Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament1 Timothy 4
But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times, some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons,
The Spirit saith expressly ...
"This means that there was neither doubt nor vagueness about it." F3 The connection of this section with the preceding chapter is seen in the contrast with the triumphant Christ depicted in the final six poetical lines of chapter 3. "Over against the future triumph of the church, assured by the finished work of Christ, we must set the opposition." F4
That in later times ...
This is not limited to any immediate period after Paul's letter. "From the time at which he was writing and forward in all periods of the church, men have apostatized from the faith." F5
Some shall fall away from the faith ...
Paul did not use the same word here for "fall away" which he used in 2 Thess. 2:3-11; but as Carl Spain said:
The APOSTASY of 2 Thess. 2:3 is the
same as the DEPARTURE here in 1 Tim.
4:1. Both words are from [Greek: aphistemi], meaning to abandon, to
rebel, to desert. It is translated
FORSAKE (Acts 21:21), and "fall away
from" (Hebrews 3:12). F6
The obvious connection with other New Testament references to the apostasy requires the deduction mentioned by Ward, "The `later times' foreshadow the gathering eschatological storm." F7 The Second Coming is also connected with the final and complete manifestation of this apostasy in 2 Thess. 2:1-12. Lenski made it "the whole time between the two Advents." F8
From the faith ...
simply means "the Christian faith," giving further emphasis to the Christian roots of the apostasy in view.
Giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons ...
It is not taught here that evil spirits actually teach, but that they "through men" (mentioned a moment later) deceived multitudes and are, in fact, themselves instigators of the false teaching. In the Old Testament, the evil spirit who stood before the Lord said, "I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets" (1 Kings 22:22); and the same evil power would be able also to corrupt Christian elders, change them into hardened hypocrites, speaking the most glaring falsehood, with no reproach whatever from their dead consciences. Of course, not elders alone, but ministers, church prelates, and the whole echelon of religious hierarchies are included in this.
Most scholars accept "doctrines of demons" in this passage subjectively, that is, doctrines taught by demons (through men); but there is a very possible interpretation which construes this as meaning "doctrines regarding demons"; and, as every Roman emperor upon his death became a demon to be prayed to, the historical church herself finally began offering prayers "to" its dead saints, which most certainly fulfills the definition of "doctrines of demons" understood objectively.
through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron;
Reference is again made to the passages outlined at the head of this chapter. The very worst mistake that any sincere student of the word of God can make is to assume that teachers of false doctrine are either telling the truth, or that they are unaware of the false doctrines they are teaching. The Scriptures leave no doubt at all on this.
Branded in their conscience as with a hot iron ...
This is a description of the "hardened," "blinded," deadened soul in whom the truth principle has utterly perished. It begins by rejecting what is known to be true, but in its progression it leaves the "deluded" totally without moral or spiritual guidelines. The Scriptures contain a great deal of material on the judicial hardening of willful sinners; and those interested in further pursuit of the subject will find a discussion of it in my Commentary on Romans, pp. 392-395.
forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by them that believe and know the truth.
Forbidding to marry ...
This heads the list of characteristics of the great apostasy that shall seduce and mislead the church of God; and one may only be astounded at the fanciful interpretations of this that one finds in commentaries. Note some of these:
False teachers were to arise in
Timothy's day, and shortly thereafter
who would teach that God did not
create matter because matter is evil
... The command to abstain from meats
and marriage is based upon the
supposed evil of matter. F9
(This is an indication) of the impious
doctrine of some of the great Gnostic
schools ... probably in those early
days creeping into the churches. The
Jewish sects of the Essenes and the
Therapeutae had already taught
abstinence from marriage was
A hundred other instances could be cited in which there seems to be a total blindness to the one overwhelming, universal fulfillment of this very prophecy, namely, that found in the apostate church herself, which there is no need to name, because every child on five continents already knows it.
