and the state of the church in the world   today, we need to always remember that  the  last page  has not been written. Thank God that He has given us insight  concerning  what  must happen and what will be  in future. This  is what constitutes our Christian  hope.  

This is   important to know  as we  now  come to the fourth chapter  in which Paul reminds Timothy, pastor of the church in Ephesus:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV)

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith…”. I became a Christian in June 1978. I shall never forget  how God changed my life forever  on a Thursday evening. On that same evening,  my roommate Allen,  from  room 520, Leo Marquard Hall, confessed  that he had become a Christian.  I remember reading the Bible together, and going to St James Church, Kenilworth together for the next 6 months. Then,  after the Summer holidays, returning to UCT in  the January of 1979,  Allen told me that he  no longer considered himself a Christian. And that was that! It came as a great  shock to me, and I struggled to understand that, until I saw  that this had also happened in the Bible.  Paul makes mention of this in  1 Tim.1: 19, 20 ; 2 Tim. 4: 10,14. He mentions   people who had abandoned the gospel : Hymenaeus, Alexander, Demas… .

Over the years  I have sadly seen  a number of people   from our midst  departing from the faith, some who had been very close to me at one time.  And it always starts  this way:  they   were “devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,” and  following their capture  by such  deceitful spirits, it did not take long before   they abandoned  the faith altogether. 

So what do we make of this? I am thankful that the  Scriptures speak into  this confusing  and perplexing and painful situation.   Such situations also   help us  not to  have idealistic expectations of the church as she   battles  her way through this sinful world. Jesus apostolic team included  a Judas. If you expect life in the local church to be perfect, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. And so Paul, after describing the local church as the  household of God, the church of the Living God, the pillar and  buttress  of the truth,  wants us to understand  that the  local church on earth,  however faithful  she aims to be,  will always face challenges. There will always be apostasy. 

So,  as we follow the logic of these 5 verses  we learn at least three things :

V. 1  That there is such a thing as apostasy from the gospel.
Vv. 2 & 3   That there are false teachers  and false teachings  to be resisted
Vv. 4 &5   That there is  an  antidote for false teaching

I.  THERE IS SUCH A THING AS APOSTASY FROM THE GOSPEL

The Apostle Paul is saying to us , “don't be surprised when that happens. The  Holy  Spirit has expressly said  that such things  would happen!   Where did the Holy Spirit say this? The Holy Spirit said it  through Jesus  in passages such as  Matthew 24: 3-12. Paul also warned the Ephesian church  concerning this in Acts 20:28-31,  when the church was first founded.    He also warned the Colossians  in 2:16-23. Peter and Jude  warn us also in their letters. 

But over and above that, I know what you are thinking, and it may trouble  you.  Does this mean that true believers can  lose their salvation?  No, that is not what Paul is saying here.  Paul is speaking about  a people  who make an outward profession of faith, but  who  do not  last and fall away. The parable of the sower and  the seed  helps us  to understand  this   (Matt. 13: 1-23). In that  same teaching Jesus  explains that  weeds and wheat  grow together in this  world (Matt. 13:24-30). 

The point is that if you are not deeply rooted in  the grace of our Lord Jesus  Christ, and if you do not bear fruit you will not last as a true Christian. You will not be inclined to listen to Jesus. You will be inclined to listen to teachings of demons and deceitful spirits who will lead you away from the gospel.  And so  I John 2:19 puts it into  a nutshell:  “They went out from us, but they were not  of us; for if they had been of us, they would have  continued  with us; but they went out  that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”

So, Paul is not suggesting that these have lost their salvation. The fact is that they  never had it, and  the way in which it is seen is  that they did not continue to cling to Christ, the Rock and Foundation of  our salvation,  our true and final authority. They  were listening to “deceitful spirits and teachings of demons… to the insincerity of liars ...”.

