Summary: 1) The Predictability of Apostasy (1 Timothy 4:1), 2) The Purveyors of Apostasy (1 Timothy 4:2), 3) The Principles of Apostasy (1 Timothy 4:3a), and know: 4) The Response to Apostasy (1 Timothy 4:3b–5)

Halloween invokes images of costumes, trick-or-treating, scary movies, creepy decorations, and similar festive décor. Many have wondered if the last day of October, especially during the evening, is a time of immense criminal activity. " Gwendolyn Crump, director of the Office of Communications for the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C. contrasting Halloween 2011 and Halloween 2012.Crump noted that between those two dates, violent crime was down 26 percent, property crime was down 11 percent, and overall crime was down 15 percent. He noted, with all the activity of masked individuals, many communities have their own neighborhood watches during Halloween, which may factor into there being a lower and possibly decreasing crime rate. (

In Ephesus, false teachers hid their true intentions and the local congregations were called on to carefully watch for their activities (Eph. 1:3–7, 18–20). In chapters 2 and 3, Paul dealt with some of the ramifications of their false teaching and corruption of the church. He countered their deceptions with the divine design for men and women in the church. Chapter 3 closed with a creedal statement affirming what apostates most directly deny and what is the central truth of the Christian faith: the Person and work of Jesus Christ. In chapter 4, Paul returns to his discussion of the false teachers themselves. The battle lines are thus sharply drawn. While not always popular in our day of misunderstanding the concepts of toleration and “love,” there is a biblical mandate to deal directly and firmly with false teaching. Any tolerance of error regarding God’s revelation is a direct form of dishonor to Him (Ps. 138:2).

Since creation, the earth has been the battleground between God and Satan. God calls humanity to respond to His Word, and Satan tries to lure them to follow lies. Some claim satanic perversions to be the truth from God. Sadly, even some who profess to follow God’s truth turn away from it. It is fallen angels, those demonic beings, who energize all false religion. Like their evil master, Satan, their deception is effective because they disguise themselves as angels of light (2 Cor. 11:14).

In order to recognize and counter the false doctrines of the demonic, believers must anticipate and be ready to counter: 1) The Predictability of Apostasy (1 Timothy 4:1), 2) The Purveyors of Apostasy (1 Timothy 4:2), 3) The Principles of Apostasy (1 Timothy 4:3a), and know: 4) The Response to Apostasy (1 Timothy 4:3b–5)

1) The Predictability of Apostasy (1 Timothy 4:1)

1 Timothy 4:1 [4:1]Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, (ESV)

Before defining apostasy, Paul sets the stage of events. Although, apostasy should sadden and outrage believers, it should neither shock nor surprise them, because the Spirit explicitly says that it will occur. (cf. Matt. 24:4–12; 2 Thess. 2:3–12; 2 Peter 3:3; Jude 18; 1 John 2:18; 4:1–6;Heb. 3:12; cf 5:11–6:8; 10:26–31).

Paul defines the time frame in which apostasy will take place as the later times. The later times include, but are not limited to, the eschatological future. The first coming of Christ ushered in the later or last times, which was the Messianic era. First John 2:18 supports this fact when it says simply, “Children, it is the last hour.” First Peter 1:20 states that Christ “has appeared in these last times for the sake of you.” The writer of Hebrews informs us that God “in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb. 1:2), and “now once at the consummation of the ages [Christ] has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26). From the first coming of our Lord to His return, through all this age of the church, apostasy will occur and escalate toward the end when “most people’s love will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12). What is predicted of the future is conceived of as already operative in the present, so the words have a specific contemporary significance (Guthrie, D. (1990). Pastoral Epistles: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 14, p. 106). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.).

The actions of the apostate are described as those who depart/fall away (aphistçmi) which means “to remove oneself from the position originally occupied to another place.” In the spiritual sense, it refers to those who come very close to the truth that saves, only to leave. Jesus used this verb when He described some who hear the gospel as being like seed falling on soil that has rock-bed below the surface: “Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away (aphistemi)” (Luke 8:13). Here it is used to describe apostasy, to identify the tragic reality that some will act like Judas and turn their face from eternal joy on the path to eternal judgment.

