1 Timothy 4 Commentary

2013 1 Timothy 4 Exposition

Tod Kennedy, July 2014

Chapter Titles for 1 Timothy

  1. Paul’s philosophy of ministry
  2. Pray for others; godly women
  3. Overseers, deacons, and conduct in the church
  4. Departure from the faith; train for godliness
  5. Respectfully challenge; widows; elders
  6. Slaves and masters, godliness, money


Chapter 4, Departure from the faith; train for godliness

Even though believers are part of the church which has the truth, as time goes on some will depart from the faith by promoting false doctrines (1 Timothy 4:1-5). Timothy is to teach the believers sound doctrine, warn against worldly fables, and promote godliness (1 Timothy 4:6-11). Paul then encourages Timothy to be an example himself. Furthermore, Timothy should attend to reading, exhortation, and teaching the Scripture, and while doing this minister with his spiritual gift and continue on in his own Christian life (1 Timothy 4:12-16).


  1. 1 Timothy 4.1-5. As time goes on some will depart from the biblical faith.
  2. 1 Timothy 4.6-11. Timothy is to teach, warn, and promote godliness.
  3. 1 Timothy 4.12-16. Paul encourages Timothy to be an example for believers, and also to continue with his ministry.


  1. 1 Timothy 4.1-5. As time goes on some will depart from the biblical faith.
    1. 1 Timothy 4.1. The fact of revolt from the biblical faith. The Holy Spirit has revealed this to Paul. The Holy Spirit gave revelation to specific people in the first century (Acts 20.23; 21.11). Apostasy is taught in many Scripture passages: Acts 20.29-30; 2 Thessalonians 2.3; 1 Timothy 1.18-20; 6.20-21; 2 Timothy 3.1-5; 4.3-4; Hebrews 2.1-3; 3.12; 2 Peter 3.1-4; Jude 18; and others.
      1. Who? Both believers and unbelievers will revolt from biblical truth. Both teachers and students will revolt.
      2. How? These people will listen (pay attention to προσευχομαι proseuchomai, present active participle circumstantial causal) to deceitful spirits (demons who promote false ideas through their human agents) and doctrines of demons (the organized philosophy or doctrine that demons promote). People accept these doctrines and pass them on. Because some will focus on the wrong source of ideas and not focus on God’s word, they will revolt from the biblical faith. This warns us to make Scripture our basis for ultimate truth. When we minimize the Bible we will suffer in our Christian lives. These will harm the church but the church will not fail (Matthew 16.18).
    2. 1 Timothy 4.2. These verses show the progression. These people were 1. hypocrites in that they portrayed phony devotion to God; 2. they were liars about what they believed; 3. their conscience was seared by their rejection of God’s revelation; and 4. they forbad marriage and certain foods. This is false aceticism.
      1. People—hypocritical liars are further described by seared and forbid. They are people who do not always believe what they promote, but have the desire to reject biblical teaching— promote false doctrine motivated by deceiving spirits and demon doctrine. These liars have already had their consciences seared or cauterized by rejection of God’s word and the acceptance of false doctrine.
      2. The word seared (καυστηριάζω kausteriazo, to sear, to brand, perfect passive participle) indicates that the conscience has built up thick scars that make it hard for truth to penetrate. There was the practice of branding criminals and slaves. Ephesians 4.17-19 and Romans 1.21-23 warn us against rejecting God’s revelation. The conscience, which should take God’s standards and guide an individual, becomes calloused or scarred and is hard for God’s word to penetrate and help.
    3. 1 Timothy 4.3. What they taught. God originally created everything good for us. Marriage and food in the context are for our good. They forbid (κωλύω koluo to refuse, deny, hinder, prevent) marriage and abstain from foods. These two doctrines are held by many religious groups throughout history.
      1. Marriage. The Bible says marriage between one man and one woman is good (Genesis 2.18-25; 1 Corinthians 7.28; Hebrews 13.4).
      2. Food. We are to think about God’s provision for us, thank him for it, and pray that he will sanctify it for us. This replaces the food restrictions of the Mosaic Law. The Bible also says that God gave food for our use (Genesis 9.3; Acts 10.13-15; Romans 14.3; 1 Corinthians 8.8; Colossians 2.20-23).
    4. 1 Timothy 4.4. The subject is food. God created food for mankind. It is good. No food is forbidden. Here false religious reasons are used to control what people may or may not eat. Paul says that we should thank God for the food that we eat.
        • Islam. No pork, animal that died of itself, animal dedicated to another god than Allah, blood, alcohol, vanilla extract.
        • Judaism. No pork, shellfish.
        • Hinduism. No meat, poultry, fish, eggs.
        • Buddhism. No meat, eggs. Yes dairy products (lacto-vegetarian).
        • Catholics. Fast days. No meat on Fridays (this varies with the day and locale).
        • Seventh Day Adventists. No meat, poultry, fish, alcohol (lact-vegetarian).
