by Mike Ratliff
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:1-6 ESV)
It is one thing to confess Christ or profess to be a Christian and quite another to live and walk before the face of God within that confession or profession in obedience to God and His Word. There are so many in our time who claim to be Christians, but whose lives are marked by them speaking and living according to the world and its ways. I, like many of you, have become very perplexed when certain Christian leaders who profess all the right things are then seen to fellowship with those who are obvious apostates or heretics. If we are not careful and properly focused in our devotion, which is the definition of godliness, we can become discouraged because we are looking to men rather than our Saviour for the proper way to walk, minister, and confront false doctrine.
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that 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 it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV)
1 Τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα ῥητῶς λέγει ὅτι ἐν ὑστέροις καιροῖς ἀποστήσονταί τινες τῆς πίστεως προσέχοντες πνεύμασιν πλάνοις καὶ διδασκαλίαις δαιμονίων, 2 ἐν ὑποκρίσει ψευδολόγων, κεκαυστηριασμένων τὴν ἰδίαν συνείδησιν, 3 κωλυόντων γαμεῖν, ἀπέχεσθαι βρωμάτων, ἃ ὁ θεὸς ἔκτισεν εἰς μετάλημψιν μετὰ εὐχαριστίας τοῖς πιστοῖς καὶ ἐπεγνωκόσιν τὴν ἀλήθειαν. 4 ὅτι πᾶν κτίσμα θεοῦ καλὸν καὶ οὐδὲν ἀπόβλητον μετὰ εὐχαριστίας λαμβανόμενον· 5 ἁγιάζεται γὰρ διὰ λόγου θεοῦ καὶ ἐντεύξεως. (1 Timothy 4:1-5 NA28)
But the spirit expressly says, that in later times some shall depart from the faith, taking heed to spirits of delusion and instructions of demons; in hypocrisy of speaking lies their own conscience being seared, restraining to marry, to be at a distance from foods which God created for participation with thankfulness to the ones trustworthy and recognizing the truth. For every creation of God is good, and nothing to be spurned, with thankfulness being received. For it is sanctified through the word of God, and intercession. (1 Timothy 4:1-5 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
Think of what is being taught in the visible church in our time about tolerance for everyone’s “religion” or that Christians must make room for all varieties of views, opinions, et cetera. That is, everyone’s religion except that of those who have not compromised the faith while holding fast to Jesus Christ as our only propititiation for our sins. These same hypocrites hold to a form of Christianity that is focused on the man rather than God. These are in unbelief when it comes to the sovereignty of God over all of creation. They exalt the Free Will of man over God’s sovereignty. Through this they conform to the world’s teaching of relativism and pragmatism which are the deceitful teachings of demons. When we preach and teach the exclusivity of the Biblical Gospel, they proclaim that we are bigots, Pharisees, and intolerant.
These are the ones who shall “depart from the faith,’ ἀποστήσονταί τινες τῆς πίστεως. What this means is that these professing Christians are holding to teachings that are outside the bounds of true Christianity. Their teachings may indeed include some truth, but it is contaminated with error. These false teachings are from demons. It can be quite disturbing when very visible and popular Christian leaders are revealed to have compromised here. However, in v1 we are told that God is not surprised and we should not panic, but should remain faithful.
If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. (1 Timothy 4:6-11 ESV)
6 Ταῦτα ὑποτιθέμενος τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς καλὸς ἔσῃ διάκονος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, ἐντρεφόμενος τοῖς λόγοις τῆς πίστεως καὶ τῆς καλῆς διδασκαλίας ᾗ παρηκολούθηκας· 7 τοὺς δὲ βεβήλους καὶ γραώδεις μύθους παραιτοῦ. Γύμναζε δὲ σεαυτὸν πρὸς εὐσέβειαν· 8 ἡ γὰρ σωματικὴ γυμνασία πρὸς ὀλίγον ἐστὶν ὠφέλιμος, ἡ δὲ εὐσέβεια πρὸς πάντα ὠφέλιμός ἐστιν ἐπαγγελίαν ἔχουσα ζωῆς τῆς νῦν καὶ τῆς μελλούσης. 9 πιστὸς ὁ λόγος καὶ πάσης ἀποδοχῆς ἄξιος· 10 εἰς τοῦτο γὰρ κοπιῶμεν καὶ ἀγωνιζόμεθα, ὅτι ἠλπίκαμεν ἐπὶ θεῷ ζῶντι, ὅς ἐστιν σωτὴρ πάντων ἀνθρώπων μάλιστα πιστῶν.11 Παράγγελλε ταῦτα καὶ δίδασκε. (1 Timothy 4:6-11 NA28)
In placing these things before the brethren, you will be a good servant of Jesus Christ, being trained up in the words of faith, and the good doctrine which you have followed closely. But refuse the profane and old wives fables! But exercise yourself to godliness! For the bodily exercise for a little is beneficial, but godliness is beneficial for all things, having promise of life – of the present, and of the one being to be. Trustworthy is the word, and worthy of all acceptance. For in this also we tire in labor, and are berated, because we have hope upon a living God, who is deliverer of all men, especially of those who believe. Exhort these things and teach! (1 Timothy 4:6-11 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
George Swinnock, English Puritan (1627 – November 10, 1673) and contemporary of John Bunyan, was a worthy minister of the gospel. He was ejected from his pulpit in 1662 for nonconformity like Bunyan, although he was able to preach again briefly before his death after the 1672 Indulgence. The following quote is from a sermon of his based on v7 from the passage above.
There are several things which may help to make the life fair in the eyes of men, but nothing will make it amiable in the eyes of God, unless the heart be changed and renewed. Indeed, all the medicines that can be applied, without the sanctifying work of the Spirit, though they may cover, they can never cure the corruptions and diseases of the soul… Such civil persons go to hell without much disturbance, being asleep in sin, yet not snoring to the disquieting of others; they are so far from being awaked that they are many times praised and commended. Example, custom, and education, may also help a man to make a fair show in the flesh, but not to walk after the Spirit. They may prune and lop sin, but never stub it up by the roots. All that those can do, is to make a man like a grace, green and flourishing on the surface and outside, when within there is nothing but noisomeness and corruption. – George Swinnock1
Swinnock is right. We must make sure that we are a καλὸς διάκονος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, a good servant of Jesus Christ. How do we do that? We must be, ἐντρεφόμενος τοῖς λόγοις τῆς πίστεως καὶ τῆς καλῆς διδασκαλίας, trained up in the words of faith and of the good doctrine, which are found in God’s Word and are not contaminated by the world and deception of demons. This is why when apostates such as Brian McLaren attempt to change the focus of the Church from these good doctrines to that which is nebulous and tolerant and open to other “religions,” we must confront them and use all the means open to us to warn the Body of Christ about him. Contrary to the teaching of our time that says that everything is relative and there is no such thing as absolute truth, we must never buy into that at all. Yes, we should be Christlike in how we do this, but we must stand firm and obey our Lord in all things.
Soli Deo Gloria!
1George Swinnock, “Do You Worship God,” a sermon from the Puritan era on 1 Timothy 4:7, reprinted in Free Grace Broadcaster, Issue 177, (Summer 2001), 21-22.