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1 Timothy 4



Prediction of Apostasy The Great Apostasy False Teachers False Teachers False Teachers
4:1-5 4:1-5 4:1-5 4:1-5 4:1-11
A Good Minister of Jesus Christ A Good Servant of Jesus Christ   A Good Servant of Jesus  
4:6-10 4:6-10 4:6-10 4:6-10  
  Take Heed to Your Ministry      
4:11-16 4:11-16 4:11-16 4:11-16  

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. Like chapters 1-3, chapters 4-6 must be interpreted in light of the false teachers.


B. Chapter 4 reflects negative leadership (vv. 1-5) and positive leadership (vv. 6-10).


C. Verses 11-16 are a personal message from Paul to Timothy which continues through 6:2.



 1But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 2by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 3men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 4For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; 5for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

4:1 "But the Spirit explicitly says" This may refer to

1. OT prophecy

2. Paul as the recipient of direct inspiration from the Spirit (cf. Acts 20:33)

3. inspired messages from other gifted, contemporary leaders (cf. Acts 21:11)


TEV"later times"
NKJV"latter times"
NJB"last times"

Paul, like the prophets of the OT, was speaking of his own time, but relating it to the last days before the Second Coming. Paul teaches a delayed Parousia in 2 Thessalonians 2. Therefore, this characterization of rebellion and false teaching describes his own day (cf. 2 Tim. 3:1) as well as the time between the first coming of Christ and the second (cf. 2 Pet. 3:3; Jude v. 18).

The NT often characterizes these later days or end-times much like the OT prophets who took a crisis of their day and projected it into an eschatological setting (cf. Matt. 24:10-12; Acts 20:29-30; 2 Thess. 2:3-12; 2 Tim. 3:1-9; 4:3-4; 1 John 2:18-19; 4:1-3).


NASB"fall away"
NKJV"depart from"

This is a compound of apo (from) and istēmi (stand). It is used in the sense of defection here, in Luke 8:13, and Heb. 3:12. In 2 Tim. 2:19 it means "abstain from." In form it is a future middle indicative.  One evidence of a true salvation is that one remains in the church (cf. 1 John 2:18). See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE NEED TO PERSEVERE at 4:16.


▣ "the faith" This term (usually with the article) is used in the Pastoral Letters for the body of revealed Christian truth (cf. 3:9; 4:6; 5:8; 6:10,12,21; 2 Tim. 2:18; 3:8,10; 4:7; Titus 1:5,13; 2:2). Here it is not necessarily referring to their salvation as much as to the false teachers.

▣ "paying attention to" This is a present active participle which emphasizes continual action. These apostates continue to believe and give credence to demonic teaching.


NASB"by means of the hypocrisy of liars"
NKJV"speaking lies in hypocrisy"
NRSV"through the hypocrisy of liars"
TEV"spread by deceitful liars"
NJB"seduced by the hypocrisy of liars"

These claim to be "teachers of the Law" (cf. 1:7). There was obviously an element of Judaism involved. They are vividly described in 1:3-7; 4:2-3,7 and 6:3-10,20-21.

1. they teach strange doctrines (1:3; 6:3)

2. they pay attention to myths and genealogies (1:4)

3. they have turned aside to fruitless discussion (1:6)

4. they make confident assertions about what they do not understand (1:7; 6:4)

5. they are hypocritical liars (4:2)

6. they have seared consciences (4:2)

7. they forbid marriage (4:3)

8. they advocate abstaining from foods (4:3)

9. they put forth fables (4:7)

10. they are conceited (6:4)

11. they have a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words (6:4)

12. they cause constant friction (6:5)

13. they have false knowledge (6:20-21)

14. they have gone astray from the faith (4:1; 6:21)


NASB"deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons"
NKJV"deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons"
NRSV"deceitful spirits and teachings of demons"
TEV"lying spirits. . .teachings of demons"
NJB"deceitful spirits and doctrines that come from devils"

Paul's view of these false teachers is very negative. He attributes their teaching to the work of Satan (see Special Topic: Satan at 3:6, cf. 2:14; 3:6-7) and to the demonic. In many ways Paul's view of these heretics parallels the OT view of Canaanites' fertility worship. God told the Israelites to totally destroy these people because they would corrupt the faith. These same warnings are found here (cf. 2 Thess. 2:9-10; James 3:15; 1 John 2:18-19).


