Attention! has pledged to build one church a year in Uganda. Help us double that pledge and support pastors in the heart of Africa.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

1 Timothy 4



1 Timothy 4:1-54.4.5 Paul foretelleth and describeth a great apostacy to happen in the latter times.

1 Timothy 4:6-54.4.11 He directeth Timothy what doctrines to teach,

1 Timothy 4:12-54.4.16 and by what rules to regulate his conduct, so as to save both himself and his hearers.

Verse 1

It was usual with the prophets, when they declared the oracles of God, to assert in the beginning of their revelations, that the Lord hath spoken, Isaiah 1:2; Jeremiah 1:2; Joel 1:1. The apostle in the same manner, in the beginning of his prediction of things future, declares

the Spirit speaketh expressly, that is, either clearly revealed it to me, as Acts 10:19, and Acts 13:2, thus expressly is opposed to obscurely; for sometimes the revelations given to the prophets were under shadows and figures in divers manners, but the Spirit discovered in a most intelligible manner what seducers should come in the church, &c.

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly; either hath inwardly revealed it to my Spirit, as Acts 10:19; Acts 13:2, or, (which is more probable), because the verb is in the present tense, λεγει, it saith it in the written word, which must be in the Old Testament, for the New was not at this time written: but then the question is, where the Holy Ghost hath expressly in the Old Testament spoken of the apostacy of the latter times. Our famous Mede answers, in Daniel 11:1-27.11.45, where from Daniel 11:30 is a plain prophecy of the Roman empire, and Daniel 11:35-27.11.39, of antichrist, where it is said: Some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, & c.; and he speaks of a king, that shall do according to his will, and shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods.—Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god, but magnify himself above all. Where that learned man thinks is an excellent description of the Roman empire, their various victories, successes, declinations, and mutations, and amongst other things, Daniel 11:36, that they should cast off their old pagan idolatry, and after that make a defection from the Christian faith, and not regard marriage, (called there the desire of women), nor indeed truly regard any god. This the apostle saith should be in the latter times. The last times (saith the afore-mentioned famous author) are the times of Christ’s kingdom, which began in the time of the Roman empire; during which time this Epistle was written, where the apostle speaking of time yet to come, the

latter times by him mentioned must needs be the latter part of the last times, which he saith began in the ruin of the Roman empire, upon which followed the revealing of antichrist, that wicked one, mentioned 2 Thessalonians 2:7. Concerning these times, the Spirit said expressly,

that some should in them depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits; by which some understand the devils themselves; others, false teachers, or false doctrines, which are afterwards mentioned, called doctrines of devils, by which some understand doctrines suggested by devils, or published by the cunning and art of devils. But others think that by doctrines of devils here are not to be understood doctrines so published, but doctrines concerning devils; and that the meaning is, that in the last times the pagan doctrine concerning demons should be restored. The pagan demons were an inferior sort of gods, a kind of middle beings between their highest gods and men, whose office was to be advocates and mediators between men and the highest gods, because they judged it was not lawful for men to come to the highest gods immediately; these they worshipped by images, even as the papists at this day make use of and worship angels and saints. See more fully what Mr. Mede saith upon this argument in his own book, and in Mr. Pool’s Latin Synopsis upon this text; and what he saith seems very probably the sense of this text, especially considering the two doctrines mentioned 1 Timothy 4:3.

Verse 2

The words, as translated by us, are very difficult; for the word which we translate

speaking lies, being the genitive case, will neither agree with spirits nor doctrines, in the former verse, they being both the dative: but neither is our translation agreeable to the Greek, which is thus: In or through the hypocrisy of such as speak lies, and of such as have a conscience seared with a hot iron; which doubtless is the sense; so the words explain the manner how they were seduced to apostacy, viz. through the hypocrisy or dissimulation of men that speak lies, and had consciences benumbed, and mortified, as it were cauterized and seared with a hot iron. By their hypocrisy he characterizes seducers, uncertain, false men, that regarded not what they said, but made a show and appearance of piety, when indeed they had no sense of piety in them. By men whose consciences were seared with a hot iron, he means persons so far from any sense of piety, that they were hardened to any degree of iniquity: and indeed by both terms he excellently expresseth such persons as generally they are who seduce others to false doctrine, they could not do it without some show or pretence of piety, they would not do it if they had any true sense of it; and by both terms he too well expresseth those that in our days seduce men to the doctrines concerning demons, and abstaining from marriage and meats, which are those doctrines he alone instanceth in.

