1 Timothy 4:1
Now the Spirit expressly states that in later times some will abandon the faith to follow deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons,
A Predicted Apostasy in the Christian ChurchT. Croskery 1 Timothy 4:1, 2
A Great HeresyA. Rowland, LL. B.1 Timothy 4:1-3
Celibacy, its Advantages and DisadvantagesR. A. Norris.1 Timothy 4:1-3
The Doctrine, Which Forbiddeth to Marry is a Wicked DoctrineT. Vincent, M. A.1 Timothy 4:1-3
Timothy WarnedR. Finlayson 1 Timothy 4:1-5
In opposition to this exhibition of the mystery of godliness, the apostle places the prediction of a serious apostasy from the faith.

I. THE APOSTASY IS A SUBJECT OF EXPRESS PREDICTION. "But the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in after times some shall depart from the faith." It may seem strange that apostasy should be thought of so soon after the foundation of Christianity, but the Church is fully forewarned of the coming danger. It was foretold, not obscurely, but expressly, in the prophecies by Daniel (Daniel 7:25; Daniel 8:23), of our Lord (Matthew 24:4, 11), and of the apostle himself (2 Thessalonians 2.; Acts 20:29, 30; Colossians 2.). But he here alludes more specifically to a development of error in the future, the germs of which he discerns in the present.

II. THE TIME OF ITS APPEARANCE. "In after times." The words signify any period subsequent to the age in which the apostle lived, for he saw in the apostasy of the present the beginning of a still more serious apostasy in the future. The mystery of iniquity had already begun to work. But it would project its evil shadow far forward into the dispensation, in many various forms.

III. THE EXTENT OF THE APOSTASY. "Some shall depart from the faith."

1. Some, not all. Not the whole visible Church, but a considerable part of it. Thus an assurance is given that the true Church of God shall not be extinguished.

2. The apostasy is from the doctrine of faith - though it be the mystery of godliness - not the grace of faith, which, being of an incorruptible origin, cannot be lost. Christ is the Author and Finisher of faith. The elect cannot be finally deceived. The doctrine of faith was to be corrupted by "denying what was true, by adding what was false."

IV. THE REASON OR PROCESS OF THE APOSTASY. "Giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils." The prime movers were not false teachers, but unseen agents in the spirit-world.

1. Man does not stand isolated in this world. If he is not influenced by the Holy Spirit, he is influenced by the spirits of delusion, who are the emissaries of Satan. If we are not possessed by the truth, error will make an easy conquest of us. Often the heart that is made empty by skepticism is the most ready to welcome superstition.

2. It is possible for evil spirits to influence the human mind.

(1) Satan could tempt David to number the people (1 Chronicles 21:1). As the father of lies, the suggestion of error would be a congenial work. The coming of the man of sin is to be after the working of Satan.

(2) There is a sacrifice to devils, a communion with devils, a cup of devils, a table of devils (1 Corinthians 10:20, 21). There is a spiritual wickedness in high places capable of compassing great destruction by error.

(3) The apostle teaches the personality of such evil spirits.

(4) There is no more difficulty in understanding their communication of thought to man, than in understanding the communication of thought from one evil man to another. An evil man can communicate evil by a glance of his eye. But if the Spirit of God can, without the intervention of the senses, influence the minds of believers, it is easy to understand that seducing spirits can have access to the centers of thought and feeling without any similar intervention.

V. THE CHARACTER OF THE FALSE TEACHERS UNDER SUCH EVIL INSPIRATION. "In the hypocrisy of speakers of lies, being branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron."

1. They assumed a mask of holiness which they did not possess, with the view of giving better currency to their lies. Their assumed sanctity would throw the unwary off their guard, and lead to the confounding of truth with error. The lies they taught were that holiness was to be attained through abstinence from marriage and particular kinds of food.

