1 TIMOTHY-SERIES : NR 6
1 Timothy 3: 14 – 4: 5
Theme: Bearers of the Truth
The Apostle Paul is still full of hope that he can return to the church in Ephesus and personally give Timothy practical advice, but he is keeping in mind the fact that his journey will most probably be prevented.
This uncertainty was – behind the scenes – Providence by the Lord because it forced the Apostle to rather write a letter to Timothy, and in that way, the content was preserved for the church throughout the centuries. Now we in the 21 century have these very important instructions – directly from God.
For us – as for Timothy – it is/was very important to know how matters in the household of God (that is the church of the living God) must be organized. The church of Christ can not function based on human wisdom. Because the church does not belong to people but is bought by the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28) and in addition, God is not a God of disorder (1 Cor 14:33).
The church is therefore not equivalent to a building but is a spiritual gathering of the elect. The Greek ecclesia literally means those who have been chosen. And the only place where the church is visibly gathered – along with the offices of elders and deacons which Paul discussed earlier – is in the local church and the worship service.
That is where all true believers should adhere to, and not all kinds of private groups. A group that does not comply with the requirements of the apostolic directives in 1 Timothy, cannot be CHURCH according to NT standards.
Two important things are being said about this blood-bought household:
1 – It is the church of the living God. And not the living church of God! Where WE speak of “living church”, the Holy Spirit speaks of the living God! It is because HE lives that there is life in the church and not the other way around. HIS life is the church’s guarantee for life!
2 – The local CHURCH (not synods or denominations) is the bearer and defender of the Truth of the Word. The pillar and foundation. The church has an enormously important calling and responsibility to know the truth and proclaim it, and particularly to defend and protect against false doctrine. The church is the Spirit’s bastion against false doctrine and desertion. Undaunted and WITHOUT fear of persecution and opposition. Especially in our day of ghastly false teaching and straying from the Truth, these two attributes of the church of Christ must be HEARD loud and clear and obeyed.
Down to verse 16…
It is so brilliantly wonderful that the reborn person can know with assurance that the Gospel message and the Bible are BEYOND any question. The Truth is REVEALED – that means that it is supernaturally made known – 100% from God’s side – by grace alone, because He did not owe it to anyone.
But now, because the truth has been revealed, nobody needs to stumble around in the dark or to trust in HUMAN opinion. Is it not liberating! Every, every Christ-believer can KNOW what the truth is because it has been made known! No one needs to doubt. No one needs to grope about in the dark. No one needs to depend on human opinion and human wisdom.
What the Apostle is doing in verse 16, is to summarise in a nutshell the Truth – of which the Church is the bearer and defender – in the form of a confession of faith and doxology. In full, we shall never fathom or understand it. But the Apostle is very clear that the content of the Truth can be summed up with only one word: Christ. It is about a very particular person who is the believers’ deliverance and salvation. What he is saying here IS the full deliverance and that is therefore the culmination of the 1 Timothy letter.
To summarise it, it sounds like this:
Jesus entered the history of humanity as a true, real PERSON. Here He met opposition and is rejected and crucified, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, He is resurrected from the grave. With that the Spirit gave proof that Christ Jesus is truly the only Saviour – in other words, the Spirit vindicated Him as TRUE. By His exaltation to heaven, he appeared to the angels, and the heavenly host were witnesses of His triumph. And on earth, the victory march continued and went from strength to strength. The Good News concerning Christ is proclaimed to all nations. Even here, there is resistance, yes, it is always present, but millions are still coming to faith. But ABOVE all: He was taken up in glory and have returned to the glory He had before and have taken His place at the right hand of God.
All that is a powerful way to explain HOW great the triumph of the living Lord is and how the church of the Lord must stand in the truth and live it.
But even now we can know what will happen. Yes, the darkness will hit back. Satan is never satisfied with a church that tries to be true to the Lord. The devil HATES the apostolic teaching as it is set out in the first 3 chapters, and he has only ONE mission – to cause faithlessness/abandoning of the faith. And therefore: where the truth flourishes, falsehood will enter. And that is the note with which chapter 4 starts: an enemy who is dissatisfied.
The Holy Spirit expressly states that the end time will be accompanied by the abandonment of the faith. WHERE does the Holy Spirit say that? In the OT and Jesus’s earthly words for example in Mark 13:22. One also thinks about passages like 2 Thess 2 and Acts 20:29.
The end time has already arrived with the resurrection of Jesus, and Paul and Timothy were therefore already in the end time. The end time is the entire period between Jesus’s first coming and His second coming (Acts 2:17). It is not the period right before He comes again! In the same way we today have to be aware of abandonment of the faith as Paul and Timothy had to be.
What the Apostle truly believed, was THAT evil spirits truly existed – demonic powers – that concentrated on keeping false preachers blind and deaf for the truth, and make people abandon the Truth. Look at what the same Apostle writes in Eph 6:11 and further.