To mention the Therapeutae (as in
Spence, above), offers little that is
tangile ... We may safely say that no
sect that bore this name ever
It is only among the more recent commentators that the phenomenal blindness to the historical fulfillment of the apostasy is observed; and therefore we are doubly thankful for comments like the following:
The whole monastic system that
developed, together with all the lying
teachings from which it arose,
appeared soon enough. It still
flourishes in Rome and in all the rest
of the false ascetism. F12
T. Croskery gave the following historical progression of the development of the heresy of forbidding Christians to marry:
This notion may already have
influenced opinion in the Corinthian
church (1 Cor. 7); it developed in
less than a century into Gnostic
contempt for marriage; it entered
patristic theology in the form of an
exaggerated veneration for virginity;
it developed in the Latin and Greek
churches into the celibacy of the
clergy and of religious orders; it was
a tendency wholly opposed to Scripture
teaching which allows "marriage is
honorable in all" (Hebrews 13:4); it
forbade marriage to church rulers and
ministers, despite the fact of Old
Testament priests and New Testament
elders having been required to be
"husbands of one wife." Apostles were
permitted to take their wives with
them on mission tours (1 Corinthians 9:5). F13
Wesley explained the meaning here thus:
Forbidding priests, monks and nuns to
marry, and commanding all men to
abstain from such and such meats on
such and such days. F14
There is also the universal prohibition against marriage during Lent, a ban that denies marriage during a specified period to hundreds of millions throughout the earth. Yes, Paul's prophesy was fulfilled in the most comprehensive and extensive dimensions imaginable.
Commanding to abstain from meats ...
This is partially treated under the preceding verse. Paul's condemnation of such doctrine has in view the fact that Jesus Christ made "all meats clean" (Mark 7:19; Acts 10:13-16).
Them that believe and know the truth ...
Once again the order of trust, then knowledge, appears in the New Testament, as in "We have believed and know that thou art the Holy One of God" (John 6:69). The knowledge that amounts to an absolute certainty is experiential in that it follows, but does not precede, belief.
For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it be received with thanksgiving:
Every creature of God is good ...
This is attested by the fact that even those creatures held to be unsuitable for food in some countries are yet considered delicacies in others, as any international market demonstrates.
If it be received with thanksgiving ...
Thanksgiving at meals is a basic Christian duty, and the same is in view here.
for it is sanctified through the word of God and prayer.
or "consecrated ..." Ward pointed out the value of this verse in another connection:
Paul says the unbelieving husband is
consecrated through his wife
(1 Corinthians 7:14). It cannot mean that
the husband is saved because he has a
Christian wife. But what does it
mean? ... He is not to be regarded as
unclean, and therefore divorced; he
can continue to be the husband of a
Spence noted that quotations, or allusions, founded upon the Bible often made up a portion of thanksgiving at meals in the Christian community, citing a very old form of the practice from the Apostolic Constitutions, thus:
Blessed be Thou, O Lord, who nourishes
men from their youth up, and who
givest meat to all flesh; fill our
hearts with joy and gladness, so that
we, always enjoying a sufficiency, may
abound unto every good work in Christ
Jesus our Lord, to whom be ascribed
the glory, honour and power unto the
ages. Amen. F16
In this connection, Gould also pointed out the "table thanks" common among Wesley and his preachers thus:
Be present at this table Lord;
Be here and everywhere adored;
These creatures bless, and grant that
May Feast in Paradise with Thee." F17
If thou put the brethren in mind of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished in the words of the faith, and of the good doctrine which thou hast followed until now:
This is one of the passages which the source critics have bitterly complained about, Faith in the Pauline epistles is a subjective experience, but in the Pastorals it is more objective in character." F18 Of course, this is their excuse for denying Paul wrote the Pastorals. However, as pointed out extensively in this series, it is simply a conceit on the part of scholars that "faith" is usually subjective in Paul's other writings. "Faith" in this place is undeniably objective, being related not so much to "trusting" as it is to piety and good works; and Paul's letters do not contradict each other. See extensive exegesis on this in my Commentary on Galatians, pp. 69,70.
In his book on Romans, Sanday tells us
that we must distinguish between at
least seven different senses given the
word "faith" in that one epistle, and
he says that Paul has all of these
meanings before him. F19
The most widespread theological error of this age is that of misunderstanding the use of "faith" by Paul in his letters, and the unlawful, ridiculous interpretation of it as meaning, invariably, "trust/faith." That it does occasionally have that meaning is certain; but as Dr. Howard of the University of Georgia declared, "The usual meaning of the word in the New Testament is fidelity." F20
Paul's emphasis in this place on sound doctrine is also offensive to some who boast that they do not "preach doctrine"; and such a boast separates one emphatically from the New Testament tradition. "A good minister," in the Pauline definition, is one who is both nourished by and a teacher of the sound Scriptural doctrine upon which the New Testament church is founded.
but refuse profane and old wives' fables. And exercise thyself unto godliness:
"Invented stories and untrue fables have no place in Christian proclamation. The faith is rooted in history." F21
How much of the lore regarding the so-called canonization of the "saints" of the church is pure fable? For example, take the tale regarding St. Patrick who was said to have died in Ireland; but he was so beloved that his friends would not bury him; and on the fourth day his body swelled up, burst, and emitted profusely the most marvelous perfume men had ever smelled! This yarn was told by a clergyman of the historical church in this writer's community, when he was a small boy.
