1 Timothy 4

The false teachers Timothy had to deal with in the church at Ephesus were a real threat. They were leading people away from the truth of the gospel taught by Paul and into some very damaging falsehoods. The apostle did not pull any punches here. He stated plainly that these teachers were influenced (if not possessed by) demons and that their teaching came straight from hell (v.1). Their strict rules of self-discipline and their fancy religious talk made them appear to be righteous (v.2-3), but they were actually in opposition to Jesus and His gospel. Rules that forbade marriage and certain foods were meant to remove sin and earn salvation — but only Jesus can save and forgive.

We must be on guard against false teachers in our day, too. Not everyone who says they speak for God is telling the truth. Just because a preacher claims to have had “a vision from God” doesn’t mean we should believe him. And that Bible teacher’s “new” revelation or interpretation isn’t necessarily legitimate. If you want to know if a preacher or teacher can be trusted, listen for what they say about Jesus Christ. If it contradicts the Bible, it is false. Beware also of people who add extra rules and requirements to the gospel. These people are not to be trusted.

Paul encouraged Timothy to keep his focus on the pure doctrine he had been taught (v.6) and to be diligent to teach it to others. Verse 12 is a good reminder for all those who teach or preach the Word: your message will be believable only if you live what you say you believe. (Note: what you really believe, you do. Everything else is just religious talk.) This was especially important for Timothy, who was a young pastor. He could earn the respect of the older members by practicing what he preached and by living a life of integrity (v.16).

Timothy was a young leader in a difficult situation. He might have been intimidated by the threats of the false teachers or by those who questioned his authority. So Paul reminded him that he had been set apart by God to be a pastor (v.14). He reminded Timothy that he was supernaturally gifted to do his work. And he reminded him that he was not alone, but his leadership had been recognized and sanctioned by a council of respected pastors.

With God’s help, Timothy faithfully fulfilled his ministry. Two thousand years later, his integrity and good testimony are still intact. And whatever the Lord has called you to do, you can count on His strength and His guidance as you do it, too.