Features of Later Times. Paul could see the trend of things, and knew that in “later’ times there would be an apostasy from the faith (the a.v. has “latter’ times). In its place the vacuum would be filled by seducing spirits and demoniacal teachings. Satan would use men to achieve this end, men whose consciences were branded or seared as with a hot iron.
The Spirit of God through Paul had expressly foreshadowed this in his second letter to the Thessalonians, and history has confirmed the truth of this forecast. Celibacy and vegetarian-ism have been imposed upon persons without the slightest scriptural sanction. Marriage was not only instituted by God but has His specific sanction as being an honourable estate, to be preserved as such by man and woman, Heb. 13. 4. Furthermore, Paul had already written to the Roman believers to the effect that no food was unclean in itself, Rom. 14. 14, and here he repeats his same conviction. Also what both he and Peter recognized (see Acts 10) had already been affirmed by the Lord Jesus in Mark 7. 18.
Three things should be observed, (i) Every creature of God is good. He said so in Genesis 1. 25, 31, and He extended His permission to cover animal food, excepting its blood, in Genesis 9. 3. (ii) These are to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe God’s Word touching them, and know the truth of the matter, 1 Tim. 4. 3. (iii) The food is sanctified by God’s Word referred to above and by prayer, that is, by seeking God’s blessing upon it, “Grace at meals" should be no formal matter, much less should it be abandoned. Acts 27. 35 is an excellent example for us all.
Another matter discussed in this chapter is that of “bodily exercise”, (Greek: gymnasia). Paul is careful not to write off as altogether worthless physical exercise; he recognizes its temporary benefits., but owns that comparatively they are small when placed beside the benefits of “godliness”, that is, Godfearing behaviour which observes the spiritual commandments and warnings given by the apostle to Timothy. The benefits of these extend beyond this life. This explains why Paul and Timothy devoted their energies to such a physically hazardous service as disseminating the truth, risking their own personal safety, knowing that the Living God is the Preserver of all men in general, specially of those who put their trust in Him, v. 10. Whether verse 9 relates to what precedes or immediately succeeds is a moot point. Finality seems impossible.
Counsel to a Young Man, 4. 11-16. Timothy was a comparatively young man – maybe about 38 years old – and it may well be that some of the elders with whom he would have to do would be his senior. The tendency would be, there-fore, to despise him on account of his age, but nothing is so effective in gaining respect and confidence as a good example. His “speaking" should command their hearing; his “manner of life" in general should commend his teaching; his “love" to the saints should beget their confidence; his personal “faith" both in God and His Word should manifest his convictions; his “purity" of behaviour would encourage the same in those who had but recently been converted from a corrupt society.
Timothy was enjoined by Paul to give attention, or heed, to the public reading of the Scriptures, v. 13. These may include both Old and what are now known as the New Testament writings (see, e.g., Luke 4. 17; Acts 13. 15; 15: 21; Col. 4. 16; 1 Thess. 5. 27). He was not to neglect the gift that had been given to him which would enable him, not merely thus publicly to read, but as a consequence and relative to what had been read, to exhort the saints and to teach them. Note the order: exhortation has to do with conduct, teaching with belief. Both should be in harmony with each other. Timothy must himself observe this order and take heed to himself as well as to his teaching, lest what he is contradicts what he says. Luke writes of “all that Jesus began both to do and to teach”, Acts 1. 1, and Paul himself could refer the Philippian saints to what they had “seen in him" as well as heard from him.
The “presbytery’, I Tim. 4. 14, is the recognized body of elders, first appointed by the apostles, Acts 14: 23, and there-after appointed by the Spirit who manifested in the persons concerned the requisite qualifications of which we have spoken in chapter 3. They are “overseers”. Acts 15. 6 gives the precedent for such elders to meet together from time to time to discuss matters which affect the wellbeing of the saints.
In Timothy’s case the charismatic gift was given to him by the laying on of the hands of Paul, 2 Tim. 1. 6, but it was also attended by the laying on of hands of this elderhood, 1 Tim. 4« 14, which did not involve the impartation of the gift but implied identification with Timothy in his consequential work. The presumptions of so-called prelates today in this regard are to be eschewed. As a limb which is not used will atrophy, so a gift which is not exercised will lose its usefulness. Hence Timothy must not neglect his gift.
He must be “diligent in these things”, v. 15 r.v. or “occupy thyself with these things”, j.n.d. He must “be wholly in them’, j.n.d.,-give himself wholly to them, so that his progress may be plain to all.
Timothy must remember that he does not live to himself, and further that he is in a specially responsible position having been entrusted with a divine gift which is not for his benefit but for that of the church. By taking heed to himself and to the injunctions here given by Paul, he will both save himself and those that hear him from many a pitfall into which they would otherwise come, v. 16.