NASB"seared in their conscience"
NKJV"having their own conscience seared with a branding iron"
NRSV"consciences seared with a hot iron"
TEV"consciences are dead, as if burnt with a hot iron"
NJB"consciences are branded as though with a red-hot iron"

This refers to one of two things.

1. The false teachers were beyond the place of repentance (cf. Eph. 4:19; Titus 1:15). We get the English word "cauterize" from this Greek term.

2. This phrase refers to Satan's brand showing his ownership (e.g., Rev. 13:16,17; 14:11; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4).

Because these men refused to see truth, they are now incapable of seeing truth (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4). This is the unpardonable sin of the Gospels and the sin unto death of 1 John 5.

See notes on "conscience" at 1:5.


4:3 "who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods" Here are two of the ascetic teachings of the false teachers. The first, forbidding marriage, is related to the Greek background (Gnostic) or possibly the Jewish Essene (Dead Sea Scroll Community) influence. Marriage is a gift from God (cf. Gen. 2:24) and the will of God (cf. Gen. 1:28; 9:1,7). Marriage is the norm; celibacy is a special call and gift (cf. Matt. 19:11-12; 1 Corinthians 7).

The second, abstinence from certain foods, seems to be related to the Jewish background (cf. Leviticus 11), but could refer to Gnostic prohibitions. Both concepts are dealt with theologically in Gen. 1:28-31. There has always been a tendency among religious people to depreciate the material world, to think of celibacy as a more spiritual state and to view abstinence from both food and drink and asceticism in general as a superior spiritual condition (cf. Matt. 15:11; Mark 7:17-23; Rom. 14:1-15:13; 1 Cor. 8:8; 10:23-33; Col. 2:8-23). The list of qualifications of leadership in chapter 3 is probably related to these false teachings. Notice both marriage and wine are permitted (cf. 3:2,12; 5:9 and 3:3,8; 5:23).

▣ "those who believe and know the truth" This is an unusual grammatical construction (i.e., an adjective and a participle, cf. Michael Magill, NT TransLine, p. 785). This same form appears in Titus 1:15. These believers are described as

1. believers – pronominal, dative, plural, masculine, adjective

2. ones who have known – perfect, active, plural masculine participle

The truth here (see Special Topic at 2:4) is that all creation is from God and He should be thanked for it. Asceticism violates this truth.

4:4 "For everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected" For this tremendous truth on the goodness of all things see Gen. 1:31; Rom. 14:14,20; 1 Cor. 6:12; 10:26; Titus 1:15. However, we must balance this with the fact that though all things may be good and clean to those who know their origin is in God, not all things edify the church (cf. 1 Cor. 6:12 and 10:23). Therefore, we as Christians limit our freedoms for the sake of others out of respect for Christ (cf. Rom. 14:1-15:13; 1 Corinthians 8-10).

The word "rejected" is literally "to throw away." Moffatt translates it "tabooed." Be careful about cultural and/or denominational traditions (cf. Isa. 29:13; Col. 2:8-23).

4:5 God's spoken word brought about creation (cf. Gen. 1:3,6,7,14,20,24) and affirms the original goodness of all things (cf. Gen. 1:31). The believer thanks God (cf. v. 4b) for His creation and provision (cf. Rom. 14:6; 1 Cor. 10:30-31).

▣ "prayer" This term (enteuxis) is only used twice in the NT, both times in 1 Timothy (cf. 2:1 and 4:5). It denotes meeting with someone for the purpose of visiting with them. It is often translated "intercession" (cf. 2:1); in this context, "thanksgiving" seems more appropriate. Remember that context, not dictionaries, determines the meaning of words!

