I Timothy 4
New King James Version 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,
The Resultant Version 1. Now the Spirit is saying explicitly that in subsequent eras some shall withdraw from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and to the teaching of demons,
Paul now speaks of something that the Spirit is saying explicitly. He was saying this to Paul, and Paul was commissioned to write it down for us to know. These explicit words of the Spirit had to do with the way things will be in “latter times.” The New King James Version has “latter times,” and this might lead us to think of the “last days” of this dispensation of grace, such as we have them in II Timothy 3:1. Yet this is not the same word eschatos for “last” that we have in II Timothy 3:1. Instead, it is the word husteros (or “husterois” here in the plural), and this phrase means “subsequent eras,” as in The Resultant Version. This is ultimately a prophecy of the way things would be in the dispensation of grace, as this great period of God’s dealings with Adam’s began to run its course. Indeed, this is the way things have been throughout this dispensation, as we who live in it can clearly see by observing the world around us.
In these “subsequent eras,” the Spirit revealed to Paul that some would withdraw from the faith. This is seen on every hand today, when many people will identify themselves with Christianity or Jesus Christ, and yet will withdraw from actually believing the things a true believer and follower of Jesus Christ must believe. It may be that they do not believe the Bible to be God’s Word, and so do not place trust and faith in it. It may be that they do not believe that Jesus Christ is God, and so reject the truth of the Son. It may be that they do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and so do not believe in His victorious atoning work. All such people, though they may “go to church” and claim to be “Christians,” have really withdrawn from the faith.
Now if people will not listen to the Bible and will not believe Its basic teachings regarding Jesus Christ and salvation, then whom do they listen to and what do they believe? The Spirit tells us explicitly that they listen instead to deceiving spirits, and believe instead the teaching of demons. We must realize that the vast amount of rubbish that exists in theology is not there by accident. It is not there just because honest people have misread the Bible and made mistakes. It is there because there are deceiving spirits and demons who teach lies in the name of truth. It is not by chance that there is so much confusion and false teaching. To borrow the words of Christ from the parable of the wheat and the tares, when we look at all the confusion and false doctrine that exists, we cannot help but sum it up by saying, “An enemy has done this.”
How does one avoid listening to deceiving spirits and being deceived by the teaching of demons? There is only one way possible. By listening intently to the Word of God and seeking diligently His truth found therein.
New King James Version 2. speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,
The Resultant Version 2. Expressing lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience cauterized with a hot iron,
Those who withdraw from the faith and believe deceiving spirits and demons’ teachings will inevitably end up speaking lies in hypocrisy. The word for “speaking lies” is pseudologon. Logon comes from logos, the word that means “expression,” so here this speaks of expressing lies in hypocrisy. Once these people no longer believe God, they will inevitably start to believe and express lies. Lies, however, do not match up with the truth, and so those who express such things often do so hypocritically, for their false teaching does not really work out in their own lives.
Moreover, those who claim to be followers of Christ and yet depart from true belief are seldom people of conscience. Instead, they are the kind of people who have their conscience cauterized. When something is cauterized with a hot iron, it is burned over and hardens over the burn so that it does not feel as it would otherwise feel. In the same way the conscience of these people is cauterized, and does not respond as it should when they do things that are wrong. This can easily result in them acting with worse and worse behavior without a working conscience to make them feel their guilt and the wrongness of what they are doing, and thus to hold them back.
New King James Version 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.
The Resultant Version 3. Forbidding to marry, abstaining from foods which God has created to be received with thanksgiving of them who believe and know the truth.
Now the Lord lists for us some of these teachings of demons that those who had withdrawn from the faith were giving heed to. First is forbidding to marry. This verse has long been applied by Protestants to the Catholic doctrine of the celibacy of church leaders such as priests, nuns, and monks. This is an accurate charge, and the sad reality even in our own day of priests who commit adultery with parishioners’ wives is perhaps even dwarfed by the scandal of priests who sexually abuse children. In certain times and cultures, priests have been famous for keeping the prostitutes of their respective cities in business. In the light of such things, a clandestine relationship between certain priests or monks and nuns might seem the least of the evils that could come out of this doctrine. Far from bringing glory to God, the celibacy of the priesthood has brought scandal and deviancy upon the Catholic Church. What else might be expected from a doctrine of demons? It is far better for those who serve God to have their own wives, and the women their own husbands.
