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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:In Later Times
Text:1 Timothy 4:1-5 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Living in a sinful world
 
Preached:08/27/2017
Added:2017-10-10
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 
“In Later Times”
1 Timothy 4:1-5
 
In the early days of the Billy Graham crusades a man by the name of Charles Templeton worked with Billy Graham. Templeton and Graham went on many tours together, preaching the gospel to thousands of people. Of the two evangelists, Templeton had the most accolades. The National Association of Evangelicals called him the “best used of God” in ministry. Templeton was instrumental in founding Youth for Christ and served as the vice president of the organization. He also planted the Avenue Road Church of the Nazarene in Toronto, which appeared to be blessed by the Lord as it grew in number. 
 
However, neither Billy Graham nor Charles Templeton had a seminary education. Because of that Templeton decided to attend one of the best-known seminaries, Princeton Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. Perhaps he didn't realize the history of Princeton. Princeton's history is rich with professors who were faithful to the word of God. But as the Presbyterian Church, now known as the PCUSA, became liberal early on in the 20th century, faithful professors who taught sound doctrine were forced out of the seminary. Those faithful professors founded a new seminary, Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, and now also in Escondido California, both of which remain faithful to the word of God. But meanwhile Princeton Seminary was going from bad to worse.
 
Error from the Top Down
 
False teaching, as we have noted before, usually comes into churches from the top down. The seminaries are influenced by the evil one. They put doubts in the hearts of their students, and often by the time their students graduate and become ministers they no longer believe the Bible. They come into their pulpits as great skeptics, and their preaching and teaching leads whole congregations astray.
 
That is what happened to Billy Graham's close friend, Charles Templeton. After one semester in Princeton Seminary, back in 1948, Templeton no longer believed the biblical account of creation. He would later leave the church that he had founded, and eventually he denied the faith entirely. He wrote a book with a tragic title which tells the story of his apostasy. The book is entitled, Farewell to God, subtitled, My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith.
 
In that book he describes some of the conversations and correspondence that he had with Billy Graham. He tried his best to get Graham to waver. He brought up all the arguments that he had learned at Princeton Seminary against the veracity of the Bible. But Graham wrote back, describing how he would stand on the word of God alone.
 
That example is a sad, but all too common, example of what 1 Timothy 4:1 is speaking about, when Paul writes: The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. The later time refers to all the time from the first coming of Jesus to the last coming. But it also implies an increase in godlessness and  false teaching as time progresses forward.
 
We read of that also in Paul's second letter to Timothy where he writes in 2 Timothy 3:1 that there will be terrible times in the last days. The verses that follow give a remarkable description of our own culture. And then as the fourth chapter begins the apostle gives Timothy that famous charge to Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
 
We live in those later times. Many churches that were once faithful to the Scripture have left the faith. They have said, in effect, the same thing as Charles Templeton said when he titled his book, Farewell to God. Like Hymenaeus and Alexander, written about in 1 Timothy 1:19-20, they have shipwrecked their faith.
 
And that should not surprise us.  Here in verse 1 the apostle tells how these false teachers follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. His teaching parallels the warning that he gave in 2 Corinthians 11 where he also warned of false teachers who were masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, he wrote, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. (2 Corinthians 11:13b-15)
 
This warning should remind us that we may find a beautiful church building with an impressive pulpit and a well-educated articulate pastor, perhaps even one with a doctorate in theology. But we must always be a Berean (Acts 17:11). We must always test everything with the Scripture as Billy Graham did when Charles Templeton tempted him to doubt the truth of God's word. The Puritans were absolutely right when they gave this warning: “When you look for the devil, don't forget to look behind the pulpit!”
 
Seared as With a Hot Iron
 
Verse 2 expands on the false teachers by describing how such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. In our study of 1 Timothy we have seen that Paul frequently brings up the conscience. We first saw it in 1 Timothy 1:5 which describes the importance of having a good conscience and a sincere faith. We saw, in our study of that passage, that our conscience is the sentry of our heart. Our conscience is the guard at the door of our heart which sounds the alarm when we are tempted to do what is wrong.
 
