Grace Bible Church Adult School of Biblical Theology
The Ministry Challenge During Times of Apostasy
Dennis Gundersen, Pastor 4/23/00 cf. 1 Timothy 4:1-3
After explaining the ministry of men (cf. 1 Tim. 2:1-8), women (cf. 1 Tim. 2:9-14), Elders (cf. 1 Tim. 3:1-7) and Deacons (cf. 1 Tim. 3:8-14), the Apostle returns to a section to reaffirm Pastor Timothy's own ministry, reminding him of his central calling regardless of difficult theological trends around him.
Paul predicts what will happen, i.e., some will depart from the faith; he summarizes what they are like, i.e., they have a seared conscience; and he then outlines even what they will teach, i.e., theological novelty.
What Will Happen? Some will Departure from the Faith
The Apostle Paul informs Pastor Timothy that, "the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith." Who did the Spirit of God explicitly say this to? Perhaps to a prophet in the a local church. Perhaps to Paul himself or one of the other Apostles. Specifically, the message given was that in the last times some would fall away from the faith. So what makes that a message worth mentioning? Don't people fall away from the faith in
age? Yes, but it might have been a surprise to some that in "the last days" some would fall away from the faith, because many expected
the last days
to be a time when everyone would be convinced of the faith and everyone would be rejoicing in the truth. Not so, Paul says! Still some will fall away, even in these times.
Jesus Christ's arrival into the world is not going to make apostasy a thing of the past. No, some in this age will still claim allegiance to Christ and then will turn away! What ought to be of greatest concern to us is, what
them to turn away? Our personal interest should be to learn how to prepare spiritually, so that we not be among those who turn away. As the Apostle says, "pay attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons." Paul points to the
behind the deception; before he names the doctrines and wrong beliefs the people embrace, he wants us to see that there are evil sources behind this; there's more than meets the eye. The errors are not just those of men; they are a form of deceit which originates with
with those who have no bodies, but are from another world of spirits. And their doctrines are not just made up in the minds of men, but are doctrines of demons!
What are They Like? They have a Seared Conscience
Having warned what will happen, Paul gives focus to what these false teachers are like, describing them as those who "pay attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron." Here are the forces involved in this drawing some away from the faith and two groups are mentioned:
The first source is demons who are deceitful spirits.
This is the originating spiritual influence behind the deception. Men who teach what he is about to point out as a lie, are misled by paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons. It may surprise you what errors he labels as coming from this source! He didn't talk about sťance or witchcraft. The people he has in mind are claiming to be Christian teachers, appear to mean well, and may live lives which appear disciplined and godly. But there is more to it than w are told. They are misled by spirits who deceive, and they mislead others themselves. So, demonic forces are active in toying with the minds of people even within the church, who attend the church.
The second, mediate source is men who hypocritical liars.
This is the human instruments, taken in by the deception. Paul's construction in Greek makes very clear that he's saying the demons find allies to employ for deception among hypocritical liars. Do you know, the devil finds evil people, hideously evil people, and enrolls them in religious work. Yes, some of the most vile people on the face of the earth are drawn to religious work. Why? Due to the influence; the power; the money; the women; there are lots of reasons. And they become persuasive instruments of false beliefs.
By "hypocrisy" he means that they pretend to be what they are not. No wonder that's what the affect of
of demons are, for that's what demons do all the time! They pretend. They present themselves to sinners as liberators, as those who would set us free from the bondage God puts us under, when in fact they place their advocates into terrible bondage. They are
, i.e., they are in the habit of telling lies. And he who habitually lies, "sears his conscience." The capacity God gave you for self-judgment, to discern good from evil, is adversely affected when you lie. Each time you lie. You do so because you think you have something to gain by lying to someone, but the result is no gain and damage to your conscience. These men lied by holding to and promoting doctrines which are lies. Paul then compares the affecting of lying, searing the conscience, to
a branding iron
. The affect is that it kills the skin. And habits of lying kill the conscience, so that it becomes easier for that person to lie, he becomes comfortable with lies! And his capacity for judging his own actions according to truth deadens, as that gift of conscience deadens, just the same way a cow's skin cells die, burned by that branding iron. Numbed. Stifled.
