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Bible Commentaries

Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament

1 Timothy 4

Verses 1-2



1. The Spirit positively says, that in the last time certain ones will depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and the teachings of demons,

2. Speaking lies in hypocrisy, having been cauterized as to their own conscience . Multiplied millions of demons throng the air, all doing their best to find a home in some human heart. They constantly transform themselves into angels of light, and pass themselves on Christians for the Holy Ghost, and on Spiritualists for their dead relatives, thus deceiving the world by wholesale. A preacher stands in the pulpit, and a demon behind him gives the message and the utterance, passing himself for the Holy Ghost. It does not mean that the conscience of the people is seared with a hot iron, but that of the demons. Hence, their hopeless reprobacy. As the powers of Satan increase upon the earth in the last days, these demons literally flood the fallen Churches, inundating the pulpit. What is the remedy? Nothing but entire sanctification, in which dispensation we live, and for which we are especially responsible to God. The baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire burns out all of the jungles of inbred sin and all the morasses of depravity, leaving the demons no hiding-places, so they can no longer play off on you. You should always follow Jesus, led by the Holy Ghost; as these demons have no incarnation, they can not counterfeit Jesus, but as the Holy Ghost has no incarnation, they can counterfeit him. The Divine leadership is triple, the Word, Spirit, and Providence. If you are true to this threefold leadership, you will never get sidetracked by these demons. I am satisfied they manipulate many pulpits and rule Churches not a few this day. I am in the forty-fifth year of my ministry. O what a fearful apostasy in my recollection! Entire sanctification is the only attitude in which you can securely avail yourself of the Divine leadership. If you will not have it, you must take chances among the demons.

Verse 3



3. “Forbidding to marry.” Here is a prophetical allusion to popery and other prohibitions of Christian wedlock. Marriage is God’s institution, old as Eden, and lies at the bottom of Christian civilization, not only the source of all the untold bliss of the Christian home, but a breakwater against floods of sin, which engulf millions in hell. Hence, we should be careful how we “forbid to marry,” lest we fall under this condemnation, as well as the Romanists. The Savior is plain, permitting divorce for adultery, a breach of the matrimonial covenant. This is for the defense and benefit of the injured party. (Matthew 5:32.)

“Whosoever may marry the divorced woman”

[E.V., is a wrong translation; it should read, Whosoever may marry the cast-off woman; i. e., cast-off without a divorce, and consequently still the wife of the cruel husband] “ commits adultery. ” If the woman had been legally divorced according to Scripture, it would be all right to marry her. This erroneous translation has led many astray. The balance of this verse, 4th and 5th, are on the meat question, which is so clear as to hardly need comment. “ Everything is good and nothing to be rejected, being received with thanksgiving, sanctified by the Word of God and by prayer. ” Certainly we have large liberties under the broad banner of the New Covenant. You can eat and drink anything you please in harmony with the moral and hygienic laws, the old ceremonial law of clean and unclean having fulfilled the period of symbolism, is now transferred to the spiritual man. Of course, all poisons i. e., intoxicating drinks, opium, tobacco, etc. are to be rejected for moral and hygienic reasons. in the boundless department of edibles, which God, in his merciful providence, has provided, we must somewhat discriminate hygienically. E. g., the meats are all too heavy for my constitution; consequently, as a rule, I prudentially abstain especially from swine, though I do not Judaize. Do not get into legal bondage about anything. We live in a dispensation characteristic of large liberties. At the same time we should all live hygienically, for which no rule can be given, in view of the infinitesimal constitutional diversity peculiar to different persons. I am glad I do not know the taste of coffee, though I have rather a favorable opinion of it. But I find it masters some who drink it, so they are out of kilter without it. As I want to be always loaded and ready to shoot for God, I use no coffee nor tea. Use the good sense God has given you; live hygienically, do not Judaize nor run into legalism.

Verses 7-10



7. Common and foolish fables reject. ” “Profane,” in E.V., here is utterly misleading, as there is no such an idea in the Greek. This phrase is so frequently used by Paul to these young preachers as to become proverbial. What does it mean? The word, translated profane in E.V., means common, rustic, uncouth, uncultured. “Old wives” (E.V.) is graodeis, from graus an old woman. Among heathen the women are not educated. Hence, they are very ignorant and superstitious. When old and in the imbecilities of second childhood, they become very silly and foolish. These ignorant, silly people, in all countries, believe all of the foolish stories they hear, and become dupes of superstition. So, what are these “common and foolish fables?” They are all of the silly notions, sayings, and superstitions of an ignorant people; i. e., they are everything in religion except the truth of God revealed in the Bible and experienced in the heart. So they take in all humanisms of every kind; everything on the line of uninspired authority your creeds, whether written or oral, everything that is not authenticated in the Word of God. “ Exercise yourself unto godliness. ” Go for holiness within and without with all your might.

