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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL TO TIMOTHY - Chapter 4 - Verse 1

 

1st Timothy Chapter 4.

 

ANALYSIS OF THE CHAPTER.

THERE is, in many respects, a strong resemblance between the first part of this chapter and 2 Th 2. Comp. Notes on that chapter. The leading object of this chapter is to state to Timothy certain things of which he was constantly to remind the church; and, having done this, the apostle gives him some directions about his personal deportment. The chapter may be conveniently divided into three parts:—

I. Timothy was to put the church constantly in remembrance of the great apostasy which was to occur, and to guard them against the doctrines which would be inculcated under that apostasy, 1 Ti 4:1-6.

(a) There was to be, in the latter days, a great departing from the faith, 1 Ti 4:1.

(b) Some of the characteristics of that apostasy were these: there would be a giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils, 1 Ti 4:1. Those who taught would hypocritically speak what they knew to be falsehood, having their own consciences seared,

@1 Ti 4:2.

They would forbid to marry, and forbid the use of certain articles of food which God had appointed for man, 1 Ti 4:3-5.

II. Timothy was to warn the churches against trifling and superstitious views, such as the apostle calls "old wives' fables," 1 Ti 4:7-11.

(a) He was not to allow himself to be influenced by such fables, but at once to reject them, 1 Ti 4:7.

(b) The bodily exercise which the friends of such "fables" recommended was of no advantage to the soul, and no stress ought to be laid on it, as if it were important, 1 Ti 4:8.

(c) That which was truly profitable, and which ought to be regarded as important, was godliness; for that had promise of the present life, and of the life to come, 1 Ti 4:8.

(d) Timothy must expect, in giving these instructions, to endure labour and to suffer reproach; nevertheless, he was faithfully to inculcate these important truths, 1 Ti 4:10,11.

III. Various admonitions respecting his personal deportment, 1 Ti 4:12-16.

(a) He was so to live that no one would despise him or his ministry because he was young, 1 Ti 4:12.

(b) He was to give a constant attention to his duties until the apostle should himself return to him, 1 Ti 4:13.

(c) He was carefully to cultivate the gift which had been conferred by his education, and by his ordination to the work of the ministry, 1 Ti 4:14.

(d) He was to meditate on these things, and to give himself wholly to the work, so that his profiting might appear to all, 1 Ti 4:15.

(e) He was to take good heed to himself, and to the manner and matter of his teaching, that he might save himself and those who heard him, 1 Ti 4:16.

Verse 1. Now the Spirit. Evidently the Holy Spirit; the Spirit of inspiration. It is not quite certain, from this passage, whether the apostle means to say that this was a revelation then made to him, or whether it was a well-understood thing as taught by the Holy Spirit. He himself elsewhere refers to this same prophecy, and John also more than once mentions it. Comp. 2 Th 2; 1 Jo 2:18; Re 20. From 2 Th 2:6, it would seem that this was a truth which had before been communicated to the apostle Paul, and that he had dwelt on it when he preached the gospel in Thessalonica. There is no probability, however, in the supposition that so important a subject was communicated directly by the Holy Ghost to other of the apostles.

Speaketh expressly. In express words, rhtwv. It was not by mere hints, and symbols, and shadowy images of the future. it was in an open and plain manner—in so many words. The object of this statement seems to be to call the attention to Timothy to it in an emphatic manner, and to show the importance of attending to it.

That in the latter times. Under the last dispensation, during which the affairs of the world would close.

See Barnes "Heb 1:2"

It does not mean that this would occur just before the end of the world, but that it would take place during that last dispensation, and that the end of the world would not happen until this should take place. See Barnes "2 Th 2:3"

 

Some shall depart from the faith. The Greek word here— aposthsontai, apostesnotai— is that from which we have derived the word apostate, and would be properly so rendered here. The meaning is, that they would apostatize from the belief of the truths of the gospel. It does not mean that, as individual, they would have been true Christians; but that there would be a departure from the great doctrines which constitute the Christian faith. The ways in which they would do this are immediately specified, showing what the apostle meant here by departing from the faith. They would give heed to seducing spirits, to the doctrines of devils, etc. The use of the word "some", here tinev, does not imply that the number would be small. The meaning is, that certain persons would thus depart, or that there would be an apostasy of the kind here mentioned, in the last days.

