1 Timothy 4
The word Gnostic comes from the Greek word ‘gnosis’, which means knowledge. The word is used by historians to describe a school of thought. Gnosticism arose from a group of evil workers who claimed to have higher light, special spiritual knowledge, or “secret wisdom”. This movement began in the days of the apostles, and continued into the 5th century. Before John died the seeds of Gnosticism had been sown; perhaps even before Paul's death (1 Tim. 6:20). John’s epistles are written to defend against the inroads of Gnosticism (2 John 1:7,9). Peter warns of their false teaching, and Jude warns of its moral effect on the Christian testimony. Gnosticism is responsible for not just one heresy, but seven or eight. What is it? In this mystical system, the spiritual world was good, and material world was evil. They rejected the incarnation, because it connects the human with the divine. The Gnostics would try to separate “Jesus” from “Christ”, by making Christ an emanation (a shining out from a source) from God that never truly became flesh, or else was united to a mere man named Jesus at his baptism, but returned to God before Jesus’ death on the cross. In doing so, this evil system annulled the incarnation, the atonement, and the resurrection. The doctrine of the New Testament anticipates this irreverent and wicked system of doctrine by stating the simple truth of Christ's Person and work. Church fathers who defended against Gnosticism were Ignatius of Antioch ('Seven Epistles'), and Irenaeus of Lyons ('Against Heresies').Read more…
Understanding the Times: We Are in the Latter Times (4:1-5)
- Men open their minds willingly to the deception and doctrines of Satan; “giving their mind to deceiving spirits and teachings of demons”. It is men that teach the doctrines, but the source is really Satanic.
- They begin to promote those false teachings (lies), while living immorally yet maintaining an outward façade of righteousness; “speaking lies in hypocrisy”. Note that W. Kelly translates this phrase “hypocrisy of legend-mongers”, which further illustrates the point that these false teachers were promoting fanciful notions as truth, consistent with the Gnostic heresy.
- By continuing in unjudged hypocrisy, their conscience becomes deadened and desensitized; “cauterised as to their own conscience”.
- The Latter Times: individuals fall away ("antichrists"), teaching lies (1 Tim. 4:1-3; 1 John 2:18; 4:3; Jude 18). This began in the latter days of the apostle Paul (Acts 20:29-30), who could say "the mystery of iniquity doth already work" (2 Thess. 2:7). This developed into Gnosticism, then other heresies. This is called the "latter times", the "last time", or "the last hour".
- The Last Days: widespread false profession, blatant denial of the Lordship of Christ (2 Tim. 3:1-9; 4:3; 2 Pet. 3:3). Most likely this state of things came to be in the era of Constantine. It developed into the Roman system, and then into dead Protestantism. This is called the "last days". This is different from the "last days" of Israel. Read more...
- The Apostasy: full apostasy under the man of sin, the "Antichrist" (2 Thess. 2:3-12). This will take place after the rapture, and it will culminate in the middle of Daniel's seventieth week. This is called "that day" or "the apostasy".
Sound Doctrine and Walk, and the Use of Gift (4:6-16)
- Error lays hold of the exception (for even error cannot subsist without a scrap or show of truth) and converts the exception into a human rule. – Kelly, W. The First Epistle to Timothy.
- In the gospels (Matt. 13:24-30; 36-43), in the Acts (Acts 20:29-30), in Paul's epistles (1 Tim. 4; 2 Tim. 3), in Peter's epistles (2 Pet. 2; 3:3-4), in the epistle of James (James 5:7, 9), in the epistle of Jude (Jude 1:4), and in the epistles of John (1 John 2:18), the ruin of the Christian profession is duly attested.
- The mischief here set out is not the wider and later evil of 2 Tim. 3:1-9, when Christendom would be but men professing the Lord's name, a form of piety with the denial of its power, no better than heathen in reality (cp. Rom. 1:28-32), though with the semblance and the responsibility of God's final revelation of grace and truth in Christ. Still less is it the frightful apostacy of 2 Thess. 2:3-12, which is to close the age before the Lord Jesus be revealed in judgment from heaven to introduce the new age and the kingdom of God to be manifested in power and blessing universally over the earth. - Kelly, W. The First Epistle to Timothy.
- In the preceding Epistle (1 Tim. 4:1-3) a prophetic warning had been given, but of evil quite distinct in time, character, and extent, from what we have here. Instead of "last days", the Spirit spoke expressly of later, or after, times, i.e., times subsequent to the apostle's writing. Instead of a widespread condition of "men" in Christendom, he there spoke of "some" only. The language suits and supposes but few comparatively; which only controversial zeal could have overlooked or converted into a prediction of the vast if not worse inroad of Romanism. It is a description of certain ones to depart from the faith into fleshly asceticism, paying heed to seducing spirits, etc... But in 2 Tim. 3:1 the view is a larger field... It is the counterpart of the great house in 2 Tim. 2:20, wherein are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also wooden and earthenware, and some to honour, and some to dishonour. Here, however, we have, not a symbolic figure, but a plain matter-of-fact account of a return to heathenism practically. Yet 2 Thess. 2 gives us to descry very far worse at hand. We ought not to be deceived in any manner, whatever the success of false teachers with some of the Thessalonian saints so young in the faith as they were. We know that the Lord is coming Who will gather us together, sleeping or alive, unto Himself, and therefore we need not be quickly shaken in mind, nor yet troubled by any power or means, to the effect that the day of the Lord is present. We know that it cannot be unless first there have come "the apostasy" — not a falling away, as substantially in all the well-known English Versions as well as the Authorized. It is not "discencioun" (Wiclif), nor "a departynge" (Tyndale), as Cranmer's Bible repeats in 1539, and the Geneva in 1557, nor "a revolt", as in the Rhemish of 1582. It is "the apostasy", and nothing else: worse there cannot be, unless it be the person who is its final head in direct antagonism to God and His anointed, the man of sin, the son of perdition, whom the Lord Jesus will consume with the Spirit of His mouth and destroy with the manifestation of His presence. - Kelly, W. The Second Epistle to Timothy.
- But 1 Tim. 4:9-10, is a clear proof that the order may vary without in any way affecting the certainty of the apostolic application. – Kelly, W. The Epistle to Titus.
- The adjoining terms give conclusive proof that the “reading” was not personal study but rather the public recitation of scripture for general instruction, since the “exhortation” and the “teaching” must refer to others. – Kelly, W. The First Epistle to Timothy.
- The case of Timothy is, no doubt, peculiar. He was designated by prophecy to a certain very peculiar work — that of guarding doctrine. And the apostle and the presbyters laid their hands upon him, by which a spiritual gift was communicated to him which he did not possess before. It is evident that there is no man now living who has been similarly endowed and called to such a work. — Kelly, William. Notes on Galatians.
- Salvation often as here means safeguarding all through this life. – Kelly, W. The First Epistle to Timothy.