8. For bodily exercise is profitable unto little. ” You receive some benefit from physical labor, and it is all right in its place. “ But godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. ” Labor with your hands, and God will reward you with a living in this life. Go for godliness; i. e., for holiness with all your might, looking a million of miles above everything that glitters and jingles, and God will give you a living and all you need in this life, and a crown of glory unfading in a world of everlasting bliss. Hence, let godliness be everything, and God will attend to everything in this world and that which is to come. Poor Brother B , living in an Ethiopian tenement, wanted sanctification in my meeting, but thought he could not keep it, because he had to drive Dr. S ‘s mules for his daily bread, which were so contrary he thought no one could keep sanctified and drive them. I told him sanctification was the very thing needed to drive the mules. So he went for it, entering Beulah-land with tremendous shouts of victory; drives the mules all day, and comes to the night happier than a lark, and says: “O Brother Godbey, I do believe the mules have got it too. This is the happiest day of my life. I have been shouting on the wagon all day.” I saw him no more for six years. I found him proprietor of a rich farm, living in a mansion, going to meeting day and night, and entertaining the Lord’s people. How did it come to pass? The Lord took his sanctified wife to heaven, leaving him with three little children, and not worth a dollar. His bright face and jubilant look won a rich old maid, who gladly took his hand in wedlock, and was delighted with his beautiful little children. When I saw them last, she too was sanctified, and O how grateful to God for her good husband and sweet children! While I lived for this life, failure and bankruptcy hounded my track. When I gave it up altogether, and lived only for God, he wonderfully supplied all of my temporal needs, and has been astonishing me ever since, not only by the magnitude of his grace for my soul, but the munificence of his providence for my body. The man who lives for heaven, gets this world and heaven too. The man who lives for this world, as a rule misses both, and gets hell on earth and in eternity.

10. We have hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, really of those that believe. ” God is, in fact, the Savior of all men; but only believers receive him as their Savior, while all others defeat him in his saving capacity. The blackest ghost of hell torment is the horrific remembrance: “I had an Omnipotent Savior, who came all the way from heaven to suffer and die to save me; yet I broke his heart by contemptuously rejecting his salvation. So I die as the fool dieth.” This dismal ghost will never down, but haunt you through all the flight of eternal ages.

Verses 12-16



12. Be an example of the faithful word. ” Greek is logos, the Divine Word, and not rhema, man’s word. Hence, Timothy was to speak only “as the oracles of God.” In deportment not conversation, as E.V. the Greek means every turn he makes with soul, mind, and body. The gospel ministry takes in the whole man “ In Divine love. ” This is the very quintessence of the Christian religion, and must be lived every moment. “ In faith. ” This is the basis of all salvation, and must be ever unshaken as Gibraltar. “ In purity. ” This is the climax of ministerial as well as Christian character. Hence, Timothy must abide in entire sanctification forever.

13. Give your attention to reading, exhortation, teaching. ” The great work of the preacher is to read. God’s Word to the people, teach them the meaning of it, and exhort them to obey it. The modern sermonizing was unknown in the apostolic age. Paul utterly discarded it, lest the faith of the people might. stand in the wisdom of men, rather than in the power of God. Really sermon-making is no part of gospel preaching, but a modern science, cunningly and adroitly manipulated by demons, thus wearing out the preachers and wasting their time, which is so much needed in soul- saving labor. The man who preaches all the week, day and night, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, simultaneously making a hundred pastoral visits, only in the interests of souls, carrying his Bible, reading a paragraph ever and anon, and studying it as he runs, and expounding it to the people, will preach infinitely better sermons on Sunday than his neighbor, who spent all the week with his books, crazing his brain to manufacture a heterogeneous conglomeration of all science, history, literature, and theology, with a ten per cent admixture of gospel truth. This is no exaggeration. I am satisfied I have heard sermons which had cost much hard study and great investigation, and did not contain one per cent of simple gospel truth. This is the reason why our metropolitan Churches are dying by the wholesale, and nearly all now in a north pole climate, while our poor little Churches in the mountains, piny woods, and deserts are like blooming oases in the great Sahara. They are served by our poor little preachers, who never rubbed against a college. Therefore, they know nothing but their Bibles and their experiences. Consequently they either have to preach the gospel, or keep their mouths shut. The issue of the matter is, that these penniless rustics and uncouth pioneers get the pure, unadulterated gospel, and lots of it; for these illiterate preachers are delighted to preach all day instead of thirty minutes, and souls flourish like trees planted by the riverside. On the contrary, the collegiate pastors of the rich city Churches only preach fifteen to thirty minutes, and have to give the people a variety of everything they have on hand. Consequently they don’t get gospel enough to make soup for a sick grasshopper. Of course, they starve to death and go to hell in platoons, from the simple fact that a little bit of science, literature, and theology has no spiritual nutriment. The shepherd goes out on Sunday morning with a bag on his shoulder to feed the sheep, all running and huddling nearly starved to death, many so poor they have to lean against the fence to bleat. Here comes the shepherd and strews the meal in the trough; but, behold! it turns out to be sawdust and chips and cockle-burrs, with a very slight admixture of meal, which the sheep can’t get for the trash; and if they could get it all, there is not enough to keep one in a hundred from starving to death. The simple truth of this mournful problem looks me squarely in the face; our large and popular Churches are everywhere dead and dying of starvation for the want of the plain, nutritious gospel bread, which, I am sorry to say, they are not getting. As in my peregrinations I preach afternoon and night every day, I frequently, on Sunday morning, slip away and hear some great metropolitan pastor. Hence, I know whereof I affirm. We live amid the sad fulfillments of the woeful latter-day prophecies, and contemplate with horror this distressing “famine of bread.” The eye of God is on this appalling state of things. In condescending mercy he is raising up an army of evangelists, regardless of race, rank, culture, color, or sex, and sending them out to do just what Paul here commands Timothy, “ Give attention to reading, exhortation, teaching. ” Fortunately these preachers have no sermons, and few of them are competent to make any, and they have gumption enough “to keep their hands off the ark.” Therefore, unencumbered with “dry-bone” sermons, they go out with their Bibles in their hands and the Holy Ghost in their hearts. They read God’s Word, exhort the people to receive it, and teach them how to get religion, spend nights of prayer, and God puts his seal on their labors of love. Do you know that this is the very preaching commanded in the commission?