When  do you really expose yourself  for what you are?  How  do you  move from being someone that professes faith in Jesus  to  becoming an apostate?  Here is the answer. By listening to false teaching! And notice who is behind the work of that false teaching: deceitful spirits and  teachings  of demons. It is the work of  Satan himself.  I remind  you that by listening  to him, Eve was deceived. This is happening all the time, and it is appalling  to see how much this is happening  in our time.  I have often warned you, and I will do it now again. Do not  hang your hearts unconditionally  on to fallible  people, but  hang on to the infallible Jesus!

2. BE AWARE THAT  THERE WILL BE ALWAYS FALSE TEACHING AND FALSE    TEACHERS WHICH MUST BE RESISTED  (vv. 2&3)  

False teaching :  The  fact that Paul can speak of false teaching  indicates that  there is such a thing as right teaching. In a day and age when many do not believe that there is  such a thing as absolute truth,  we are saying resolutely,  No! There is absolute  truth … the truth as it is in Jesus (Eph.4:21). Do not  let post modernistic thinking, which is very hip and very modern and very chic  at this time  confuse you. There is  absolute truth. Jesus in His high priestly  prayer said to the Father: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17 ). Psalm 119:160 says : “The sum of your Word is truth…”.  Jesus  said : “I am the Way ,  and the Truth and the Life. No one come to  the Father except through me.…”  The Bible is rooted in certainty. The Bible  does not agree with  postmodern thinking.
 
False teachers : How do we discern them?  Paul gives us  an  insight here.  He points us to their character and their teaching. Words are an extension of one’s character.   So what do we learn from their words,  and what do these words point to?
Here is what they teach in v.3 : they “… forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.”

They are making demands which are in conflict with the word of God. God has pronounced marriage to be good (Gen. 2), but these people turn God’s Word on its head and they say that  if you really want to be spiritual, you will abstain from marriage.  And they do the same with food. They tell you what you may not eat, but the truth is that there is no unclean food. Whatever is received with a thankful and prayerful heart is clean (see Acts 10:15 – note, make a distinction between  legalism and  not liking the taste of something).   There was, of course  a host of  man- made ideas behind this.There was  the  influence of  Greek Gnostic teaching, which   believed that matter was evil and only the spirit was good.  They taught  that by abstaining from worldly pleasures such as food and sex these  you could escape into the higher world of the spirit. That is  not God’s view.  

It may also be   the  way that Judaism had developed with all its additional  rabbinical teachings that they had added  in addition  to Scripture. Some supposedly converted Christian Jews were arguing that the Old Testament ceremonial laws  (food laws)  were still binding. The New Testament had made it clear that all foods were now clean to Christians (Mark 7:19; Acts 10)  

These false teachers  were  putting  their own  opinions  above that of  Christ  and His Word.  Jesus said  that marriage is  good and  food is good .   When you begin to forbid what God allows, soon you will begin to allow what God forbids.  The new  sexual revolution and the LGBT  issue are an illustration of this. And false teaching will  lead  you in one of those two directions, every time. It will be  either be narrower than the word of God, or it will be broader than the word of God.    In the final analysis these false teachers set themselves up in the place of God.

3.  THE ANTIDOTE FOR FALSE TEACHING  (Vv. 4-5)

Paul shows us that we combat false teaching with the truth of Scripture.  Whatever they say is not good, we must  show them from the Scripture   what God has said.  Therefore, listen to God, and  not to these false teachers–however persuasive they may be in their speech. Go back  to the biblical foundations  in Genesis  and stay there !
In v.5   Paul  encourages  us that  we are to use  everything  rightfully, according to the word of God and  with prayer. All  that God has made  is good  and useful if consecrated by the word of God and prayer. Listen to what he says: “...for it is made holy ( sanctified) by means of the word of God and prayer.”  


Paul wants us to watch out for false members, for false teachers, and for false teaching. And he wants us to resist that teaching by  holding on  to  the truth of the word of God, and to use God's  good gifts with thanksgiving and prayer .  That is the simple lesson that Paul is teaching us today.  
Amen !