1 TIMOTHY 4
1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
Those teachers and seducers constituted a class of men of which Balaam, is a representative. They "ran greedily in the error of Balaam's reward" (Jude 11). They were seducing spirits and demons who spoke lies in hypocrisy : false teachers privily bringing in destructive opinions, and denying the Despot who bought them. Through covetousness, with feigned words, they made merchandise of professors unstable in the faith, sporting themselves with their own deceivings.
They had once known the way of righteousness, and by the obedience of faith it inculcates had become children of God. But they afterwards forsook the right way, and went astray. Their heart was exercised like Balaam's with covetous practices; and without regard to the honour and interests of the truth, they zealously and volubly entertained their hearers with crotchety conceits and speculations. Their teaching and practices favoured the wantonness and lusts of the flesh.
The inconstant and unstable among the saints favoured their traditions, which proclaimed a liberty in things which the word condemns. This licentiousness strengthened the flesh to which it is congenial; and as this was developed, the power of the word became impotent; their hold upon it was relaxed; they became entangled again in the pollutions of the world, and were overcome of their inordinate desires.
Thus these teachers and seducers, with the disciples they had drawn away after them by the perverse things they taught, though they zealously contended for one God against the idolatry of the Roman State, adopted opinions and practices applauded by the profane. They "committed fornication, and ate things sacrificed to idols." For this contemptible "mess of pottage" they sold their birthright; and not only ruined themselves, but caused the truth to be evil spoken of by those whom it was designed to benefit (2 Pet. 2).
The some spoken of here as departing from the faith are by Peter described as many. 'Many shall follow their pernicious ways' (2Peter 2:2).
So many are they at last that 'all nations' are ensnared (Rev. 12:2, 13:3); and the situation among men at last is so spiritually barren that Jesus did not anticipate finding faith upon the earth at his coming, though that coming was to be in response to the prayers of the faithful (Luke 18:8). Yes, he plainly says that the state of things at his coming would resemble the state of things 'in the days of Noah', when only one small family were found in an acceptable attitude before God.
In view of this, what can we say concerning our evil day but that in a certain sense, things are as they ought to be. Few are they who are found honoring the name of God and waiting upon Him in the way appointed in His Word. Few are they with whom His commandment is a law, and to whom the things in which He delights are a pleasure. Few are they to whom His Kingdom is a reality, and the high calling a business of practical moment. It was thus in the days of Noah.
The multitude now, are where they were then < seeking their own ways, finding their own pleasure, looking upon the claims of God as an intrusion; His will, an inconvenience; and His purpose, a distasteful interference with their rights and occupations. It is an evil situation < a dark and dreadful day. But let understanding rule, and we shall not be overthrown.
What we see and mourn at, was foretold. It was foretold because it was foreseen. It was foreseen because to God all things are known; and with God, we may abide in peace, even during the evil day; for, not only has the evil day been foreshown, but the glorious day that comes after < the day of light and gladness, and righteousness and honour.
Exhort Bro Roberts- Fortitude to Endure.
2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
Chrysostom, a Catholic writer, says,
"Priests have received a power which God never chose to confer on angels, for God never said to them, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Earthly princes have a power of binding, of bodies only however; but this bond grasps the soul, and extends to heaven, so that whatever the priests do below, God legitimates above, confirming the sentence of his servants. But what less is this than that he hath conferred on them all celestial power; for whose soever sins, he said, ye remit, they are remitted, and whosesoever ye retain, they are retained.
Can any authority be greater than this? All judgment was given to the Son by the Father, but here I see it all devolved by the Son on them; for they are advanced to this supremacy precisely as though they were already translated to heaven, exalted above human nature, and freed from human passion. Moreover, were a king to confer on one of his subjects authority to imprison and again release whoever he pleased, he would be admired and envied by all. But the priest receives authority from God as much greater as heaven is superior to earth, and souls to bodies.
"It is madness to despise this power without which we can neither attain salvation, nor any of the blessings that are promised; for if no one can enter the kingdom of heaven except he be born of water and the Spirit, and he who does not eat the flesh of the Lord and drink his blood is excluded from eternal life, and none of these are possible except through the consecrated hands of the priest, how can any one without him escape the fire of hell, and attain a crown?"-De Sacerdotio lib. iii. c.v.
This is priestism with a vengeance-priestism in which Catholics, both Greek and Latin, firmly believe, and with the spirit of which the clergy of all sects and shadows are more or less imbued. Where the people believe such vile doctrine as this, the clergy are omnipotent, and constitute a tyranny the most odious and cruel that can be conceived. As to the argument it may be remarked, that there is a very considerable flaw in Mr. Chrysostom's premises. He assumes, that because the Lord Jesus authorised his apostles to remit and retain sins, this authority extends to all priests styling themselves their "successors" who live after them in all ages!
This assumption we deny, and demand of those who affirm its truth to adduce the divine testimony that proves it. This they cannot do, and therefore they are impostors and deceivers of the people.
