1 Timothy is a letter written by Paul for his mentee Timothy. The purpose of this letter is to give instructions on how to deal with the false teaching being spread in Ephesus. In chapter 4, we read detailed instructions Paul wrote to Timothy which can be outlined into five sequential sections. Those sections being:
Statement of the problem and why it is happening.
What the false teachers were teaching.
Why that teaching was wrong.
Practical ways Timothy can confront the false teaching. And
Ways Timothy can make sure he never falls into the trap of being a false teacher.
In the first section, we read that the problem Ephesus faces is false teaching. Paul states three main reasons why false teaching is happening. Reason one is the Holy Spirit clearly tells us false teaching is a sign of the last times. Where some will fall away from the true faith. Because we are in the last days, false teaching is going to happen. Reason two is these false teachers are being influenced and instructed by deceptive spirits. They have started believing in doctrine that comes from demons. And reason three, their conscience is dead and they have become hypocrites and liars.
Section 2 describes what the false teaching was about. They were teaching that it is wrong to get married and wrong to eat certain foods. This teaching was dividing the church in Ephesus. They were making a non-essential issue into an essential issue. Saying to people, in order to be a true christian, you must not eat certain foods and you must not marry.
Section 3 clearly states why both of these teachings are wrong. God is good and whatever He makes is good. God created marriage and all food, so it is good. Now, if it bothers your conscience to eat certain foods or get married you should not do that. Romans 14:23 says, “But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.” The reason the teaching was false is because they were claiming it was wrong to eat certain food and get married for all believers, not just some whose conscience was bothered by it.
In section 4, Paul gives instructions on what Timothy should and shouldn't do to combat these teachings. Timothy should explain to all the brothers and sisters what is good teaching. He should not get caught up in arguments with these false teachers because it is pointless. Instead, let the way he lives prove his teaching to be correct and true. He should keep training himself spiritually to be an example. He shouldn't let his age prevent him from being a teacher to the Ephesians. Lastly, Paul encourages Timothy to combat false teaching by encouraging believers to focus on reading scripture.
The last section gives instructions for Timothy's personal spiritual life to make sure he does not stray and become a false teacher. Paul gives three main instructions.
Do not neglect the spiritual gifts he had received through prophecy spoken over him by the church elders.
Give complete attention to the mission of correcting false teachers, so everyone can see his progress.
Keep a close watch on how he lives his life and what he teaches. That staying true to what is right not only affects his salvation but the salvation of those who hear his teaching.
This letter was written by Paul for Timothy, so how does it apply to us? From this letter we can apply five lessons to our lives.
Lesson one is beware of false teaching. If it does not line up with the word of God then it is not something you should believe in or listen to.
Lesson two, always go back to scripture for your foundation of truth. Scripture is God's word to us to follow. It is the truth we can fall back on.
Lesson three don't get into arguments with false teachers. Instead let the way you live be the evidence of the truth. Really and truly arguing and debating people with facts about God can be a waste of our breath. Instead choose to live the way that God wants us to live, in love and truth. Then people around us will be more convinced of the truth. Most of the time people don't believe in God because of a heart problem of past hurts. Not because of facts or philosophies. Living in God's love and truth helps heal people's heart problems and that leads them to Christ. Living our lives in God's love and truth is more effective than going around arguing and debating with people who do not believe in God.
Lesson four, do not neglect the spiritual gifts God has given you. God has given each and every one of us spiritual gifts to use to build up the church. In Romans 12:6-8, Paul writes,
“In His grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much Faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership abilities, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift of showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”
Whatever gift God has given you, you should develop it and practice it well to build up God's Church and be a part of the body of Christ.
The last lesson we can apply to our lives is the way you live not only affects your salvation, but the salvation of others. Paul tells Timothy that the way he lives and what he says not only affects his salvation but it affects the salvation of those who hear his message and watch his life. The same applies to us. There are people, whether we notice it or not, watching and listening to the way we live our lives. The way we talk and act affects the way people view christianity. There have been many cases where people fall from the faith not because they no longer believe in Jesus, but because those who claim to represent Christ hurt them and now they want no part of the church. We are representatives of Christ. We should pay close attention to how we act and speak, because what you say and act, while claiming Christ, people will associate with Christ. If you are kind and loving, people will think Christ is kind and loving. If you are harsh and judgemental, people will think Christ is harsh and judgemental. If you claim Christ, but never turn from your sinful ways, people will think Christ is useless. Like Paul told Timothy in chapter 4:16, “Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.”
So remember these five key lessons from 1st Timothy chapter 4.
Beware of false teaching.
Always go back to scripture for your foundation of truth.
Don't get into an argument with false teachers. Instead, let the way you live be the evidence of the truth.
Do not neglect the spiritual gifts God has given you.
The way you live not only affects your salvation, but the salvation of others who are watching and listening to your life.