Because Paul believed in the reality of these powers, WE too believe it because we do not know better than the Apostles. The apostolic teaching is a million times more to us than what modern progressive theologians think and say.
The Holy Spirit is saying through Paul’s pen that deceiving spirits are active to lead believers astray. Yes, there truly is something like “the doctrine of evil spirits“. And people who believe, support, proclaim anything which is in opposition to the apostolic teaching, believe and preach the doctrine of demons – while they are completely convinced that they are preaching the truth. It is spiritual blindness that no human can break – only God can.
Naturally, the world likes false preachers and demonic doctrines, and faithless Christians, and therefore the world will always provide platforms to promote false doctrine and influence the minds of the masses.
It is terrible to think that unsuspecting people can sit in church or watch online preachers and in reality expose themselves to demonic powers who twist and bend the truth. Truly, there IS a spiritual war going on, but now we are informed and therefore more watchful.
Verses 2-3 next…
The problem with false preachers in the church is that the Truth of the Word does not impress them, because the truth is something relative, and the more unsure they are of the truth, the closer they are to the truth. They have dealt with the classic understanding of the Scriptures – they are done with it – they have broken with it. Their consciences have been seared as with a hot iron, says the Apostle. Although they are regarded as “good preachers” by many, in reality, they are liars who pose as servants of Christ – which in reality they are NOT.
Two attributes of these false preachers are:
Firstly: that they forbid people to marry. They are opposed to marriage the way God instituted it.
One can see that the Roman Catholic church forbids its priests to marry – with all the disastrous consequences it has.
The prohibition on marriage can however play out in more than one way.
To condone the cohabitation of unmarried people is also a form of ban on marriage and a rebellion against the Truth. Where false preachers are at work, unmarried cohabitation will be approved.
To approve of homosexual behavior and homosexual marriages is also a disregard (hold in contempt) of the Biblical marriage, and that too thrives where false preachers‘ influence asserts itself.
The Apostle is therefore very clear: False preachers meddle with marriage as a Divine institution.
Secondly, false preachers are rigid about certain instructions of what can be eaten and what must not be eaten – which is, in reality, an attack on the heartbeat of the Gospel message, namely salvation by grace alone WITHOUT the keeping of all kinds of prescribed rules.
Any kind of dictatorial instruction of what is STILL necessary as a PLUS in addition to Christ’s work of salvation to bring the believer into a better position before God is completely false.
Concerning the prescribed rules about food, the apostle is clear: Food is a gift from ABOVE and people who came to faith in Christ, use it with thanksgiving towards Him. The Christ-believer is, therefore free to eat anything. What matters is not whether the food is clean or unclean, but whether the LORD as Creator and Giver is thanked and praised for everything. That is how it is with people who believe and know the Truth!
In closing verses 4-5
The Apostle goes back to Genesis 1 in his thoughts when he refers to how false preachers and false religions come with rules about clean and unclean foods. The false doctrine always wants to add PLUSSES to Christ’s work of salvation that one has to do to get MORE in God’s favor. The blood of Christ is therefore not enough, no, you have to be careful not to eat unclean food. And that while God said at the creation: everything is good.
In Mark 7:19 Jesus sets the food rules of the OT aside and declared that all food is clean – because everything is fulfilled in Him. If you are IN CHRIST, you are clean.
The Apostle Peter also heard it in Acts 10:15 – there where he saw a heavenly vision of the unclean animals that he had to kill and eat – and God told him: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean”.
Therefore – for someone who walks in the truth – all foods are allowed and the believer uses it with thanksgiving – as the Lord Jesus himself set the example in Mark 6:41; 8:6; 14:22-23. Food is “consecrated” by the Word of God and prayer, says the Apostle. “Consecrated” means set apart for a certain purpose.
Paul does NOT mean that the food is MADE pure in some magical way by word and prayer. In verse 4 he already said that everything is good. No food had to be MADE good.
What he is saying though, is something wonderful: He is saying that the Word and prayer make that the food is used to glorify God. In other words: Putting HIM in the center. Word and prayer make that we approach our eating very differently. The Lord suddenly enters into the picture.
The Jews had the custom to – before the meal – read Scriptural words. In our language: To read from the Scriptures and pray before or after the meal.
There is a sanctifying power in Word and prayer. A power we should not disregard. It does not only apply to food and meals but anywhere where the Word and prayer are the order of the day – whether it is personal or whether it is in the public worship service. What else is it that brings the same people back to the worship services week after week, year in and year out – where the same minister speaks? Nothing out of man, but the work of the Spirit through Word and prayer!
What a wonderful place this HOUSEHOLD of the living God is! It is the church of Christ. It is seemingly only ordinary people who are gathered. And it IS ordinary people. But, just look at all the things the Apostle ascribes to this household!
It is a household where the living God is present. It is a household where His power is at work. It is a household that is holding the revealed truth in their laps. While the rest of the world only speculates about what is the truth. It is a household that defends AND supports the truth.
Translated by Marthie Wilson
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