We also saw that our conscience is given to us by God to give approval to what is right. Our conscience not only convicts us of our sin, but also encourages us to live a godly life. It is our conscience which gives us the ability to judge ourselves in the light of God’s word. Our conscience enables us to evaluate our thoughts and actions, either approving them, or convicting us of sin.
 
But this God-given blessing of a tender conscience can be seared as with a hot iron. When you go against your conscience you are immediately convicted that you have done wrong. But if you keep doing wrong you can harden your conscience to the point where it won't bother you at all. You can harden your conscience to the point where you do what is evil and have no qualms whatsoever about it.
 
And that is what the false teachers do. Initially, when they go against the truth of God's word, there may be a pang in their conscience. But as they continue to refute the truth of God's word and as they continue to teach false doctrine, their conscience becomes hardened and no longer bothers them. William Hendriksen writes insightfully on this passage:
 
These hypocrites are described as the men whose own consciences are seared (literally “who are cauterized as to their own conscience”). By constantly arguing with conscience, stifling its warnings, and muffling its bell, they at last have reached the point where conscience no longer bothers them. Grieving the Holy Spirit has led to resisting him, and resisting him to quenching him. Then, through their own rebellion and obstinacy, their conscience will have been rendered (and thus will be permanently) seared. It will have been made callous. (New Testament Commentary on 1 Timothy, Pg. 146)
 
That is a tragic, but altogether accurate, portrayal of a false teacher who has hardened their conscience against the truth of God's word.
 
Legalistic Roots
 
As Paul warns us about false teachers we see that often their teaching is rooted in legalism. Verse 3 describes the legalism this way: They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.
 
In the historical context, it is likely that the apostle was addressing Gnosticism. The Gnostics taught that all matter is evil. Because of that they denied the humanity of Jesus Christ, because if he truly had a body, it would cause him to be sinful, in their view. Likewise they did not believe that Christ had any part in the creation of the world, because the world, being created of matter, would be sinful. They attributed the creation to a demigod, or some to Jehovah, but not to Christ.
 
Because of their view that all matter is evil, many of them condemned blessings that should be received with thanksgiving – blessings from God. For instance, verse 3 describes how they would forbid people to marry. Yet marriage is ordained by God and blessed by him. Marriage, throughout Scripture is held in high regard. Hebrews 13:4 states that marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and sexually immoral. Yet the Gnostics of the first century often would forbid people to marry because any physical union would be sinful because, after all, anything material or physical was considered sinful in their sight.
 
If we fast-forward through church history we can't help but see that the Roman Catholic Church has also refused marriage to their priests. It is interesting that they do, since they teach that Peter was the first pope, and that the Roman church is established upon the rock of Peter. Yet Scripture describes how Peter was married and brought his wife with him on his many missionary trips. The apostle Paul, who was single, gave his approval to that practice (1 Corinthians 9:5). Yet the 10th canon of the Council of Trent, written in 1545, says: “Whoever shall affirm that (marriage) is to be preferred to a life of virginity or celibacy, and that it is not better and more conducive to happiness to remain in virginity or celibacy, than to be married, let him be accursed.”
 
In more recent decades we have seen many instances where forbidding clergy to marry has not led to purity. Instead it has led to debauchery, perversion and molestation. I know there are many Christians who are Roman Catholic, but it should be obvious from Scripture that the Roman Catholic Church is in great error in forbidding its priests to marry.
 
The same is true concerning the command to abstain from certain foods, which verse 3 warns against. That teaching of the early Gnostics has been, at times, a tenet of Roman Catholicism. Yet Scripture clearly teaches that all foods are acceptable and are to be received with thanksgiving, consecrated by the word of God and prayer. Mark 7:19 describes how Jesus declared all foods clean. And in Peter’s vision of unclean animals, described in Acts chapter 10 and 11, a voice from heaven told him to kill and eat. He replied, “Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.”  The voice spoke from heaven a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (Acts 11:9)
 
Colossians 2:16 also teaches that food and drink are not a basis for judgment (unless, of course, they are abused). Colossians 2:16 says, Therefore let no one judge you by what you eat or drink… And, by way of application, we read in 1 Timothy 4:4-5 that everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
 
