Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, (1 Timothy 4:1 ESV) Chapter four of Paul's first letter to Timothy, starts by acknowledging apostasy, and people falling away from the truth of the Gospel.
" Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith.."
The Spirit here means the Holy Spirit that helps us interpret the Scriptures- giving us discernment of the times, and of people. When the Spirit speaks, it speaks through God's Word.
The departing of some from the faith is a FACT. It's been revealed by the Spirit, it's going to happen. We shouldn't panic or feel like Christians aren't doing a good job of evangelizing, discipling, or loving- if and when some people decide to stop living the Christian life .
"by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons"
A couple of things to notice here:
1. There are other Spirits other than the Holy Spirit 2. Some teachings are demonic 3. People devote themselves to these spirits and their teachings
All through the New Testament we see Jesus dealing with spirits and demons, with the utmost authority. Since He was the Messiah, they were in panic. Manifesting themselves in supernatural ways, in order for the world to know who Christ was. At the time of the early church and today, however, they are more subtle and discreet. Manifesting themselves in philosophical thinkers, preachers who distort scripture, manipulative people whom seek their own agenda and have no fear of God in them. They teach demonic doctrines. Any doctrine that does not proclaim Jesus as Lord, as God, as Son of man, and as the crucified and resurrected lamb of God- is satanic in essence. And people devote themselves to these teachings. Now you can apply this to two different groups:
1. False Religions 2. False sects of Christianity
The first is a bit more obvious. Any religion that does not bring all glory, honor, and praise to the one true God- is false. If it is false, then it is led by a spirit of deceit and demonic. People are blindfolded from the truth by satan and their hard hearts, into believing in anything else other than the Creator of all things (Romans 1)
The second is more deceptive. It's when Satan takes the truth of God's word and distorts it- making many people believe they are worshipping the one true God, but are either ignorant about who He really is, or how to worship Him. A good example are the sects and religions that claim they believe in Jesus, but do not believe Him to be God or the Son of God. They deny the deity of Christ, but proclaim to be in equal grounds with Christianity, or worse, more true than Christianity.
through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, (1 Timothy 4:2 ESV)
Here Paul is humanizing this for us. Spirits and demons work through people. Like their father the devil, the sons of disobedience, likewise, use lies and "half-truths" to make those who are looking for genuine truth, or are weaker in the faith, stumble.
who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (1 Timothy 4:3 ESV)
Paul here is repeating a message that we see in other letters to the early church (Colossians 2:16-23). Speaking against those who began to teach abstinence from food, marriage, the day to day things- calling them evil, and proclaiming that removing these things from your life brings you closer to God. The word for this is Asceticism.
Asceticism: n. 1. The principles and practices of an ascetic; extreme self-denial and austerity. 2. The doctrine that the ascetic life releases the soul from bondage to the body and permits union with the divine.
"who forbid marriage.."
If you want a clue as to whether a denomination or doctrine is of God or not, the forbidding of marriage is a huge red flag. Marriage is a sacrament of God, it points to the union between Christ and the Church. It is a gift from God, that bring more gifts with it (I.e. Friendship, intimacy, sex, children,etc.).
"and require abstinence from foods"
Another hot topic of Paul's time was what foods were clean or not. Here is where false teachers tried to implement their dietary laws and world views to the Christian faith. Like marriage, God created food for enjoyment and for nourishment. He made it good. To abuse it is sinful, to abstain from it is rejecting God's gift and goodness.
"that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. "
So God created these GOOD things. And now there are people rejecting them on the basis of coming "closer" to God through denying the flesh. You do not come closer to God through works- I believe the Bible exhausts that point thoroughly. Paul says here that those good things were created to be received in thanksgiving by those whom know the TRUTH. What it is the truth?
The truth is that we, by our own work and will, cannot merit the kingdom of heaven, much less stand in the presence of the thrice Holy, King of kings and Lord of lords. The truth is that Jesus Christ died on a tree to free us from the grip of sin and the impossibility of fulfilling the law- He fulfilled it for us! The truth is that now, we can enjoy the good gifts of God with a clean conscience. Knowing that we have been freed from the law pertaining to the dead and are now bound to the Law of Christ- which pertains to righteousness and eternal life. We know that it is by grace, through faith in Jesus that we are saved and sanctified- not through abstaining from food or marriage.
For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, (1 Timothy 4:4 ESV)
Again, Paul repeats his instructions to believers. God made all things good. The problem is not the gifts, but the way in which we receive and use the gifts. Do we go and make idols of the gifts God gives us? Or do we thank the Father? Acknowledging our need for Him, our complete and utter dependence on His mercy and steadfast love.
for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:5 ESV)
Why do we pray before we eat? Why do we consecrate marriage with a wedding ceremony in front of God and witnesses? Dedicating God's gifts to God is recognizing His love for us- and these things are made holy. We eat holy food, because we are a holy people. Our marriages are holy because we are a holy people. We are a holy people, because God called us holy. God sanctifies every fiber of our lives, so that we may freely worship and enjoy Him forever- starting right now.