 6In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. 7But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; 8for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. 10For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.

4:6 "In pointing out these things to the brethren" Hupotitēmi, which is the middle voice means "suggest." Notice the gentleness with which Paul urges Timothy to correct the members of the church (cf. chapter 5). Notice the contrast in v. 11, where he gives strict orders to deal with problems in that fellowship. Both are appropriate in their place.

▣ "constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine" This is present passive participle (although in form it may be middle voice, which would encourage believers to study the truths of the faith for themselves). Ministers are nourished on the true tenets of Christianity (I take these two descriptive phrases as synonymous). This is the true gnosis, not the demonic gnosis of the false teachers! The purposes of Scripture are spelled out clearly in 2 Tim. 3:15-17, as is the responsibility of each believer in 2 Tim. 2:15, especially in light of false teaching (cf. 2 Tim. 2:14-18).

▣ "which you have been following" This is a perfect active indicative. Timothy had a track record of faithfulness. This term can either mean

1. to have followed (cf. 2 Tim. 3:10)

2. to have closely investigated (cf. Luke 1:3)


4:7 "But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women" The Pastoral Letters discourage (present middle [deponent] imperative) speculative discussions with obstinate false teachers (cf. 1 Tim. 1:4; 4:7; 2 Tim.2:14-18,23; Titus 1:14; 3:9). This very verb (paraiteomai) is used in 1 Tim. 4:7; 5:11; 2 Tim. 2:23, and Titus 3:10.

The phrase "old women" (graōdēs) is used only here in the NT. Harold K. Moulton, The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised, p. 82, says by implication it means "silly" and "absurd." It is translated "old wives tales" in NRSV, NJB and "old wives fables" in NKJV.

Since I believe also with Gordon Fee that women were being manipulated by the false teachers and were being used as spokespersons for their views in the house churches, then one wonders

1. Were there old women false teachers (cf. 5:6)?

2. Was this a way to accentuate the problem related to women?

3. Was this just a patriarchal cultural idiom?


The term "myth" (NRSV, NJB) in v. 7 has been misunderstood. A good article is in G. B. Caird, The Language and Imagery of the Bible, chapter 13, pp. 219-242. Myth has several possible connotations.

▣ "discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness" This is a present active imperative. "Discipline," or "in training," is an athletic metaphor from which we get the English word "gymnasium." Athletic training is a good example of strenuous, dedicated, priority effort for us to emulate as Christians in the spiritual realm which is so much more significant (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24-27; 2 Tim. 2:5; 4:7; Heb. 12:1-3).

▣ "godliness"


4:8 The physical body is part of our stewardship of life, but is not the priority. Godliness is priority! This could refer to

1. physical exercise

2. physical discipline

3. asceticism

That which affects the body is significant, but that which affects the spirit is eternal! True exercise is the "labor" and "strive" of v. 10! Ministry affects the result of the gospel, but asceticism emphasizes the individual.

4:9 "It is a trustworthy statement" This phrase can either go with verse 8 or 10. Paul uses this phrase often to highlight significant statements in the Pastoral Letters (cf. 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:11; Titus 3:8), much like Jesus used "Amen, amen" or Paul used "I do not want you to be ignorant, brothers" in his earlier writings (cf. Rom. 1:13; 11:25; 1 Cor. 10:1; 12:11; 2 Cor. 1:8; 1 Thess. 4:13).

4:10 "we labor and strive" These are both athletic metaphors. The latter, from which we get the English word "agony" or "agonize," is also found also in Phil. 2:16; 1 Tim. 6:12; and 2 Tim. 4:7.

There is a Greek manuscript variant in this phrase:

1. MSS אc, D, L, P, as well as the Vulgate, Peshitta, and Coptic translations have "suffer reproach" (NKJV)

2. א*, A, C, F, G, K, and 075 have "strive" (NASB, NRSV, TEV, NJB, NIV)

The UBS4 gives "strive" a "C" rating, which means the committee had difficulty in deciding between the variants.

