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Adam Clarke Commentary

1 Timothy 4

Introduction

Apostasy from the true faith predicted, and in what that apostasy should consist, 1 Timothy 4:1 -5. Exhortations to Timothy to teach the truth, 1 Timothy 4:6 . To avoid old wives' fables; to exercise himself to godliness, 1 Timothy 4:7 , 1 Timothy 4:8 . To labor, command, and teach, 1 Timothy 4:9 , 1 Timothy 4:10 , 1 Timothy 4:11 . To act so that none might despise his youth, 1 Timothy 4:12 . To give attendance to reading and preaching, 1 Timothy 4:13 , 1 Timothy 4:14 . To give up himself wholly to the Divine work, 1 Timothy 4:15 . And so doing he should both save himself and them that heard him, 1 Timothy 4:16 .

Verse 1

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly - Ῥητως· Manifestly, openly. It is very likely that the apostle refers here to a prophecy then furnished by the Holy Ghost, and probably immediately after he had written the words in the preceding verses; and as this prophecy contains things nowhere else spoken of in the sacred writings, and of the utmost moment to the Christian Church, we cannot hear or read them with too much reverence or respect.In the latter times - This does not necessarily imply the last ages of the world, but any times consequent to those in which the Church then lived.Depart from the faith - Αποστησονται - της πιστεως· They will apostatize from the faith, i.e. from Christianity; renouncing the whole system in effect, by bringing in doctrines which render its essential truths null and void, or denying and renouncing such doctrines as are essential to Christianity as a system of salvation. A man may hold all the truths of Christianity, and yet render them of none effect by holding other doctrines which counteract their influence; or he may apostatize by denying some essential doctrine, though he bring in nothing heterodox.Giving heed to seducing spirits - Πνευμασι πλανοις· Many MSS. and the chief of the fathers have πνευμασι πλανης· spirits of deceit; which is much more emphatic than the common reading. Deception has her spirits, emissaries of every kind, which she employs to darken the hearts and destroy the souls of men. Pretenders to inspiration, and false teachers of every kind, belong to this class.And doctrines of devils - Δαιμονιων· Demons; either meaning fallen spirits, or dead men, spectres, etc., or doctrines inspired by Satan relative to these, by which he secures his own interest, and provides for his own worship.

Verse 2

Speaking lies in hypocrisy - Persons pretending, not only to Divine inspiration, but also to extraordinary degrees of holiness, self-denial, mortification, etc., in order to accredit the lies and false doctrines which they taught. Multitudes of lies were framed concerning miracles wrought by the relics of departed saints, as they were termed. For, even in this country, Thomas a Becket was, deemed a saint, his relics wrought numerous miracles; and his tomb was frequented by multitudes of pilgrims! However, as he works none now, we may rest assured that he never did work any. In 1305, King Edward I. was prevailed on by his clergy to write to Pope Clement V. to canonize Thomas de Cantelupo, bishop of Hereford, because a multitude of miracles had been wrought by his influence; In tantum, says the king, quod ipsius meritis et intercessionibus gloriosis, lumen caecis, surdis auditus, verbum mutis, et gressus claudis, et alia pleraque beneficia ipsius patrocinium implorantibus, caelesti dextra conferuntur. "Insomuch that, by his glorious merits and intercessions, the blind receive their sight, the deaf hear, the dumb speak, and the lame walk; and many other benefits are conferred by the right hand of the Divine Being on those who implore his patronage." And therefore he prays that this dead bishop may be added to the calendar, "that he and his kingdom may enjoy his suffrages and merit his patronage in heaven, who had the benefit of his conversation on earth." Nos attendentes, per Dei gratiam, fideles in Christo, nosque praecipue, et populum regni nostri, ejus posse suffragiis adjuvari, ut, quem familiarem habuimus in terris, mereamur habere patronum in caelis. Foedera, vol. i., p. 976. Edit. 1816.Having their conscience seared with a hot iron - They bear the marks of their hypocrisy as evidently and as indelibly in their conscience in the sight of God, as those who have been cauterized for their crimes do in their bodies in the sight of men. It was customary in ancient times to mark those with a hot iron who had been guilty of great crimes, such as sacrilege, etc. And the heathens supposed that even in the other world they bear such marks; and by these the infernal judges knew the quantum of their vices, and appointed the degrees of their punishment. There is a saying much like that of the apostle in the invective of Claudian against Rufinus, whom he supposes to be thus addressed by Rhadamanthus, one of the infernal judges: - Quid demens manifesta negas? En pectus InUstaeDeformant Maculae! vitiisque inolevit imago,Nec sese commissa tegunt.