Exercise thyself unto godliness ...
A moment later Paul would cite the reason for this admonition. Exercise unto godliness leads to eternal rewards; the other type of exercise provides only temporal benefits.
for bodily exercise is profitable for a little; but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come.
This is denominated a "faithful saying" in the next verse. The contrast between the mere care of the body and the far more important care of the soul is the thing in view. It is incredible how much time, effort, expense and concern men lavish upon exercise and care of their bodies; and, while Paul allows this to be profitable "for a little," that is, "for a little time, only," the far more important requirements of the religious life of the soul should be stressed more than the other.
Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation.
Commentators are sharply divided on whether this applies to the preceding 1 Tim. 4:8, or to the following 1 Tim. 4:10. The view preferred here sees it as applicable to the preceding verse, above. As Lenski expressed it:
This saying is identical with the
dictum in 1 Tim. 1:15, and does not
seal what follows, but what precedes
... (It carries the idea) Trust it or
not; it is and remains worthy of all
For to this end we labor and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe.
Of the living God ...
The Christian hope contrasted starkly with the hope of the pagan world which was set upon dead idols.
Who is the Saviour of all men ...
"This is not universalism. The key is in the words, `specially of them that believe.'" F23 It is a fact, of course, that God is able and willing to save all men, and that all who are ever saved will be saved by him; and it is in this sense that "he is the Saviour of all men." As Lenski said, "We know why so many are not saved (Matthew 23:37)." F24
These things command and teach.
Every word Paul addressed to Timothy is Christian doctrine. The order to command and teach those things extends to all times and to all congregations seeking to do the will of the Lord. Paul's instructions in this letter were not merely personal advice to Timothy, but solid doctrinal guidelines for the church of all ages.
Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an ensample to them that believe, in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity.
White's paraphrase of the meaning here is as follows:
Assert the dignity of your office even
though men may think you young to hold
it. Let no one push you aside as a
It should not be inferred from this, however, that Timothy was young by present-day methods of reckoning youth. Youth is a relative term, as pointed out by White: "Forty is reckoned old for a captain in the army, young for a bishop, and very young for a prime minister." F26
Gould pointed out that:
It is age, rather than youth, that is
in danger of being despised today.
When a church seeking a minister
automatically disqualifies every man
on its list who is fifty years old, or
older, it has come dangerously near to
despising maturity. F27
Despite the validity of what Gould says, there is also a widespread tendency to ignore and bypass men in their twenties when settled churches start looking for a minister. This also is extremely reprehensible.
In word ... life ... love ...
The conduct of any minister is regulated by this. He must be one whose life measures up to the holy ideals which he preaches.
Till I come, give heed to reading, to exhortation, to teaching.
Till I come ...
As previously pointed out, we do not know if Paul ever was permitted to go to Ephesus again, as he planned here to do.
Give heed to reading ...
Despite the obvious application of this admonition to the simple necessity of study on the part of every minister, Lenski was sure that something else was meant. He wrote:
Timothy is directed to pay close
attention to the reading of the
churches, that is, to WHAT is being
read, not that SOMETHING should be
read, still less that Timothy do the
reading but to what is being
Full agreement is felt with this; and the point is one worthy of consideration by churches everywhere. Some of the "modern" translations being read publicly are near blasphemy in their contradiction of sacred truth; and one finds reason to rejoice that the Hillsboro church in Nashville, Tennessee, laid down the dictum that only certain versions of the Holy Bible were ever to be read publicly from their pulpit. It was a similar concern which Paul enjoined upon Timothy here.
Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.
What was this gift, and where did Timothy get it? Lenski answers thus:
God gave (it) not by a miraculous gift
from heaven, but "by means of
prophecy," by a communication of the
word to him, and did that under the
tutelage of one of the most capable
prophets this word ever had, namely,
Paul himself. F29
The gift may also be identified with Timothy's ability, as Paul's assistant, to found and establish churches in the truth. From 2 Timothy 1:6, it is clear that Paul himself was present and participated in the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, the same being the occasion when Timothy was set aside unto the attainment of this gift, an attainment which was prophesied at the time. As to what prophet may have spoken it, Silas, who was also a prophet, was Paul's companion at the time; and either he or Paul could have made the prophecy which was so gloriously fulfilled in Timothy. If on the first tour, Barnabas could have uttered it.
Be diligent in these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy progress may be made manifest unto all.
The utmost diligence and application to the task in hand are indicated by this; and such diligence and perseverance will surely issue in favorable results. It is regrettable that some ministers seem to believe that they can benefit mankind more by who they are and what they imagine themselves to be, than by any diligent application to the work of saving souls. It was a task, arduous, demanding, and constant to which Paul here assigned Timothy.
