Throughout our study of 1 Timothy we have learned a number of things. He has given us a number of directives that should mark us as a gospel based church. But in our passage this morning Paul acts much like a weatherman who forecasts a coming storm.
The passage tells us that in the latter times some will depart from the faith. The word depart there is the Greek word “aphistemi;” it’s the word we know as “apostatize.” So this passage is warning us that there is going to be a great apostasy in the church.
But what you need to understand is what kind of prophetic word this is. When you read this you see that it talks about the “later times.” And you can easily think that it is referring to some distant future event that occurs right before Jesus comes again. But that’s not what Paul is concerned with. He’s concerned with present realities. The later times are the times that we currently live in. It is the time period that extends from Christ’s first advent to his second.
Paul wrote this so that Timothy would be aware that apostasy is a threat that looms in every age of the church. He wanted Timothy and his congregation to be on guard and aware of the danger posed by false teaching.
And as we read this passage, we are to be reminded that it should be on every one of our radar’s too. If the forecast was so troubling in Timothy’s day, certainly we should demonstrate just as much care that we do not fall prey to the teaching of spiritual scoundrels that continue to lurk about in our day.
In this passage Paul seeks to impress upon us the fact that apostasy is an ever looming problem. And we on guard against it. And, in order to help us garner the vigilance that we need, he tells us 4 things about the false doctrine that leads to it.
If we are going to guard against apostasy, we first have to know how prevalent it has been.
I. How prevalent it has been
Look at the first verse. Our passage begins by saying, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith.”
Now this is of course an expression of what will come. It is a prophetic word about what we can expect to happen in the future. But it is also an expression of what has occurred all down through history. When Paul says, “The Spirit expressly says” what does that mean? It could be that Paul has received a special vision or prophetic word from God. We know that all of what Paul said in his letters is inspired, but perhaps he is saying, “This is a special message I received from God.”
But here’s a better way to look at it: Where does the Spirit expressly speak? It is in the Scriptures He caused to be written. And when we look into the Bible, what is it that we find happening again and again? We find people falling away. We find apostasy all through the pages of Scripture.
Adam and Eve were the first culprits. They fell into the false teaching of Satan. They were the first to apostatize and fall away from the faith. Then Cain chose not to walk in the way of the covenant. His whole line departed from the faith. Then there was Ismael and his decedents. Moses dealt with all kinds of apostasy in his day. You can think of Korah’s rebellion and all those who wanted to go back to Egypt We could go on and on talking about all the different groups of people who apostatized on down through the exile and even into Jesus’ day.
So, it is my belief that what Paul is doing here is simply reminding us that the future will be like the past. There is nothing different about our day than any other era previously. There was and will always will continue to be apostates in our midst.
We have the testimony of Scripture that this has happened ad nauseum. It has been prevalent in the past, and we should expect that it will likely be so in our day as well.
But why does he do this? Why does he talk about how widespread apostasy and false teaching are?
Think of it this way: How many of you are worried about Ebola. Probably not too many of you. You probably don’t spend much time thinking about Ebola because it is not that common in our area. But if I were to ask how many of you are concerned about the common cold or the flu, that would have a different response. Probably everyone of you have some concern and think about it regularly. Some of you probably carry around some Purell in your handbag as a precaution. Some of you mothers probably will not allow your children to touch a public drinking fountain for fear of some sort of viral contamination!
Why are you so concerned about the flu? What is it about the common cold that has you on such high alert? It is the fact that it is COMMON! Those germs are so prevalent that you are always on the alert. You are always seeking to thinking about it and seeking to take preventative measures. You exercise extreme precaution because it is an ever present danger for your household.
That’s exactly what the point that Paul is trying to make with false teaching. Paul starts off by reminding us of how common false teaching really is so that you will be sure to be on guard against it.
If we are going to resist false teaching and avoid falling into apostasy, we must not only know how prevalent it is, but also how evil it is.
II. How evil it is [1b-2]
If I brought out here a cup that had some pink liquid in it, you probably would not be all that concerned. It would probably look like a normal glass of Kool-Aid and you would not think anything of it. You might even be inclined to drink it because you know how great it would taste. I’d have to tell you, “Hey, don’t drink that because it contains hydrochloric acid and it will dissolve your internal organs.”
You wouldn’t avoid it until you knew just how foul it was.
It is a lot like my first experience with Limburger cheese. Someone asked me if I’d like a piece of Limburger cheese and I thought, “Sure! I love cheese!” It wasn’t until it was unwrapped that I noticed how revolting the stuff really was.
We live in a day where everything is supposed to be innocuous. The great mantra of today’s world is “Tolerance, tolerance!” We are told that all beliefs are equal and they should all be treated with the same respect. If you want to embrace Islam, that’s fine. If you want to kill your unborn child, that’s your choice. And we are told that we should be fine with this kind of thing.
Well, Paul lived in a similar environment in the Roman world. There were multitudes of religions in his day and all of them were supposed to be tolerated and accepted. It’s just a bunch of normal looking Kool-Aid to drink.
But Paul wants us to be aware of just how dangerous false teaching is. And so he points out just how vile a thing it is. Look at the language he uses in the latter half of verse 1. It says that these people depart from the faith because they have “devoted themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.”
Let that sink in. He calls their teaching demonic. That’s how heinous these things really are. False teaching is to be resisted because it is of the devil. It has its roots in demonic activity
Now, it is not like they were involved in a séance or consulting the Satanic Bible. There might not have had any direct contact with the underworld. But we must understand that all false teaching is inherently demonic.
