Today I would like to talk about “a good minister” (6) from the first part of I Timothy chapter 4. In chapter 1 of this letter to Timothy Paul spoke about the contents of the message that the church must keep. That is the glorious Gospel that is full of blessing. “The goal of this…is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1:5) In chapter 2 and 3 he spoke about the order of creation and what the church members should be like. Now in this chapter 4 he advises Timothy to become “a good minister” (6) and is teaching about what is necessary in order to be so. The word that is used here for “minister” (6) has as its origin the meaning of “servant” or “someone who serves”. If you take that meaning, then all Christians are called to be the Lord’s servant so this can be applied to all Christians.
- Some will abandon the faith (Vs. 1)
First of all please look at verse 1. It says, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”
This verse is related to the last verse in chapter 3. Christ “appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.” (3:16) In one word this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. From the beginning to the end is Jesus Christ. That is Christianity. Christianity is Jesus Christ. The Christian faith is Christ. The truth of Christianity is Christ. What we should preach is Christ. There is no other message. It is the “mystery of godliness” (3:16) No matter how much you emphasize it, it can’t be emphasized too much.
“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” (1)
“The Spirit clearly says” (1) means that it is clearly said in the Bible that the Holy Spirit inspired it. In the Bible it says over and over again what “later times,” that can be used interchangeably with the end of the world, will be like. That is “some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” (1) This is prophesized about not only in this letter to Timothy, but also in the books by Paul, also in the books by John, the books by Peter and in the same way in the book by James. This is because they were all written by the same Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit gave the same inspiration. He made it clear what will occur “in later times.” (1) Of course, Jesus Christ himself too in advance stated the same signs preluding the end of the world.
That is in Matthew 24. There will be wars, famines, natural disaster, and a convulsion of nature. However, the most obvious sign of the end of the world will be this I think. “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” (Matt. 24:12)
“Wickedness” (Matt. 24:12) is towards God’s Word. Wickedness is the opposite of God’s Word. It will prevail so “the love of most will grow cold.” (Matt. 24:12) This is expressed by Paul as “some will abandon the faith.” (1) In the age at the end of the world, things contrary to the Word of God will be taught. Also theology and doctrine contrary to the Bible will increase. Most people’s love towards God, towards the church, and towards the brothers and sisters in Christ, towards their neighbors, towards the lost “will grow cold.” (Matt. 24:12) The things that people were on fire for will cool off and become lukewarm. There will be a lack of interest in studying the Bible. People won’t feel the need to go to church. “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” (Matt. 24:12) Now we are entering such an age.
The word “faith” in “some will abandon the faith” in I Timothy 4:1 is preceded by article “the”. “The faith” (1) is the faith of 3:16. It is the Gospel of Christ, the Christian faith. This is “the faith” (1), but “some will abandon” (1) it. This doesn’t mean to fall into unbelief. It refers to abandoning the faith of Christianity, abandoning the Gospel of Christ. It is abandoning the nucleus of the doctrine of salvation. In other words, they will lose their salvation. Therefore, abandoning the faith is an extremely serious thing. However, so there is no misunderstanding I would like to put this teaching in order. Christians will never lose their salvation. If you read Jesus’ words in John 10:28 and 29 this will be clear. Anyone who is in Jesus’ hand will never lose his salvation. In John it says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father who has given them to me is greater than all; no one can take them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:28, 29)
“Eternal life” (John 10:28) said in other words is “salvation”. Therefore, Jesus gives them salvation. “No one can snatch them out of” (John 10:28) Jesus’ hand. Not only Jesus’ hand. “No one can take them out of” (John 10:29) the Father’s hand either. You are guarded and taken care of by both the hands of Jesus and God the Father. “No one can snatch” (John 10:28) you out of them. There is no greater place of security. Salvation is an absolute guarantee, and a full and comprehensive guarantee.
Also in another passage too, Roman 8:1, Paul said, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The total ransom has been paid.
This will definitely not fail. There are some people that take the view that even Christians can lose their salvation, but that is wrong. What the Bible teaches is that salvation is never lost. This is the teaching of the Bible.
On the other hand, at the same time the Bible says, “some will abandon the faith.” (1) This seems to contradict the teaching that Christians cannot lose their salvation. Therefore, it is important that we clearly understand this difference.
Christians definitely cannot lose their salvation. However, on the other hand a person can “abandon the faith”. (1) That’s because we mankind have a free will. God will definitely never take away our salvation, but on the other hand there are cases where we by our own will abandon salvation. God doesn’t make us to be robots, but made us with free wills, to freely praise the Lord, to rejoice, and to sing to God. Therefore, he doesn’t force us to stay within his hands. For example, if a person says that he wants to leave God’s hands or he doesn’t want to be in God’s hands any more, or that he wants to live his own way, that person can in reality leave. That is because man has been given a free will. By our free will we believe in God or we can choose not to believe. By our free will we can choose to go to heaven and at the same time we can choose to go to hell.
Only I think personally myself that if a person was saved once, but even so thinks that he wants to abandon the faith, then I think that he was never really saved. If that person really knows the salvation of Jesus Christ and tasted it, then I think he would definitely not want to leave. I don’t know, but I wonder if he had just been pretending to be saved. I don’t know. That is just my personal opinion. However, the truth of the Bible is that Christians cannot lose their salvation. On the other hand, it teaches that a person can “abandon the faith”. (1)
In Hebrews 3:12 it says, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.”
“Brothers” (Hebrews 3:12) is, of course, Christians. Paul is talking to the Hebrew Christians. He is saying to them to be careful to see to it that among them none of them have “a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” (Hebrews 3:12) “Turns away” (Hebrews 3:12) is exactly the same word that is used in verse 1 for “abandon”. They are to be careful that no one abandons the living God. It is conceivable that this can happen among Christians. While accepting this as a reality, we are being advised to “see to it…that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” (Hebrews 3:12)
However, for example, even if there is a case of a person abandoning the faith, that doesn’t mean that all is lost. Even such a person can once start all over again. He can start all over again time after time after time. He can start over many times. He just needs to hear the Christian Gospel, repent and believe in Jesus as his Savior. Then that person will be saved.
If you feel like you were under pressure by other people to believe in Christ so you said you did. However, you feel like it was just words and not from your heart. If you feel like you don’t have a living relationship with Jesus, the only thing you need to do is to believe in Jesus and ask him to forgive you of your sins and become your Lord. If you realize this, it’s not too late. You can start over again. For example, even if we abandon the faith, we can return again to the faith.
Paul is warning that like this at the end of the world there will be people who will abandon the faith. This is something that “the Spirit clearly says.” (1) We must not believe all things, but check with what the Bible teaches to make sure the teaching is not by “deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” (1) Then so we are not deceived we need to abide in the faith.
- Hypocritical liars (Vs. 2-5)
In the next verses, verses 2 to 5, is written the methods by which we are deceived by the devil. “Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” (2-5)
“Such teachings come through hypocritical liars.” (2) A characteristic of teaching by “deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1) is that it is lies. The devil is the father of lies. You won’t hear the truth from the devil. The devil advances his works by using false teachers. Here 2 characteristics of the false teachers are given. One is that their “consciences have been seared.” (2) The other is that they were disposed to asceticism.
First about their consciences being seared, the word “seared” refers to burning your body with an iron, scorching it, and being in the condition of having no feelings. That is the meaning of their “consciences have been seared.” (2) Paul in the book of Timothy uses the word “conscience” many times. For example, in 1:5 it says, “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Also in 1:19 too it says, “holding on to faith and a good conscience.” This good conscience becomes so seared, in other words, so much that the conscience doesn’t feel sin, it is indifferent to telling lies. Even if he hears the Words of the Bible, his conscience isn’t hurt. That is because he doesn’t recognize sin.
Another characteristic is that the false teachers “forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods.” (3) This is called legalism or asceticism. These are all by ”deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” (2) Also Paul in the opening paragraph of I Timothy warns about men who teach false doctrines. That teaching was a different teaching from the original teachings of Christ. In the background was such prevailing Gnosticism and Jewish heresies. Gnosticism was a soul and body dualism that taught that everything that was fleshly and material was bad, and spiritual and mind were good. Accordingly, marriage is a fleshly thing so it is evil and “forbid people to marry.” (3) Food too is material so evil and therefore “ordered them to abstain from certain foods.” (3)
From this the Roman Catholic Church came to emphasize single clergy. Priests and sisters and such people who serve God must be holy so they sought singleness. If you are not single, you can’t be a priest. If you are married, you can’t be a priest. That is fleshly and secular. They thought that by being single you are spiritual. However, there is one contradiction. It is it is ironic, but the Catholic Church’s first pope, Peter, was married. The practice is a relic of Gnosticism caused by the infiltration of such thinking into the church. It was not the teaching of the Bible. In the Bible from the beginning marriage was not forbidden. Marriage was an institution instituted by God from the beginning of creation. It is blessed and holy. It can be said that for it to be forbidden is really the teaching of “deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” (2) Of course, that doesn’t mean that you have to get married. You get married for God and you don’t marry for God. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (I Cor. 10:31) If you apply this to marriage then it’s o.k. to get married and its o.k. not to get married. To forbid is a teaching of “deceiving spirit and things taught by demons.” (2) and is different than the teaching of the Bible.