An apostate is not someone struggling to believe, but one who willfully abandons the biblical faith they had once professed. The faith refers to the content of divine revelation that constitutes what Christians believe (cf Jude 3). This phrase, then, describes an apostate, a rejector of Christ from within the ranks of the church. A mere profession of faith does not guarantee the actual possession of eternal life. The emptiness of mere profession would become clear by the departure from Christianity of some of the Ephesians (cf. 1 John 2:19). (Lea, T. D., & Griffin, H. P. (1992). 1, 2 Timothy, Titus (Vol. 34, p. 129). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)

Please turn to the book of Jude (Right before "Revelation, p. 1027. 1 Chapter only)

Apostasy is generated by demonic beings. Ephesians 6:12 says that the battle for the truth and the kingdom of heaven is a struggle “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Devoting themselves/paying attention to (prosechô) means “to assent to,” or “cling to something.” This is a PRESENT ACTIVE PARTICIPLE which emphasizes continual action. These apostates continue to believe and give credence to demonic teaching (Utley, R. J. (2000). Paul’s Fourth Missionary Journey: I Timothy, Titus, II Timothy (Vol. Volume 9, p. 56). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.).

They understand the facts of the gospel intellectually, and outwardly identify with the Christian faith. Since their hearts are not right with God and they do not have the Spirit to teach and protect them (cf Jude 19), they are lured away by deceitful spirits. Planos (deceitful) comes from the root word from which our English word “planet” derives. It carries the idea of wandering, and thus came to mean “seducing,” or “deceiving.” Demons are called deceitful because they lure people to wander from the orbit of the truth. The Holy Spirit leads people into saving truth (cf John 16:13), while these unholy spirits lead them into damning error.

Jude 1:17-25 [17]But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. [18]They said to you, "In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions." [19]It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. [20]But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, [21]keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. [22]And have mercy on those who doubt; [23]save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. [24]Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy [25]to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (ESV)

•The way to minimize the influence of the scoffers is to live proactively as a follower of Christ (cf. “contend for the faith,” v. 3). Verse 23 notes that the "Others" who are caught up in immorality should also be shown mercy, but with fear, lest the faithful Christian be influenced for evil by the person they are trying to restore (Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2451). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.)

False teaching is something far more than a human aberration, it is nothing less than the teachings/doctrines of demons. The subjective genitive indicates this is not teaching about demons, but teaching done by them. Satan and his agents have concocted all manner of lying theologies to confuse and deceive. Demons are spirits, that is, free moral agents without physical bodies, and these are the seducing spirits (Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (1 Ti 4:1). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.)

•To sit under false teaching that contradicts the truth of Scripture is to be indirectly taught by demons, and to put one’s mind and soul in jeopardy. It is no wonder, then, that the Bible cautions against exposing oneself to false doctrine.

Illustration: Deception 135

The Portia spider is a master predator whose chief weapon is deception. To begin with, says Robert-R. Jackson in National Geographic, the spider looks like a piece of dried leaf or foliage blown into the web. When it attacks other species of spiders, it uses a variety of methods to lure the host spider into striking range. Sometimes it crawls onto the web and taps the silken threads in a manner that mimics the vibrations of a mosquito caught in the web. The host spider marches up for dinner and instead becomes a meal itself. The Portia spider can actually tailor its deception for its prey. With a type of spider that maintains its home inside a rolled-up leaf, the Portia dances on the outside of the leaf, imitating a mating ritual. Jackson writes, “Portia can find a signal for just about any spider by trial and error. It makes different signals until the victim spider finally responds appropriately—then keeps making the signal that works.” Like the Portia spider, Satan’s weapon of choice is deception. (Robert R. Jackson, “Portia Spider: Mistress of Deception,” National Geographic, November 1996, 104–114..)

2) The Purveyors of Apostasy (1 Timothy 4:2)

1 Timothy 4:2 [2]through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, (ESV)

Demonic false teaching is purveyed through human agents. While the source is supernatural, the agents are natural. The phrase the insincerity/hypocrisy of liars translates two nouns in the Greek text and could be rendered “hypocritical or deceitful lie-speakers.” To purvey their hellish teachings, demons use human deceivers who speak their lies. They may be religious leaders, and appear outwardly good and devout. They may teach in an ostensibly Christian college or seminary. They may pastor a church, or write theological books or commentaries. Though they wear the mask of religion (Even Christianity) and wear a mask of piety, they do not serve God, but Satan. They blaspheme God. Sitting under such teachers has no redeeming value, and it results in being exposed to spiritual gangrene (2 Tim. 2:17–18).

Please turn back to 1 Timothy 1 (p.991)

The false teachers are able to go about their devilish business without restraint because their consciences are seared/as with a branding iron. This seems as a reference to the burning or numbing of their consciences. Kautçriazô (seared) was used by the Greek medical writer Hippocrates to speak of cauterization. The false teachers can carry out their hypocrisy because their consciences have been destroyed. Conscience is the faculty that affirms or condemns an action (cf Rom.2:14–15). It is the sensitivity to right and wrong that controls behavior. Paul looked to his conscience as the divinely given witness to the condition of his soul (cf Acts 23:1; 24:16; Rom. 9:1; 2 Cor. 1:12; 2 Tim. 1:3). By constantly arguing with conscience, stifling its warnings, and muffling its bell, (the false teachers) at last have reached the point where conscience no longer bothers them (Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 4, p. 146). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.).

