Now the Spirit expressly says this: in the times to come some will depart from the faith; they will do so by giving heed to misleading winds [spirits], and the teachings of demons, in the hypocritical way of liars, in a way of seeing things that is singed with fire. They will forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods that God created to be partaken with thanks by believers fully convinced of the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be neglected, but instead is to be received with thanksgiving and it is [already] the word of God and prayer that ascribes [and cultivates an awareness of] holiness to anything.
     If you confirm these things to the brethren you will be a good minister [deacon] of Christ Jesus, finding nourishment from the words of faith and of the good instruction you have received. But steer clear completely of the “tales of old-wives” [that push the limits of decency], and instead get your exercise in [acts of] holy reverence. For I concede that bodily gymnastics is of value for a little while but a holy integrity has value that holds out a promise for the present and for the life to come.
     Here is another [teaching] worthy of full acceptance, for in these terms we do our work and struggle on because we have set our hope on the living God, the Saviour of all people and in particular of those who are believers [relying upon His grace].
     It is these things you should command and teach. - I Timothy 4:1-11/transliteration by Bruce C Wearne

Prepared 

Ready for what's to come? Bruce C Wearne says Paul's instructions to Timothy are aimed at ensuring he is prepared for the life he has embarked upon in Christ. PICTURE: Mantas Hesthaven/Unsplash

 

"This is advice about the preconditions in which Timothy is called to do his work. There is every reason, Paul suggests, that this has to be explained to those being taught. All round teaching is not only a good preparation for what is to come; it is that. But it is also like a good meal; nourishment which supplies energy and health to one's body. We are prepared for the next stage of the journey."

Now Paul has just explained the wonder, the mystery, of being personally caught up, involved and privileged to participate in what Christ Jesus has, by His coming and work, achieved. He has revealed the Good News of the merciful rule of God, and thereby inaugurated the coming of His Kingdom in its fulness.

But as much as this work of God is to fully set the perspective of those who believe the Good News, it is not a way of life that is purely, or even partly “all in the mind”.

Christ's followers are indeed bound to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. But with this truth there is also the attendant mystery of an ongoing inheritance of ways of life, ways of seeing things, that simply deny outright that God has created everything. How can He allow that? Are not all creatures made according to God's specifications in which He delights?

The Spirit expressly says there will be misleading spirits. There is the teaching that puts men and women in remembrance of who they are and what God has done for them, and there is the teaching of demons, of hypocritical deceit - such departure from the faith, and hence a resistance to the Spirit of God. It comes from those who have a way of seeing things that is singed by fire (presumably Paul is suggesting they have a smell of hell's destructive annihilation).

And here is a Pauline prophecy - "they will forbid marriage, and thereby cut themselves off from the personal task of a generation-to-generation nurture. They will prohibit certain foods and insist upon an ascetic life-style to demonstrate their allegiance to the 'true faith'."

These kind of hypocritical and deceitful diversions, says, Paul, will abound. They will come as “add ons”, as presumed “holy conduct” for those who have come to believe, and they will be told that trust in God's Son for God's grace and that mercy is simply not enough.

Paul says that the antidote is to teach that all of God's creation is to be enjoyed - it is by such thankfulness to the word of God that anything's sanctity in God's Kingdom is truly confirmed. And so the true response for those believing in Jesus Christ is to be a life of thankfulness. This is the way, Paul implies, for Timothy to become a good and capable teacher. It is the goodness of all of God's creation that is to be affirmed.

Find ways to illustrate and give expression to this basic truth - and it will also nourish your own faith, he says. After all, you have already partaken of a good diet of good teaching. Timothy, presumably, has enough “to go on with”.

It is noteworthy that in dismissing such false teaching about the needful abstinence from marriage and food, Paul uses the word “nourishment”. Growth will come from faithful teaching. Thus such faithful teaching is described as “cultivation”, as “nurture”, and this is what is to be found among the brothers and sisters, the family of God's own Son. The image Paul uses of the teaching about marriage and food, as “nourishment” and “cultivation”, is then supplemented by Paul's allusion to other metaphors referring to athletic or gymnastic activities. Here are positive affirmations of creational activities, all good in their place.

In avoiding such “tales of old wives” that dance perpetually on the edge of improper conduct, the faithful teacher of Good News is actually training himself (or herself) in holy reverence. Such false tales persist. They seem to have been a part of “everyday life”. For us they are part of what we inherit. They should be resisted and the resistance to this nonsense needs to be persistent. Such “training” is like the nourishment provided by marriage and good food.

This is advice about the preconditions in which Timothy is called to do his work. There is every reason, Paul suggests, that this has to be explained to those being taught. All round teaching is not only a good preparation for what is to come; it is that. But it is also like a good meal; nourishment which supplies energy and health to one's body. We are prepared for the next stage of the journey.

This indeed needs to be the focus of your teaching, says Paul. It is right that these matters be emphasised. This is our work and we continue amid ongoing tension because in our work we look to God who has promised to take care of us.