(Lesson Prepared by John Black)
Last Sunday Paul affirmed those who wanted to be leaders in their local church, particularly the men who desired to be overseers, or pastoral leaders. Paul listed the qualities required of those wishing to serve as pastors. Then he listed the qualities required of those wishing to serve as deacons. Those who serve well gain respect and approval from the believing community. They display a spiritual confidence before God and before people. This is reflected as bold service to God’s people and others.
Today Paul explains that false teachers will rise in the last days and will cause some to fall away from the faith. Paul reminds us that the things forbidden by false teachers are the things created by God for us and with a God-honoring purpose. We will see Paul challenge Timothy (and us) to be disciplined in our lives. As Christians, we are to focus on teaching the gospel and be the Christian example so others will want to have the same godly life we live.
Fruits, vegetables, and lean meats vs fried or junk foods? Which are best? Which are more tempting? Which puts us at risk? Some foods appear healthy at first glance but may be full of preservatives that have their own detrimental effects. How does our diet compare to spiritual food? A healthy diet of fresh foods provides energy, strength, and preserves physical lives in the same way that God’s pure Word energizes, strengthens, and preserves our spiritual lives. A junk food diet leads to an unhealthy lifestyle just as false teachers of the Word lead us to unhealthy spiritual living.
Let’s see how Paul stresses to Timothy the importance of living with the proper spiritual diet.
Read 1 Timothy 4:1-5 “Be Aware”
Paul did not indicate the means by which the Spirit revealed the warning, whether by Scripture or prophetic revelation. The means does not really matter as Paul believes the message was clear. “In later times” refers to the period between Jesus’ ascension and His second coming, also known as the church age. In Paul and Timothy’s time this was a period of spiritual conflict with the enemies of Christ. I think you will agree that this struggle is just as relevant for today’s believers as it was for Christians in the first-century.
How did Paul describe false teachers and false doctrine? Paul said they were deceitful spirits and demons. They were liars with their consciences seared.
Why should we take the misdirection of false teachers seriously? The desire to pervert God’s teachings stems from something much more sinister than simple confusion or doubt; it is the byproduct of those who have rejected the faith and been led astray by the demonic.
How can we distinguish false teachings from truth? Get your bible, know the bible, and believe the bible. False doctrines often apply additional, unnecessary burdens to God’s laws. If a teaching contradicts the bible, it is false. They may contradict God by compelling the rejection of God’s good gifts, beginning with the commonplace, such as certain foods, but ending with matters of eternal consequences, salvation.
How is verse 4 tied to warnings about false teachers? Paul reinforced the stipulation that God’s gifts (which included foods) were not to be rejected by His people but rather received with thanksgiving. Paul’s argument was against false teachers who demanded ill-advised dietary restrictions for improper reasons. Neither eating nor abstaining from eating in itself draws people closer to God (1 Cor. 8:8-9). Marriage was another area that Paul viewed as a God-given relationship that was to be enjoyed and honored. Because God is good, He dispenses good things from His hands. Instead of being controlled by fear of false teachers, we control things as we accept God’s gifts with thanksgiving and prayer.
So, with these verses, Paul explains that false teachers will rise before Jesus’ second coming and will cause some to fall away from the faith. He also reminds Timothy that the things forbidden by the false teachers are things created by God with God-honoring purpose.
Read 1 Timothy 4:6-10 “Be Disciplined”
Paul warned Timothy about false teachers in verses 1-5. Now he encourages Timothy to focus on growing in godliness. Doesn’t this apply to us in our world today? We must stay clear of false or speculative teachings and focus on godliness and the gospel.
What practical steps should we take to counter false teaching? In order to identify and discard false teachings we must have a methodical, regular study of God’s Word. It seems that there are always new foolish ideas proclaimed as spiritual truths, so we should know enough true Gospel to avoid them.
What is Paul telling us by comparing spiritual growth to body building? We know Paul uses sports analogies many times in his writings. Perhaps he is thinking of the “no pain”, “no gain” of athletes to living out the gospel with long-term goals for spiritual health. To recognize and avoid the new foolish false teachings we must have a regular regimen of God’s Word just as athletes have regular regimens of exercise.
Here, Paul called on Timothy to be disciplined in his life and challenged other believers to do the same. Instead of turning to speculative teachings, believers are to focus on godliness and the gospel.
Read 1 Timothy 4:11-13 “Be an Example”
Can the Word of God convince and thrive without godly examples? No. Without a godly example and left to our own choices, we would probably choose the ways of a sinful world. The Word of God thrives because someone presented us with a godly example and we were convinced to follow that particular life style. We are, in turn, to be that godly example for those who follow us.
What did Paul instruct Timothy to do? He was to focus on teaching the gospel and as others saw the godly life he lived, they would want to hear and learn more. Some say Timothy was in his thirties about this time. The advantages of youth might be fresh, strong voices while the more mature resonate with life experience, but all may share in the gospel. Just as Timothy was set apart, God has anointed each of us for purposes He expects us to fulfill.
Paul is guiding Timothy to make spiritual progress, so how should we measure our spiritual progress today? Be self-aware. Your spiritual progress affects more than just you; it has a ripple effect that spreads to everyone in your direct sphere of influence as well as to unknown people and touchpoints. Pay attention to feedback from others. When others ask for your counsel or thank you for encouraging words, they have observed your life and been impacted by it.
Summary: Believers must be nourished on God’s Word so we will know the truth.
· We must be aware that false teachers will try to lead us astray.
· We must be disciplined in our lives, seeking to honor God though living out the gospel.
· We must remain focused on God’s Word to be an example of godly living.