1 Timothy 4:1–5 (Departing from the Faith)
1 Timothy 4:1–5 (NKJV)
1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,
2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,
3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.
4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it’s received with thanksgiving;
5 for it’s sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
The first two verses of the above text state that in the last times some people will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, not realizing it of course, and out of hypocrisy they will speak lies, their conscience being marked with a hot iron. Many Christians believe that the apostasy in these verses refers to the loss of eternal salvation, because they interpret deceiving spirits and the teachings of demons as immoral sins that will eventually cause some genuine Christians to lose their salvation. However, I invite you to take things one at a time and see first what these wrong teachings consist of and then who are those “some” who will fall away from the faith, what kind of faith they are referring to, and what this distancing means.
Verses 3 and 4 describe some of the things and doctrines these people promote, namely: the prohibition of marriage and abstinence from certain foods. The things related here are not immoral sins and carnal pleasures in which people usually like to indulge in, but rather “other apparently good ways” and ascetic ways of attaining righteousness. They are teachings and doctrines, but not sins.
These teachings are clothed in an appearance of holiness which makes them very subtle and deceptive. Judging by their nature, it seems that those who propagated them were trying to be holy by works instead of faith. They believed that holiness came from strict adherence to a set of rules. These doctrines seem to resemble very much the Law of Moses and to be Jewish in nature. Who can these people be? Since the passage speaks of a falling away from faith it means that those people had contact at some point with the pure teaching of salvation by faith alone in Christ. They were either so convinced that they were also born again, or they only joined the church for a while, but they could not fully renounce the Law of Moses and were never born again. Paul calls them hypocrites and liars because they preached one thing to others, but they did the exact opposite in their private lives, and their consciences became numb because of their constant living in that lifestyle. They no longer saw the seriousness of the contradiction in their lives from the desire to appear before men as religious and holy. Just as the area where an animal is marked with a hot iron becomes numb and insensitive to pain, so the conscience of these people had become desensitized. Because of this, the apostle Paul describes their conscience as being marked with a hot iron.
It is very possible that those “some” influenced by the teachings of the Jews were even leaders (pastors and teachers) of the church of Christ in Ephesus, since the heresies had to do with doctrines that are usually preached from the front. Moreover, in 1 Timothy 1:7, they are described as wanting to be teachers of the Law. If they were born again, they probably loved God, were eternally saved by grace, but from time to time were “bitten” by the self-righteousness propagated by the followers of the Law of Moses, and focused mainly on their good works in order to please God here on earth, and this was because of a lack of understanding and revelation. They were not yet fully established in Christ and believing the truth in all areas. This does not mean that they had lost their eternal salvation, but that in their daily lives, they relied more on their self-righteousness to attract God’s favor, instead of applying the same simple faith that they had at the moment of salvation. Therefore, their departure from the faith was not an irreversible fall from the faith, but a temporary distancing or limited to only some aspects of their faith life. The same is happening today with many genuine Christians in the body of Christ who slip from time to time into self-righteousness or do not have full faith in the truth in all areas of their lives. Paul did not have in mind here the loss of eternal salvation. Lots of born-again Christians who are still legalistic and self-righteous will still go to heaven because they put their faith in Jesus for forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation.
From this passage we can also draw some general principles of faith.
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