Online Bible Commentary
Combating False Teaching
1 Timothy 4:13 Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. 15 Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. 16 Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. (NKJV)
The letter of 1 Timothy is part of what is known as the Pastoral Epistles. The other two Pastoral Epistles are 2 Timothy and Titus.
The Apostle Paul wrote this letter about AD 63 to Timothy who was ministering at the church in Ephesus. Paul had recently been released from two years of house arrest in Rome.
It is thought that Paul wrote this letter from Philippi, in Macedonia, after dropping Timothy off at Ephesus on the way (1 Timothy1:3). Other possible places of writing are Spain or Hierapolis, Greece.
Paul had dispatched Timothy to Ephesus in order to combat false teaching in the church at Ephesus. In this passage, Paul elaborates on how to combat false teaching.
In the previous passage, Paul gave instructions regarding the personal conduct that we need to model in order to combat false teaching. It is a conduct that is pleasing to God, and to others.
Specifically. Paul wrote that Christians should model Godly speech, a Godly life, God’s love, staying true to the gospel, and purity. Now, in this passage, Paul instructs Timothy, and us, in how we should conduct our ministry.
As Christians, we all are ministers, servants of God. Each of us has been given one or more spiritual gifts to be used for serving the body of Christ, the church.
Our spiritual gift can also help us to combat false teaching, either through modeling Christian doctrine or through teaching. The Greek word for teaching is the same root word used for doctrine. “Teaching” is the verb, while “doctrine” is the noun.
Paul begins this passage by writing “Till I come” (v. 13a). Paul intends to come to Ephesus when he leaves Philippi. He is giving encouragement to Timothy that help is on the way.
In the same way, we are never alone in our ministry. The Holy Spirit is always present. He is our helper.
However, it appears that Paul was arrested again on his way there, perhaps in Troas. This final arrest would result in Paul’s imprisonment in Rome and eventual beheading by Nero in early AD 67.
Paul then continues by writing “give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (v. 13b). Here, Paul gives three instructions. His instructions are timeless, and for all Christians.
Paul’s first instruction is to “give attention to reading” (v. 13b). Paul instructs Timothy to read scripture to the church, to preach on that scripture, and to teach that scripture.
His second instruction is “give attention to exhortation” (v. 13c). Timothy had the gift of preaching, which is the gift to exhort others to Biblical action.
Paul’s third instruction is to “give attention to doctrine” (v. 13d). Timothy also had the gift of teaching, which is to explain the Bible, called exposition.
Paul continues by writing “Do not neglect the gift that is in you” (v. 14a). So, Paul is calling for us to devote ourselves to our ministry, our spiritual gift. Timothy’s spiritual gift was as preacher-teacher.
Others may have a different gift of service, so they should devote themselves to serving the church in some other capacity, such as cooking, daycare, usher, parking lot attendant, deacon, office worker, etc. I started out by serving as an usher, and a parking lot attendant. All spiritual gifts are equal in importance to God.
Next, Paul writes “which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership” (v. 14b). It appears that Timothy had been ordained to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The church elders recognized his spiritual gifts by a laying on of hands and praying. This is also part of the ordination ceremony.
Spiritual gifts come from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the source, not man. Men only recognize that we have certain spiritual gifts.
Paul continues “Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all” (v 15). Timothy was to be diligent and devote himself wholly to his gift, just as we should. This is so that others in the church can see our “progress”.
Paul uses the word “progress” because this word was being used by the false teachers. They were changing the gospel and calling it “progress”.
They were claiming to be more knowledgeable in the Scriptures than Paul and his disciples. They were pretending to be “elitists”, claiming that their knowledge was superior to the established doctrine. In reality, they were false teachers.
We see this today in some “churches”. They preach a “new” gospel. They claim to be enlightened. They claim to be progressives. In reality, they are false teachers and need to be combated by those knowledgeable in the true Gospel.
Paul sums up his instructions on this matter by warning Timothy to “take heed to yourself and to the doctrine” (v. 16a). We should be careful to follow the true Gospel, the doctrine of the Bible.
We are easily deceived by false teachers when we do not know the Bible. We should devote time daily to reading and studying Scripture.
Otherwise, we will be misled by the so called “progressives” of the world. We combat false teaching by knowledge, which only comes from investing time in the Bible.
Finally, Paul writes “for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (v. 16b). We should be careful to follow the true Gospel and not false teachers. In doing so, we will save ourselves and those whom we influence.