The truth is that there is no scriptural division of the faithful into priests and people, clergy and laity. Christ is the elder brother, and they that are Christ's are his brethren. Jesus and his brethren are God's family. They are all priests of whom Christ is the chief, and the rest his Household. Since the death of the apostles, there are none of the household of the past or present that can pardon one another for offences against heaven. God for Christ's sake forgives them. Neither can they remit or retain the sins of men; all they can do is to show how sinners can obtain pardon, and become heirs of the kingdom and glory of God, through the name of Jesus Christ.
Herald of the kingdom and age to come
Conscience seared with a hot iron
It is the time since baptism that distresses us: our failures, our shortcomings, our aberrations from the right way: our sins. It is this that fills us with sadness and misgiving." Well, it is right that we should be troubled on this head. It would be a poor sign if we were insensible to our imperfections. It would be a symptom of that state described as
"having a conscience seared as with a hot iron."
When a hot iron is passed over any portion of our flesh, you know what happens to that portion. It loses sensibility: it cannot feel; it is seared. This is a bad state for the conscience to be in. It is far better to be in a hyper-sensitive state than this. It is far better to be distressed at our feelings than to be unconcerned about them. It is more pleasing to God: it is more pleasing to man. If you have a servant that is plagued about his short comings, he is more valuable and pleasing to you than one who is jaunty and self-satisfied with these same shortcomings.
Exhort 280 TC 10/1896
[Gibbon] believes that "the progress of superstition would have been much less rapid and victorious if the faith of the people had not been assisted by the seasonable aid of visions and miracles" (termed by Paul, "all power, and signs, and wonders of falsehood") "to ascertain the authenticity and virtue of the most suspicious relics."
He then gives an account of how the remains of Stephen were discovered by the appearance of Gamaliel to one Lucian, a presbyter of Jerusalem, in the reign of Theodosius II, A.D. 421-460. The ghost named Gamaliel revealed the place of Stephen's burial. When his alleged coffin came into view, the earth trembled, and an odor such as that of Paradise was smelt, which instantly cured the various diseases of seventy-three of the assistants.
These fragrant daemonial relics were transported in clerical procession to a church-bazaar constructed in their honour on Mount Zion; and the minute particles of those relics, a drop of blood, or the scrapings of a bone, were acknowledged in almost every province of the Roman world to possess a divine and miraculous virtue.
Augustine, bishop of Hippo, a renowned saint of the Apostasy, and the great exemplar of Mr. Elliott's "sealed ones," attests the innumerable prodigies performed in Africa by the daemonial relics of the catholic St. Stephen.
In his work, the City of God, he enumerates about seventy miracles, of which three were resurrections from the dead, in the space of two years, and within the limits of his own diocese! Paul had such "saints" as this Augustine before his mind when he wrote to Timothy that in later times there would be "seducing spirits, with teachings concerning daemonials; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared as with a hot iron." If we enlarge our view to all the dioceses and all the saints of the catholic world, it will not be easy to calculate the fables and the errors which issued from this inexhaustible source.
...The sublime and simple theology of the primitive christians was gradually corrupted; and the monarchy of heaven, already clouded by metaphysical subtleties, was degraded by the introduction of a popular mythology, which tended to restore the reign of polytheism." -- Gibbon.
3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
There are all sorts of arbitrary self-denials which gender pride and self-satisfaction, and are directly contrary to the true spirit of praise and thankfulness that recognizes God's loving hand in His provisions for man.
As usual, we see again in the Great Apostasy -- the Catholic Church -- the full development of these various human theories against which Paul struggled *
7 But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.
8 For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
Chapter 4 is related throughout and deals with the contrast between self-imposed rules of physical self-denial and obsession with physical exercise, and true spiritual exercise and development of the whole man unto godliness through study of and obedience to the Scriptures.
It is easy to get these things out of proportion -- to be obsessed with physical well-being to the neglect of the infinitely more vital spiritual growth and development and well-being.
Physical health, no matter how well attended to, is only good for a few short mortal years. Soon the grave claims the best kept mortal bodies. But spiritual health, diligently pursued, is doubly profitable -- it is good for eternity, and it will also teach us wisdom and gain us divine care for the present existence. *
Recreation is good. To ignore this is to court ill-health.
We are only flesh and blood, and must, if we would make the wisest use of our little lives, study and heed the laws which govern it. God sometimes allows our fidelity to place us in health-destroying situations, as in the case of Jeremiah and the filthy pit. He may even commend us when in our zeal for His truth we unthinkingly violate nature. But He dces not call upon us to voluntarily seek such experiences.
With disease and death-producing circumstances we should, as with destroying persecutors, when practicable, flee from them. There is a possibility of our presuming on nature's laws, on the supposition that our love for the truth will safeguard us against evil results. This is wrong.
The words of Christ to his tempter are here applicable: "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."
