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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 Timothy 4

Verses 1-2

1 Timothy 4:1-54.4.2, Now the Spirit, &c.— This passage, perhaps, would be better translated, But the Spirit speaketh expressly. He had before been speaking of the mystery of godliness, ch. 1Ti 3:16 and now he proceeds to speak of the mystery of iniquity in opposition to it: But the Spirit, &c. I. The first thing to be considered is, the apostacy here predicted, "Some shall depart, or rather apostatize, from the faith." An apostacy from the faith, may be total or partial; either when we renounce the whole, or when we deny some principal and essential article of it. It is not every error, which makes an apostacy from the faith: it is a revolt in a principal and essential article,—as, for instance, when we worship God by any image or representation, or when we worship other beings besides God, and pray unto other mediators besides the one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. This is the very essence of Christian worship, to worship the one true God, through the one true Christ;and to worship any other god, or any other mediator, is apostacy, and rebellion against God. Such is the nature of the apostacy from the faith here alluded to by the apostle;—and it is implied, that this apostacy should be general, and affect great numbers. For though it be said only some shall apostatize; yet, by some, in this place, many are understood. The original word frequently signifies a multitude; and there are abundant instances in scripture where it is used in that sense, as the reader will perceive from John 6:64; John 6:66. Romans 11:17. 1 Corinthians 10:5. This apostacy may be general and extensive, and include many, but not all. II. It is more particularly shewn wherein the apostacy should consist, in thefollowing words: Giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; or rather, doctrines concerning demons; where the genitive case is not to be taken actively, as if demons were the authors of these doctrines; (though these seducing spirits had a principal concern in introducing them;) but passively, as if demons were the subjects of these doctrines. In Jeremiah 10:8. Acts 13:12. Heb 6:2 the genitive case is used in this manner; and by the same construction doctrines of demons, are doctrines about or concerning demons. This is therefore a prophesy, that the idolatrous theology of demons professed by the Gentiles, would be revived among Christians. Demons, according to the theology of the Gentiles, were middle powers between the gods and mortal men, and were regarded as mediators and agents between the gods and men. Of these demons there were accounted two kinds; one kind were the souls of men, deified or canonized after death; the other kind were such as had never been the souls of men, nor ever dwelt in mortal bodies. These latter demons may be paralleled with angels, as the former may with canonized saints; and as we Christians believe there are good and evil angels, so did the Gentiles that there were good and evil demons. The doctrines of demons then, according to this prophesy, which prevailed so long in the heathen world, were to be revived and established in the Christian church: and is not the worship of saints and angels now in all respects the same, that the worship of demons was in former times? The name is only different, the thing is identically the same. The heathens looked upon their demons as mediators and intercessors between God and men: and are not the saints and angels regarded in the same light by many professed Christians? The promoters of this worship were sensible that it was the same, and that the one succeeded the other; and, as the worship is the same, so likewise is it performed with the same ceremonies. Nay, the very same temples, the very same altars, the very same images, which once were consecrated to Jupiter and the other demons, are now re-consecrated to the Virgin Mary and other saints. The very same titles and inscriptions are ascribed to both; the very same prodigies and miracles are related of these as of those. In short, almost the whole process which formerly belonged to Paganism, is converted and applied to Popery; the one is manifestly formed upon the same plan and principles as the other. III. Such an apostacy as this, of reviving the doctrines of demons, and worshipping the dead, was not likely to take place immediately; it would prevail and prosper in the latter days. The phrase of the latter times or days, or the last times or days, signifies any time yet to come; but denotes more particularly the times of Christianity. The times of Christianity may properly be called the latter times or days, or the last times or days, because it is the last of all God's revelations to mankind: see Hebrews 1:1-58.1.2. 1 Peter 1:20; 1 Peter 4:0; 1 Peter 4:0. Another remarkable peculiarity of this prophesy is, the solemn and emphatic manner in which it is delivered:—The Spirit speaketh expressly. By the Spirit is meant the Holy Spirit of God which inspired the prophets and apostles. The Spirit's speaking expressly, may signify his speaking precisely and certainly, not obscurely and involvedly; or it may be said, that the Spirit speaketh expressly what he speaketh in express words in some place or other of divine writ: and the Spirit hath spoken the same thing in express words before, in the prophesy of Daniel. Daniel has foretoldin express words the worship of new demons or demi-gods, Daniel 11:38. The Mahuzzim of Daniel in this sense are the same as the demons of St. Paul; gods protectors, or saints protectors, defenders, and guardians of mankind. This therefore is a prophesy, not onlydelivered by immediate inspiration, but confirmed by the written word of the Old Testament. It is a prophesy, not only of St. Paul's, but of Daniel's too. V. The apostle proceeds, 1Ti 4:2 to describe by what means and by what persons this apostacy should be propagated and established in the world: Speaking lies in hypocrisy, &c. or rather, "Through the hypocrisy of liars, having their conscience, &c." It is plain then, that the great apostacy of the latter times was to prevail through the hypocrisy of liars, &c. And has not the great idolatry of Christians, and the worship of the dead particularly, been diffused and advanced in the world by such instruments and agents; by fabulous books forged under the names of the apostles and saints; by fabulous legends of their lives, by fabulous miracles ascribed to their reliques, by fabulous dreams and revelations, and even fabulous saints, who never existed but in imagination?