        • Mormon. No alcohol, caffeine.
        • Jainism. No meat, poultry, fish, eggs, sometimes milk. May avoid root plants since digging the root kills the plant.
    5. 1 Timothy 4.5. How is it sanctified by God’s word? Probably by recognizing that God told us that he has given food for our benefit in this context and Paul illustrated this in Acts 27.35 by thanking God. Samuel did this in 1 Samuel 9.13 before Saul and others ate. Jesus also did this in Matthew 14.19; 15.36. This has the effect of setting the food apart (`αγιαζω hagiazo ) for our good use.
      1. But, what about James’ letter in Acts 15.29 which instructs Gentile believers to not eat things sacrificed to idols. Two points are needed. First, if Paul agreed to this, no reference is ever made to this letter again. It may be that this was the early church’s Jewish idea that Paul and the other apostles let pass away. Second, and most important, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 10.23-33, makes the principle of freedom: believers may eat food sacrificed to idols if it does not bring up a question of conscience from the unbeliever with whom a believer is eating. Paul made essentially the same point for a believer who has the liberty to eat anything, but reminds him that if doing so hurts the conscience of a believer who is untaught about freedom and foods, then the strong believer should refrain from the food.
    6. In conclusion, 1 Timothy 4.3-5 holds as instructions for us. Marriage is good and food is good. God has given both to us. We should thank God for our food. He sanctifies it for us.
  2. 1 Timothy 4.6-11. Timothy is to teach, warn, and promote godliness.
    1. 1 Timothy 4.6. The good servant of Jesus Christ points out correct doctrine and application to those in his ministry. The good servant also is nourished (εντρεφω entrepho, pres act part, to bring up, to train) in the words of the faith and sound doctrine. Words of the faith are the general teaching of the church age faith. Sound doctrine refers to the specific doctrines. When Timothy points out and instructs the congregation he demonstrates that he has learned the words of the faith and sound doctrine and has been applying that teaching (Following them). Pointing out is `υποτιθημι hupotithemi, to lay down, provide instruction, teach; pres midd part nom masc singular, circumstantial of means.
    2. 1 Timothy 4.7. Timothy, reject and avoid worthless old lady myths. The verb is the imperative of παραιτέομαι to avoid, decline, refuse. The myths (μυθος) are legends, fables, fanciful stories that false teachers like to pass on (1 Timothy 1.4; 2 Timothy 4.4; Titus 1.14; 2 Peter 1.16). These legends have no value. They are speculation that turn people away from God’s word and way of life taught there. Paul’s point seems to be that Timothy and Bible teachers should emphasize biblical doctrine and not emphasize speculative ideas for the entertainment value.
      1. Instead train (γυμνάζω gumnazo, train, undergo discipline; pres act imperative 2 singular; Hebrews 5.14; 12.11; 2 Peter 2.14) for godliness (ευσεβεια, eusebeia, piety, reverence, loyalty, godliness). The verb meant physical exercise or training, and then came to include a process of training, even mental training.
    3. 1 Timothy 4.8. We have a contrast between bodily exercise or training and spiritual exercise. It may be a reference to the acetic practices of the false teachers. Γυμνασία gumnasia. Physical training helps a little, but training for godliness has (εχω echo pres act participle circumstantial causal or attendant circumstance, goes back to godliness) the promise of life now (Christian life) and in the coming life (after death). The emphasis for Timothy, for pastors, and for us is spiritual training. This requires learning, understanding, and application. This has long term benefits while physical training has short term benefits.
    4. 1 Timothy 4.9. "This saying" refers to what he just wrote—that godliness is valuable for Christian living and the next life. For this same phrase see 1 Tim 1.15, 3.1; 2 Tim 2.11; Titus 3.8. Spiritual training is worthwhile. We should approve and accept this principle. Godliness is good for life now. Godliness now is also good for reward in everlasting life. Therefore, spiritual preparation and growth (which promote godliness) is both good doctrine and good application with present and future benefits.
    5. 1 Timothy 4.10. This verse summarizes both what Paul, Timothy, and Paul’s team do and what is their motivation: 1. toil and strive, 2. Motivated by confidence in God.
      1. The verbs indicate hard word and struggle. The history of the apostles and early church bear this out (eg 2 Corinthians 4).
      2. Hope or confidence in God. God is always the ultimate object of our faith. Here it adds that he is the savior of all people (potential because he provided it for all who will believe him), especially of believers μάλιστα πιστῶν (eg Philippians 4.22).