Verse 3

Forbidding to marry: the Greek is, hindering to marry, but that might be by forbidding it by a law under a severe penalty. There are great disputes whom the apostle speaketh of, to find out which it is considerable:

1. That the apostle speaketh of a time that was then to come;

2. Of some who had it in their power to hinder it:

which will make the prophecy hardly applicable to any but the Romish synagogue, to be sure, not so applicable; for though there were some persons before them that condemned marriages, yet as they were but a small, inconsiderable party, so they were persons that had no power to hinder marriage by any penal laws, nor any that did it in such hypocrisy under a pretence of piety, when he who runs may read that they do it to maintain the grandeur of their ecclesiastical hierarchy. How applicable therefore soever this might be to the Ebionites, and those that followed Saturninus and Marcion, and the Encratitae, (which the papists contend for), it certainly more nearly concerns the papists themselves, who more universally forbade them to their clergy, and were the first that had a power to hinder them, and fell into much later times than any of the others.

And commanding to abstain from meats; to abstain from some meats; and this also they should teach in hypocrisy, i.e. under a pretence of piety. This every whit as well agrees to the Romish synagogue as the other, whose prohibitions of flesh are sufficiently known. Mr. Mede is very confident that the Holy Ghost doth here describe the popish monks, and those that gave rules to those orders.

Which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving; which meats, as well as other, God hath created for the use of man, giving him a liberty to kill and eat, only we ought to receive them with thanksgiving; which confirmeth our religious custom both of begging a blessing upon our meat before we eat, and returning thanks to God when we have eaten, for which also we have our Saviour’s example, Matthew 14:19; Matthew 15:36.

Of them which believe and know the truth: not that such as believe not and are ignorant of the truth may not eat, but they have not so good and comfortable a right to the creatures as believers, Titus 1:15; and they know and understand their liberty to eat of those things, which others deprive themselves of by their superstitious opinions and constitutions.

Verse 4

For every creature of God is good; not only good in itself, as all was which God made, Genesis 1:1-1.1.31, but lawful to be used, pure, Titus 1:15, there is no uncleanness in it.

And nothing to be refused; and therefore nothing upon that account is to be refused, as unclean and defiling.

If it be received with thanksgiving; only it must be made use of in such a manner as in and by the use of it we may glorify, and express our thankfulness to, God.

Verse 5

For it is sanctified: sanctified in this place signifies made pure, or lawful to be used.

By the word of God; by the gospel, which declares it so, Acts 10:15; or by God’s ordination, which hath so determined it.

And prayer; and prayer to God for a blessing upon it.

Verse 6

If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things; if by thy preaching publicly, and by thy more private instructions of Christians at Ephesus, thou teachest them these things.

Thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ; thou shalt faithfully discharge the office of him who is a servant of Jesus Christ, not of men merely. The ministers of the gospel are in the first place ministers or servants to Christ. Secondarily, ministers (that is, servants) of the church; as a nobleman’s servant employed to distribute wages or meat to inferior servants, is a minister to those to whom he so distributeth food or wages, but in the first place a servant to his lord.

Nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine; such a minister of the gospel ought to be one bred up in the true faith, and persevering in it.

Whereunto thou hast attained; whereto thou art not a stranger, only I would have thee go on and persevere in it.

Verse 7

But refuse profane and old wives’ fables; all impertinent discourses, which tend nothing to promote either faith or holiness, which he disdainfully calls old wives’ fables, tales of a tub, as we say, discourses having no bottom in the word of God, are not fit for pulpits.

And exercise thyself rather unto godliness; let thy constant study be things that may promote godliness, impart those things unto people, and live up to them in thy conversation.

Verse 8

For bodily exercise profiteth little; bodily discipline, lying in abstaining from certain meats, keeping set fasts, watchings, lying upon the ground, going barefoot, wearing sackcloth or haircloth, abstaining from wine or marriage, is of little advantage, the mind and soul of man is not bettered by them: the apostle doth not altogether despise these things, some of which may be useful (moderately used) to make us more fit for prayer, especially upon solemn occasions; but these are not things wherein religion is to be put, and alone they are of no avail.

But godliness is profitable unto all things; but godliness, which lieth in the true worship and service of God, out of a true principle of the fear of God and faith in him; or (more generally) holiness of life in obedience to God’s commandments, is of universal advantage;

having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come; not from any meritoriousness in it, but from the free grace of God, which hath annexed to it not only the promises of health, peace, and prosperity, and all good things while we live here upon the earth, but also the promises of salvation and eternal happiness when this life shall be determined.