Verse 3

1 Timothy 4:3. Forbidding to marry, &c.— VI. This is a farther character of the promoters of this apostacy: the same hypocritical liars, who would promote the worship of demons, would also prohibit lawful marriage. The monks were the first who brought a single life into repute: they were the first also who revived and promoted the worship of demons. One of the primary and most essential laws and constitutions of all monks is, the profession of a single life; and it is equally clear that the monks had the principal share in promoting the worship of the dead. The monks then were the principal promoters of the worship of the dead in former times; and who are the great patrons and advocates of the same worship now? Are not their legitimate successors and descendants, the monks, and priests, and bishops, of the church of Rome? And do not they also profess and recommend a single life, as well asthe worship of saints and angels? Thus have the worship of demons, and the prohibition of marriage, constantly gone hand in hand together; and as they who maintain the one, maintain the other, so it is no less remarkable, that they who disclaim the one, disclaim the other. VII. The last mark and character of these men is, commanding to abstain from meats, &c. The same lying hypocrites, who would promote the worship of demons; would not onlyprohibit lawful marriage, but likewiseimpose unnecessary abstinence from meats. And these two, as indeed it is fit they should, usually go together as constituent parts of the same hypocrisy. It is as much the law of all monks to abstain from meats, as from marriage. Some never eat any flesh; others only certain kinds on certain days. Frequent fasts are the rule and boast of their orders. So lived the monks of the ancient church; so live, with less strictness, perhaps, but with greater ostentation, the monks and friars of the church of Rome; and these have been the principal propagators and defenders of the worship of the dead, both in former and in latter times. The worship of thedead, is indeed so monstrously absurd, as well as impious, that there was hardly any probability of its ever prevailing in the world, but by hypocrisy and lies: but that these particular sorts of hypocrisy,—celibacy, under pretence of chastity,—and abstinence, under pretence of devotion,—should be employed for this purpose, the Spirit of God alone could foresee and foretell. There is no necessary connection between the worship of the dead, and forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats; and yet it is certain, that the great advocates of this worship have, by their pretended purity and mortification, procured the greater reverence to their persons, and the readier reception to their doctrines; but this idle, popish, monkish abstinence, is as unworthy of a Christian, as it is unnatural to a man; it is perverting the purpose of nature, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving by believers, and them who know the truth. The apostle, therefore, approves and sanctifies the religious custom of blessing God at our meals; as our Saviour, when he was to distribute the loaves and the fishes, looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake it: and what can be said of those, who have their tables spread with the most plentiful gifts of God, and yet constantly sit down, and rise up again, without suffering so much as one thought of the Giver to intrude upon them? It is but a thought, it is but a glimpse of devotion; and can they, who refuse even that, be thought to believe or know the truth? Man is free to partake of all the good creatures of God; but thanksgiving is the necessary condition. See 1 Timothy 4:4-54.4.5. The apostle proceeds to say, that it is the duty of the ministers of the gospel to press and inculcate these things, 1 Timothy 4:6. But all that is preached up of such abstinence and mortification as above specified, with all the legends of the saints, were no better than profane and old wives' fables,—like Rabbinical dreams, and traditions. Godliness is the only thing which will truly avail us here and hereafter, 1 Timothy 4:7-54.4.8.

Verse 8

1 Timothy 4:8. For bodily exercise profiteth little: The apostle, 1Ti 4:7 had said, Exercise thyself, as applied to a Christian life; and therefore he here uses the word exercise, as applied to bodily labour; and by calling it bodily exercise, he leads our thoughts either to the labours of the Essenes, according to the rules and institutions of their sect, or to the agonistic games, of which Mr. West has given so entertaining and useful an account in the Dissertation prefixed to his Pindar. Possibly the exercise preparatoryto these games might here be more particularly alluded to.By the practice of godliness, Timothy was to prepare himself for the life to come; just as the combatants, by repeated bodily exercise, prepared for obtaining the victory in those games. Godliness, under the New Testament dispensation, has no particular promise of health, or reputation, or wealth, or any other individual worldly blessing, though in its natural consequences it bears a most friendly aspect upon all; but it has the promise of comfort and happiness in general:—and that declaration of Christ, that the good man shall receive an hundred fold, even in the midst of persecution, if such should be his lot, Mar 10:30 might alone be sufficient to vindicate the apostle in his assertion. The law, however, certainly contains promises of temporal blessings to godliness; so that the assertion of the apostle is strictly true, when referred both to the Old and New Testament.

Verse 9

1 Timothy 4:9. This is a faithful saying, St. Paul has used this expression four times; 1 Timothy 1:15. 2 Timothy 2:11. Tit 3:8 and here. They were all matters of certain truth and great importance; and the apostle used the expression to call up men's attention to them, as things of great consequence. Concerning the most important of them, he has added as here, that they are worthy of universal acceptation. The interesting truth particularly to which he here calls upon all men to attend, is, That Godliness is profitable, &c. The three grand principles of religion are, 1 a God, a Providence,—2 a Christ, a Mediator,—and, 3 a Future State. Without these, religion could not subsist; and the apostle, in the next verse, plainly intimates, that these principles were his support under afflictions, animating him to zeal and diligence in active service.

Verse 10

1 Timothy 4:10. Who is the Saviour of all men, &c.— As he is the Preserver of all men (see Job 7:20.), and as he offers salvation to all men: but he is especially the Saviour of the faithful, as he extends to them the noblest and most important deliverance; reserving for them the most invaluable blessings of a future state, and guiding them safely to it through all the dangers of this life. Those who enjoy the advantages of the Christian revelation, in the purity of it, may certainly with equal diligence excel others in knowledge, holiness, and virtue; and, consequently, may be qualified and prepared for higher felicity, or a more exalted station: and may we not hence form a notion of the Christian heaven,—namely, as a more exalted state of happiness, in proportion to the superior knowledge, piety, holiness, and virtue of a Christian?

Verse 11

1 Timothy 4:11. Command Give in charge. See ch. 1 Timothy 1:3; 1Ti 1:5; 1 Timothy 1:18.

Verse 12

1 Timothy 4:12. Let no man despise thy youth; St. Paul here gives Timothy directions concerning his own conduct, especially as he was yet a young man, and had such difficulties upon his hands. He advises him to take a great deal of care how he behaved both in public and private, and particularly that he gave himself entirely to the work of the ministry, 1 Timothy 4:12-54.4.16. St. Paul wrote in a popular style; and, therefore, uses many words to the same purpose, to express the thing more vehemently. However, if any desire to distinguish, they may refer in word to his speech, and in conversation to his behaviour. See 1 Peter 1:15. In charity, may possibly refer more especially to that love which they owed the Gentile Christians. In spirit, means in the temper or disposition of mind;—"in a candid, yet zealous spirit."

Verse 13

1 Timothy 4:13. To reading, to exhortation, &c.— It was the custom in the synagogue to read a portion of the scriptures of the Old Testament; and, after that, to instruct the people in the meaning of it, and to give them some useful exhortations. Timothy was to do so in the school of Tyrannus, and to omit nothing of a similar kind; as well as to read the Scriptures privately for his own improvement.

