1 Timothy
by Francis Foulkes ©


'Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, through the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving; for then it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer' (4:1-5)

When Paul wrote this letter, the truth of God was under attack. In this section he sets out and then corrects some of the false teaching which was spreading in the church.

a. A warning

The Christian has a high hope, but his hope is not that the world will steadily become better and better by itself, or become an easier place in which to stand for what the Christian knows to be right and true. Verse 1 says that 'the Spirit expressly' warns us of the opposite. Our Lord himself told His disciples not to expect an easy life. Things will become more difficult. The battle will become more fierce. Temptation will become stronger. (See Matthew 24: 9-14; Mark 13:5-8, 19-23; Acts 20: 29,30.) The Spirit also spoke through apostles and prophets and teachers. This warning applies to the times in which we live. In some places the forces against the Christian today seem greater than ever before. In many situations the temptation to do evil, to deny Christ, and to turn aside from the truth, is more powerful than at any time in the past. The Christian is always able, by the power of God, to stand fast (see 1 Corinthians 10:13 and Ephesians 6:10-13); but if we are to take the warning here we should notice the things that weaken the Christian in the face of temptation.

b. The source of error

How does evil gain a foothold among Christians? Why do some even inside the church accept and then teach error? These verses give us an idea of the steps downwards. 1. The conscience is 'seared'. A person may have a burn or other injury and experience great pain. It is still more dangerous, if, by burning, or by some other injury, the nerves are killed, and there is no longer any pain, or any feeling at all. God has put our conscience within us for our good. Sometimes the prompting of conscience to do or not to do a thing is a painful process. It is not so much painful as dangerous when a person has so often heard and not heeded the voice of conscience that he hears it no more. Then the conscience is 'seared'. Then he can no longer hear the voice of God or accept His truth (see Hebrews 10:26-31).
2. Then verse a speaks of' the 'pretensions' of men, and the original word is our word 'hypocrisy'. As soon as we start to think the opinions of men are more important than quiet listening for the voice of God, then we are in a dangerous position. The hypocrite does not care about the truth of God, only about himself. So he easily loses the truth that he once possessed.
3. The next step is that the person is deceived by error, and he does not recognize that it is error. He does not know the difference between truth and error, because he has lost the desire to obey God (see John 7:17).
4. Then he becomes a 'liar' and deceiver of others, such as those of whom Paul speaks in these verses.

c. The error

The apostle had to rebuke two mistaken lines of teaching - the forbidding of marriage, and the forbidding of meat. Such teaching has often come into the life of the church. Concerning marriage it is true that some are called to deny themselves marriage for the sake of Christ and His gospel (We see this in the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 19:12 and in Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 7:32-34.) Many workers for God in all ages have felt the call of God to deny themselves marriage in order to give all their time and strength to the spread of the gospel. It is one thing to deny oneself marriage; it is another thing to forbid others to marry. There is also a place for fasting, denying oneself food for the sake of the control of the body, and in order to give time and disciplined concentration to prayer. In many places the Bible speaks honourably of fasting. But again it is one thing to deny ourselves meat or other food for Christ's sake; it is another thing to forbid others to eat meat. We know from history that the origin of both of these mistakes was a deeper mistake - that of regarding all material things as evil. This was a mistake which led some people even to say that it was impossible for the Son of God to become man (see 1 John 4:1-3; 2 John 7).

d. The truth

Against these errors the apostle states the truth clearly and simply. What God has created is good. Sex is good and beautiful. Marriage is a blessing that God has given. He has also provided meat for our enjoyment and for the strengthening of our bodies (see Genesis 9:3). Of all God's creation it can be said, as it was at the beginning, 'God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good' (Genesis 1:31). What matters is that we put God's good gifts to a good use (see Romans 14:14 and Titus 1:15). Verses 4 and 5 give three practical tests. 1. Does God's Word allow us to use His gifts in this way? 2. Can we sincerely thank God for them, and so use them with peace and joy in our hearts, knowing that they are right for us? 3. Can we pray to God as we use them? If we can say 'Yes' to all these questions, then we are receiving God's good gifts 'with thanksgiving' and they are 'consecrated by the word of God and prayer'.


O Lord our God, the Giver of every good gift; we praise Thee for all the blessings of thy creation; help us to use them always with thanksgiving. We praise Thee for Thy Word given to direct, guide and direct us; help us never to be deaf to its teaching. May we keep close to Thee in obedience, and so come to know Thy truth better and never be led astray from it; and in the end may we know the greatest gift of life with Thee for ever and ever. AMEN.

Notes 1. The end of verse 1 means that just as all truth comes from God, so error comes ultimately from the powers of evil
2. In verse 2, we have taken the word 'seared' to mean 'burnt so as to be past feeling'. Phillips translates, 'whose consciences are as dead as seared flesh'. There is, however, another possible meaning. The searing might refer to branding, as with a hot iron, and the New English Bible translates, 'whose own conscience is branded with the devil's sign.
3. In verse 5 Paul probably has in mind the giving of thanks before food. This was certainly a Jewish custom, and one which Christ Himself followed (Mark 6: 41; 14:22,23), as well as the early church after Him.

Further Study. 1. Consider what the New Testament says about the 'later times' mentioned in verse 1 (see 2 Timothy 3:1-5; 1 Peter 1:5; 2 Peter 3;3; 1 John 2:18; Jude 18).
2. Study what the Bible teaches about God's good purpose in marriage (Genesis 2:18-25; Mark 10:6-9; Ephesians 5: 28-33; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 2: 3-5; Hebrews 13:4).