NASB"because we have fixed our hope"
NKJV"because we trust in"
NRSV"because we have our hope set on"
TEV"because we have placed our hope"
NJB"is that we have put our trust in"

This is a perfect active indicative. Believers trust in the settled, sure, unchangeable character of God as their only hope (cf. Ps. 102:26-27; Mal. 3:6; Heb. 1:11-12; 13:8; James 1:17). The certainty of our salvation is grounded in the character of YHWH (cf. 6:17; Rom. 15:12; 2 Cor. 1:10).

▣ "on the living God" I think this Greek phrase reflects the name of the OT covenant-making God. This is the root meaning of the term "YHWH," which is from the Hebrew verb "to be" (cf. Exod. 3:14; see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at 2 Tim. 1:2). YHWH is the ever-living, only-living One.

▣ "who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers" The title "savior" is used quite often in the Pastoral Letters (cf. 1:1; 2:3; 2 Tim. 1:10; Titus 1:3-4; 2:10-13; 3:4,6). In earlier chapters of 1 Timothy it is used of God as the Redeemer, potentially, of all mankind (cf. 2:4,6; Luke 2:11; John 1:29; 4:42; Rom. 5:18-19; 2 Pet. 3:9). See full note at 2 Tim. 1:10. Possibly because of the little phrase "especially of believers" (where one would theologically expect "only") it may be used in its OT sense of Elohim, who is "protector" or "provider" of all life on earth (cf. Matt. 5:45; Acts 17:28).


 11Prescribe and teach these things. 12Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. 13Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. 14Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. 15Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. 16Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.

4:11 "Prescribe" This is a present active imperative of a term meaning "strict military orders" (cf. 1:3,18).

▣ "and teach these things" This is another present active imperative. Paul is encouraging Timothy to take charge. This church was disrupted by false teachers and their surrogates (i.e. possibly younger widows, cf. 2 Tim. 3:6-7, or older women, cf. 4:7).

4:12 "Let no one look down on your youthfulness" This is a present active imperative with a negative particle which usually means to stop an act already in process. The term "young" in Roman and Greek culture could refer to a person up to the age of 40. Possibly the false teachers were picking up on Timothy's age as a way of attacking or depreciating his teachings (cf. 1 Cor. 16:11). Timothy was Paul's apostolic surrogate. Paul encourages Titus in much the same way in Titus 2:15.

▣ "but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity" Timothy was to show (present middle [deponent] imperative) his equipment for leadership by his lifestyle (cf. vv. 6c and 7b). He was to live exactly opposite of the false teachers!

There is a Greek manuscript variant in this phrase. The Textus Receptus adds after "in love," "in spirit." This is found in the uncial manuscripts K, L, and P and also most later minuscule manuscripts. However, it is absent in MSS א, A, C, D, F, G, and the Vulgate, Syrian, and Coptic translations, which implies it was added by a later scribe.

▣ "example"


4:13 "Until I come" (cf. 3:14)

▣ "give attention to" This is another present active imperative. Paul emphasizes three public functions for Timothy as the official leader in corporate worship.

1. public reading of Scripture

2. preaching

3. teaching

The Early church took the basic form of worship from the Synagogue (cf. Acts 13:15; 15:21).

4:14 "Do not neglect" This is a Present imperative with a negative particle which usually means to stop an act already in process. Does this verse imply that Timothy had neglected his giftedness or that he should not neglect his giftedness? I think the latter.

▣ "the spiritual gift within you" Every believer is given a spiritual gift at conversion (cf. 1 Cor. 12:7,11,18). In this context, Timothy's spiritual gift became recognized by local church leaders at Lystra (cf. Acts 16:2) and affirmed at a special commitment service (cf. 1:18). Spiritual giftedness is given by the Triune God (cf. 1 Cor. 12:4-6) to individual believers for the common good of the body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 12:7,11). The exact time of the giftedness is not explicitly stated, the exact number of gifts is not delineated, and the exact mechanism is not revealed. What is obvious is that all believers are gifted for ministry (cf. Eph. 4:12).

