************ Sermon on 1 Timothy 4:13 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 5, 2010
1 Timothy 4:1-14
1 Timothy 4:13
"Devote Yourself to Reading, Preaching and Teaching"
I Apostasy in the Church
A The church in the world is the church militant – always engaged in warfare, always under attack, always fighting the devil's schemes. As is true with any army, the church can expect casualties, the loss of some of her members. In fact, Satan and the dragon and the beast and the prophet are intent on destroying as many in the church as they can.
Paul warns Timothy of such battle-field casualties in the opening verses of our Scripture reading:
(1 Tim 4:1) The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.I want you to notice some details here.
Who says this? The "Spirit" (1 Tim 4:1). The Spirit of truth. The Spirit Who never speaks on His own. The Spirit Who goes out from the Father (Jn 15:26; 16:13).
When is this going to happen? "In later times" (1 Tim 4:1). Those "later times" are now here; they started at Christ's first coming and will continue until His return.
What is going to happen? Some will "abandon the faith" (1 Tim 4:1). The Greek word for "abandon" is the same as our word "apostasy." What is in mind is a willful turning away from the truth of the Christian faith. What is in mind is that some forsake, desert, depart, and leave the faith.
From Judas onward the church has been confronted with the painful reality of apostasy. Those who have once been bright, shining lights among the people of God turn away from the paths of discipleship and abandon the teachings of God's Word. Don't we see that over and over again? Someone joins the church and professes their faith with much excitement. The people of God warmly welcome and enfold them. And then they leave the faith. Or, they grow up in the church. They receive a Christian education. They never profess their faith and slowly drift away. None feel the sorrow as deeply as pastors and parents.
B How are we to understand those who fall away? Does this mean the Arminians are right when they say genuine Christians can lose their salvation? Absolutely not! For what does Jesus say? Jesus promises that His people are secure because "no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand" (Jn 10:29). And, Paul assures us that "he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil 1:6).
The Apostle John gives us insight into what is going on in the lives of the apostates.
(1 Jn 2:19) They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.When someone departs from the faith never to be recovered, they demonstrate they never really were part of the faith – no matter how loud or how joyful their profession once was.
C How does this happen? How can those in the church become apostate? According to Paul, they "follow" deceiving spirits and things taught by demons (1 Tim 4:1). That is, they are led astray. They are deceived. They have been duped into believing lies rather than the truth and, as a result, are not standing firm but are falling away.
These people have been duped like those who watch late night infomercials on TV. A couple of months ago a woman named Gloria presented a Rotary program on infomercials. Product after product is hawked with promises to make your life easier and better and Gloria bought them all: ShamWow, magicJack, OxiClean, Shoedini. According to Gloria, the bulk of the infomercials are lies and the people who buy the product are deceived into buying something useless.
Who leads the apostates astray? Paul uses very harsh language here. He calls the false teachers "deceiving spirits" and "demons" (1 Tim 4:1). In other words, they are of Satan.
Paul also calls the false teachers "hypocritical liars" (1 Tim 4:2). A more literal translation is the "hypocrisy of liars." These false teachers preach one thing but practice another. They tell their disciples what to do, but they do not do it themselves. One of the marks of a true servant of God is his honesty and integrity: He practices what he preaches. This does not mean he is sinlessly perfect, but that he sincerely seeks to obey the Word of God. He tries to maintain a good conscience (see 1 Tim. 1:5, 19; 3:9). But not the false teachers.
Here is the saddest part: the false teachers are in the church. But didn't Paul warn the Ephesians elders that false teachers would invade the church (Acts 20:28-31)? It comes as a shock to some people that Satan uses those in the church to accomplish his work. Don't forget, Satan once used Peter to try to lead Jesus on a wrong path (Mt 16:21–23), and he used Ananias and Sapphira to try to deceive the church at Jerusalem (Acts 5).
So, what do the false teachers say to lead people astray? At the time of Paul, the false teachers taught that an unmarried life was more spiritual than a married life, which is contrary to Scripture. "It is not good for the man to be alone" are God's own words (Gen. 2:18). Jesus put His seal of approval on marriage (Mt 19:1-9), though He pointed out that not everybody is supposed to marry (Mt 19:10-12). And, the Apostle Paul affirmed the biblical basis for marriage (1 Cor 7:1-24). Beware, congregation, of any religious teaching that tampers with God's institution of marriage.
The false teachers who were infecting the Ephesian church also taught that certain foods were taboo; if you ate them, you were not spiritual. The fact that God called His own Creation "good" (Gen 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25; 1 Tim 4:4) did not interest these teachers. Jesus taught that all foods are clean (Mk 7:14-23; cf Acts 10, 1 Cor 10:23-33). In other words, no food is to be rejected for spiritual reasons. The food we eat is sanctified (set apart, devoted to God) when we pray and give thanks; so the Word of God and prayer turn even an ordinary meal into a spiritual service for God's glory (1 Tim 4:4-5; cf 1 Cor 10:31).
Do you see what the false teachers were doing? They were promoting the idea that holiness comes through following do's and don'ts. Legalism was and is their form of holiness? But, don't many others follow this same approach to holiness. The Shakers, for instance, did not permit sex even among married couples. Mormons, Christian Science, and pietistic Protestants forbid alcohol and caffeine. Muslims allow no alcohol or pork. Buddhists and Hindus are generally vegetarian. Roman Catholicism forbids meat on all Fridays during Lent.
What is wrong with this approach to holiness, you may wonder? People can wrongly believe they are holy when they abstain from certain things even though the Enemy is leading them straight to hell. Holiness, instead, is purity of heart and not what goes into a man (cf Mk 7:15-23).