Verse 3

Forbidding to marry - These hypocritical priests pretending that a single life was much more favorable to devotion, and to the perfection of the Christian life. This sentiment was held by the Essenes, a religious sect among the Jews; and we know that it is a favourite opinion among the Romanists, who oblige all their clergy to live a single life by a vow of continency.To abstain from meats - Both among the heathens, Jews, and Romanists, certain meats were prohibited; Some always, others at particular times. This the apostle informs us was directly contrary to the original design of God; and says that those who know the truth, know this.

Verse 4

For every creature of God is good - That is: Every creature which God has made for man's nourishment is good for that purpose, and to be thankfully received whenever necessary for the support of human life; and nothing of that sort is at any time to be refused, ουδεν αποβλητον, rejected or despised. We find a saying very similar to this in Lucian's Timon: Ουτοι αποβλητα εισι δωρα τα παρα Διος. The gifts which are from Jove ought not to be Despised. This appears to have been a proverbial saying among the heathens.

Verse 5

For it is sanctified by the word of God - Δια λογου Θεου· By the command of God; probably referring to Genesis 1:29 : And God said, I have given you every herb - and every tree - to you it shall be for meat; and to Genesis 9:3 : Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things; i.e. I have given you every animal that is proper for food, as I have given you every herb and fruit proper for nourishment. Therefore, all this was sanctified, set apart, and appropriated to this use by this command. And when man is about to use it, he is to sanctify or set it apart to that use by prayer to God,1. That it may answer the end to us for which it was designed;2. That we may use it with gratitude and moderation;3. That all the strength derived from it may be devoted to God, in filling up the duties of those situations in which his providence has placed us.Those who thank not God for their food, and pray not for his blessing in the use of it, are unworthy even of a morsel of bread, and of the breath they breathe. Bishop Newton's opinion of this prophecy I have reserved to the end of this chapter.

Verse 6

If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things - Show the Church that, even now, there is danger of this apostasy; put them on their guard against it; for the forewarned are half armed. Schoettgen supposes from this verse that what is spoken above refers to the Jews alone; and that there is no reference here to a Church which in after ages might apostatize from, or corrupt, the true doctrine of our Lord and Savior. Bishop Newton and others are of a different opinion. See at the end of this chapter.Nourished up in the words of faith - By acting as I command thee, thou wilt show that thou art a good minister of Jesus Christ, and that thou hast been nourished from thy youth upon the doctrines of faith. The apostle seems to allude here to Timothy's Christian education. See the preface to this epistle.Whereunto thou hast attained - Ἡ παρηκολουθηκας· Which thou hast thoroughly understood. For the meaning of this word, see the note on Luke 1:3 .

Verse 7

But refuse profane and old wives' fables - This seems to refer particularly to the Jews, whose Talmudical writings are stuffed with the most ridiculous and profane fables that ever disgraced the human intellect. It may with equal propriety be applied to the legends of the Romish Church. Let any man read the Aurea Legenda, and he will find of profane and old wives' fables what may stand, with considerable propriety, column for column with the Talmud. See Joseline's Life of St. Patrick for miracles, without rhyme or reason, abundantly more numerous and more stupendous than all the necessary ones wrought by Jesus Christ and his apostles. This is enough to persuade a man that the Spirit of God had these very corruptions and this corrupt Church particularly in view.Exercise thyself rather unto godliness - To understand this expression it is necessary to know that the apostle alludes here to the gymnastic exercises among the Greeks, which were intended as a preparation for, their contests at the public games. They did this in order to obtain a corruptible or fading crown, i. e, a chaplet of leaves, which was the reward of those who conquered in those games; Timothy was to exercise himself unto godliness, that he might be prepared for the kingdom of heaven, and there receive a crown that fadeth not away. See the notes on 1 Corinthians 9:24 , etc.

