Online Bible Commentary
False Teaching in the Church
1 Timothy 4:1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3They 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. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. (NIV)
Paul has written this letter to Timothy for the purpose of combating false teaching in the church at Ephesus, where Timothy is serving. In this passage Paul elaborates on the nature of the false teaching. He begins by referring to the Holy Spirit’s testimony to himself, regarding the “later times” (v.1a). The term “later times” (“latter times” in the literal Greek) refers to the end times, the church age in general. The church age began in the first century and will continue until Christ returns for His people and the church is raptured to Heaven. They were in the church age, and we still are today. False teachers were prevalent in the church then, and they still are today.
Paul writes that “some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (v. 1b). He is referring to those in the church who have followed the teaching of the false teachers, causing them to “abandon the faith”. They now believe a different gospel than the gospel of Christ. They have been misled by the false teachers. Paul describes the false teachers as being “deceiving spirits”. They are under the influence of Satan, the deceiver. Demons have taken control of these false teachers. The literal Greek for this verse bears this out: “adhering to spirits deceiving and doctrines of demons.” They are no longer teaching doctrines of Christ. They are teaching “doctrines of demons.”
We all have our own special demons to fight. Satan sends his demons to our areas of weakness. It may be a bad habit, pride, a sexual weakness, a desire to be popular in the world, or any other area of vulnerability. You see, in Christ we are free of bondage, but Satan wants us to be in bondage, his bondage. In that way he can control us and pull us away from the Lord. The closer we get to the Lord, the more intense the effort becomes to pull us away. As Christians, we have the power to resist demons. In this case, the false teachers gave into their demons, purposely teaching false doctrine to satisfy their own personal agendas. The same thing happens today, mostly to satisfy the desire to further social agendas in this country, to be “politically correct”.
These false teachers are defined as “hypocritical liars” (v.2a). They are following the master liar, Satan. They are also hypocritical, not even following their own teachings. Their “consciences” have been “seared” (v. 2b). The word translated “seared” comes from the Greek word “kauteriazo”, from which we get our word “cauterize”. Their good consciences that they received from the Lord have been hijacked by evil, and that evil has been cauterized, sealed within. Just two years earlier, Paul had written Titus, who was also having problems with false teachers in Crete, and wrote concerning these false teachers: “both their minds and consciences are corrupted” (Titus 1:15).
Paul now gives some of the details of the false teaching in Ephesus. He writes that they “forbid people to marry” and to partake of “certain foods” (v.3a). These false teachings are Gnostic teachings, claiming that all physical appetites are evil. Paul denies these false teachings by writing that they all were “created” by God and therefore they are “good” and should be received with “thanksgiving” (vv. 3b-4). He writes this is true because these teachings have been “consecrated” by the word of God, the gospel, and prayer (v.5).
Teaching false doctrine has been a part of the church from the beginning. The only thing that has changed is the nature of the false teaching. It is even present in Protestant churches today. Most of it is to accommodate social issues, specifically the elevation of women above men and the homosexual agenda. While this false teaching tickles the ears of those loyal to these movements, it is not consistent with Biblical doctrine. Even though some may disagree with the teachings of the Bible, they are not permitted to change those teachings to suit their own personal agendas. This is called false teaching and is condemned as sin. It is a sin that causes great damage to God’s children by deceiving them. Paul called these people “deceiving spirits” and “liars”. Those of us who teach the Bible must do so in “good conscience”, never allowing our personal agendas to alter the sacred word of God.