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4:1 But the Spirit says expressly- The reference may be to the Lord Jesus, the Lord the Spirit, stating clearly that there must be false teachers and a falling away amongst the believers before He returned (Mt. 24:10,11,24). Interestingly, Paul has commissioned Timothy to try to stop that happening (1:4). This is an interesting example of how human freewill effort dovetails with God's foreknowledge and developing purpose.

That in the last times some shall fall away from the faith- We either depart from the faith (1 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 3:12), or we depart from iniquity (2 Tim. 2:19, 22; 1 Tim. 6:5). We’re always moving in one direction or the other.

Giving heed to seducing spirits- Yet Timothy's job was to ensure that the church did not "give heed" to false teachers (1:4)- who are the "seducing spirits" spoken of here. Like Moses reasoning with God about Israel's fate, it could be that Paul is encouraging Timothy to reason with God, to do what he can so that the Lord's express prediction will not come true. Just as the Ninevites did, and succeeded. As noted on 3:1, Timothy's ministry was successful, according to the Lord's letter to the Ephesians in Rev. 2. He did shut down false teaching and inspire the doing of good works.

And teachings of the idol worshippers- So far in this exposition I have suggested that the Ephesian church was prone to influence by the Diana cult, from which many of the converts had come; and also from Jewish false teachers from the synagogue where Christian preaching had first begun in Ephesus. And that picture is confirmed by these warnings here in chapter 4. Paul will go on to warn also against those who taught that only some foods could be eaten (:3); this clearly was the Judaist false teaching. Paul saw in these attacks, and the fact some believers fell for them, a fulfilment of the Lord's Olivet prophecy where He had warned that these were signs of the last days. The Lord could have come in the first century- all was in place. But the church didn't take the Gospel to the world nor bring forth spiritual fruit which enabled that potential to happen, and so it has been deferred until our last days. The body of Christ is likewise suffering from legalism on one hand [cp. Judaism] and worldly idolatry on the other.

4:2- see on Mt. 23:28; Rev. 13:15.

Through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies- Hypocrisy suggests the Lord's warnings against the Pharisees, i.e. Jewish false teachers.

Branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron- Paul felt that Christian co-crucifixion with Jesus meant that we too are branded with His marks. He uses the same figure in Gal. 6:17. So he feels that we bear the marks of ownership, either of Jesus or of some other system. This is exactly the picture we have in Revelation- believers in the last days marked either for the beast or for the Lord Jesus.

4:3 Forbidding to marry- This fits with our comments upon Paul's encouragement of female child-bearing in chapter 2. The Diana cult forbad their female followers to marry and have children. Paul is not making a global command to women to marry and have children, rather is he countering the false teaching of the Diana cult which had affected some sisters in the Ephesian church.

And to abstain from food- which God created to be received with thanksgiving- Jewish false teaching which was also a pressure upon those in Ephesus.

By them that believe and know the truth- Not 'know and believe'. 'Knowing the truth' is used by Paul to refer to an ongoing relationship with the Lord; he doesn't mean 'those who correctly understand a set of theologies'.
We ought to be deeply, deeply moved by the fact that we have been called into God's world, into His sphere of vision. He even created the different types of meats "to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth"; they were made for us, not the world, and therefore we ought to give thanks for our food with this realization.

4:4 For every creature of God is good and nothing is to be rejected- Paul often alludes to Peter, and this clearly references Peter's experience on the housetop. I have argued elsewhere that Paul pretended to Peter, wishing dearly that he was the apostle to the Jews as Peter was. But it can also be so that Paul genuinely respected Peter- which is an essay in humility, that a leading rabbi would so respect an illiterate fisherman.

If it be received with thanksgiving- Here and in :5 Paul assumes that believers will pray before food, and this ought to be our pattern too in these days. Perhaps he has in view the standard Christian prayer "Give us this day our daily bread", which he understands as a thankful admission that our food is indeed a gift from God. And if a Divine gift, then surely it is sanctified by Him.

4:5 For it is sanctified through the word of God and prayer- Peter had been taught that it was the Lord's sacrifice which sanctified unclean food. So "the word of God" may refer, as it often does, to the Lord Jesus rather than the Bible. For the Bible in that sense doesn't cleanse unclean food. It could also refer to 'the Gospel'. Or it could be that Paul had in mind the simple statements of Genesis, that we have been given all food by God (Gen. 1:29; 9:3). This would be typical of Paul- as he does so powerfully in Galatians, he bids us return to God's original intentions in Genesis and consider the Mosaic Law as a temporary addition which has now ended. Food is not of itself sanctified or not sanctified (Rom. 14:14), so I doubt that Paul meant that the chips on your table are made somehow holy because you prayed over them. It is human life which can be sanctified to God, as Paul so often says in his letters. Thanksgiving for food is therefore a recognition that we have been given food in order to live life which must be sanctified to Him.