The apostle has already stated that false teachers reject “a good conscience” (1 Tim. 1:19), which is the very goal Paul pursued (1:5).

1 Timothy 1:3-7 [3]As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, [4]nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. [5]The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. [6]Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, [7]desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. (ESV)

•The false teachers’ consciences have been so ignored and misinformed that they have become like scar tissue burned senseless, which cease to function. With scarred consciences, they feel no guilt or remorse as they purvey their false doctrines.

Illustration: How to Deaden the Conscience

How do you deaden the conscience? In his book Hitler’s Cross, Erwin W. Lutzer gives chilling details about the training of the dreaded SS troops in Nazi Germany. The head of the SS was Heinrich Himmler, who was faced with the problem of how to take decent young German men and deaden their consciences so that they would be willing to perform ghastly deeds of cruelty. Both Hitler and Himmler believed that each of the SS troops had to perform some deed that violated their conscience and sense of decency. Only when they did what others found to be reprehensible would they break away from their old values. The conscience had to be deadened through these acts of barbarism; that would serve the dual purpose of cutting the recruit off from his past ties, his family and friends, and of bonding him to his new peers and his leader. The break would be so complete that he could never go back. An act of torture or murder would unite him with blood brothers who had crossed the same line, felt the same numbness, and sworn themselves to uphold the same cause. The Nazis proved that ordinary people, if controlled with rigid discipline and the power of mass psychology, can be induced to carry out the most brutal and destructive crime the human mind can devise. The troops could say with Hermann Goering, “I have no conscience! Adolf Hitler is my conscience!”(Erwin W. Lutzer, Hitler’s Cross (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), 92–94.)

3) The Principles of Apostasy (1 Timothy 4:3a)

1 Timothy 4:3a [3]who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods (that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth). (ESV)

Anything contrary to Scripture can be the entry point of demonic teaching. We might have expected the apostle to follow his severe comments about demon doctrine with examples like denying the Trinity or the deity of the Savior, or rejecting salvation by grace. But Satan is so subtle and seeks to gain a foothold on territory more easily yielded. Paul gives a sample of what was being taught at Ephesus. The deceivers there were focusing on two seemingly minor teachings: that spirituality demanded avoiding marriage and abstinence from foods. As is typical of satanic deception, both of those teachings contain an element of truth. There is nothing wrong with singleness, and such a state may aid spiritual service. First Corinthians 7:25–35 honors those designed by God to be single. Nor is fasting wrong; it is an important accompaniment to prayer (cf Matt. 6:16–17; 9:14–15).

Please turn to Colossians 2 (p.984)

The deception comes in seeing those as essential elements of salvation. The devising of human means of salvation is a hallmark of all false religion. They had in common Asceticism, the renunciation of the comforts of life with a view to attaining happiness and perfection (Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 4, p. 146). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.).

Such teaching is both false and dangerous. Paul rejects it in Colossians 2:16–23:

Colossians 2:16-23 [16]Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. [17]These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. [18]Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, [19]and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. [20]If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations-- [21]"Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" [22](referring to things that all perish as they are used)--according to human precepts and teachings? [23]These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (ESV)

•Paul explains here how the true path to spiritual maturity is holding fast to Christ as the head, not following these misguided human rules. Christians are no longer under the Mosaic covenant (cf. Rom. 6:14–15; 7:1–6; 2 Cor. 3:4–18; Gal. 3:15–4:7). Christians are no longer obligated to observe OT dietary laws (“food and drink”) or festivals, holidays, and special days (“a festival … new moon … Sabbath,” Col. 2:16), for what these things foreshadowed has been fulfilled in Christ (Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2297). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.)

Believers are complete in Christ and do not need to practice physical self-denial to gain salvation from sin and righteousness before God. By forbidding marriage and saying that people could not eat certain foods, they rejected God’s gifts. It caused divisions among christians, creating an elite group of people who considered themselves to be ‘spiritual’ and who looked down on those who did not follow their rules and regulations. Finally, it caused them to be preoccupied with themselves and made them neglect evangelism. Remember that this teaching originates from ‘deceitful spirits’ and ‘demons’ whose purpose it is to discourage people from following Christ and to destroy the local church. That is why it is essential to use discernment and to ‘test everything’ (1 Thes. 5:21) (Robinson, S. J. (2004). Opening up 1 Timothy (pp. 70–71). Leominster: Day One Publications.).

