1 Timothy 4:1-5
Life in the Local Church
False Teaching is Spiritual Warfare
Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to 1 Timothy chapter 4. If you do not own a Bible, please feel free to grab on off the back table as our gift to you. We are continuing our series through 1 and 2 Timothy this morning titled, “Life in the Local Church.”
Paul, in this letter to Timothy, just got finished building up the local church and Gods design for it, that it would be the household of God and it would be a pillar and buttress for the Truth.
The truth of the simple, clear Gospel. Jesus Christ. God became man to save sinners. This is the truth that the church is to stand on, to lift up and support, to defend and to proclaim.
And from that, Paul is coming back to one of his main points in his letter. False teachers and their false teachings. And this is purposely side by side with the end of Chapter 3. The expectation and grand, divine purpose of the church, along with the reality of imperfection. We are to recognize the importance of the local church and we are to love the local church, who is the bride of Christ, but we must not mistake love for idealizing, idolizing and assuming perfection.
Christ loves us and knows that we are not perfect. I love Hope and my kids with all my heart, and I know that they are not perfect. She loves me and heaven knows I am far from perfect. And like the local church, we are to love our church, even while recognizing imperfections.
Before we get into all that, lets go ahead and read our passage for this week, 1 Timothy chapter 4, verses 1-5. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation in your hands. 1 Timothy 4:1-5, Paul writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit, writing the inspired words of God, writes:
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.
Paul starts by stating, “The spirit expressly says.” He could make no stronger statement. There is no maybe or possibly. Paul is showing here that there will be false teachers that come up in the church. Don’t be surprised by them. Instead be on guard for them.
And Paul knows this because the spirit expressly says it. This is likely some direct revelation to Paul, possibly from Jesus himself as he was teaching Paul. Jesus himself says in Matthew 24, both that many will come in his name but lead many astray (v 5) and that many false teachers will arise and lead many astray (v 11). Again, no question, no wondering, just a simple clear promise that this will indeed happen.
We see too here an example of why doing a superficial, surface reading of the Bible can, at times, give us an inaccurate or incomplete idea of what the true meaning is. Paul says that it will be in latter times that some will depart the faith.
This idea of later time or the last days, the end times, is commonly misunderstood. We are not racing towards the end times. We are not only recently in the latter days. It is not an indicative of how close it is to Jesus return. Instead, this is the common terms for the time between Jesus first coming, his incarnation, and his second coming.
One commentary, summing up this common understanding, says it this way: This is not a period just prior to the Second Coming of Christ. Rather, in keeping with the overall New Testament perspective, it is the era inaugurated by Christs First Advent and completed at his second. (Acts 2:17, Heb 1:2, 1 Pet 1:20, 1 John 2:18)
So, from the time that Jesus arrived here on this earth, False Teachers have been here, trying to lead others astray. From the time that Jesus was ministering here on earth, there have been those who have been departing the faith. We know of course of Judas as the most famous example, but we see throughout the Gospels that many people followed Him along with the disciples for a time, and then the realities of what it takes, what it means to be a faithful servant of Christ rears its head and many would fall away, return home and practically forget that they ever were out there to begin with. OF course, we see Jesus tell the crowds in Matthew ch 7 that many would even do good works in his name and would not truly be His.
And that is one of the key things to remember as well. Departing from the faith does not mean that one was saved and then loses their salvation. Biblical context argues the opposite. 1 John 2:19 tells us that those who depart from the faith were never truly of the faith to begin with.
What Paul is talking about here is those who played the part. Those who maybe even thought that they were truly part of Gods church. Those who knew all the things to do, all the words to say, all the things that Christians do. And he is talking about those who have departed from orthodoxy. Essentially, orthodoxy is the established, historical biblical beliefs and faith about the bible and what it says. Orthodoxy is the umbrella that all acceptable Christian beliefs and teaching are held under. There can and are disagreements under this umbrella.
When we move outside of the umbrella, we get into false teaching, we creep along, and we get into heresy. When people in the latter days depart from the true biblical teachings of historical orthodox Christianity, they end up, usually unknowingly devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons.
Just in case you ever think that we can dismiss, ignore or allow false teaching to go on without confronting it, see what Paul is saying here. False teaching is Spiritual Warfare. And Spiritual Warfare is something that we need to take very seriously.
False teachers are lying liars who lie. They lie about what the Bible says. They lie about who Jesus is. They lie about the character and attributes and the very Word of God. But also, and this is what Paul is pointing out here, how they draw people in is through lying and insincerity.
What you will often hear out of their mouths is that they care about you, and they are the only ones who do. Everyone else is secretly saying stuff about you, lying about you, gossiping behind your back. Trust only me because I’m the only one who truly cares.
You will hear things like, I wont judge you or tell you your wrong. I will validate your feelings, your beliefs, your actions, no matter where they line up compared to the truth of scriptures. They will say things like they are sided on the side of compassion and love, and that makes it ok if we don’t quite have correct doctrine or the correct truth. You will often hear things like, don’t worry about what Paul says, after all, he is not Jesus. Jesus never said that.