▣ "with the laying on of hands" This seems to be a dedication practice of the NT Church (cf. Acts 6:6; 13:3; 2 Tim. 1:6), which they took from the OT (cf. Num. 8:10; Deut. 34:9).


▣ "which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance" Does this imply that Timothy's spiritual gift was given to him

1. at the time of his being set apart for service (cf. 1:14)

2. by means of prophecy and laying on of hands (cf. 2 Tim. 1:6)

3. that the prophets acknowledged his giftedness and the elders set him apart for service (cf. 1:18)

I think #3 is best.

NASB, NKJV"by the presbytery"
NRSV"by the council of elders"
TEV"the elders"
NJB, NIV"the body of elders"

I must admit that I bring some frustration to this text. I have a theological bias against the "clergy/laity" dichotomy that has developed in Christianity. I believe that all believers are called and gifted for maturity and ministry (cf. 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4:11-12). Believers are saints and ministers!

The Reformation concept of "the priesthood of the believer," first articulated by Martin Luther, misses the biblical point — all believers are to function as priests (cf. Exod. 19:5-6; Num. 16:3). Biblically it must be "the priesthood of believers"!

Now in saying this I also realize that God calls believers to lead believers. There is no question that some are called and equipped to direct, guide, motivate, exhort, and organize the people of God.

However, these leaders are not special believers, or privileged believers, but servant leaders (cf. Matt. 18:1-4; 20:20-28; 23:11). Modern ordination tends to depreciate several biblical truths:

1. all believers are servant ministers

2. all believers are gifted for ministry

Ordination has developed from an unofficial affirmation of giftedness and a prayerful commitment to a specific ministry task into an elaborate, high-walled elitism! This concept must be changed; this paradigm must be reevaluated; this unbiblical development must be challenged. Modern Christianity has based so much tradition and elitism on such a small biblical base. So where is the authority, in clear NT passages or in denominational traditions?


NASB"Take pains with these things"
NKJV"meditate on these things"
NRSV"put these things into practice"
TEV"practice these things"
NJB"Let this be your care"

This is another present active imperative. In the Septuagint this term was used of meditating (cf. Isa. 33:18; Acts 4:25). In the NT is seems to have an active sense of strenuous exercise.

NASB"be absorbed in them"
NKJV"give yourself entirely to them"
NRSV, TEV"devote yourself to them"
NJB"your occupation"

This is another present imperative. It means "put yourself into these teachings." Let them be priority in your life and ministry. God's truth needs to clearly and evidently mold our lives in such a way that others can clearly see Christ in us!

▣ "so that your progress will be evident to all" Remember that Timothy is to live before believers and nonbelievers so that they will have no handle for criticism of the gospel or his ministry (cf. 3:2,7,10; 5:7,8,14; 6:14). The exact opposite of this progress in godliness is seen in the false teachers (cf. 2 Tim. 2:16 and 3:9).

4:16 "Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching" Here is yet another present active imperative. Timothy is to take time for his own spiritual maturing and nurturing. This is a good word for pastors in our day (cf. vv. 6c; 7b; 12b).

▣ "persevere in these things" This is yet another present active imperative. Timothy is to be an example of perseverance because the false teachers and their followers have obviously not persevered. Salvation is linked not only to an initial confession of repentance, faith and godliness, but also to continuance in these things. Perseverance is evidence of true salvation! In true biblical Christianity the way one starts, the way one lives, and the way one finishes are all crucial!


▣ "for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you" This can relate to verse 10 or to the false teachers (cf. 2:15). Paul was always concerned that he guard himself lest he become disqualified (cf. 1 Cor. 9:27).



This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Are the false teachers Christian? Were they ever Christian?

2. Why are abstinence and asceticism a danger to the Church?

3. What does verse 10 mean? Will everyone be saved in the end?

4. How was Timothy to overcome his youthfulness?