4:6 If you put the believers in mind of these things- Gk. 'put them under'. Clearly Paul had set up timid Timothy in a position of authority which was quite foreign to his natural disposition, especially as the believers included many forceful, dogmatic individuals. Our ministries too are often not naturally compatible with who we are.

You shall be a good minister of Christ Jesus- A good deacon. Timothy was to be act as both a bishop and deacon. This is in contrast to later abuses of the position of “bishop” in orthodox Christian churches. Timothy has been advised how to choose deacons in chapter 3, and he is being asked to model to them how they ought to be. Such servanthood is ultimately service to Jesus- "a good minister of Jesus Christ". Our service to others in Christ, including the dogmatic, the difficult and the woefully misinformed, is all service to Him. He would be a "good minister" insofar as he was nourished in the "good doctrine".

Nourished in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine which you have followed- By teaching these words to others, Timothy would himself be nourished by them. By feeding others, he would himself be fed; see on :16 By so doing. and 5:18 The ox when he treads out the corn. This is one reason why the Lord has chosen to work through the process of evangelism. The very process of teaching something makes us come to that material ourselves in a more intimate way than we would if we didn't teach it but simply mentally assented to it within ourselves. "The words of the faith" may refer to the 'faithful sayings' which Paul several times alludes to in his letters- brief inspired sentences which were distributed amongst the new converts. "Followed" is a word used again by Paul in 2 Tim. 3:10 where he says that Timothy has fully followed his own teaching and example. This is quite some commendation. As noted on 3:1, Timothy was very obedient to Paul, and thus his ministry was successful, in that the Lord's judgment of the Ephesian church in Rev. 2 reveals that the very things Timothy was asked to do- he achieved. Despite not at all being cut out for that task.
Timothy was to be "nourished up in the words of the faith [a reference to 'words' of basic doctrine which comprised a first century Statement of Faith?], and of the good doctrine" (1 Tim. 4:6 RV). True doctrine has the power of growth; it is the seed which is sown, leading to the fruit of good works. The basic Gospel ("doctrine", AVmg.) of the cross is the active, outstretched arm of Yahweh the Almighty (Is. 53:1). We must let that power work. "Let your conversation (way of life) be as it becomes the gospel of Christ" (Phil. 1:27). By nourishing others with good teaching, he would himself be “nourished up in the words of faith”. Caring for others on whatever level is what stimulates an upward spiral in our personal spiritual growth. In doing so, we will ourselves find spiritual growth. Practically, this is evident- in that the brother who looks through the Bible readings before doing them with his family, or reads a chapter with his five year old daughter and then the same chapter again with his wife, who makes an effort to prepare a different sermon each time he speaks rather than re-hash an old one... the one who benefits is ultimately himself.  

4:7 But reject profane and old wives' fables, and exercise yourself with reverence towards God- This rejection meant 'Do not let these things be taught in the church', because that was his brief in 1:3, to not allow false teaching. There was clearly a problem with some women in the Ephesian church. We saw in chapter 2 how Timothy was to stop some women teaching who were advocating a version of the pagan Diana cult mixed with the Jewish cult of Eve. And there were older women who likewise were teaching "fables"; and Timothy has been told in 1:4 not to allow Jewish fables to be taught in the church. Here and in chapter 2 it could be argued that we have evidence that women were indeed allowed to teach in the Ephesian church; but Paul's concern was with the content of what some of them were teaching. This was why these women should not be allowed to teach; not because they were women, but because of the content of their teaching. This also explains why Paul advises Timothy as to how old and young women should be living; this was not just general pastoral advice, but was given in the specific Ephesian context of women who were teaching false doctrine, who needed to be redirected to more positive spiritual pursuits. The double reference to "profane and old wife’s' fables" may refer to the dual pressure there was in Ephesus- from paganism and the Diana cult ["profane"], and from Jewish women teaching Jewish fables such as the Eve cult. We have noted this double problem several times in this exposition. It's noteworthy that public recitations were something that women were allowed to participate in. Slave women especially were known to make such recitations to the women of a large household, including the female freewomen. This doubtless laid the basis for the phenomenon [portrayed on some frescoes] of female house churches, with slave women leading the gatherings even when their mistress was present.

4:8 For bodily exercise is profitable for a little time- This is in contrast to the need to exercise spiritually (:7). This may well have been one of the profane [pagan] or old wives' fables of :7. Otherwise it is hard to see why Paul would suddenly start speaking about it. Mt. 6:2,3 = 1 Tim. 4:8. The implication is that we aren't to take Mt. 6:2,3 ("they have their reward") as implying that we have no reward in this life. We do (cp. Mt. 19:29).