2. They were essentially corrupt, for their conscience had become so seared through transgression that they had lost the true distinctions between right and wrong, error and truth. They were incapable of relishing the "mystery of godliness," and therefore devoted themselves to the arts of religious seduction in the interests of an essentially unspiritual asceticism. - T.C.

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times.
"The Spirit" referred to is unquestionably the Holy Spirit of God, who had been promised to the Church as its abiding teacher and comforter. In all their agencies and appointments the apostles sought His direction. It sometimes came in outward events, sometimes in strong impulses, and sometimes in the distinct utterances of men who were recognized by their brethren as inspired prophets. The trained ear of a musician can discover meanings and suggestions in a harmony which to an ordinary listener is nothing but a pleasant sound. And the conscience of one who habitually lives near God and listens for Him is sensitive to His whispers, and finds the meaning and the value of the promise "I will guide thee with Mine eye." Among the functions of the Holy Spirit was the occasional revelation of coming events; for there were in this sense "prophets" in the Christian Church, as truly as there had been under the Jewish dispensation. Nor were these always prominent and well-known men. Ananias and Agabus. Glimpses of the future came to some whose one qualification was that they stood on heights of spiritual communion — just as from the summits of the Rigi we have seen flashes of distant scenes through the broken clouds, which would be utterly hidden from one standing on a lower level. It was probably through one of the unknown prophets of the early Church that the distinct prophecy had been given to which Paul here alludes, which pointed out the speedy coming of a great heresy, the main outlines of which were definitely foreshadowed. Let us look at this great heresy, which has often and in various forms repeated itself even down to our own day.

I. As to THE SOURCE OF THE HERESY Paul speaks in no wavering tones.

1. Be traces it through the human agents to demon power. The Scriptures affirm that this world is the scene of conflict between evil and good, and that outside the range of our senses is, on the one side, the Holy Spirit of the living God, and on the other side are principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of the world. The alternations of night and day, of storm and calm, are not more real than are the vicissitudes of this great contest going on in the hearts of men. Allusion is made here to "seducing spirits"; but mysterious and mighty as may be their power, they are not omnipotent, nor are they resistless, but have control over those only who (to use Paul's phrase) "give heed" to them. Whether we are tempted to false thoughts, or to impure acts, or to anything else that is evil, it is not in vain that the summons is heard, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you."

2. But while we must guard against the evil thoughts which sometimes, as we are conscious, do not arise from ourselves, we have to give heed to this warning against the human agents of wickedness, of whom the apostle says, "They speak lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron." If there was one iniquity which more than another aroused the anger of our Lord, it was hypocrisy. A man who is false and unreal has no part in the kingdom of light, but is silently, if not openly, fighting against it. And the evil man here described has his "conscience seared with a hot iron" — a phrase which blazes with the apostle's holy indignation, but expresses a tremendous fact. Just as seared flesh has lost its sensibility, the once delicate nerves in it being destroyed, so there are consciences which nothing can affect. Appeals to honour and to shame are alike useless. The fatal influence exercised by such men was seen in the early Church, and is felt around us still, for no one can fall to be a power either for good or evil. Dr. Chalmers admirably puts it in these words: "Every man is a missionary now and for ever, for good or for evil, whether he intends or designs it or not. He may be a blot radiating his dark influence outward to the very circumference of society; or he may be a blessing, spreading benediction over the length and breadth of the world; but a blank he cannot be. There are no moral blanks; there are no neutral characters. We are either the sower that sows and corrupts, or the light that splendidly illuminates and the salt that silently operates; but, being dead or alive, every man speaks."