      3. This teaches that God has provided eternal salvation for all people, but it is only experience in life by believers (πιστων adj genitive pl masculine). The doctrine of unlimited atonement is referred to. The whole world, Unlimited atonement—Jesus Christ died for all the sins of all people (1 Timothy 2.4,6; 4.10; 1 John 2.2). See Salvation Words, and Salvation kinds, tenses, unity.
  3. 1 Timothy 4.11-16. Instructions for Timothy, who was probably 40 years old or younger. There are 10 present imperatives in verses 10-16. "The basic force of the imperative of command involves somewhat different nuances with each tense. With the aorist, the force generally is to command the action as a whole, without focusing on duration, repetition, etc. In keeping with its aspectual force, the aorist puts forth a summary command. With the present, the force generally is to command the action as an ongoing process." (Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics – Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Zondervan Publishing House and Galaxie Software, 1999. Print.)
    1. Timothy is to do some things. "All of Paul’s advice is designed to encourage Timothy to effectively lead the church at Ephesus and confront the false teachers." (Mangum, Douglas, and E. Tod Twist. 1 Timothy. Ed. Douglas Mangum & Derek R. Brown. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013. Print. Lexham Bible Guide.)
  • 1 Timothy 4.11. command παραγγέλλω paraggello, to give orders, instruct, command. Here Paul tells Timothy to instruct in such a way that the listener knows that this is expected of him.
  • 1 Timothy 4.11. Teach διδασκω. Both are pres act imperatives 2 singular. Timothy is to make a direct and clear announcement of what Paul has written. Because Paul says the same thing in 1 Tim 5.7, 6.2, "these things" used here refer to everything in immediate context of 1 Timothy 4.1-10. That phrase in 1 Tim 5.7, 6.2 refer to that immediate context. This reminder to teach things is also repeated in 2 Timothy 2.14 and Titus 2.15.
  • 1 Timothy 4.12. Let no one despise καταφρονεω (to look down on with contempt, think of little value) your youthfulness νεοτης. See Matthew 18.10 where Jesus say "do not despise the children. See 1 Cor 16.10-11 where Paul says this to the Corinthians about Timothy, and Titus 2.15 about Titus. People may tend to reject him because of his age. Paul says this about Timothy here, and then in 1 Tim 3.6 he warns against new converts being made overseers. Warnings about youthful lack of wisdom and know it all are helpful. But Timothy had been with Paul and Paul trusted him (Philippians 2.19-24).
  • 1 Timothy 4.12. be an example (γινομαι. τυπος, a model, pattern, copy, image) of believers, των πιστων, in speech λογος, conduct αναστροφη, love αγαπη, faith πιστις, moral purity αγνεια. Note Ephesians 4.25-5.5 where that context has much to say about a believer’s conduct. One illustration is Ephesians 4.29 for speech; the word unwholesome speech there is σαπρος (of little or no value, bad, spoiled, rotten). A saprophyte, now saprophage, is an organism that feeds and lives on decomposing organic matter. We do not want our speech to imitate that. Matthew 13.48 illustrates this use. Other references to a believer’s way of life include Colossians 3.8-9, 4.6, 1 Corinthians 15.32-33, and others.
  • 1 Timothy 4.13. Give attention προσεχω to reading the Scripture in public αναγνωσις (the reading of the Scripture. See Acts 13.15 and 2 Corinthians 3.14 for the only other uses of this word in the NT.), to exhortation παρακλησις (comments and application), to teaching διδασκαλια (the further explanation and instruction). See Nehemiah 8.1-8 where Ezra read Moses to the returnees after the city wall was completed (September of 444 BC).
  • 1 Timothy 4.14. Do not neglect αμελεω (to neglect, be unconcerned, don’t care about. See Hebrews 2.3) his spiritual gift. Timothy was gifted to teach, lead, and train the people. Paul warned him against losing his interest in the work of the ministry and so neglecting it. Instead, depend on the Holy Spirit and follow Paul’s instructions.
  • 1 Timothy 4.15. Take pains (μελεταω pres act imperative 2 singular. take thought for, pursue, practice, think about, meditate) for his ministry. Pay attention to the ministry that has been given to him. See 1 Corinthians 4.1, it is required that a man be found faithful.
  • 1 Timothy 4.15. Be ειμ absorbed in them.
  • 1 Timothy 4.16. Pay close attention επεχω pres act imper. 2nd sing. To hold, to direct toward, to maintain a grasp, to hold fast, to hold one’s mind to, be especially observant. hold fast επεχω to himself and the teaching See the word used in Acts 3.5, Philippians 2.16.
  • 1 Timothy 4.16. remain επιμενω (to stay, remain, continue, persist)in them.
    1. 1 Timothy 4.16. The benefit of knowing and applying what Paul taught. You will save (σωζω future active indicative) yourself and those who hear you. In this context it refers to deliverance from failure in service and departure from the faith.
      1. Learning, believing, and applying God’s word will save us from all kinds of trouble. The pattern is found in Romans 6.
  1. Lessons from 1 Timothy 4.