Also about the other one, ordering “them to abstain from certain foods,” (3) the influence of Judaism can be strongly seen. It was the teaching that even though you became a Christian, you had to follow the law of the Old Testament or you couldn’t be saved. The main thing was the commands about food. However, food was created by God to be received thankfully by people that know the truth and have faith. “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” (3, 4) There may be times when for our health we should watch how much we eat or there are times when we may fast for the purpose of prayer. However, there is no reason that food should be forbidden. Actually in Leviticus there are many regulations written about food. However, they are a shadow of what is to come. The substance is Christ. Please open your Bibles to Colossians 2:16, 17. It says, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
The substance is Christ. The regulations of the law of the Old Testament were nothing more than a shadow. If you desperately pursue the shadow and lose sight of the substance, then that is really overturning the plans. The purpose of the law was Christ, but what is important is what Christ who is the purpose of the Old Testament says. Christ said, “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” (3, 4) Actually you might be realizing these aren’t Jesus’ words, but Paul’s. However, Paul is speaking about Christ’s words. Jesus said, “Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean’.” (Mark 7:15) He made all foods clean. Therefore, food must not by forbidden. If it is forbidden, then it is a teaching of “deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” (2)
The Christian cult, the Mormons, has detailed regulations concerning food. Drinks that contain caffeine like coffee, tea, green tea, etc. are not allowed. Of course alcohol is prohibited. They think it isn’t healthy and that they won’t be able to be spiritually holy too. Also the Mormons usually make the first Sunday of each month a day of fasting. Fasting for 2 meals is recommended. The money that is saved by fasting is used to help people. The purpose in and of itself is wonderful, but the problem it is not by personal faith that they are doing it, but by the teaching of the religious group. That’s because the Bible commands not to forbid food. If such a thing is commanded then it is a false teaching. It is a teaching of “deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” (2)
We are made righteous only by a faith of believing in Jesus Christ. There are no other religious acts or works by which a person can be made righteous. We are saved and changed into his likeness only by Christ. It is by the spiritual work of the Lord. It is not by our works. Therefore, we must always be careful not to abandon the faith.
- If you point these things out (Vs. 6)
The third point is that “if you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister.” (6) Please look at verse 6 “If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.” (6)
“These things” (6) are the contents that Paul talked about in verses 1 to 5. In other words, it is about what will occur “in later times” (1). “In later times” (1) teachings by “deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1) will prevail so Paul is teaching that Timothy needs to distinguish the teaching and teach the teaching of the Bible correctly. “If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus.” (6) “A good minister of Christ Jesus” (6) is a person that teaches these things well. “A good minister of Christ Jesus” (6) teaches the about Jesus Christ well so that no one abandons the faith. A person who neglects Jesus Christ, and doesn’t mention him at all is not a good minister. “A good minister of Jesus Christ” (6) teaches all “these things”. (6)
That’s because you were “brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.” (6) “The truths of the faith” and “the good teaching that you have followed” are the same things, but here Paul is saying this in this way in order to emphasize it. Words that do not come from faith, in other words, original words that are not written in the Bible and that Timothy had not heard up until now are a teaching of “deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” (2) Such teaching must be gotten rid of. By keeping the words of the Bible which have not changed from the beginning, and the teaching that all the churches have kept traditionally, “the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that” (6) he has followed and by teaching them he will be “a good minister of Jesus Christ.” (6) Even if it seems old fashion or out dated Timothy must teach the “the truths of the faith” (6) and “the good teaching that (6) he has followed. By doing so our faith will mature. All other teaching is by “deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1) and will cause people to abandon the faith. Love will become cold and people will love only themselves and abandon God. Therefore, we must teach these things. To teach is the word used for remember. We must repeat it over and over again, saying it repeatedly and we must remember it. Such a minister is “a good minister.” (6)
By looking at this we can see what the duty of the minister of the church is. It is to teach “these things”. (6) This is the most important duty of the minister of the church. In Japan there is a tendency to think that a good Pastor is one does everything: the secretarial things, the church member’s care, things concerning food and drink, and who does all details in the church. However, that is not what the Bible says a good minister is.
In Acts 6 there is a record of 7 people being chosen as deacons who were filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom to deal with a problem that occurred in the first church. The Jews who spoke Greek “complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.” (Acts 6:1) However if the 12 disciples took care of this problem it would mean neglecting the important things that they had to do. That was prayer and the Word of God. In order to concentrate on the ministry of the word of God and prayer, they turned the responsibility of the problem over to 7 men. If they were to be worried about this problem then they wouldn’t be able to do their important ministry and so it would be a misfortune for the church.
“A good minister” (6) gives “attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4) and is a minister that teaches “these things.” (6) Let’s seek to always be taught by the Word and not “abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1) b