Verse 8

For bodily exercise profiteth little - Προς ολιγον εστιν ωφελιμος. Those gymnastic exercises, so highly esteemed among the Greeks, are but little worth; they are but of short duration; they refer only to this life, and to the applause of men: but godliness has the promise of this life, and the life to come; it is profitable for all things; and for both time and eternity.But godliness is profitable unto all things - By godliness we are to understand every thing that the Christian religion either promises or prescribes: the life of God in the soul of man; and the glory of God as the object and end of that life. To receive the first, a man must renounce his sins, deny himself, take up his cross, and follow his Lord through evil and through good report. To obtain the latter, a man must labor to enter into that rest which remains for the people of God.Having promise, of the life that now is - The man that fears, loves, and serves God, has God's blessing all through life. His religion saves him from all those excesses, both in action and passion, which sap the foundations of life, and render existence itself often a burden. The peace and love of God in the heart produces a serenity and calm which cause the lamp of life to burn clear, strong, and permanent. Evil and disorderly passions obscure and stifle the vital spark. Every truly religious man extracts the uttermost good out of life itself, and through the Divine blessing gets the uttermost good that is in life; and, what is better than all, acquires a full preparation here below for an eternal life of glory above. Thus godliness has the promise of, and secures the blessings of, both worlds.

Verse 9

This is a faithful saying - The truth of this doctrine none need doubt; and every man has it in his power to put this to the proof. See on 1 Timothy 1:15 (note).

Verse 10

For therefore we both labor - This verse was necessary to explain what he had before said; and here he shows that his meaning was not that the followers of God should enjoy worldly prosperity and exemption from natural evils; for, said he, it is because we exercise ourselves to godliness that we have both labor and reproach, and we have these because we trust In the living God: but still we have mental happiness, and all that is necessary for our passage through life; for in the midst of persecutions and afflictions we have the peace of God that passeth knowledge, and have all our crosses and sufferings so sanctified to us that we consider them in the number of our blessings.Who is the Savior of all men - Who has provided salvation for the whole human race, and has freely offered it to them in his word and by his Spirit.Specially of those that believe - What God intends for All, he actually gives to them that believe in Christ, who died for the sins of the world, and tasted death for every man. As all have been purchased by his blood so all may believe; and consequently all may be saved. Those that perish, perish through their own fault.

Verse 11

These things command and teach - Let it be the sum and substance of thy preaching, that true religion is profitable for both worlds; that vice destroys both body and soul; that Christ tasted death for every man; and that he saves to the uttermost all them that believe in his name.