II. THE NATURE OF THE HERESY thus originated, and propagated, next demands notice. The danger in our day is not towards unwholesome asceticism but towards unwholesome indulgence. Not fasting, but feasting, is the peril of the modern Church. Why then did Paul speak so strongly as he does here against asceticism? That error, which appeared and reappeared like the fabled Phoenix, was this: that there was an evil creator aa well as a good creator, and that while the flesh with all the matter belonged to the evil one, only the spirit belonged to the latter. That was the philosophical reason given for neglecting the body, for eschewing all fleshly relations, and for abstaining from the material satisfaction of appetite; and against it the apostles protested with all their might, and no wonder. For if this were true, God was not the good creator of all things. If this were true, God had not come really in the flesh, seeing that flesh was the product of an alien and hostile power. Hence many came to deny the true humanity of our Lord; they said His body was only a phantasm, not a reality, which implied that His temptations, His sufferings, His death and resurrection took place in appearance only. Paul was not "striving about words to no profit" when he struck out vigorously against this pernicious doctrine; and before you dismiss such language in the New Testament as exaggerated, try to see what really lay behind it. Even Satan may appear as an angel of light, especially when seen down the vista of eighteen centuries.

(A. Rowland, LL. B.)

Forbidding to marry


1. That doctrine which is a false doctrine, and contrary unto the Word of God, is a wicked doctrine: but the popish doctrine which forbiddeth the marriage of the clergy, and of all under the celibate vow, is a false doctrine, and contrary unto the Word of God: therefore it is wicked.(1) The popish doctrine which forbiddeth the marriage of the clergy, and of all under the celibate vow, forbiddeth that which the Word of God alloweth.(a) The Word of God alloweth marriage, and maketh no exception of the clergy, or any under the celibate vow. That which God did at first institute and appoint, surely the Word of God doth allow (Hebrews 13:4).(b) The Word of God is so far from excepting the marriage of the clergy, that it doth plainly allow the marriage of such persons.(i.) In the Old Testament times the prophets, priests, Levites, and all those who attended more immediately the service of God, and at the altar under the law, were allowed to marry. Abraham, who was a prophet and priest in his own house, did not take Sarah to be his wife without God's allowance; otherwise, surely, God would not have so signally owned his marriage, as to make promise of the Blessed Seed unto him hereby. Rebekah was a wife of God's choosing for Isaac. God never blamed Moses, that great prophet, for marrying Zipporah; neither was Aaron faulty because he had his wife and children. Isaiah, that evangelical prophet, was married, and had children too, in the time of his prophecy; which the Scripture, in the recording of it, doth not impute to him for any iniquity. The priests and Levites generally did marry; and, however some of them are reproved in Scripture for divers sins, yet matrimony is never in the least charged upon them for any crime.(ii.) In the New Testament times ministers have a plain and express allowance to marry, as will appear by two or three places of Scripture (1. Corinthians 9:5; Titus 1:6; 1 Timothy 3:2, 4, 5, 11, 12).(2) The popish doctrine, which forbiddeth the marriage of the clergy, and all under the celibate vow, forbiddeth that which the Word of God in some case doth command (1 Corinthians 7:1, 2).

2. That doctrine which, under the show of piety, doth lead unto much lewdness and villainy, is a wicked doctrine: but the popish doctrine, which forbiddeth the marriage of the clergy, and of all under the celibate vow, under the show of piety, doth lead unto much lewdness and villainy: therefore this doctrine is a wicked doctrine. Whatever it be that leadeth unto lewdness and villainy, is devilish and wicked. "He that committeth sin is of the devil" (1 John 3:8).

3. That doctrine which forbiddeth the marriage of any, that hereby they may merit the kingdom of heaven is a wicked doctrine: but the popish doctrine which forbiddeth the marriage of the clergy, and of all under the celibate vow, forbiddeth the marriage of such, that thereby they may merit the kingdom of heaven.

4. That doctrine .which is a badge or character of antichrist is a wicked doctrine: but the popish doctrine which forbiddeth the marriage of the clergy, and of all under the celibate vow, is a badge or character of antichrist: therefore this popish doctrine is wicked.