From the parallel passage in 2 Th 2:3, it would seem that this was to be an extensive apostasy.

Giving heed to seducing spirits. Rather than to the Spirit of God. It would be a part of their system to yield to those spirits that led astray. The spirits here referred to are any that cause to err, and the most obvious and natural construction is to refer it to the agency of fallen spirits. Though it may apply to false teachers, yet, if so, it is rather to them as under the influence of evil spirits. This may be applied, so far as the phraseology is concerned, to any false teaching; but it is evident that the apostle had a specific apostasy in view—some great system that would greatly corrupt the Christian faith; and the words here should be interpreted with reference to that. It is true that men in all ages are prone to give heed to seducing spirits; but the thing referred to here is some grand apostasy, in which the characteristics would be manifested, and the doctrines held, which the apostle proceeds immediately to specify. Comp. 1 Jo 4:1.

And doctrines of devils. Gr., "Teachings of demons"—didaskaliaiv daimoniwn. This may either mean teachings respecting demons, or teachings by demons. This particular sense must be determined by the connection. Ambiguity of this kind in the construction of words, where one is in the genitive case, is not uncommon. Comp. Joh 15:9,10; 21:16.

Instances of the construction where the genitive denotes the object, and should, be translated concerning, occur in Mt 9:35, "The gospel of the kingdom," i.e., concerning the kingdom; Mt 10:1, "Power of unclean spirits," i.e., over or concerning unclean spirits. So, also, Ac 4:9; Ro 16:25; 2 Co 1:5; Eph 3:1; Re 2:13.

Instances of construction where the genitive denotes the agent, occur in the following places: Lu 1:69, "A horn of salvation," i.e., a horn which produces or causes salvation. Joh 6:28; Ro 3:22; 2 Co 4:10; Eph 4:18; Col 2:11.

Whether the phrase here means that, in the apostasy, they would give heed to doctrines respecting demons, or to doctrines which demons taught, cannot, it seems to me, be determined with certainty. If the previous phrase, however, means that they would embrace doctrines taught by evil spirits, it can hardly be supposed that the apostle would immediately repeat the same idea in another form; and then the sense would be, that one characteristic of the time referred to would be the prevalent teaching respecting demons. They would "give heed to," or embrace, some peculiar views respecting demons. The word here rendered devils is daimoniademons. This word, among the Greeks, denoted the following things:

(1.) A god or goddess, spoken of the heathen gods. Comp. in New Testament, Ac 17:18

(2.) A divine being, where no particular one was specified, the agent or author of good or evil fortune; of death, fate, etc. In this sense it is often used in Homer.

(3.) The souls of men of the golden age, which dwelt unobserved upon the earth to regard the actions of men, and to defend them—tutelary divinities, or geniuses—like that which Socrates regarded as his constant attendant. Xen. Mem. 4. 8. 1.6; Apol. Soc. 4. See Passow\.

(4.) To this may be added the common use in the New Testament, where the word denotes a demon in the Jewish sense—a bad spirit, subject to Satan, and under his control; one of the host of fallen angels— commonly, but not very properly, rendered devil, or devils. These spirits were supposed to wander in desolate places, Mt 12:43. Comp. Isa 13:21; 34:14; or they dwell in the air, Eph 2:2. They were regarded as hostile to mankind, Joh 8:44; as able to utter heathen oracles, Ac 16:17; as lurking in the idols of the heathen, 1 Co 10:20; Re 9:20. They are spoken of as the authors of evil, Jas 2:19. Comp. Eph 6:12; and as having the power of taking possession of a person, of producing diseases, or of causing mania, as in the case of the demoniacs, Luke 4:33; 8:27; Mt 17:18; Mr 7:29,30; and often elsewhere. The doctrine, therefore, which the apostle predicted would prevail, might, so far as the word used is concerned, be either of the following:

(1.) Accordance with the prevalent notions of the heathen respecting false gods; or a falling into idolatry similar to that taught in the Grecian mythology. It can hardly be supposed, however, that he designed to say that the common notions of the heathen would prevail in the Christian church, or that the worship of the heathen gods as such would be set up there.