What do They Teach? Theological Novelty
The doctrines of demons, the lies deceitful spirits spread, the falsehoods which they use hypocritical liars with seared consciences to teach, are not limited to these, but these are among them: men who forbid marriage; who say you ought not to eat this or that. Why would Paul call these the doctrines of demons? Just when you thought he'd say "Men who teach that you can live immoral lives and still be accepted with God, etc
" But he doesn't say, men who encourage looseness. He says
men who insist on abstaining
There are a few obvious reasons. The historical reason by which we understand the epistle is, this was one of the big errors of the times: that holiness consisted in abstaining from all sorts of good things. Nonsense! One of the most destructive tactics demons employ is, to confuse men about what holiness really involves, i.e., to make men think we are holy and godly if we refrain and abstain from enjoyable things, which Paul says we ought to view as blessings and gifts of a kind God. The Roman Catholic Church has insisting upon a celibate ministry in their priesthood, believing it is a holier estate.
Sanctification does not consist of refusing to enjoy the gifts of God! Nor is it holier to refuse to partake of certain foods. Many Christians in America think it holier to not drink certain beverages; would it surprise you to hear that we are pretty much the first and only Christians to hold such views? Many false teachers in the church have held such views, but not until America, among real Christians. I think if we told Paul that we thought we should refrain from drink for "testimony's sake," he'd remind us that it's a doctrine of demons promoted by hypocrites which leads to this. Christians can enjoy all things to the glory of God, and the sooner we get over our idea that not eating this or drinking that makes us holier, the better our testimony will be. For we can show the world the appropriate way to look at the gifts of God, i.e., to see them as what He has "created to
be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth." God's gifts are not to be ignored and refrained from, but used in a way we can give thanks for. His disciples, using all things and praising Him for all things which exist. Forms of asceticism have always been attractive demonic substitutes for the true pursuit of holiness! They become detours and result in exalting pride while ignoring the fruit of the Spirit of Christlike character.Conclusion and Application
The ministry will have challenging times, when some depart from the faith, by means of a seared conscience and they get involved in promoting theological novelty such as abstinence makes for a holy life. Instead, as we will discover next (cf. 1 Tim. 4:4-14), the faithful minister resists the tempting pull of asceticism and continues to teach the Word of God. Answer the following, after a careful thinking through of the text and expository notes.
accompanies those who depart from the faith and begin to promote theological novelty like physical abstinence, in the place of genuine holiness. How does someone sear their conscience? Have you ever contributed to searing your conscience?
If demons actively promote the theological errors of the nobility of celibacy and requirement of vegetarian diets, what should the genuine believer do when hearing such dangerous doctrines?
In what ways can we strengthen the conscience, so that it acts as a restraint of sin and a discerner of error? List them and commit yourself to the process.
Teachers for the GBC Adult School of Biblical Theology research various commentaries and sources to glean a precise understanding of the text. No one claims originality and we all welcome constructive criticism to help better understand the Scripture. Our quest is to "search to see if these things are so."
Christians today may take "the last days" as a way of speaking of the years just before the return of Christ. According to Scripture, all the years since the Lord Jesus came into this world are "the last days."
Do you want a conscience like that? One that once was tender, soft, receptive to being corrected, to become dead and callused, hard and resistant to God's word? One of the fastest ways to get there is, to listen to the wrong doctrine. And the holy Apostle of our Lord here says, if you
pay careful attention to the right doctrine, you'll become hardened! That's a switch from what we usually hear today, isn't it?
What could be more absurd than to suppose that by not enjoying gifts which God gave - such as marriage, which He gave to the first man, Adam, because He said it was not good for the man to be alone! That was the first "not good" of the Bible! - not good for the man to be alone. All God had created was very good, but Adam's solitariness was not good. So He gave the man a wife. How then can it be unholy or sinful for the children of Adam to abstain from having wives? The very idea is ridiculous.