1. Their first argument is drawn from the uncleanness which they affirm to be contracted by marriage; such as the clergy, and all who are more immediately devoted unto God, must abstain from. This they endeavour to prove —(1) By the Levitical uncleanness (Leviticus 15.); and the speech of Abimelech unto David (1 Samuel 21:4).(2) Such as are married, they say, "are in the flesh," therefore unclean, and so "cannot please God" (Romans 8:8). Answer

1. There is no uncleanness or unholiness in marriage itself, or in any use thereof; which is evident, because marriage was instituted in Paradise, in the state of man's innocency; and marriage, being God's ordinance, must needs be holy, because all God's ordinances are so. Moreover, the Scripture calleth marriage "honourable in all," where "the bed is undefiled" by adultery (Hebrews 13:4).

2. The papists will find it difficult to prove that there was ever any Levitical uncleanness by the use of marriage; that Scripture in Leviticus 15. speaking of something else, as will appear unto such as read and seriously weigh the place.

3. It is a gross misinterpretation of Romans 8:8, to apply it unto married persons, as if they were the persons spoken of by the apostle "that are in the flesh," and "cannot please God."

4. As to their inference from 1 Corinthians 7:5, — because such as would "give themselves to fasting and prayer," must abstain for a while, therefore ministers must abstain from marriage altogether, is such a non sequitur, as the schools will hiss at.

2. The second popish argument is drawn from 1 Corinthians 7:1, "It is good for a man not to touch a woman"; and, verse 8, "I say therefore unto the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I." If it be good for the unmarried and widows to abide in a single estate like unto the apostle, then, say they, it is evil for such to marry; and therefore the clergy should abstain from this evil. That may be good for some, which is evil for others. A single estate may be good and best for such as have the gift of continency, and are persuaded in their heart that in this estate they may most glorify God; whereas this estate may be evil for such as are without this gift, or in likelihood may most glorify God in a married estate. It may be good at some time not to marry; namely, in the time of the Church's persecution; and all that have the gift at such a time, should choose the celibate estate, that they might be the more ready both to do and suffer for Christ, and be the more free from temptations to apostasy. The apostle is so far from asserting it to be an evil for any in the worst of times to marry, that he asserteth the quite contrary when there is a necessity for it: "If need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry"; (vers. 36, 38).

3. The third popish argument is drawn from 1 Corinthians 7:32-34:Answer

1. It is not universally true, that all who are "unmarried do care for the things which belong to the Lord, how they may please the Lord," and that hereby they are taken off from minding and caring for the things of the world. As to the latter, who intermeddle more with secular affairs than many of the popish unmarried clergy?

2. Neither is it universally true, that such as "are married do care for the things of the world" chiefly, so as to neglect the things of God; as instance may be given in the holiness of many married persons, which the Scripture doth take notice of. It is said that "Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters" (Genesis 5:22). Abraham, who is called "the friend of God"; Moses, unto whom the Lord "spake face to face"; Samuel, who was so highly in favour with God; David, who was "a man after God's own heart"; Isaiah, Ezekiel, and almost all the prophets, were married persons: and we hardly read of any in the Old Testament that were famous for integrity and zeal for God, but they were such as were married.

3. Men may "care for the things that belong unto the world" moderately, and labour to please their wives in the Lord subordinately, and not transgress the bounds of their duty.

(T. Vincent, M. A.)

This state is as honourable, useful, and blessed as that of marriage. John was the unmarried disciple whom Jesus loved. The family at Bethany of two sisters and a brother was the family that Jesus loved. They had all loveworthy characters even by Him. The advantages of celibacy are threefold —

1. It is a state of larger liberty.

2. It allows more money to give away.

3. It affords more time for direct work for God.The dangers are twofold —

1. For the women; they are liable to become shallow and frivolous, mere butterflies or wasps.

2. For the men; they are liable to become selfish and sensual, mere octopi, grasping all for their own self-indulgence. The one safeguard is to live close to Christ.

(R. A. Norris.)

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