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The true church; the false teachers (3:14-4:5)
Timothy is urged to remind the believers that their behaviour should reflect the character of the church of God to which they belong. That church is not like a heathen temple occupied by some lifeless god, but is the dwelling place of the living God and the upholder of his truth (14-15). This living God (in the words of an early Christian song that Paul quotes) entered the world of human existence in the person of Jesus Christ, who died, rose from death, brought salvation to the world, and returned to heaven where he reigns in glory and is worshipped unceasingly (16).
Despite the greatness of God and his salvation, some abandon their faith. They claim to be following the true teaching of God, but actually they are following the deceitful teaching of evil spirits. They have ceased to teach that right moral behaviour is the natural outcome of true faith, and as a result their consciences have become dead (4:1-2). Instead of allowing the truth of God to mould people’s minds and attitudes, they try to force people to obey laws. They teach, for example, that it is wrong to marry and to eat certain foods. But this teaching directly opposes God, who gave marriage and food for people’s benefit (3-5).
(The false teaching that Paul and Timothy fought against at Ephesus was an early form of Gnosticism. It was a problem that Paul had dealt with in letters he wrote a year or two previously. For further details of this teaching see introductory notes to Ephesians and Colossians.)
Dealing with the false teachers (4:6-16)
Paul makes it clear to Timothy that good teachers do not waste time arguing about silly stories, but concentrate on teaching positive Christian doctrine. This is the best answer to those who teach nonsense. By thinking and talking about the great truths of the Christian faith, teachers will build themselves up as well. They must not forget, however, to train themselves with the self-discipline that leads to spiritual fitness and lasting blessings (6-8). True servants of God persevere in all aspects of their work, whether in teaching others or in training themselves. They are assured that this will lead them to a fuller enjoyment of the salvation that God has given them (9-10).
Some older ones in the church may not be pleased to hear the younger man Timothy giving them instruction and perhaps correcting them. This is all the more reason why Timothy must make sure that he is blameless in his speech, conduct, love and faith (11-12).
God had given Timothy ability as a preacher and teacher. The elders of Timothy’s home church, as well as Paul, had publicly acknowledged this by the ceremony of laying their hands on him when he first went out with Paul in the service of God (13-14; cf. 2 Timothy 1:6; Acts 16:2). Nevertheless, Timothy must work hard to develop the gift God has given him. As a result of this combination of divine gift and human diligence, both God’s servant and those among whom he works will enjoy salvation in its fulness (15-16).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 4". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent