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Bible Commentaries

Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

1 Timothy 4

Verses 1-8

True godliness

1 Timothy 4:1-8

1 Timothy 4:1-2 . The Holy Spirit distinctly and clearly warns us that in these last days some professing Christians will listen to and follow evil men who profess to speak for God, but who out of covetousness and hypocrisy handle the word of God deceitfully. They will not only listen to these deceivers, but will receive their lies and false doctrines.

This ‘departure from the faith’ is their effort to persuade men to worship God and seek acceptance before God by the works of the flesh (such as abstaining from certain meats, from marriage, from food on certain days and observing certain rules and days of fasting).

Men by nature are inclined towards self-righteousness and carnal worship of God and are adverse towards true spiritual worship and dependence on the righteousness and mercy of Christ. Satan takes advantage of this weakness and through his ministers gives men something to do and something to give up for salvation (John 4:22-24).

1 Timothy 4:3-5 . These are by no means the only areas where these false teachers exercise dominion over men's consciences with their laws, rules and traditions, but are examples.

They forbid people to marry (Hebrews 13:4; 1 Corinthians 9:3-5). They command men to abstain from meat, or certain meat on certain days! This is all a hypocritical pretence of holiness and temperance.

Any creature which is made for food (and this is easy to be discerned by thinking men) is not to be refused on the basis of spiritual contamination if it is received as from the Lord with a thankful heart and a prayer of thanksgiving, called ‘blessing’ the food. There is nothing in itself common or unclean or unfit for use if received temperately and with thanksgiving, for nothing that goes into a man defiles him spiritually (Matthew 15:10-20).

Those who believe and know the truth of Christ (1 Timothy 4:3) are freed from every yoke of bondage, ceremony and invention of men. They find their righteousness, sanctification and redemption in him!

1 Timothy 4:6 . ‘If you put the brethren in remembrance of these things,’ that is, all that he has said in the preceding words:

That the end of the commandment is love for Christ and others.

That Christ came into the world to save sinners.

That prayers should be made in the church for all sorts of men.

That godly women are to behave in the home and church as godly women.

That there are certain qualifications for pastors, elders and deacons.

That God is not to be worshipped nor righteousness sought by carnal means and foods but in Christ only.

‘If you remind them of these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, always feeding and nourishing your own self and God's people on the truths of faith and good teaching which you have been taught and have followed!’

1 Timothy 4:7 . Refuse all these traditions, outward carnal commandments and false standards of holiness as so many godless and old sentimental tales. Rather, ‘exercise yourself in inward godliness’ internal grace such as faith, hope, humility, reverence and spiritual worship of God (Galatians 5:22).

1 Timothy 4:8 . ‘Bodily exercise is of little profit.’ Paul does not speak here of jogging, tennis, golf or the physical exercise of the muscles. He gives the name ‘bodily exercise’ to all outward actions such as kneeling, fasting, eating and drinking, abstaining from meat, sex, food or whatever, that are undertaken for the sake of religion or holiness.

This is necessary, for the world has always leaned to the side of worshipping God by outward services and ceremonies and seeking holiness through making certain foods, meats and actions to be evil in themselves.

‘But godliness is profitable for all things’ that is, he who knows and loves Christ, walks with God in truth and sincerity, is a new creature in Christ and filled with the fruit of the Holy Spirit, lacks nothing. This inward godliness is health to the body and the soul; to themselves and to others, to the things of this life and of that which is to come!

Verses 9-16

A useful ministry

1 Timothy 4:9-16

In the preceding verses the apostle condemns the natural tendency to seek holiness and to worship God by outward services, ceremonies, the abstaining from certain foods on certain days, and the denial of certain normal human needs. Outward religious forms, exercises, and duties are of little profit. Internal godliness (such as faith, love, humility, praise, and thanksgiving) is profitable in all things, spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

1 Timothy 4:9 . This saying is reliable and worthy of complete acceptance by everybody (1 Peter 3:10-11; Psalms 84:11-12).

1 Timothy 4:10 . With a view to this glorious truth (that Christ is our righteousness, sanctification, and acceptance, that we are complete in him, that true godliness consists not in meats and drinks, forms and ceremonies, days and denials, but in a vital union with Christ, which produces inward spirituality and holiness), we are willing to labor and suffer reproach. We are willing to endure hardship, imprisonment, hunger, nakedness, and the reproach and persecution of false religionists because we trust in the living God, who is the deliverer, provider, and maintainer of all men. In a providential way, God gives all men breath, food, blessings, and common mercies; but he especially cares for his own! There is a general providence which attends all mankind and a special providence which relates to the elect of God (Psalms 37:23-26; Matthew 6:31-34; Matthew 5:45). John Calvin said, ‘The word 'saviour' is not here taken in what we call its strict meaning in regard to eternal salvation, but is taken for one who delivers and protects. Thus we see that even unbelievers are protected by God. In this sense he is the saviour of all men, not in regard to the spiritual salvation of their souls, but because he supports all his creatures. His goodness extends to the most wicked. Since God shows mercy and favor to those who are strangers, how shall it be with us who are members of his family?’

1 Timothy 4:11 . Command men to reject all fleshly, profane, unscriptural doctrines and religious exercises, and teach them to exercise themselves in inward spiritual godliness. Teach them to love Christ and one another. Teach them to trust and depend on the Lord to deliver them from trouble and to supply every need.

1 Timothy 4:12 . Timothy was a very young man. Young men are sometimes honored by God with great gifts for usefulness in the church (as Samuel, David, Solomon, Charles Spurgeon, McCheyne, and Brainerd). They should not be shunned because of their youth when they have gifts suitable to their office and behave well in it, but they ought to be honored and esteemed for their work's sake. At the same time, Paul instructs Timothy to supply by dedication, sincerity, and gravity of conduct what is wanting in age and experience. Be an example to other believers in your conduct, love, faith, and purity of life. Proper respect and honor is not demanded but earned and should depend in no way upon a person's age nor office, but upon his consecration to Christ and his gospel.

1 Timothy 4:13 . Paul was hoping that he could visit them again, but he was unwilling for Timothy and others to be idle. Give attention to the reading of the scriptures. How shall we teach others if we are not taught of God? If so great a man is advised to study, how much more do we need such advice. We study and read for our own growth in grace and the knowledge of Christ, but we also study in order to communicate to others the doctrines of Christ. It might be worthwhile to note that reading comes before exhortation, for the scripture is the foundation of all wisdom.

1 Timothy 4:14 . The apostle exhorts Timothy to employ, for the glory of God and the edification of the church, the grace and gifts with which he was endued. That which qualifies men for the work of the ministry is a gift from God and is not to be neglected through laziness and indifference nor other employments. At his ordination the men of God prophesied great things through his ministry.

1 Timothy 4:15 . Two things are emphasized here meditation and dedication. Meditate upon the scripture, spend much time in study, prayer, and personal devotion, and give yourself up wholly to the ministry of the word. Literally throw yourself completely into the work of the gospel. Your sincerity, ability, growth, and usefulness will be evident to all.

1 Timothy 4:16 . ‘Take heed to thyself,’ to your attitude, conduct, objectives, personal faith, and relationship with Christ. ‘Take heed to your doctrine;’ see that you preach the truth of the scriptures. These two things are most important; for in so doing you shall deliver yourself from error, from the blood of men, from heresies of false teachers, and from becoming a castaway. You shall also be an instrument of God to the eternal salvation of those who hear you and a means to lead them into the truth of God concerning their behavior and general conduct.

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Bibliographical Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 4". Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 2013.