To preach simply means to proclaim; not a sermon which we have made, but God’s truth revealed in the Bible. Satan has so utterly captured the modern pulpit as to humbug the preachers out of the very definition of gospel; i. e., “ the dynamite of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. ” Hence, where there is no spiritual dynamite to blow sins and devils out of the people, there is no gospel. O how the dead Churches do need this blowing up! In harmony with these facts, our Savior selected “unlearned and ignorant men” when he gathered around him the inspired twelve to head the gospel army going forth to conquer the world. If he had selected collegiate graduates, they would most likely have mixed up human learning with the gospel. All collegiate learning is good if baptized with the Holy Ghost and fire; but without it, a bad investment for the preacher, and a dangerous thing.

14. Do not neglect the gift which is in thee, which was conferred on thee through prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery. ” Prophecy is laid down in the catalogue of extraordinary spiritual gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:0.) These gifts constitute the Christian’s panoply, and qualify the sanctified for their great and responsible work of saving others. Here we have an allusion to Timothy’s ordination, which simply consisted of the intercessory prayers of the older and more spiritual members of the Church; meanwhile their hands are laid on him. There is an indescribable and a mysterious impressibility in the human organism, and an indefinable transmissibility of graces from one to another. When you pray for a person you will augment the efficiency of your petition by the imposition of the hand. Successful altar work utilizes the hand as well as the heart. Human ecclesiasticisms have long ago appropriated the New Testament ordination, and subsidized it to clerical intrigue. In its original simplicity it was simply the environment of candidates for gospel work with the elderly and more spiritual saints, and a union of prayer with simultaneous imposition of hands for the coming of the Holy Ghost on the candidates, and the impartation of his extraordinary gifts, the only available enduement for soul-saving work. Paul and Barnabas at Antioch were thus consecrated for the evangelization of the Gentiles

15. Meditate on these things, live in them, in order that your promptitude may be manifest to all. ” The Lord’s preachers make an awful mistake when they try to fill up their heads with everything. John Wesley said that sanctification made him “ homo unius libri, a man of one book.” So was Timothy. At this point Satan sidetracks the preachers by wholesale. I preached fifteen years unsanctified, studied myself almost to death to make a preacher. In sanctification the preacher died, and I was perfectly willing to give up preaching and everything else for Christ’s sake. Then the Holy Ghost so filled me as to make me a preaching machine, a regular automation, never to stop again. So, for the last twenty-nine years I have been every moment ready to preach and to die. When presiding elder twenty years ago, I preached nine hundred sermons a year.

16. Take heed to yourself and to the teaching; abide in these; for, doing this, you will save both yourself and those who hear you. ” O the emphasis Paul lays on the teaching of God’s Word! What a mournful contrast with the diluted, humanized, despiritualized, and degospelized, misnamed gospel of the present day little manufactured sermonettes substituted for a glorious banquet of God’s blessed, sweet, inspiring, reviving, convicting, converting, reclaiming, sanctifying, and uplifting truth! Paul here tells Timothy that it is by teaching the people God’s Word, the way of salvation, and a holy life, that he shall save both himself and those who hear him. How I tremble for the preachers in the judgment-day who have neglected their opportunities to preach the gospel, and let the people slip through their fingers into hell! As a rule, city pastors do not preach as much clear, straight gospel truth in a whole year as they could and should preach in a week. Good Lord, have mercy on them, and alarm their guilty fears before they face the great white Throne, and hear the bitter wails of their people as they sink into hell! Read the prophecies and look around, and you will conclude with me that the woes of the great Tribulation make haste.

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Bibliographical Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 4". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament".