The Agora
Godliness with Contentment - 1 Timothy

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VI. Latter Day Apostasy (4:1-5)

We have just finished considering Paul's words in 1Ti 3:16 concerning the "mystery of godliness". This mystery has been revealed for all the world to believe. This revealed mystery is an affirmation of certain basic, logical and wholly satisfying truths. It is an intelligible mystery (Luke 8:10; Rom 11:25) to all those who are not lost (2Co 4:3). But here Paul presents to us a second mystery -- a mystery that has enslaved much of the 'civilized' world. This mystery is termed (even by its proponents) 'an incomprehensible mystery'. Its doctrines are in no way logical, but rather they are a concoction of flesh-pleasing, God-defying theories. Those who question certain points are branded as 'heretics'. Paul also calls this second mystery the "mystery of iniquity".

"There shall come a falling away first, and that man of sin (shall) be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God... For the mystery of iniquity doth already work... whose coming is after the working of Satan with all the power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them a strong delusion, that they should believe a lie" (2Th. 2:3,4,7,9-11).
How would this apostasy develop? It would grow up gradually in the early ecclesia. It would gain its impetus from greedy and ambitious worldly "bishops", who had forgotten (or never learned) the admonitions of Paul (1Ti 3:1-7).

"For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 1:4; cf 2Pe 2:1).
Greek philosophy and the Gnostic mysteries were embraced by some leaders in the early ecclesia. There was (and still is) something appealing about the mysterious. Since many of the converts were of this persuasion before baptism, they would perhaps bring with them into the ecclesia doctrines other than the Truth. Another element which led to the adulteration of the Truth was the teaching of the Judaizers (Acts 15:1; Gal 5:1-3; Rev 2:9). This was warned against by Paul (Gal 1:6-9; 1Ti 1:4-7). Several years before, when Paul had spoken personally to the elders of Ephesus, he had told them this:

"Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:30).
The union of the two apostate systems (Greek-Roman paganism and corrupted Judaism) -- from whence the Catholic system sprang -- was prophesied in Zech. 5: Here the prophet saw a woman sitting within an ephah, a measuring container used in trade. She was called a "curse" (v 3) and "wickedness" (v 8) and she originally resided at Jerusalem where ungodly priests "made merchandise" of religion. But she was lifted up from the earth and carried to a new dwelling place in Shinar or the land of Babylon (v 11). The woman represented the Jewish apostasy, with its cold formalism, its "letter of the law" rather than the spirit. She was the murderer of the Lord, and she resided in Jerusalem until 70 AD, when the temple was overthrown and the Jews scattered. But the same spirit of apostasy was carried over into Christianity -- the evidence of which may be seen throughout Paul's letter to the Galatians and in Acts 15, where certain Jewish Christians were contending that Gentile converts must be circumcised and keep the law. This false 'woman' held her children in bondage to the Law of Moses, which had been done away with in Christ.

It is a great warning for us that such a gruesome apostasy as that to be seen in the 'Holy Mother Church' should have its beginnings within the ecclesia! "In the latter times many shall depart from the faith". Hence the exhortation "Examine yourselves (to see) whether ye be in the faith" (2Co 13:5).

A. 4:1-5: Latter Day Apostasy

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.

Now -- "But" (RV, Diag.) indicates sharp contrast to what just came before. Paul had been speaking of the wonderful gospel mystery in its purity; but now he must present the very antithesis of this, in the blasphemous mystery of iniquity.

The Spirit most likely here is equivalent to Jesus himself. Paul probably has in mind the warnings of Jesus, as in the Olivet prophecy:

"Take heed that no man deceive you... for many shall come in my name... and shall deceive many... And many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many... and shall show great signs and wonders" (Mat 24:4,5,11,24).
That Jesus is sometimes (after his glorification) referred to as "the Spirit" may be seen in various references: The messages to the seven ecclesias in Asia, are sent from the one holding the seven stars in his right hand (Rev 2:1), having been dead and yet now being alive (v.8), the "Son of God" (v.18), etc. But those same letters are also described as "what the Spirit saith unto the ecclesias" (Rev 2:7,11,17,29, etc). And again, Paul refers to the glorified Jesus as a "quickening (i.e. life-giving) Spirit" in 1Co 15:45.

The word expressly is used only once in the New Testament. Other versions render it "distinctly". But the root word means "to pour out": God had revealed through His Holy Spirit to Paul this warning of apostasy to come. He had "poured out" this infallible revelation upon the apostle. Possibly Paul is thinking of that communication which led to his statement in Acts 20:28-30, concerning a falling-away to come.

In the latter times some shall depart from the faith -- that is, "in later days" -- a phrase that may include the very "last days", but also all the intervening time periods. In the original the word depart carries an implication of apostasy but stronger even than that, it signifies "to desert", or "to instigate to revolt".

In every age since Paul spoke this prophecy, many have revolted against the one true faith. Perhaps he was merely reciting the prophecy of Dan 11:35, spoken of the time when the "god of the earth" would come into power:

"And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end."
(In the Bible, "some" may often be read as "many" -- as in John 6:64,66: "'There are some of you that believe not'... From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him." (See also note regarding "some", 1:3.)

The very purpose of most of Paul's correspondence was to fight this tendency to fall away. In 2 Thess. 2:7 (written in 54 A.D.) Paul had said that the "mystery of iniquity" was already at work.

But Paul is talking to us today as well, in the very last times -- the last days of the rule of the nations. It is in this time when apostasy can be clearly seen not only in the great churches around us, but in the very body of Christ also, among those who have the true form of godliness, but who by their actions deny the power thereof (2Ti 3:5).

"When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8) Will the believers still be living and praying as they should? Jesus' words from a remote time ring very true today.

"And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved" (Mat 24:11-13).
Yes, these words may have had applications to other ages than our own. But who can deny their fitness even today?

Seducing means "deceitful" or "wandering" (in the sense of vacillating from side to side). In 1Jo 4:1, spirits is the term used of teachers:

"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world."
These men with their false doctrines wander from place to place. They creep stealthily into a group; they travel wherever itching ears are ready to receive their words.

These same teachers were described by Jude at approximately the same time, as recalling memories of Cain, Balaam and Korah. Furthermore he says:

"These are spots in your feast of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever." (Jude 11-13).
Certainly a warning to those in Paul's and Jude's time, but no less a warning to us today!

In the phrase "Doctrines of devils" devils should be translated "demons" as in the RV margin; RSV; and NIV. In New Testament language, those persons who are insane or in some such way afflicted are said to be possessed by demons, or even to be themselves demoniacs. Their "wisdom" is not from above, but is earthly, sensual, and "demoniac" (Jam 3:15). The leaders of Catholicism, and their deluded followers, have become insane in their opposition to God's truth. (Witness the terrible atrocities of their inquisitions and scourges through the Middle Ages). The Pope and his top-level advisers are mad in their desire for authority over the world. The Pope expounds his ludicrous theories, and his priests run to and fro to "demonize" their subjects with their "power and signs and lying wonders". And a Protestant Christendom, which once at least made a show of opposing Popery, now moves closer and closer toward reconciliation and cooperation with the power in the Vatican. The "harlot daughters", once estranged, are now returning to their infamous Mother. Paul foresaw this demoniac madness which the Wicked One manifests, a madness which will deceive many, until it realizes its abrupt end in the destruction of the brightness of Christ's coming (2Th 2:8).

Paul may also have in mind the supposed disembodied spirits so commonly worshipped by the apostasy (Rev 9:20). It was the renowned pagan philosopher Plato who said, "All demons are an intermediate order between gods and mortals." The deification of heroes and emperors by the polytheistic Greeks and Romans was encountered by Paul (see Acts 17:18 -- where the strange "gods" -- AV -- is actually this very word "demons"!), and it was the worship of such that he described as "... sacrificing to", "having fellowship with", "drinking the cup of... demons" (1Co 10:20,21). This worship of "demon-idols" was carried over intact into Roman Catholicism. Hundreds of "saints" -- some pagan, some Catholic, some who never even existed -- have been "canonized" by the Pope and his Cardinals. These "saints", just like the ancient gods and goddesses, are assumed to be mediators and benefactors for their constituents, on a retail basis. (This is a direct violation of the Scriptural doctrine that there is only one mediator, the man Christ Jesus -- 2:5). Untold millions in revenue have found their way into the purses of the Church, as its priests buy and sell the souls of men (Rev 18), as garments and bones purported to have been those of the great "saints" are foisted upon their subjects, and "lying miracles" are heralded as witnesses to the truth of Catholicism.

Thus men claiming to be Christian do not worship God through His Son Jesus, but they prostrate themselves before the Virgin Mary, 'Mother of God', St. Joseph, St. Francis and all the other 'saints' "in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels" (Col 2:18).

"But in his estate shall he honor the God of forces" (Dan 11:38). John Thomas translates this as "gods of fortifications", and he connects this with the "demons" of Catholicism in the following extract:

"Chrysostom, in his homily on the martyrs of Egypt, says: 'The bodies of those saints fortify the city more effectually for us than impregnable walls of adamant; and like towering rocks placed around on every side, repel not only the assaults of enemies that are visible, but the insidious stratagems also of invisible demons, and counteract and defeat every artifice of the devil as a strong man overturns the toys of children'. The Greeks and Latins made the most of these wonderful martyrs. Believing in ghosts, or disembodied human spirits, they proclaimed the translation of their shades to heaven to act as mediators and intercessors with the Virgin and her Son; but kept their bones and dust in church-shrines to protect, defend, or guard them from all enemies, demons, and other evils to which the flesh is subject. Speaking of these times of intense superstition, Gibbon says: 'The Christians of the seventh century had insensibly relapsed into a semblance of paganism; their public and private vows were addressed to the relics and images that disgraced the temples of the east; the throne of the Almighty was darkened by a cloud of martyrs, saints, and angels, the objects of popular veneration; and the Collyridian heretics, who flourished in the fruitful soil of Arabia, invested the Virgin Mary with the name and honours of a goddess'." (Exposition of Daniel, p. 62; see the entire sections, "A God of Guardians" and "Guardian's Bazaars", pp.61-70.)
Some would translate this last phrase of v 1 as "doctrines taught by demons" (NIV), thus making it virtually equivalent to the preceding "seducing spirits". There is no difficulty in accepting such a translation when it is recognized that "demons" are in reality men who are possessed -- by the "demons" of mental illness and delusion. In a very real sense, men who imagine and teach the existence of disembodied spirits may become that which they worship -- demonizing and seducing "spirits" who corrupt others. It was said of the false gods in David's day, that "they that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them" (Psa 115:8).

Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.

For comments on speaking lies in hypocrisy see notes, 1:20. The purpose of The Great Apostasy is to seduce others by a show of sanctity -- as did the Pharisees (Mat 15:1-14; ch. 23). "A mouth speaking great things" (Dan 7:8; 11:36).

Those who speak lies have their consciences seared with a hot iron. Seared means 'branded' (RV; RSV), marked in the forehead (Rev 14:9; 17:5). The metaphor is from the practice of branding slaves and criminals, the latter on the brow. A Scriptural comparison would be the mark God placed upon Cain (Gen 4:15). Those deluded by the Catholic superstition "brand" themselves with the sign of the cross, the mark of the beast. They brand themselves as "slaves", slaves of their masters Sin and the ecclesiastical Sin-Power, whom they serve even unto death (Rom 6:16, 21). And, like Cain, they are thus marked by God as criminals in His sight.

The word "seared" is translated also as "cauterized" implying a self-inflicted insensibility and callousness. The followers of the apostasy are cauterized with a hot iron in their foreheads or minds. They are willingly ignorant (2Pe 3:5), having given themselves over wholeheartedly to their deluded state:

"Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness" (Eph 4:18, 19).
God only goes so far with such people. If they continue in their course of willful sin, He will at last leave them completely (2 Thess. 2:11; Rom 1:28).

Even in the Truth we may fall to such a degree that our consciences, no longer guided by the Word of God, cannot any more turn us from wrongdoing. Let this consideration spur us on! Each individual must never cease to examine himself, his motives, and his actions. And he must act as a watchman, that those around him do not fall prey to the blindness of heart that leads to a seared conscience and willful sin.

Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

By their pretended piety in forbidding to marry, the priests of Rome try to win support for their absurd doctrines. The language here presupposes a power strong enough in its full maturity to enforce its peculiar doctrines upon others, as the Catholic hierarchy does to its clergy. Merely to teach and practise celibacy, as have done a number of exotic minorities, is not enough to provide a fulfillment of this prophecy. "Forbid" is a strong word and implies commanded and enforced celibacy rather than chosen celibacy. Only the Catholic Church has effectively done this.