To many a hard-toiling brother it might, now and again, with divine sanction be said, " Why shouldest thou destroy thyself before thy time?" In taking recreation we must let the Word govern. There are legitimate and illegitimate forms of recreation. Amongst the former we may include : country outings, boating, bicycling, cricketing, swimming. Exception has been taken (in but few instances, fortunately) to such recreation, on the ground that the time might be better spent in preaching the gospel. This is not the objection of a thoughtful man.
To take means to get or maintain health for use in God's service is no more wicked than the occupation of time in eating and sleeping. The thing we have to see to is that wisdom shall direct in the kind and amount of recreation. The tendency is for those who need and deserve the most recreation to take the least, and vice versa. All that can be said on this point is that God demands honesty at our hands, and that our talents are to be accounted for in a day that is rapidly approaching.
London. A. T. J.
The Christadelphian, Sept 1894. p342.
Godliness hath promise of the life that now is, as well as that which is to come -- (1 Tim. 4:8). And what is the promise? That we shall have plenty? No; perhaps that would be a curse. That we shall always be well off?
No; perhaps that would blind our weak eyes to the wretchedness of our present lot, and dim the glory that is to be revealed. It is a promise that we shall not be left forsaken; and this means a great deal.
It means that come prosperity or come trouble, come plenty or come poverty, come health or come sickness, come honour or come reproach, come the couch of ease or the bed of thorns, come weal or come woe -- come what may, if we are called according to His purpose (which will be evinced by our obedience of His commandments in all things), He will be at the helm, to make all things work together for our ultimate good.
Bro Roberts - Seasons of Comfort
12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
If we wish to effectually serve Christ let us pay supreme regard to our own conduct.
A careless walk interferes materially with the duties of those in the truth. It not only forms a bad example - and example is by no means an unimportant element in the work of the truth - but it robs us of our courage in speaking to others.
For a brother to speak with effect he must be sincere, and to be sincere he must be consistent. Who could exhort others to meditate day and night upon the word when he himself was indifferent to it? Or to shun the carnalising amusements of the godless world whilst he himself indulged in them? Or to love the brethren whilst he himself fostered hatred towards a particular one? Or to resist not evil whilst he himself fights tooth and nail to secure his rights? Or to be benevolent when he himself is covetous? Or to forsake not assembling together when he himself is often absent?
A few may be clever enough to act the double character for a time. But it cannot last long (1 Jno. ii. 19), and whilst it does the Spirit repudiates the service (Ps. l. 16-23).
Bro AT Jannaway
The Christadelphian, July 1887
13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
The close of the chapter is the true picture of self-discipline and self-development. To reading what? There can only be one possible answer in the case: the Scriptures. Let us mark this well. Here again it is the difference between life and death -- Don't just read, but "give attention" (v. 13) --
"Meditate on these things."
Keep them uppermost in your attention -- train your mind to center on God and on His Word at every opportunity, ALL day -- "Give thyself WHOLLY to them." *
Let us read continually, and let us make an effort to remember, to practise. and to communicate that which we read. Such a course will prove a blessing both to ourselves and others. If we would become well-grounded in the truth-safe against heresies-we must read.
Let us strive industriously to acquaint ourselves with the multiform teaching of the word. Let us work out the purpose of God as it is presented in literal language, in parable, in allegory, in type, and in symbol. Let us trace the unfolding of prophecy in history.
If we get well ahead in these things no "wind of doctrine" will ever shake us. We shall stand as firm as the oak in the wildest storm. The Scriptures very clearly lay down the duty of thus progressing in knowledge.
"Go on," "grow," "increase," "build," "abound," are the Bible terms which express this duty. In view then, of our obligation, let us allot to ourselves regular intervals for study. Let us not expend all our time in antagonising the alien. It is right to antagonise the alien, but not to the exclusion of our own advance and education.
There is "a time to break down, and a time to build up."
Bro A Jannaway
The Christadelphian, Nov 1887
15 Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.
It must be a consistent way of life -- and surely it is obvious this is the only wise and reasonable course! We are dealing with the glorious things of eternity and our possible relation to them -- if by any means we gain that great prize.
Could any course therefore be more foolish than to make anything less than the FULLEST EFFORT WE CAN to succeed?
Surely world events are crying out to us how insecure present things are and how close the end is upon us! Let us be sure we are -- for the brief time left -- found watching and working. *
*Bro Growcott. Grace, Mercy and Peace.
There is no reason why we cannot think of God every minute. There is no reason why we cannot have His will and presence, and the love of Him, always in the forefront of our consciousness.
SOMETHING has to be there -- what better subject of interest and desire? It is of such -- and such only -- that He is making up His living jewels out of the vast dead human rockpile. Not of course that they ever achieve this in perfection: but He seeks only those who are deeply conscious that THIS is His desire and their salvation, and who strive totally to bring their weak fleshly minds and bodies into conformity with this perfect, complete unity with Him.
Bro Growcott - Search Me O God