Yet this is certainly not the only place this doctrine of demons appears. Catholics are perhaps the most famous, but not the only ones among whom the idea that celibacy is somehow commendable in the sight of God exists. Even among many who take the Bible seriously and yet who do not recognize the Acts 28:28 dividing line, a twisted interpretation of I Corinthians 7 is often used to suggest that there is some sort of spiritual benefit to singleness. The Bible always and consistently supports the idea that God made us for marriage. The idea that singleness is beneficial in God’s sight is simply a doctrine of demons.
Yet there are still other ways this doctrine might surface. For example, we might see it today in the reluctance of many to marry. Due to the high divorce rate in our country, marriage appears to many to be a risky thing, and has fallen into disrepute. According to Otis Q. Sellers, the phrase “forbidding to marry” could just as easily apply here to those who forbid themselves to marry as to those who forbid others to marry. That is just what those who avoid marriage and instead insist on “living together” are doing. Such a sexual and cohabiting relationship without dedication is contrary to what the Bible supports and teaches. Yet in our marriage-shy culture, many insist that couples should try living together before marriage. They act like this is a practical way to see if you are “compatible” before you commit to marriage. Yet this “practical” advice is given in defiance of all statistics, which clearly show that such “try before you buy” tactics always lead to a much higher likelihood of later divorce than otherwise. This kind of relationship might better be characterized as caring about yourself first rather than about the other person, and this would be a much more accurate way to describe it than “seeing if we are compatible.” Yet it seems the knee-jerk wisdom of the day would forbid marriage until such an ungodly “trial” is performed. This certainly is also a doctrine of demons.
Whatever demons teach and no matter how culture or religion latches unto it, God’s teaching is still the same, and still is in support of marriage. As Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Those who withdraw from the faith and give heed to the teaching of demons regarding marriage will be set in order when God’s kingdom comes. This sort of thing will not survive in the kingdom of God.
Next we have another teaching of demons. This one is commanding to abstain from foods. Yet there is no real support for “commanding to” in the Greek, so The Resultant Version read, “abstaining from foods.” Of course, the idea is not that they are abstaining from foods because they believe them to be unhealthy or because they do not like them, but rather because they believe the teaching of demons and think that abstaining from these foods will give them an advantage over those who do not in the sight of God.
Now this is clearly a dispensational statement. Abstaining from foods under the law was not a teaching of demons, but rather was a teaching of God Himself. He taught the Israelites to make a difference between clean and unclean animals, and to only eat the meat of the clean animals. Yet now in the dispensation of grace this has all changed. We are not commanded to keep the law, nor is anyone, even the Jews, in this time. The truth is that the law along with all its clean and unclean rules and regulations is not a rule of life for our time. Therefore, we see that something that was once a teaching of God but is not in this dispensation can and often is taught by demons as if it still were God’s rule of life today. Thus, undispensational teaching can and often is in line with the teaching of demons. They would love for us to misapply God’s commands, and to seek to follow today things that God no longer has for us to do. Thus we must be very careful to rightly divide, for we have an adversary who is trying to get us to do the opposite.
This is actually one of the clearest dispensational statements we have that tells us that the law with its commands to abstain from certain foods is no longer the rule of life God holds out to us today. The reality is that God is no longer pleased by following rules such as avoiding pork and shellfish. Rather, God has rescinded all clean and unclean laws even for Jewish believers in Christ. As far as Gentile believers, we never had these rules in the first place. Instead, we are to view foods as things God created to be received with thanksgiving by all who believe and know the truth: that dietary laws are no longer a legitimate part of God’s dealing with us today.
Thanksgiving is something that is clearly important to God, for He tells us many times that He wants us to be thankful. In fact, in the book of Romans chapter 1 when Paul starts setting forth the downward spiral of Adam’s race away from God, the way that spiral starts is that, “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful.” Romans 1:21. Therefore, lack of thankfulness toward God is one of the first steps away from God that leads to total wickedness in every practice and area of life. That we be thankful toward God is very important. It is what we all owe to Him. To fail to have the proper gratitude towards Him is to risk falling farther and farther away from Him. We need to be thankful, and one important way is to be thankful for the food He has given us.
God wants us therefore to realize that avoiding certain foods is not going to please or impress Him. Instead, if we want to please and impress Him, we should be thankful for all the food that we eat, including food that used to be unclean. We should also believe Him that all food is now clean, and know that truth that all food is now clean. This is what will please Him. To avoid foods as a means to achieve holiness is to follow the doctrines of demons, and such behavior will not please God.
New King James Version 4. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving;
The Resultant Version 4. Because every creature of God is good, and nothing to be cast away, being received with thanksgiving;
Now Paul goes on to declare that every creature of God is good. Again, this is a very dispensational statement, for no Jew living under the law and following its rules regarding foods could have made such a statement. Yet today in the dispensation of grace this is true for Jew and Gentile believer alike. Paul hearkens back here, not to the law, but to the original creation, when God created every animal on earth, “And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:25. This is still true, and is especially true for the believer in this dispensation of grace.
Now we would generally agree with the change in the modern versions over the old King James Version, which translated the Greek word broma in verse 3 as “meats” rather than “foods.” This word really meant foods, and could be used for all kinds of foods. Yet at the same time, what foods were called unclean and forbidden in the law? Neither vegetables nor grains were viewed this way. Only meat was considered clean and unclean. Moreover, the word for “creature” here in verse 4, ktisma, though it technically means “thing created” and could refer to all foods, is used in at least two of its four occurrences to clearly refer to animal creations, and never does it clearly include plants or other creations. The particular focus here appears to be on meats, and that makes sense in the context of the law, for that is the only food the law ever forbade eating.
Now it has become very trendy in our day to ascribe to what is called “vegetarianism,” wherein one refuses to eat any meat, or even “veganism,” wherein one will neither eat meat nor any kind of animal products. We would not try to impose rules on such people and say that one must eat meat and animal products to be Godly. Yet I would still have to question whether such a person can really claim to believe that “every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving.” Are they not saying by doing this that no creature of God is good, nor should be received by a person of conscience?
This is not to imply that one must eat every single animal that anyone has ever thought to eat just to prove he believes it is good, of course. I do not have to eat blowfish and snails and bear and octopus and every other kind of animal just to prove I believe it is good. Yet if someone claimed to believe that the clean and unclean laws are no longer God’s will for today, and that every creature of God is good and nothing is to be refused, yet that person still would not eat pig, or rabbit, or fish without fins and scales, or birds that were not clean, and so on, I might have cause to wonder if he really believes what he is claiming to believe. Likewise, if someone tells me he believes every creature of God is good and yet refuses to eat meat of any kind, I might well wonder if he truly believes every creature is good, as God has said. Yet ultimately I suppose my doubt or questioning things means little, as every servant will stand or fall before his Lord. We must all follow our own consciences, and none of us should try to set the order for the others in meat and drink, as Colossians 2:16 says.
New King James Version 5. for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
The Resultant Version 5. For it is sanctified through the word of God and prayer.
He goes on to declare that all creatures of God are sanctified by the word of God and prayer. What word of God, you might ask? And what more word do we need than what we have right here? This is the word of God that we are reading in I Timothy. It is a current word, written during our dispensation after Acts 28:28. It tells us that all meat is sanctified; that is, set apart or considered holy before God. This should be enough for us. Yet if it is not, then it can be sanctified by prayer. We can pray and ask God to sanctify the food for us, and He will do so.
Once I ate in the home of a Hindu friend of mine. He was a college student living with his parents, and their family had set up a little altar in the home with many little statues of various gods that that family worshiped. Interestingly, among them was a crucifix. At any rate, when I sat down to the meal, I wondered if this family had any kind of tradition wherein they would dedicate their food to their gods, as often occurs in polytheistic cultures. Well, I did not worry about it at all. I just bowed my head and thanked the Lord for the food in front of me, and then I figured that that food was sanctified to Him. Whatever that family had done with their food, I knew mine was sanctified to the Lord Jesus Christ by the testimony of His word and by my own prayer of thanksgiving for that food. In other words, I was confident that that food truly was sanctified by prayer.
By these words, the Lord brings to an end as far as our dispensation is concerned all clean and unclean laws regarding food that held sway in the Old Testament. As long as every creature of God is good and sanctified by the word of God and by prayer, then no clean or unclean law regarding meats could possibly be in effect. If we are to be found believing God, we must not believe in any kind of clean or unclean laws today. If we do believe in such things, thinking that by refusing certain meats we are better in God’s eyes, then we have believed the doctrine of demons and not of the word of God. We must not apply such laws to our own lives, and we must not seek to bind such laws on anyone else. There simply are no food and drink laws for the believer in Christ today.