Today: [1 Timothy 4:] Beware of Vagabond Winds: In chapter 4 of 1 Timothy Paul warns of increasing spiritual deception in the end times. What constitutes deception in our day? Where does it lead? How do we identify it? Paul addressed these and several other critical areas of life and experience whereby believers in the “latter days” might preserve themselves from the work of the enemy.
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[1Ti 4:1-16 KJV] 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.
In v. 1 of our chapter, Paul speaks by the Spirit of Prophecy concerning the end times (specifically the latter times). This tells us along with many other passages in scripture that there is an emphasis on eons of time far beyond those that are contemporary to the writers of the bible. The word “latter” in this verse means “latter, afterward, the second after…” Here we see the difference between New Testament times and the day we live in. We tend to look back at what was while New Testament leaders and believers looked forward. They understood by the Spirit that there would be a “great second afterward…” They were looking beyond their age, past the middle ages, through the Rennaissance, beyond the Victorian era and the industrial revolution right down to the day you and I live in, and they have something to say to us!
Why would Paul in all his practical instructions to Timothy give him this information? Because Timothy is to understand that he is laying the foundations for a day to come. If the Ephesian church falters in its testimony future generations will be affected. We know this is true because of the influence of this writing handed down to us. Timothy is leading as an apostle a church that constitutes the high water mark of all time for a group of people gathered as a New Testament church expressing the purposes of God in the earth. This is the community and the solidarity of faith that you are I are to aspire to. What keeps this from happening? The warnings that Paul subsequently gives here.
What will come at the latter times? Seducing spirits for one thing. That word means “vagabond winds.” Whether you are a young mother with children or an older person approaching retirement, there are compelling influences in the earth tempting God’s people to stray from their understood purpose, their established roles in life and family into the uncharted territories of devastation and misery. Never in the history of man have core values and boundaries been as challenged as they are today. The church is no different. God’s people are reeling under the assault of images, messages and the cult of celebrity away from the underpinnings of faith because Satan knows that his time is short.
Where are these vagabond winds taking us? Into doctrines of devils. That phrase means “that which is taught by damonion.” What are those doctrines?
“To each his own…”
“To thine own self be true…”
“Go to the church of your own choice…”
“There are no prophets or apostles today…”
“The second coming is a myth…”
“Everyone is saved just because Jesus died. There is no need to accept Jesus as savior…”
“A loving God would never put anyone in hell…”
“It doesn’t matter what you believe just so you are sincere…”
“You are better off on your own…”
These and many other pernicious doctrines have deluded and scattered God’s people until they have become a laughing stock and a byword in the earth. The world no longer fears the church. God has effectively been excluded from the public square and the people of God slumber on in their self-interests while their leaders tell them how wonderful they are, speaking lies in hypocrisy causing the conscience of a once noble people to be seared with a hot iron.
Paul goes on to accurately predict the rise of monasticism in the fourth and fifth centuries. Monasticism imposed a standard of morality and asceticism that God never intended man to apply himself to – including the vow of celibacy. God’s purpose is to raise up power couples in the kingdom, but man’s religion says if you really love God with all your heart you will give up the very things that he created you to be a part of and fulfilled by.
Along with these came stylized systems of religious performance that took the place of faith in Christ such as touch not, taste not, etc. Paul repudiates these insisting that every creature of God is good and nothing to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving. It is no different today. Many Christians are more distracted by dietary restrictions suggesting if you eat something with an additive in it or buy a grocery item or food item from this chain or that you are in effect in league with the devil. The enemy laughs at the gullibility of the saints and is gleeful over his successful bid to seduce believers into majoring on minor things while billions of souls take a leap into the dark and spend an eternity without God.
Paul admonishes Timothy (v. 6) to keep the people in remembrance of such things and to refuse profane fables and to exercise himself unto godliness. He does give the nod to the need to staying fit and in good health (v. 8) but also puts that in focus saying that godliness and spiritual discipline should be a higher priority than even this. These are the things that Paul urges Timothy and by extension you and I today to command and teach.
When you touch men’s idols, you will provoke criticism, so Paul encourages Timothy not to allow anyone to despise him, not for his youth or any other perceived disqualification. If you tell people what they want to hear they will sing your praises. If you succeed in actually challenging their thinking, they will equally find things to put you down to marginalize and ignore you. Never listen to your critics is what Paul is advising Timothy to adopt in his regard for those who are contrary and combative toward his ministry.
Paul further (v. 13) tells Timothy to give attention to reading, exhortation, and doctrine. We need all three of these but notice what comes first. Give attention to reading. That one verse is the foundation stone for reading through the Bible chapter by chapter and verse by verse. This kind of teaching, expositional teaching doesn’t often titillate bored Christians, and therefore it has gone by the wayside in favor of church-as-entertainment. Notice however that before any other form of scriptural inquiry or church activity – reading of the word of God in Paul’s mind should come first.
Paul commands Timothy to neglect not the gift that is in him by the laying on of hands by prophecy. When is the last time you dusted off those prophetic words given over your life? Paul tells Timothy to meditate on these things that his profiting would appear to all. The purpose of the prophetic is to profit you and not any other thing. Satan has effectively turned the prophetic into nothing more than seeking a psychic reading or some cathartic whipping boy activity that doesn’t benefit God’s people. That is not how Paul understood the prophetic as one who originally began not as an apostle but as a prophet according to Acts chapter 13.
These things are of paramount importance whereby Paul assures Timothy if he pays close heed he will save himself and those that are with him. Notice that Paul expects Timothy to do for himself what he might have expected God to do. God has already done his part. It is up to us by aligning ourselves with the heart of God and the mind of God to save ourselves by discipling ourselves and conforming our lives and our thinking to the apostolic character and spirit revealed in these passages by Paul, the apostle.