Such a state of forced celibacy is so unnatural for most, negating as it does the benefits of home and family influence (1Ti 3:2,12). These often act as softening agents upon those who would otherwise be self-centered and narrow-minded. The Levitical priests were never prohibited from marrying.

Perhaps Paul's recommendations to some (who could receive it) in 1Co 7 ("Seek not a wife", and "It is good to abide even as I") have been misused in forcing celibacy upon all the Catholic clergy. But it is more likely that this false doctrine had its beginning among the small Jewish sect of Essenes which flourished in this time.

Again, we may refer to Dan 11:36,37, where the prophet speaks of the king who shall arise, exalting himself above every god, and disregarding the desire of women. And so he continues and prospers "until the indignation of God is accomplished".

Commanding to abstain from meats was a common practice in the Catholic Church for centuries. Recently the hierarchy has begun to "modernize" their rules ever so slightly in anticipation of appealing to the Protestant "daughters". "Let no man judge you in meat or drink" (Col 2:16).

This no doubt had its beginnings with the Judaizers, who tried to enforce the law regarding the abstinence from "certain" meats. There were also different sects in Paul's day whose ascetic behavior called for abstinence from meat, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving. He is "the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy" (1Ti 6:17). Although many receive God's blessing without ever acknowledging Him, it is not His desire that they do so. And in the future Kingdom there will be sustained and unanimous thanksgiving to Yahweh -- for all men will believe and know the Truth, "from the least to the greatest". But for now we alone render true Godly thanksgiving.

Of them which believe and know the truth refers to those who have "full (complete, accurate) knowledge" (epi-gnosis). Not just the incomplete partial "gnosis" of the Gnostics. Such people as these should not, because of their marriage and eating of meats, feel inferior to the ascetic hypocrites (v 8). "For the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy" (Rom 14:17).

For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.

Every creature of God is good since everything that God created He called "very good" (Gen 1:31; cp Gen 9:3). As Paul tells the Romans, "There is nothing unclean of itself... All things indeed are pure" (Rom 14:14,20).

"Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled" (Tit 1:15).
The word refused or "rejected" (RSV, NIV) literally means "to be thrown away". This is what Peter learned so dramatically, when he saw a certain vessel descending from heaven with all manner of animals therein. He was commanded by God to kill and eat, but he protested, only to be rebuked: "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common". And Peter was able to say, "God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean" (Acts 10:9-16, 28). Our Lord also says, "There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him" (Mark 7:15). In this very matter of eating, again Paul has said that dietary differences among people are of no consequence:

"For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him" (Rom 14:2,3).
All things given by God for our nourishment should be put to their intended use. The good gifts of God are to be put to good use, "for the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof (1Co 10:26). In 1Co 8; 9 Paul explains that certain of these good gifts were put to evil use in idolatrous sacrifices. And he leaves us the principle, that some things are to be refused, if only for the reason that their use might cause scrupulous brethren to stumble. (Such verses as in Rom 14 must not be used to justify abusive, impure practices like smoking and drinking. The context of the various passages here indicates that Paul is speaking of food, items to be used for nourishment).

Finally, in this simple truth, that not a creature is to be refused, we see by type the great promise that God is no respecter of persons, that God will refuse no man. Men are creatures of God; all have the chance to become acceptable to Him -- if they are cleansed and continually sanctified by the Word of God:

"Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you" (John 15:3; cp Psa 119:9).
For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

Anything to be used by the saints, whether food or clothing, is something special to the godly, who recognize that all things come from God. He has promised to provide us all things necessary if we only seek first His Kingdom. No doubt He takes precautions to see that these things come our way, so that we may have all sufficiency in food and raiment, which leads to that "godliness with contentment" (see 1Ti 6:6,8).

"I have been young, and now am old: yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread" (Psa 37:25).
"The eyes of all wait upon Thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season... The Lord preserveth all them that love him" (Psa 145:15,20).
The custom of rendering thanks to the Father, at mealtimes especially, finds many precedents in Scripture. Among others, we have the following:

Paul also makes the corresponding point that nothing is good, unless we use it with praise and thanksgiving to Him from Whom all blessings flow (Rom 14:6). Whatsoever is not done in faith is sin. The use of any comfort or convenience or privilege which we have is sin, unless we can recognize and acknowledge God's hand in providing it.

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