(2.) An accordance with the Jewish views respecting demoniacal possessions, and the power of exorcising them, If this view should extensively prevail in the Christian church, it would be in accordance with the language of the prediction.

(3.) Accordance with the prevalent heathen notions respecting the departed spirits of the good and the great, who were exalted to the rank of demi-gods; and who, though invisible, were supposed still to exert all important influence in favour of mankind. To these beings, the heathen rendered extraordinary homage. They regarded them as demi-gods. They supposed that they took a deep interest in human affairs. They invoked their aid. They set apart days in honour of them. They offered sacrifices, and performed rites and ceremonies, to propitiate their favour. They were regarded as a sort of mediators or intercessors between man and the superior divinities. If these things are found anywhere in the Christian church, they may be regarded as a fulfilment of this prediction, for they were not of a nature to be foreseen by any human sagacity. Now it so happens, that they are in fact found in the Papal communion, and in a way that corresponds fairly to the meaning of the phrase, as it would have been understood in the time of the apostle. There is, first, the worship of the Virgin and of the saints, or the extraordinary honours rendered to them—corresponding almost entirely with the reverence paid by the heathen to the spirits of heroes, or to demi-gods. The saints are supposed to have extraordinary power with God, and their aid is implored as intercessors. The Virgin Mary is invoked as "the mother of God," and as having power still to command her Son. The Papists do not, indeed, offer the same homage to the saints which they do to God, but they ask their aid; they offer prayer to them. The following extracts from the catechism of Dr. James Butler, approved and recommended by Dr. Kenrick, "bishop of Philadelphia," expresses the general views of Roman Catholics on this subject. "Q. How do Catholics distinguish between the honour they give to God, and the honour they give to the saints, when they pray to God and the saints? A. Of God alone they beg grace and mercy; and of the saints they only ask the assistance of their prayers. Q. Is it lawful to recommend ourselves to the saints, and ask their prayers? A. Yes; as it is lawful and a very pious practice to ask the prayers of our fellow creatures on earth, and to pray for them." In the "Prayer to be said before mass," the following language occurs, "In union with the holy church and its minister, and invoking the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and all the angels and saints; we now offer the adorable sacrifice of the mass," etc. In the "General Confession" it is said, "I confess to Almighty God, to the blessed Mary, ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy apostles Peter and Paul, and to all the saints, that I have sinned exceedingly." So, also, the Council of Trent declared, Sess. 25, Concerning the Invocation of the Saints, "that it is good and useful to supplicate them, and to fly to their prayers, power, and aid; but that they who deny that the saints are to be invoked, or who assert that they do not pray for men, or that their invocation of them is idolatry, hold an impious opinion." See also Peter Dens' Moral Theology, translated by the Rev. J. F. Berg, pp. 342—356. Secondly, in the Papal communion the doctrine of exorcism is still held—implying a belief that evil spirits or demons have power over the human frame; a doctrine which comes fairly under the meaning of the phrase here—"the doctrine respecting demons." Thus, in Dr. Butler's Catechism: "Q. What do you mean by exorcism? A. The rites and prayers instituted by the church for the casting out devils, or restraining them from hurting persons, disquieting places, or abusing any of God's creatures to our harm. Q. Has Christ given his church any such power over devils? A. Yes, he has. See Mt 10:1; Mr 3:15; Lu 9:1.

And that this power was not to die with the apostles, nor to cease after the apostolic age, we learn from the perpetual practice of the church, and the experience of all ages." The characteristic here referred to by the apostle, therefore, is one that applies precisely to the Roman Catholic communion, and cannot be applied with the same fitness to any other association calling itself Christian on earth. There can be no doubt, therefore, that the Holy Spirit designed to designate that apostate church.

{a} "in the latter times" Da 11:35; Mt 24:5-12; 2 Pe 2:1

{b} "seducing spirits" Re 16:14

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