For an introduction to this series, click here.
October 18, 2007
"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, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer." (4:1-5)
Notice that Paul associates legalism with the apostasy of the last days. This is more of a reference to the general spirit of apostasy that has affected the church throughout history than about the final apostasy that leads to the rise of the antichrist. All of the apostle writers mention about the problems in "the last days" and I think it is instructive that Paul includes legalism here. Legalism is a dangerous threat to true Christianity at all times.
"If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity." (4:6-12, ESV)
There is a lot of good stuff here. Have you ever heard a preacher whose whole sermon seemed to be one funny story after another? I think that is a lot of what Paul is aiming at here, with his remark about "silly myths." It is an easy trap to fall into: to let your teaching be dominated by irreverent stuff that is irrelevant to the gospel.
The line "the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe" is the way Paul describes that the offer of salvation is made to all men, but is only applied to those who believe.
The last verse is part of Paul's instruction to encourage young Timothy. Timothy apparently had a lot of problems, and Paul is telling him here not to let other people get him down, but to move forward as a leader. Now most people probably did not look down on Timothy, but from this verse I think it is clear that Timothy felt intimidated because of his youth. In our time, verses like this teach us that we need to involve young people in the regular ministry of the church whenever we can, and not just keep them busy playing games in the youth department. How many 20-somethings leave our churches because we had programs for them when they were kids and teenagers, but now they are stuck without a program? I'm not against programs or against people having fun, but everyone needs to learn that the church is about service to the Lord and fellow believers, not about having fun or social networking. And the younger people learn that, the more good they will be to the church.