Verse 12

Let no man despise thy youth - Act with all the gravity and decorum which become thy situation in the Church. As thou art in the place of an elder, act as an elder. Boyish playfulness ill becomes a minister of the Gospel, whatever his age may be. Concerning Timothy's age see the conclusion of the preface to this epistle.Be thou an example of the believers - It is natural for the flock to follow the shepherd; if he go wrong, they will go wrong also.His silly sheep, no wonder if they stray."Though, according to the just judgement of God, they who die in their sins have their blood on their own head; yet, if they have either gone into sin or continued in it through the watchman's fault, their blood will God require at his hand. How many have endeavored to excuse their transgressions by alleging, in vindication of their conduct, "Our minister does so, and he is more wise and learned than we." What an awful account must such have to give to the Head of the Church when he appears!In word - Εν λογῳ· In doctrine; teach nothing but the truth of God, because nothing but that will save souls.In conversation - Εν αναστροφῃ· In the whole of thy conduct in every department which thou fillest in all thy domestic as well as public relations, behave thyself well.In charity - Εν αγαπῃ· In love to God and man; show that this is the principle and motive of all thy conduct.In spirit - Εν πνευματι· In the manner and disposition in which thou dost all things. How often is a holy or charitable work done in an unholy, uncharitable, and peevish spirit! To the doer, such work is unfruitful.These words are wanting in ACDFG, and several others; both the Syriac, Erpen's Arabic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Vulgate, and Itala, and many of the fathers. Griesbach leaves them out of the text. They have in all probability been added by a later hand.In faith - Εν πιστει· This word πιστις is probably taken here for fidelity, a sense which it often bears in the New Testament. It cannot mean doctrine, for that has been referred to before. Be faithful to thy trust, to thy flock, to thy domestics, to the public, to thy God. Fidelity consists in honestly keeping, preserving, and delivering up when required, whatever is intrusted to our care; as also in improving whatever is delivered in trust for that purpose. Lose nothing that God gives, and improve every gift that he bestows.In purity - Εν ἁγνεια· Chastity of body and mind; a direction peculiarly necessary for a young minister, who has more temptations to break its rules than perhaps any other person. "Converse sparingly with women, and especially with young women," was the advice of a very holy and experienced minister of Christ.

Verse 13

Give attendance to reading - Timothy could easily comprehend the apostle's meaning; but at present this is not so easy. What books does the apostle mean? The books of the Old Testament were probably what he intended; these testified of Jesus, and by these he could either convince or confound the Jews. But, whether was the reading of these to be public or private? Probably both. It was customary to read the law and the prophets in the synagogue, and doubtless in the assemblies of the Christians; after which there was generally an exhortation founded upon the subject of the prophecy. Hence the apostle says: Give attendance to reading, to Exhortation, to Doctrine. Timothy was therefore to be diligent in reading the sacred writings at home, that he might be the better qualified to read and expound them in the public assemblies to the Christians, and to others who came to these public meetings.As to other books, there were not many at that time that could be of much use to a Christian minister. In those days the great business of the preacher was to bring forward the grand facts of Christianity, to prove these, and to show that all had happened according to the prediction of the prophets; and from these to show the work of God in the heart, and the evidence of that work in a holy life.At present the truth of God is not only to be proclaimed, but defended; and many customs or manners, and forms of speech, which are to us obsolete, must be explained from the writings of the ancients, and particularly from the works of those who lived about the same times, or nearest to them, and in the same or contiguous countries. This will require the knowledge of those languages in which those works have been composed, the chief of which are Hebrew and Greek, the languages in which the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments have been originally written.Latin is certainly of the next consequence; a language in which some of the most early comments have been written; and it is worth the trouble of being learned, were it only for the sake of the works of St. Jerome, who translated and wrote a commentary on the whole of the Scriptures; though in many respects it is both erroneous and superficial.Arabic and Syriac may be added with great advantage: the latter being in effect the language in which Christ and his apostles spoke and preached in Judea; and the former being radically the same with the Hebrew, and preserving many of the roots of that language, the derivatives of which often occur in the Hebrew Bible, but the roots never.The works of various scholars prove of how much consequence even the writings of heathen authors, chiefly those of Greece and Italy, are to the illustration of the sacred writings. And he who is best acquainted with the sacred records will avail himself of such helps, with gratitude both to God and man. Though so many languages and so much reading are not absolutely necessary to form a minister of the Gospel, (for there are many eminent ministers who have not such advantages), yet they are helps of the first magnitude to those who have them and know how to use them.