These are lies that come from lying False Teachers. The truth is that they are only speaking insincerity. The truth is that False teachers don’t care about you. They only care about using you to increase their influence. They more followers they can get, the more influence they will have. They care about power. If it’s a pastor or a television or radio personality, the more listeners and followers a false teacher has, the more control and the more power they can exert over you. And the more power and influence they have, the more money they can fleece from people who usually don’t have extra money to send or to give. Usually, though not always, the more local a false teacher is, the more they care about power and influence as opposed to money. The bigger they get, the more well known the become, the more the money starts playing a factor.
One of the reasons we need to be super careful about who we listen to, who we read, and we let teach us, is because their teachings rarely start out as false teachings. You see time and time again that as a pastor or bible teacher gains influence and a bigger audience, the more they start wanting to hold on to that audience and that influence and so they start watering down their teachings and start compromising the truth. And so, we must be careful about who we recommend to others, and who we promote in our libraries and who we spend money on.
Now, other false teachers will err to the other extreme instead. They will implement and demand strict physical standards that go beyond what the Bible demands. They will be overly legalistic and demanding absolute loyalty to themselves as the sole correct interpreter of the bible. You will often here things like, “If you slip and do this thing that you shouldn’t do, then you have put your salvation I danger and are you really even saved?” They sow doubt so that you keep coming back to them.
They will forbid things that the Bible doesn’t forbid. This is exactly what the pharisees did in the New Testament times to show themselves as extra righteous. Paul gives two examples here. He starts with calling out those who forbid marriage and put restrictions on what foods we can have.
Of course, multiple other scriptures, including Jesus himself in Mark 7:19 show us that all foods are clean and available for us to consume and to receive with thanksgiving. And of course, marriage is a gift from God that goes all the way back to creation, instituted and given to us before the fall.
And of course, there are some who are called to singleness, Paul mentions those in, I think 1 Corinthians. And there are some who are called to abstain from certain foods. But those are exceptions. Because one person is called to singleness doesn’t mean that all are called to it. And just because one person is called to abstain from a certain food, doesn’t mean that all people should abstain from that food, or that that food is unclean or sinful. Those are exceptions that prove the rule.
And those who know and believe the truth, who are firmly and faithfully within the umbrella of historic, biblical orthodoxy know that this false teaching is absolute garbage.
Back in the biblical times, and shortly after, one of the groups of false teachers was called the Gnostics. In addition to believing in extra biblical and secret revelation, but also that everything physical and material was evil. And only everything spiritual and immaterial was good.
And yet we see biblical evidence that this is not even close to correct. God, of course, we see in Genesis 1, created everything physical, everything material and everything in creation was very good. And we see that there is so much so-called spirituality that is pure evil.
Paul writes in Galatians 1 that there are demons and angels, fallen angels to be specific that preach a different gospel than the true, simple gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul makes clear in Ephesians 4 that there are no other options, writing in verse 4-6:
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Anything else than that, any other Gospel, any teaching that counters the Gospel is literally and by definition, demonic. One commentator puts the problem with these false teachers this way, saying:
The fundamental error of these false teachers is that they were setting their own view of the Christian life over the view that God revealed in His word. They were forbidding what God allowed in His word, and therefore they were setting their opinion above the final rule of faith and practice in God’s holy word.
We don’t get to do that. God, if he is God, which we know he is, is indeed God. And as God, his Word is complete and total. We don’t get to think of ourselves as smarter, or that our views are more correct or as valid as Gods.
The problem comes in, when we start interpreting the scriptures through our experiences instead of interpreting our experiences through scripture. When we start treating our experiences as truer and more real than Gods word, we have left that umbrella of orthodoxy and we will, not may, not probably, but will and probably already have left the truth of Gods Word.
And we see Paul emphasize that everything that God created, his whole creation is good. They were also corrupted by the fall, including our sin nature, with us trying to put ourselves on par or above God himself.
This is not to say that our emotions and experiences are not good things, they are. But, like all other things, they are corrupted by the fall. They are less than Gods Word. They are less than scriptures and we need to remember to submit them to God himself.
Paul finishes this section by that if it is received with thanksgiving, then things are made holy through the Word of God and through prayer. This is specifically regarding refuting the diet issues, the restrictions on foods that the false teachers were presenting, but it made for much broader application as well.
If you receive food with prayer to God, giving him thanks for the provision, then it can be received with no issue. One application is to practice showing God gratitude by praying before every meal.
Bigger than that, lets remember to show God gratitude and thanksgiving for, first our salvation. Our salvation is a gift of God, given by his grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. Second, we thank him for grounding us in his Word. His will, his word, his revelation is given to us in the scriptures alone, through no other source. Not dreams, not God audibly speaking to us, no other way but through scriptures. I’ve read you this quote before, but I think it fits nicely here. Justin Peters, an evangelist and an exposer of false teachings and teachers, he says that, “If you want to hear God speak, read your Bible. If you want to heat him speak out load, read your Bible out load.”
So, we thank him for that. And third, we thank him that he protects us from the false teachers that are out there, spreading lies and deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons and insincerity. It is to the Glory of God that we abide in Him and His truth and His word and to do anything other risks showing us that we are not truly his to begin with.
Jesus says in John 14:23 & 24, If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.
He has given us his Word, or his commands in some translations. This very book that we hold in our hands. Through Scripture Alone. Now we pray that he gives us the grace, strength, ability, discernment and wisdom to keep his commands and we abide in him as His children.