Wednesday, 27 December 2017
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 1 Timothy 4:1
The words of Chapter 4 now show a contrast to the ending thoughts of Chapter 3. Paul had been writing of the high standards and qualifications for men entering the ministry, focusing on their faith, and on their faithfulness. He then wrote about the “mystery of godliness.” In contrast to that, he says, “Now the Spirit expressly says…” The word “but” rather than “now” is used by some translations to show this stark contrast. The mystery of godliness has been revealed, and it is a revelation which should direct the hearts and souls of men at all times. The focus of the believer should be on Christ, and the greatness of what He has done. Instead, there is a contrast which he will now state, which is “that in the latter times some will depart from the faith.”
The term, “in the latter times” is not some nebulous time which will occur all of a sudden, and which will somehow indicate that the rapture is close at hand, or some thought similar to this. These words are often used to support such a conclusion – “See the things that Paul wrote about are happening now. We must be in the ‘latter times.’”
Rather, the things Paul will describe have been occurring since the Lord departed. In fact the epistles are written to expressly refute much of what Paul will mention in these coming verses. It may be true that wickedness is filling the world more and more as the end draws near, but that is not the context of Paul’s words now. The truth of this is seen in the words of past scholars. In fact, Charles Ellicott said several centuries ago, “The errors foreseen then, have more or less affected the internal government of the Church during the eighteen hundred years which have passed since St. Paul’s words were written. In no age, perhaps, have they been more ostentatiously thrust forward than in our own.”
In the latter times (as indicated), he says that “some will depart from the faith.” Departure from the faith has already been noted as an occurrence by Paul in verses 1:18-20. Hymenaeus and Alexander had shipwrecked their faith. And in his next letter, Demas will be said to have departed from Paul, “having loved this present world” (2 Timothy 4:10).
Such a departure is to walk away from the faith, or it also includes adding to or subtracting from the faith. All of these are addressed by Paul in his letters. This is nothing that is solely expected in the extreme end times, but is a constant theme of the age since Christ ascended. That a much larger departure is occurring as time goes by simply shows that the church itself has grown to the point where a large departure is to be expected – even on a national scale – as is the case with many national denominations.
Paul then explains that such a departure from the faith involves, “giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.” The words, “giving heed to deceiving spirits” are set in contrast to giving heed to the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God has spoken to us through the writing of Scripture. Therefore, anything which is codified into a church law or book of discipline which contradicts the word of God, adds to it, or subtracts from it, is to be considered in this category.
The words, “doctrines of demons” may include that which concerns demons, or that which is taught by demons. It could therefore include odd things which are inculcated from other religions, such as spiritual reliance on eastern meditations, the reading of palms for divination, and etc. It could also refer to the worship of other “deities” in place of Christ, such as worshiping the Virgin Mary, adoring the saints, etc. Paul’s words are certainly inclusive of all such things. Anything not based on Scripture, and an adherence to Jesus Christ, would fall into the category of these words.
By default, any faith-directed worship which is not of Christ, is ungodly; it is satanic. The devil and his armies are working actively to destroy sound doctrine. He is there inserting his own perverse doctrine. The spiritual warfare which is on-going in this world is described by Paul in the book of Ephesians. Paul explains this clearly in Ephesians 2 –
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” Ephesians 2:1-3
He further describes the spiritual battle the church faces in Ephesians 6. There, he tells how to defend against it, and even go forward in battle against it. His thoughts, in particular, center on the word of God, and holding fast to the doctrine which is found there. But the devil and his armies have their own twisted view of what is correct. Paul will give several of the false doctrines which they promote in the words which lie ahead. Understanding these things is an important part of not getting misdirected by the lies of the devil.
Life application: We must hold to Scripture alone for our doctrine. If we fail to do this, we can become swayed away from soundness in our faith very easily. Let us be faithful, reliable readers and followers of the word of God in order to not be duped by the things Paul so carefully warns against.
Lord God, Your word warns that anything which is not based in Scripture can very easily draw us away from right living and soundness of faith. May we never hold to catechisms, books of discipline, church canons, or any other teachings which do not align with the truth of Your word. In doing so, we are told that we are following deceiving spirits and the doctrines of demons. Help us in this, O God. May we follow that word which leads us to the truth of Jesus Christ alone. Amen.