Verse 9

This saying about the advantage of godliness is true, and worthy to be received of all men. See the notes on 1 Timothy 1:15, where the same words are applied to the great proposition of the gospel: That Christ came into the world to save sinners. That Christ came into the world to save sinners, and that such sinners as from ungodly will become godly, and persevere in the practice of godliness, shall be happy in this life, and saved in the life to come, are two faithful and remarkable sayings, worthy the acceptation of all reasonable creatures.

Verse 10

If we did not believe this as a faithful saying, that godliness is profitable for all things, and trust in God, who liveth for ever, to see to the fulfilling of it, to what purpose should

we labour and suffer reproach as we do; labouring in the work of God, suffering reproach in the cause of God, and for living godly lives, worshipping God according to his will, and denying ourselves in sensual satisfactions and sensible enjoyments, that we might fulfil the law of Christ?

Objection. But, will some say: how then is godliness profitable for all things, how doth the faithfulness of the promises for this life annexed to godliness appear, if those that profess it must labour and suffer reproach?

Solution. Labour for God is a reward to itself, our honour, not our burden, his service is perfect freedom: the promises of this life, annexed to godliness, are not promises of sensual rest and ease, but of inward peace, satisfaction, and support of other things, only with a reserve to the Divine wisdom and judgment, so far forth as our heavenly Father shall see it fit for his glory and our good; yet they are not vain, for God,

who is the Saviour, that is, the Preserver,

of all men, the Preserver of man and beast, as the psalmist speaketh, is in a more especial manner the Saviour

of those that believe, Psalms 33:18,Psalms 33:19. This seemeth rather to be the sense of the text, than to understand it of eternal salvation, for so God is not the actual Saviour of all; besides that the text seemeth to speak of a work proper to the Father, rather than to the Son.

Verse 11

All the things before mentioned, in this or the former parts of this Epistle, he willeth Timothy to make the matter of his sermons and other discourses.

Verse 12

Let no man despise thy youth; so carry thyself in thy office, as not to give occasion to any to despise thee because thou art but a young man.

But be thou an example of the believers: which thou wilt do if thou so livest as to be a just pattern unto Christians, imitable by them

in word, in thy common and ordinary discourse, (for he speaks not of his being a pattern only to other ministers, but to believers in the generality), not talking frothily or profanely, or idly and impertinently, but seriously and gravely, but things that are good, to the use of edifying, that it may administer grace to the hearers.

In conversation; and in all thy converse with men behaving thyself justly, and comelily, and gravely.

In charity; performing also to all, all offices of charity and brotherly love.

In spirit; in zeal, and warmth of spirit, truly inflamed with the love of Christ, and for his glory.

In faith; in a steady confession and profession of the doctrine of the gospel; and

in purity; in all cleanness and holiness of life and conversation. This is the way for the ministers of the gospel not to be despised: let them use what other methods they will, they will find what God said of Hophni and Phinehas will be made good, 1 Samuel 2:30; Them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed; nor will any titles, or habits, or severities secure them from that curse, which will cleave to them.

Verse 13

Till I come, and after that time too, but then I will further instruct thee.

Give attendance to reading; be diligent in reading the Holy Scriptures, both for thine own instruction and for the edification of others.

To exhortation; to exhort others to their duty there described, or to comfort others from arguments fetched thence.

To doctrine; to instruct others in the principles of religion.

Verse 14

Neglect not the gift that is in thee; neglect neither the ability which God hath given time for the discharge of the office of the ministry, nor the office to which God hath called thee; neither the improvement of them, nor the use, exercise, and discharge of them or it.

Which was given thee by prophecy; remember that they were given thee by the revelation of the Divine will, or by the extraordinary influence of the Spirit of God; and

the laying on of the hands of the presbytery was a declaration of it; God also (as usually when he calls any to any special work) calling thee to the work of the ministry then also, fitting and enabling thee for the discharge of it.

Verse 15

Meditate upon these things; Meleta, let these things be the business of thy thoughts, and take care of them.

Give thyself wholly to them; be in them, (so it is in the Greek), let them be thy whole work, not thy work by the by, but thy chief and principal business.

That thy profiting may appear to all; that so, as all men’s gifts improve by study and exercise, thine also may so improve, that all men may take notice of the improvement of them.

Verse 16

Take heed unto thyself; take heed how thou livest, and orderest thy life, that it may be exemplary.

And unto the doctrine; and take heed also both that thou teachest, and what thou teachest.

Continue in them; and do both these things not for a time, but constantly.

For in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee; thus thou shalt do what in thee lieth to save thine own soul, and also to save the souls of others to whom thou preachest, or among whom thou conversest.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Timothy 4". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.