Verse 14

1 Timothy 4:14. Neglect not the gift "Of the Holy Spirit;"—Particularly in his miraculous efficacy. Benson would render and understand this verse, as parallel to ch. 1 Timothy 1:18. "Neglect not the gift of the Holy Spirit which is in you; which was conferred upon you after (or according to) some prophesy or prophesies that went before concerning you." It was according to prophesy that Paul and Barnabas were set apart at Antioch, to the work unto which God had called them. See Acts 13:2; Acts 20:28. Doddridge understands and paraphrases the verse thus: "Neglect not, by proper and strenuous exercise, to rouse and cultivate that gift of God's Holy Spirit which is in thee; which was given thee in a large and sensible effusion, on that ever-memorable day, when thou wert set apart to thy sacred office by the ministration of those who had the gift of prophesy, by which they were enabled and excited to tell something extraordinary concerning thee, &c." As this text, to say the least, strongly implies that Timothy was adorned with some supernatural gifts; so it likewise proves, that the degree in which such favours were continued, did very much depend on the diligence and fidelity with which they were cultivated by the person who had received t

Verse 15

1 Timothy 4:15. Meditate upon these things; The word Μελετα is used to denote all the preparatory exercises of mind or body made use of by those who were desirous of excelling in any art or science. St. Paul therefore recommends it to Timothy, by proper previous exercises to qualify himself for excelling inthe discharge of the work of an evangelist: "Make these things your daily care and study." They who had the gifts of the Spirit in a supernatural manner, were to read and study, as well as to teach others; thus they stirred up the gift that was in them, which by negligence they would have quenched. Surely then, the pastors of the church now-a-days have much more reason to read and to study.

Verse 16

1 Timothy 4:16. Take heed unto thyself, As Timothy's taking heed to himself through divine grace, and to his teaching of others, and persevering therein, was necessary to his own salvation; so it was necessary in those who were instructed by him, that they, through the same grace of God, should take heed to themselves, practise the duties of the Christian life, and persevere therein; otherwise it was not in Timothy's power to become the instrument of saving them. It seems an obvious remark here, that the salvation of others may, under the blessing of God, have considerable influence upon a man's own salvation; as the better those about him are, the more advantage he has for religious improvement; the fewer hindrances from duty, and temptations to sin. But certainly, the thought chiefly referred to, is, the necessity of acting faithfully in the ministry, if pastors desire to be partakers of the divine promise of salvation; in which persons who betray so important a trust can have no part.

Inferences.—It is melancholy to think of the dreadful apostacies from the faith of the gospel, which have been in all ages; but it need not seem strange to us, since they were foretold by the Spirit of prophesy: and how plainly has that Spirit pointed out the seducing hypocritical arts of falsehood and deceit, which are used, without shame or conscience, by the apostate church of Rome, together with their worshipping of deified saints, forbidding marriages, and prohibiting meats which God created, and allows under the gospel dispensation to be moderately used, with thanksgiving for them, and prayer for his blessing upon them! With what contempt should we reject the errors that are built on uncertain traditions, as we would idle stories which are told to please children! And, instead of trusting in formal bodily services that turn to no good account, how concerned should we be to live in the practice of vital religion, which has a gracious entail of blessings upon it by the promise of God! He, as a bountiful benefactor, affords temporal preservations, deliverances and mercies to mankind in general, and freely offers salvation to all; but, as a covenant God, bestows all spiritual and eternal blessings on every faithful soul. What important truths are these, and how worthy of the most cordial entertainment! With what care should ministers inculcate them on those who are under their charge, for their caution on the one hand, and encouragement on the other; humbly trusting in the ever-living God for their own support and comfort, amidst all the reproaches, difficulties, and labours which they undergo for Christ's sake! And while, together with this, they are exemplary in faith, love, and all holiness, they will hereby approve themselves as good ministers of Jesus Christ, and good proficients in the doctrine and grace of faith. But, in order hereunto, how much diligence ought they to use in studying, reading, and improving the gifts which God has bestowed upon them, and in giving themselves entirely to these exercises, and to preaching and prayer! And what need have they to take heed first to their own state, temper, and conversation, and then to their own doctrine; with perseverance therein, as the means of God's appointment and blessing, for the final salvation of their own souls, and the souls of their hearers!

REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have, in this chapter, the prophesy of that dire apostacy from the faith, which was of old foretold, and which we have seen so strikingly and dreadfully verified in the corruptions of the church of Rome. Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, in the prophetic writings, and by us who write under his immediate inspiration, that in the latter times of the present dispensation, some shall depart from the faith; and the marks of this apostacy he describes.

1. The departure will arise from giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils, or demons, reviving the errors of Paganism in the worship of angels, dead saints, yea, their very relics, and making these a kind of mediators between God and them.