Verse 14

Neglect not the gift that is in thee - The word χαρισμα here must refer to the gifts and graces of the Divine Spirit, which Timothy received when set apart to the work of an evangelist by the imposition of St. Paul's hands, 2 Timothy 1:6 , and by that of the presbytery or eldership; for it most evidently appears, from this verse and that above quoted, that he received this double imposition, not probably at different times, but on one and the same occasion. These very gifts and graces might be improved; and we have reason to believe, if not improved, would be withdrawn by the great Head of the Church.Given thee by prophecy - It has already been conjectured (see the preface, and the note on 1 Timothy 1:18 that there had been some remarkable prediction relative to the future destiny and usefulness of Timothy. And probably it was in consequence of this that he was set apart to the office of evangelist and bishop in the Church at Ephesus. When apostles laid their hands on men, they ordinarily received the Holy Spirit with this imposition. This may be what the apostle calls to the remembrance of Timothy, and tells him not to neglect what he had received, nor the purpose for which he had received it.

Verse 15

Meditate upon these things - Ταυτα μελετα· Revolve them frequently in thy mind; consider deeply their nature and importance; get them deeply fastened in thy heart, and let all thy conduct flow from this inward feeling and conviction. Let the nature, reasons, and motives of thy ministry, be ever in the view of thy heart and conscience.Give thyself wholly to them - Εν τουτοις ισθι· Be thou in these things. Horace has a similar expression: Omnis in hoc sum. "I am absorbed in this." Occupy thyself wholly with them; make them not only thy chief but thy sole concern. Thou art called to save thy own soul, and the souls of them that hear thee; and God has given thee the Divine gifts for this and no other purpose. To this let all thy reading and study be directed; this is thy great business, and thou must perform it as the servant and steward of the Lord. Bengel has a good saying on this verse, which I will quote: In his qui est, minus erit in sodalitatibus mundanis, in studiis alienis, in colligendis libris, conchis, nummis, quibus multi pastores notabilem aetatis partem insistentes conterunt; "He who is wholly in these things will be little in worldly company, in foreign studies, in collecting books, shells, and coins, in which many ministers consume a principal part of their life." Such persons are worthy of the deepest reprehension, unless all these studies, collections, etc., be formed with the express view, of illustrating the sacred records; and to such awful drudgery few Christian ministers are called. Many, when they have made such collections, seem to know nothing of their use; they only see them and show them, but can never bring them to their assistance in the work of the ministry. These should be prayed for and pitied.That thy profiting may appear to all - By being made a universal blessing; convincing and converting sinners; and building up the Church of God on its most holy faith.

Verse 16

Take heed unto thyself - See that the life of God remains and the work of God prospers in thine own soul. Take heed to thy doctrine, that the matter be pure and orthodox; that thou teach nothing for truth but what God has revealed.Continue in them - i.e., In taking heed to thyself and to thy doctrine; for this must be thy continual study. Without this, the Divine influence shall recede from thy heart, and the Divine gift from thy intellect; and, like Samson shorn of his strength, thou wilt soon become as another man, as any common man; thy power will depart from thee, and thou shalt be no longer able to persuade; the Unction shall depart from thee, and, destitute of spiritual feeling thyself, thou shalt not be able to cause others to feel. Take the apostle's advice, and thou shalt save thy own soul, and the souls of them that hear thee.In the course of the preceding notes I have referred to Bishop Newton's opinion and application of the prophecy contained in the first five verses. Not being fully persuaded in my own, mind to what Church this, and the prophecy in the Epistle to the Thessalonians, should be applied, I produce an accredited author, who, for his Dissertations on the Prophecies, has a high and, honored name in the Church.Which mode of interpretation is best, I shall not attempt to say: to determine the meaning of prophecies is a difficult task; and, in a case of this kind, I rather choose to trust to the judgment of others than to my own. It is to be deplored that all the preceding particulars apply but too well to the corruptions in the Romish Church, therefore to it they appear peculiarly applicable. But whether God had this Church alone in view, I dare not affirm.

1 Timothy 4


  1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
  2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
  3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
  4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
  5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
  6 If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.
  7 But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.
  8 For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
  9 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation.
  10 For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.
  11 These things command and teach.
  12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
  13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
  14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.
  15 Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.
  16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.

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