Remember the incident where Jesus first told his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. You may remember that this didn’t sit well with Peter and he said, “Never. This will never happen to you!” And do you remember how Jesus responded? He said, “Get behind me Satan!”
He called Peter Satan. Now, was Peter the incarnation of Satan at that moment? Of course not. Was he momentarily demon possessed? Not at all. Peter simply blurted out what was on his mind without thinking. And what he said was false doctrine. He sought to impede the redemptive work of Christ. And in so far as he was deviating from the truth laid out by Christ, he was speaking the language of Satan.
So we see here that false teaching isn’t any old play thing. It is a loathsome thing because it has its roots in demonic activity.
But why does Paul speak in such terms? Why does he use such extreme language and make sure to impress upon us how evil it really is? It is because false teaching always seems so spiritual.
III. How spiritual it seems 
Again, it looks like a normal glass of Kool-Aid. It doesn’t seem all that bad. As a matter of fact, it looks quite attractive.
This is the thing with false teaching. It never seems dangerous. It never flies a banner that says “I’m evil and depraved. All who embrace me will be damned!” No. It always seems so spiritual.
Look at verse 3. Verse 3 spells out some of the doctrines that the Ephesian Christians had started embracing. It says that they were involved in some forms of asceticism. They were forbidding marriage and abstaining from certain foods.
Now that might sound somewhat silly to us, but to some people this sounds ultra spiritual. You can feel oh so spiritual if you don’t eat certain foods. The idea is that you’ve somehow purged the evil from your diet, and now you’re living a higher, more spiritual life.
Now, we all may recognize that there may be a reason to abstain from some certain foods for health reasons. If you have Celiac, then from what I understand gluten is not something you should consume. If you have problems digesting this or that, then you shouldn’t eat it.
That’s not what is being talked about here. This is saying that some foods are inherently evil in and of themselves and they should not in anywise be part of a healthy diet.
And that’s part of what is going on today with the whole health foods movement. Why are so many people who do not have Celiac getting rid of gluten? It is because they think that if they purge it from their diet their carbs will have a higher level of spirituality.
And we recognize that virtually every religion in the world does this. Food is inherently religious. And every religion will put the taboo on something, be it a vegetable, meat, a type of bread, or sugar.
Buddhists say you shouldn’t eat a cow because the cow is holy. Mormons won’t drink coffee. Muslims won’t touch pork. And even the humanists around us are all about this. Every other month you hear about something being declared as unhealthy and you must stand clear of it. Not too long ago it was thought that the cholesterol in eggs will kill you. Then they thought natural fat was the great Satan that was going to destroy your arteries. All this has been proven lately to be a bunch of bunk.
But Christianity is distinct. Paul points out in verse 3 that all foods are created by God and should be received with thanksgiving. And we should take that to heart. God has brought us the food on our plates and we should eat it with joy for his provision and sustenance.
But, this is a little bit of a digression. Notice the overall point: false teaching always has an appeal. It always seems so spiritual. It always comes in some attractive packaging and never looks blatantly demonic.
That’s why we have to be on guard against it. That’s why we have to be devoted to the Scriptures and to the true doctrine of God’s word. It’s only then that we will be able to discern what is true and what is false.
Now there’s one more thing we need to know about apostasy and the false teaching that leads to it. Paul has pointed out how we need to be on guard against. He’s told us how prevalent it has been, and how evil it is, and how spiritual it seems. But, as we wrap up, we need to understand how easy it can be.
IV. How easy it can be
It is not that difficult to become an apostate. Your kids can embrace false teaching pretty easily. This church can swerve of the rails in no time flat if we let it.
Look at verse 6. It says, “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.”
What’s Paul saying here? Paul’s saying that the job of every good minister of the gospel is to teach the truth. His job is to warn people of the demonic doctrines that pose a clear and present danger. This is means by which apostasy is prevented. This is the Purell that keeps the germs of false teaching at bay.
If a minister will not say the hard things and preach against the evils of his day—if he will not be diligent in teaching the truth and stand up for what is right, then he himself is an apostate who is leading others astray.
This is why it is so easy to slide into apostasy. It is because good, solid preaching is not something people like. Many people would rather not hear someone clamor against the follies of the day. People would rather not listen to a long lecture on the intricacies of doctrinal truth or how the gospel should make you stand out from the rest of the world.
And, let’s be frank, it’s not something that a lot of preachers are keen on either. If you speak out against the masses and what they are doing, then you end up being labeled a kook. People think you’re weird and they tell you to shut up.
All this is simply to reiterate how much we need to be vigilant. We have to double down and not be content to accept the common standards of preaching. We can’t be satisfied to just be entertained on Sunday mornings or listen to anyone who is not pointing out our sins and shortcomings.
In 2005 a study came out that said that religion in America can be described as Moralistic, therapeutic Deism. It is the belief that there is a god out there who is in control of the grand scheme of things. And this god wants us to be nice to one another. The grand goal of this religion is that we feel good about ourselves.
If you think about it, that really does describe the religious climate of the day. And why is that? A lot of it is because that is what is being preached from pulpits across America. Young people are growing up believing in Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism because there are a multitude of preachers who are not setting before them the truth about God, about sin, and about salvation in Jesus Christ.
If we are going to be people who remain faithful, we need to be aware of these things. We need to be attentive to the fact that apostasy looms large. And we need to crave solid biblical exposition, the kind which is not afraid to get in our faces and bring the truth to bear on our lives.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.