Take heed to thyself, and to thy teaching. Continue in these things; for in doing this thou shalt save both thyself and them that hear thee.
Paul never thought of salvation as a "once procured, final feat, settled and done forever!" No, salvation was a matter of fidelity and perseverance to the end of life. From this, it is also clear that there is a sense in which men must save themselves, not in the sense of either meriting or earning salvation, but in the sense of diligent continuity in the Christian way. There is no occasion in the Christian life when the follower of the Lord may feel free to rest upon his laurels, assume that he "has it made," or cease the fidelity that should mark the entirety of his whole life. Wallis pointed out that "continuing" is one of the basic words "used to describe the steadfast walk of a Christian (Galatians 3:10; Hebrews 8:9; James 1:25; Acts 14:22; 14:22 and Colossians 1:23). It is basically the same as ABIDE in John 15 and 1 John." F30
Footnotes for 1 Timothy 4
1: R. H. H. Lenski, St. Paul's Epistles. 1 Timothy (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1937), p. 626.
2: Ibid., p. 627.
3: William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1957), p. 145.
4: Newport J. D. White, Expositors Greek Testament, Vol. IV (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), p. 120.
5: David Lipscomb, Commentary on 1 Timothy (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1942), p. 154.
6: Carl Spain, The Letters of Paul to Timothy and Titus (Austin, Texas: R. B. Sweet Company, 1970), p. 73.
7: Ronald Ward, Commentary on 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (Waco: Word Books, 1974), p. 67.
8: R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 618.
9: Ronald A. Ward, op. cit., p. 78.
10: H. D. M. Spence, Ellicott's Bible Commentary, Vol. VIII (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970), p. 196.
11: R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 622.
12: Ibid., p. 623.
13: T. Croskery, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 21, 1 Tim. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 75.
14: John Wesley, One Volume New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1972), in loco.
15: Ronald A. Ward, op. cit., p. 70.
16: H. D. M. Spence, op. cit., p. 197.
17: J. Glenn Gould, Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. IX (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1965), p. 594.
18: D. A. Hayes, Paul and His Epistles (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1969), p. 453.
19: Ibid, p. 458.
20: George Howard, article: "The Faith of Christ," in Expository Times, Vol. 7 (April, 1974), pp. 212-214.
21: Ronald A. Ward, op. cit., p. 71.
22: R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 636.
23: Ronald A. Ward, op. cit., p. 73.
24: R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 639.
25: Newport J. D. White, op. cit., p. 126.
27: J. Glenn Gould, op. cit., p. 598.
28: R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 643.
29: Ibid., p. 645.
30: Wilbur B. Wallis, Wycliffe Bible Commentary, New Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 856.
31: R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 597.
32: A. C. Hervey, op. cit., p. 53.
33: David Lipscomb, Commentary on 1 Timothy (Nashville: The Gospel Advocate Company, 1942), p. 151.
34: Newport J. D. White, op. cit., p. 117.
35: R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 605.
36: Newport J. D. White, op. cit., p. 117.
37: A. C. Hervey, op. cit., p. 54.
38: William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 136.
39: James Burton Coffman, The Mystery of Redemption
40: Wilbur B. Wallis, op. cit., p. 846.
41: Newport J. D. White, op. cit., p. 101.
42: H. D. M. Spence, op. cit., p. 183.
43: William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 87.
45: Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. VI (London: Carlton and Porter, 1829), p. 213.
46: Newport J. D. White, op. cit., p. 102.
47: F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972), p. 113.
48: A. S. Peake, op. cit., p. 543.
49: F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972), p. 109.
50: A. S. Peake, op. cit., p. 531.
51: Ibid., p. 532.
52: J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 983.
53: Alfred Barry, op. cit., p. 111.
54: William Hendriksen, op. cit, p. 88 footnote.
55: James Burton Coffman, The Mystery of Redemption (Austin, Texas: Firm Foundation Publishing House, 1976).
56: Ernest G. Ashby, op. cit., p. 486.
57: James Macknight, op. cit., p. 436.
58: B. C. Caffin, op. cit., p. 63.
59: David Lipscomb, A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles, Vol. IV (Nashville: The Gospel Advocate Company, 1964), p. 194.
60: B. C. Carlin, op. cit., p. 64.
61: James Macknight, op. cit., p. 437.
62: William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 141.
63: Ibid., p. 143.
64: J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 974.
65: Robert H. Mounce, op. cit., p. 769.
66: William Barclay, op. cit., p. 50.
67: Ibid., p. 48.