That is, incidentally, why we pray before meals. Children, it's not just a habit that your grandparents passed on to your parents, and your parents have now passed on to you, that you pray before a meal. In Scripture we read how Jesus prayed with thanksgiving before eating with his disciples and others, including when he fed great multitudes. And we see from verse 5 that we are to do the same. The food that we eat is given to us by God. He provides our daily bread and so much more. And because of that we can partake of all foods; they have all been declared clean. The restrictions from the Old Testament have been removed. And the food that we eat is then consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
  
No Spiritual Value in Man-Made Rules
 
And then a second application is that man-made rules based on asceticism may sound wise, but have no spiritual value. Verse 3 describes man-made rules. It is not God who forbids marriage; rather it is forbidden by those who have power in the church. In the same way, the Lord doesn't prohibit us from certain foods. Jesus himself declared all foods clean. The rule not to eat certain types of meat or fish is not from the Lord but from men.
 
Why is that? Why does the false teaching of legalism infiltrate so many churches? Legalism creeps up in the church, in one form or another, because as self-centered sinners we want some credit for our salvation. The human logic is that if we deny ourselves then we will have a better standing with God. Legalism teaches that when we have denied ourselves marriage, food, or some other activity deemed to be wrong based on human reasoning, then we will gain more favor with God. It proves our consecration to him.
 
But God doesn't accept us based on what we have denied ourselves. Martin Luther found that out. He lived as a monk for many years. He lived an ascetic life and denied himself many things. He lived on bread and water in the monastery. But he found no peace. He found no reconciliation with God. He didn't find peace with God until he came across that quote from Habakkuk, quoted three times over in the New Testament, that the righteous will live by faith. He finally came to understand that we are accepted by God, not by denying ourselves certain things, but by having saving faith in his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
  
Colossians 2:20-23 explains it this way: If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.  
 
We are to deny ourselves our sinful inclinations, but denial based on legalism is a sin in itself. Jesus forcefully spoke against man-made rules when he quoted from Isaiah 29:13, saying to the Pharisees: “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
 
                        “‘These people honor me with their lips,
                        But their hearts are far from me.
                           They worship me in vain;
                         Their teachings are but rules taught by men.’” (Mark 7:6-7)  
 
The Outcome for False Teachers
 
Charles Templeton died on June 7, 2001. When he did he found out that the title to his book was all wrong. His title was, Saying Goodbye to God. When he died, instead of saying goodbye to God, he stood before the Lord to give an account of his apostasy and to be judged accordingly.
 
The same is true for every false teacher who does not repent of their sin. Their judgment will be all the harsher, for they have led many people astray instead of leading them to Jesus Christ. In the rest of the chapter the apostle teaches us, among other things, what we need in order to be – or to have – a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truth of the faith and of the good teaching that Timothy had followed. (1 Timothy 4:6)
 
May all of us always strive to be true and faithful to the word of God, thankful for the church that is built on the Rock of Christ, knowing that it is, as described in the previous chapter, the pillar and the foundation of the truth (3:15).
           
Instead of rejecting the truths of Scripture may you and I rejoice in them and live lives of obedient gratitude to the One who has redeemed us from our sin, and has blessed us with everything good so that we may receive His blessings with thanksgiving, consecrating them by the word of God and prayer. Amen.
 
 
- bulletin outline -
 
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. – 1 Timothy 4:1
 
“In Later Times”
1 Timothy 4:1-5
 
I. These verses warn that teaching will come from those who:
      1) Have abandoned the faith and have followed deceiving spirits and demons (1; 2 Corinthians 11:14-15)
 
 
 
 
 
 
      2) Have seared their consciences (2)
 
 
 
 
 
 
      3) Teach false doctrine and are rooted in legalism (3)
 
 
 
 
 
 
II. Applications:
      1) All that God has created is good and is to be received with thanksgiving (3b-5)
 
 
 
 
 
 
      2) Man-made rules based on asceticism may sound wise, but have no spiritual value (3-4;
          Colossians 2:20-23)

 

 

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 08/2, Rev. Ted Gray

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