2. Speaking lies in hypocrisy; pretending to great zeal for the church and religion, yet propagating the most damnable heretics, such as justification by the merit of works; and by false legends, and forged miracles, deceiving the souls of the ignorant: having their conscience seared with a hot iron, and stopping at no abominations which may contribute to advance their wicked ends; even consecrating regicide, dispensing with the most solemn oaths, and counting every species of barbarity lawful, yea, laudable, to be perpetrated on those who oppose their destructive ways: witness the blood of martyrs, which, by popish cruelty, has so plentifully dyed this land.

3. Forbidding to marry; speaking dishonourably of the ordinance itself, and forbidding marriage to their clergy, monks, and nuns, in direct contradiction to God's word.

4. Commanding to abstain from meats, under the hypocritical shew of self-denial; forbidding flesh in Lent, and enjoining fish instead of other animal food, which God hath created to be received, and eaten at all times, without distinction of days and seasons, if it be used with moderation and thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing, proper for food, to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified for our use by the word of God, which declares that there is nothing now common or unclean; and by prayer imploring his blessing, that we may use every creature-comfort to his glory. Note; Our common meals should be ever sanctified with devotion, and God's blessing be implored before we presume to use his gifts.

2nd, We have,
1. The apostle's encouraging exhortation. If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained: such fidelity to his trust would bring down the blessing of the Lord upon his soul, and prove his own abundant advantage. Note; Nothing is a greater means of edification to a minister's own soul, than his labours for the good of his brethren.

2. He quickens him to diligence in his Christian calling. But refuse profane and old wives' fables, the absurd genealogies and traditions of the Judaizing teachers; and exercise thyself rather unto godliness; strain every nerve to set forth the doctrines and duties of the gospel, and in thine own temper and conduct shew thyself eminently exemplary. For bodily exercise, the most rigid observance of the externals of religion, profiteth little; but godliness, vital, experimental religion, manifested in heart and life, is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, in the sanctified and happy use of worldly comforts, and in the enjoyment of the love of God; and of that which is to come, where God hath prepared for those that love him, such good things as pass man's understanding: this is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, as a truth which will be proved infallibly certain by every real Christian; for none will ever have reason to repent a life of godliness. For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, undismayed and unshaken, because we trust in the living God, who is able abundantly to fulfil his promises, and is the Saviour of all men, leaving none of them without some testimonies of his goodness, or without such offers of his grace, as are sufficient to engage and direct them so to seek the Lord, that they may find him, Acts 10:35.—but specially of those that believe; by his abundant grace and love bestowing upon them, not only multiplied mercies in this world, but, if they be faithful to death, the inconceivable and eternal blessings of glory in the world to come. Note; Though this world is not our home, nor our portion, yet, even here below, the truly godly are the most happy people.

3. He directs him particularly how to demean himself. These things command and teach with all authority. Let no man despise thy youth, nor give them any occasion to do so; but behave so as to engage and command reverence and respect: and be thou an example of the believers, in word, in all grave and edifying discourse, free from youthful levity; in conversation, strictly religious, and sincerely upright, in charity, fervent towards God, and the souls of men; in spirit, zealous for the cause of Jesus, and abounding in all the fruits of righteousness; in faith unwavering, in profession bold, in purity of heart and conduct, without blemish or suspicion. Till I come, give attendance to reading the scriptures in private, and in the congregation; to exhortation, bringing the word of God home to the consciences of the hearers, with warm application, for the conviction of some, and the consolation and edification of others; to doctrine, clearly stating the great points of the Christian faith, and vindicating them from all opposers. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, but make the best improvement of the abilities with which God hath furnished you, and of the extraordinary gift which was given thee by prophesy, as some inspired men had foretold, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, when you were ordained to the work of the ministry. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them, with such evident devotedness of heart, such delight in the service, and such exemplariness of conduct, that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, as a minister and a Christian, and unto thy doctrine, that it may exactly correspond with the gospel word: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee. Note; (1.) They who shew themselves examples to the flock, and evidently prove that they believe and practise themselves what they preach to others, though young, will necessarily command respect and reverence; while grey hairs, dishonoured by an unbecoming conduct, will be justly despised. (2.) They who are to teach others, should be much in prayer and reading the scriptures, that they may lay in a fund of useful knowledge, and be full of matter for their public ministrations. An idle minister must needs be an unprofitable preacher. (3.) They who have the charge of immortal souls should be wholly engrossed with this great concern, and give themselves up to their awful employment. (4.) It is our great encouragement to fidelity in the ministry, that not only our own souls shall he saved, but that we shall be made happily instrumental to the eternal salvation of others, who will be our joy and crown in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 4". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.