Quote: Spiritual Discernment 656

In his book Enjoying God, Lloyd Ogilvie writes: "One of the most astounding achievements in ophthalmological (eye ) surgery is the implanting of a lens in a human eye. After a friend of mine had this surgery in both eyes, and the bandages were removed, he exclaimed, “How wonderful to have new eyes!—…” Our hearts have eyes.… Before conversion, our “inner eyes” are clouded over with cataracts blocking our vision. We cannot see ourselves, others, and life in the clear light of truth. Nor can we behold God’s true nature or see the beauty of the world that He’s given us to enjoy. We are spiritually blinded …Conversion begins the healing of our heart-eyes by removing our spiritual cataracts...We need a supernatural lens implant in the eyes of our hearts …Paul calls this lens the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation.” … The Spirit is the lens for the eyes of our hearts". (Ogilvie, Enjoying God, 53–54.)

4) The Response to Apostasy (1 Timothy 4:3b–5)

1 Timothy 4:3-5 [3] (who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods) that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. [4]For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, [5]for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (ESV)

The fundamental error of such apostate teaching is that it rejects divine revelation. All false teaching is a denial of God’s Word. All through the Pastoral Epistles, Paul confronts false teachers for their treatment of Holy Scripture (cf 1 Tim. 1:3–11; 6:3–5, 20–21; 2 Tim. 2:14–18; 23–26; 3:13–17; 4:1–4; Titus 1:9–16; 3:9–11). Contrary to the false teaching plaguing Ephesus, God created both marriage and food and pronounced them good (cf Gen. 1:28–31; 2:18–24; 9:3). God created marriage and food to be received with thanksgiving/gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. How then can it be right to deny them to people? God made marriage and food for the same reason He made everything else—to give humanity joy and to bring Himself glory (cf 1 Cor. 10:31).

Please turn to 1 Corinthians 10 (p.957)

Unbelievers, while they can enjoy marriage (“the grace of life”—1 Peter 3:7) and food, do not fulfill that ultimate intention and praise God for them. So in the truest sense, God made marriage and food for those who believe and know the truth, because they are the ones who will glorify Him for such gracious goodness. How foolish to abstain from His kindness and thus deny God the right to be glorified for their enjoyment.

1 Corinthians 10:23-31 [23]"All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up. [24]Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. [25]Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. [26]For "the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof." [27]If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. [28]But if someone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience-- [29]I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience? [30]If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? [31]So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (ESV)

•Paul provides some very helpful guides in behavior. Although we may be free to participate in various activities we must be mindful of our testimony. Our personal liberty should not be the primary basis of our actions, but what is helpful, and builds people up in the faith. In whatever we eat, drink or whatever we do, we must concern ourselves in what we are showing who God is, what He expects of us, and thanksgiving for His gifts.

The Ephesian deceivers refused to recognize, as Paul states in verse 4, that everything created by God is good. They flatly denied the goodness of God’s creation, which would have led them to understand that nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with thanksgiving/gratitude. The word translated to be rejected(apoblçtos), which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, means literally ‘to be thrown away’. It is here used in the sense of taboo. Such taboos should have no place in an intelligent Christian’s approach, in strong contrast to the many systems of taboos in heathen cults. (Guthrie, D. (1990). Pastoral Epistles: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 14, p. 107). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.)

Paul once again emphasizes that God’s purpose in giving good things to people is so that, in their enjoyment of those gifts, they would praise Him. That is how they are received with thanksgiving/gratitude. Sinners that we are, however, the bodies God gave us and the material gifts we receive we only too readily use in evil and sinful ways. God created us as male and female for a good purpose in marriage. Sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, and living together outside of marriage are abuses of this blessing. Gluttony and drunkenness are misuses of the gift of food and drink. The fault is not in God’s creation. Humanity’s sinful abuse is at fault (Schuetze, A. W. (1991). 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus (p. 65). Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House.).

At the close of creation week, God pronounced everything He had created “good” (Gen. 1:31). Those good things from God that believers gratefully receive are made holy/sanctified as verse 5 concludes, by means of the word of God and prayer. To be made holy/sanctified is to be set apart for holy use. The means by which that is accomplished are the word of God and prayer. Prayer obviously refers to the thanksgiving that expresses gratitude. The word seems to refer to the very word in Genesis 1:31, that everything God made was good. Nothing in the Pastoral epistles suggests that Paul sees prayers as having magical powers; the food is already clean by God’s creative act and the gospel’s reaffirmation of that fact. A prayer of thanksgiving merely confirms in the individual God’s prior action of making food good for all (Mounce, W. D. (2000). Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 46, p. 242). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.).

(Format Note: Some base commentary from MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy (pp. 142–154). Chicago: Moody Press)