But reverence towards God is profitable for all things- "Profitable" is only used elsewhere in 2 Tim. 3:16 [the Scriptures are profitable] and in Tit. 3:8, where "good works" are "profitable". The disciplines of the spiritual life, of daily Bible reading and good works, carry their blessings in this life too- "having the promise of the life which now is"; and those present blessings are far more than those achieved by physical exercise.

Having the promise
of the life which now is and of that which is to come- There is a link between the spiritual life lived now, and that which shall eternally be lived. The life which now is, is connected with the life which is to come. Our experience now is the promise of life tomorrow. John's Gospel expresses the same truth in saying that we now have the eternal life- we are living now the kind of life which we shall eternally live. Godliness having the promise of life both now and in the future is a reflection of Christ's teaching that the life of self-denial would have its present as well as future rewards (1 Tim. 4:8; Mk. 10:29).

4:9 Faithful is this saying and worthy of all acceptance- Another example of where brief inspired messages from the New Testament prophets were "accepted" as indeed inspired and distributed; see on :6 The words of the faith.

4:10 For to this end we labour and strive- In contrast to striving in physical exercise to preserve our own lives a bit longer (:8) we instead strive so that "all men" may experience the eternal life now possible. These words are used about Paul's labours in preaching and pastoral work (1 Cor. 15:10; 16:6; Gal. 4:11; Phil. 2:16; Col. 1:29). Paul uses the same word to encourage Timothy to likewise labour in the Ephesian church (1 Tim. 5:17; 2 Tim. 2:6). And again, Paul's exhortation was taken to heart; for some time later, the Lord commended the eldership ["the Angel of the church"] at Ephesus for labouring so hard (Rev. 2:3 s.w.). 

Because we have our hope set on the living God- The Greek elpis, "hope", means certainty, trust. We are certain that God wishes to save all men, as explained under 2:1-6; and so we labour and strive so that this great salvation is shared with all men.

Who is the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe- If we understand this literally, then God is the Saviour of “all men” including Hitler. But the Bible doesn’t teach universal salvation. There’s a difference between being a Saviour- and saving. God gave Israel a “saviour” in the form of Jesus (Acts 5:31; 13:23). But this doesn’t mean that “Israel” were all saved, because many of them have rejected their Saviour. This is the tragedy- that God is a “Saviour” for all men through His Son, but not all men wish to accept that salvation. This verse does not touch on the problem of those who have not heard the Gospel (for whatever reason). Frequently, the New Testament speaks of “God our Saviour” (1 Tim. 1:1; 2:3 etc.). Perhaps the emphasis needs to be put on the word “our”. He is our Saviour because we have accepted His plan of salvation- but others have not. There is a salvation potentially possible for all- but it is a salvation unaccepted. Rom. 5:18 speaks of how by Christ’s righteousness “the free gift came upon all men unto justification”. But not literally all men will be justified. The “all men” is limited and not universal, because salvation is not universal. Jn. 1:5-11 speaks of Jesus as the light which came into the world, but the darkness preferred to remain in the darkness: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it... John... came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, [so] that all might believe through him... He was in the world…  yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him". God’s intention was that “all men” in the “world” of Israel might believe. John preached “so that all might believe”. But “all” did not believe. They “might” believe- they had the possibility of doing so, but did not. Note that “the world” here is “His own”- the Jewish world. Clearly “all men” is not to be understood literally. It’s obvious from how “all men” is referred to in the New Testament that the term doesn’t mean literally every single person:

4:11 These things command and teach- The commanding and teaching may refer to teaching both formally, from the platform, and informally. A church leader like Timothy was not to simply teach from the podium and assume the job was done. The "things" to be thus taught were that we ought to "labour" for the Lord (:10) and do the good works associated with reverence to God (:8). And Timothy was obedient- for some time later, the Lord commended the eldership ["the Angel of the church"] at Ephesus for labouring so hard (Rev. 2:3 s.w. :10 "we labour").

4:12 Let no one despise your youth- They surely did despise his youth, but people can only do such things to us if we let them. And Timothy was not to allow them to do this, in that he was not to feel despised, but rather to be strong in the sense of his own mission and significance in the Lord's larger plan. Paul has just called Timothy to do battle with the older sisters who were teaching Jewish fables in the church (:7). For a young man to shut them up was going to be difficult, especially for someone of Timothy's sensitive or weak character. The fact he succeeded shows the power of God's word through Paul and the real possibility of personal transformation and achievement in the Lord's service.

Be an example to those that believe, in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity- Any teaching ministry is only effective insofar as the word is made flesh; and this was and is the ultimate power in the Lord's ministry to us. "Purity" carries the specific idea of sexual purity. Paul has commanded Timothy to be a man of one woman in chapter 3, he will go to warn him to deal with the younger sisters "with all purity" (5:2) and will later tell him to flee youthful [i.e. sexual] lusts (2 Tim. 2:22). Putting all this together, it would be fair to assume that Paul perceived a weakness in Timothy in this area. And yet all the same, Paul put him in to the position of eldership, with all the inter-personal contact with females which this required. But he warned him to beware of his weakness.