II Devote Yourself to Scripture
A The church is under attack. In these "later times" church members become apostate in increasing numbers. As we kick off our new church year, let me tell you the antidote: rigorous devotion to reading and hearing and studying the ancient words of Scripture. As our text puts it:
(1 Tim 4:13) Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.Believers are inoculated to false teaching and false teachers when they are grounded in the Gospel.
Let me tell you one of Satan's secrets. Satan starts you on the road to apostasy when he can get you to stop reading your Bible. Satan starts you on the slippery slope to falling away from the faith when he can get you to stop attending worship. Satan starts you on the path to hell's damnation when he can get you to stop studying the Word. If you don't spend time with the Word and under the Word, you are doing what Satan wants you to do.
So, let me ask you, will you be in worship this church year? Will you be here every Sunday? Will you be here twice each Sunday? Will you be reading the Word for private and family devotions? Will you be studying the Word with other believers?
B In our text, the Apostle Paul wants to give direction to the church for the centuries ahead:
(1 Tim 4:13) Until I come, [as the church is under attack,] devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching."Until I come." When will that be? We don't know. Perhaps never. After all, Paul could end up being killed/martyred for the Lord at any moment. Nevertheless, "Until I come, devote yourself ..." That is, never stop reading, preaching, and studying the ancient words of the Bible until Jesus returns.
"Until I come, devote yourself ..." (1 Tim 4:13). Note that word "devote." That is, continue to believe, continue to give oneself to, hold firmly to, apply oneself to. Today, we often hear the word "devoted" at funerals. We are told the deceased was a devoted husband or wife or mother or father or church member. In other words, they committed themselves to their marriage and family and church. The same word is used of Dorcas to describe her response to the preaching of Paul (Acts 16:14). And, it is used of the crowds who paid close attention to the preaching of Philip (Acts 8:6). Hebrews uses the same word when it calls us to pay careful attention to the Gospel (Heb 2:1).
"Until I come, [as the church is under attack,] devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching" (1 Tim 4:13). Paul wants Scripture read. This was the practice in both the synagogue and the early church.
Do you remember what happened during Jesus' ministry? Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath. By the providence and direction of God, He was given the scroll of Isaiah. It wasn't a case of Jesus being given someone's favorite Bible passage to read. The practice of the synagogue was to unroll the scrolls of Scripture, read a portion, mark where they stopped, and then the next Sabbath pick up again where they left off. In this way, they read through all of Scripture. So, in God's providence and by God's direction, Jesus showed up on the Sabbath they were going to read about the Messiah from Isaiah 61. When He was finished, Jesus applied the words to Himself (Lk 4:16-19).
James mentioned something similar in a speech he made to the Council at Jerusalem:
(Acts 15:21) "For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath."According to James, the ancient words were read and preached and taught every Sabbath.
C It is clear enough what the apostle Paul wants done. He wants Scripture read when God's people assemble for worship. Yet, what is going on in most churches today? In today's market-driven church environment, topical sermons only slightly related to a text of Scripture have become the norm. Addressing felt-needs have become more important than the words of Scripture. Turn on the TV some Sunday morning. There are some good preachers. There are a lot of bad ones – like Joel Osteen who doesn't even pretend to preach the Scriptures; I hope no one here listens to him. But didn't Paul warn this was going to happen?
(2 Tim 4:3) For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.A lot of what you find on TV is nothing but what people's itching ears want to hear.
"Until I come, [as the church is under attack,] devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching" (1 Tim 4:13). Paul does not say, devote yourself to the public reading of "The Shack." Paul does not say, devote yourself to the public reading of "The Emotionally Healthy Church." Paul does not say, devote yourself to the public reading of "The Left Behind Series." Paul does not say, devote yourself to the public reading of "The Prayer of Jabez" or, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." Why do I mention these books? I am part of a clergy group. Many of the other pastors and churches are actually using these books in worship and basing sermons upon them. Instead, "Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture" (1 Tim 4:13). God's people need bread; instead, they are being given stones. They need the ancient words of Scripture; instead, they are given rocks (HOLD UP STONE). It is clear what needs to be done. Yet, church after church thinks it needs something other than Scripture, something better than Scripture.
We are headed for disaster if we ever think Bible reading, preaching, and teaching is not good enough. Let us never tire of the meat of God's Word!
D "Until I come, [as the church is under attack,] devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching" (1 Tim 4:13). It is true that these words are first of all directed to Timothy, the young pastor of the Ephesian church. And by extension, these words apply to Pastor Godfrey and myself and every pastor.
Yet, these words are surely directed towards the congregation as well. You, the people of God must demand the public reading of Scripture, the preaching of Scripture, and the teaching of Scripture. You must be eager for this. You must crave this. As Peter puts it,
(1 Pet 2:2) Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation ...
The day will come when some here will be looking for a church home. I think of college students away from home. I think of those who relocate because of a job. I think of those who move closer to family. I think of business opportunities that lead you to another community. So, what do you look for in a church? Well, let me ask, how do most people today choose the church they will attend? Most people today choose churches because of their youth ministry or the style of music. Yet, no matter how hard I look in my Bible, I do not find Paul saying, "Devote yourself to a knock-em-dead youth program." Nor do I hear Paul saying, "Devote yourself to having the best, loudest, and most contemporary praise team." Instead, Paul says, "Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching" (1 Tim 4:13). The first thing we should look for in a church, then, is not youth programs or style of music. The first thing we should look for is the quality of the teaching and the faithfulness of the pastor to Biblical preaching.
The church is under attack. What should she do? Paul speaks to pastors, to churches, and to members:
(1 Tim 4:13) Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.Is that what you will do, is this what we will do, this new church year?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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