4:13- see on 1 Thess. 5:27.

Until I come- The implication of how the argument develops could be that Paul intended to give Timothy some Spirit gift which would further empower his ministry, presumably by the personal laying on of hands [as in :14; see note there]. He wrote similarly to the Romans (Rom. 1:11). Until then, Timothy was to focus on his own study and teaching.

Give attention to reading, to preaching, to teaching- The "reading" could refer to Timothy's own Bible study being the basis for his preaching [to the unbelievers] and teaching [of the converts]. But it could equally refer to the public reading of the Scriptures- which was especially necessary in largely illiterate congregations. The same word for "give attention" is used about not giving attention to Jewish fables (1:4) nor false teachers (4:1); but these negative commands must be replaced by a positive giving of attention to God's word and to sharing that word with others. Positive preaching and teaching of God's word, if focused upon, will mean we will not have mental space to give attention to false teaching. And maybe we are to read this appeal for focus, mental 'giving attention', as the antidote to Timothy's proneness to sexual weakness touched on in :12.

4:14 Do not neglect the gift you have- Paul may be intending to give him another gift [see on :13 Until I come], but he asks Timothy not to neglect the one he already has. Timothy had desired the office of a bishop (3:1) and had been given the potential power to achieve it. But he wasn't, it seems, using his potential because of his natural weaknesses and the difficulty of dealing with the opposition. Neglecting, not taking seriously, our potential... is one of our most common failings. We have all been dealt talents by the Lord and are to use them, and not neglect them in the ground.

Given to you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you- There presumably had been an inspired, prophetic word from one of the New Testament prophets to the effect that Timothy could achieve his mission in Ephesus. Paul had appointed him as a bishop on the basis of that prophetic word (1:18). The elders had laid their hands on him to empower him. That council of elders may refer to those in Jerusalem [s.w. Acts 11:30; 15:2,4,6,22,23; 16:4]; or it could have been some group of elders who were present at the time that Paul first told him to remain in Ephesus. If the reference is to the elders in Ephesus who were appointed soon after their conversion and before Timothy was appointed over them (1:3), then again we find Timothy in an awkward, embarrassing position. He would have been given power by the elders, who were older than him, and then he was appointed over them. He is told not to rebuke elders but to appeal to them, to carefully consider allegations against them and to honour the elders who deserved it (5:1,17,19). So there were "elders" in Ephesus, and the same word is used in this phrase "council of elders". So he was in a position where he had to rebuke the elders who had given him the power to rebuke them. And the Lord chose a young, shy man, struggling with many weaknesses, for this apparently impossible mission given his personality. And yet he succeeded, as noted earlier several times [e.g. on 3:1].

4:15 Be diligent in these things- Gk. 'keep practicing', a present active imperative, alluding to the command to exercise spiritually (:8).

Give yourself wholly to them- Gk. 'be in these things'. His whole being was to be in the things of serving the Lord. Such total dedication is often smiled off as fanaticism, obsession and imbalance. But if indeed we shall live eternally and can help others to, and if the Lord's glory is truly achieved by our efforts- then it follows that we will be "be" them now, for we shall eternally be continually and totally "in" them.

That your progress may be manifest to all- The obvious personal progress of a teacher is the greatest inspiration to those being taught. Otherwise, he or she becomes merely a purveyor of facts and truths which may as well be read in a book. But if the teacher models growth, then the word really becomes flesh and powerful to transform. Such progress also reveals a humility, in that the teacher themselves is a pupil and also on a learning curve. This was quite contrary to the popular conception that a teacher was some static figure passing on truths which had long been held as a kind of conduit.

4:16- see on Dt. 4:1,9; Acts 20:28.

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching- To see ourselves from outside of ourselves is difficult, but the Bible often asks us to do it. This kind of self knowledge is a large part of our growth in Christ.

Persist in this- The sense of keeping on keeping on, of abiding and enduring, are common in Paul's words to Timothy [see on :15 Be diligent]. It would appear that Timothy easily gave up and was too quickly swamped by the immediate, just like ourselves.

For by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers-  This continues the theme discussed in :6 Nourished. Efforts to save others result in our salvation. It could be argued that the Lord's perfection and His own salvation out of death was a function of His devotion to our salvation. We see here the huge importance attached to teaching; it is connected with the salvation of the hearers. The salvation of some is dependent to some degree upon third parties. Illiterate people will simply not hear God's word unless it is read to them; and many who are literate come to that word so burdened with limitations and issues that unless somebody explains it to them, they like the Ethiopian eunuch will simply never understand.