I Timothy 4:1-6
By Kelly McDonald, Jr.
In I Timothy 4:1-6, Paul wrote: “1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. 6 If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.”
Common Arguments: 1) Anyone who follows the distinction between clean and unclean animals is a hypocrite. 2) We can pray over any food and it is clean.
Think it Through: If argument number 1 is true, then Jesus was a hypocrite. He never ate anything unclean; He is perfect. If argument number 2 is true, then our prayers should be able to change the biology of an unclean animal to make it clean. Since this has never been done, then this argument is also not true. Also consider the following: Why would God allow us to pray over something and change what He said in the Bible? What else can we change to pray? This is very problematic. Unclean animals are still mentioned in 2 Cor. 6:17 and Rev 18:2, so they can’t be done away with by these verses.
Short Answer: The heresy involves people who do two things: 1) forbid marriage AND 2) forbid people from eating clean animal meat.
Longer Answer: Paul, speaking about the days after his, mentions those who will depart from the faith and follow the teachings of demons. These ‘hypocritical liars’ will teach men to abstain from marriage AND “from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.”
Some people have tried to apply these verses to the dietary laws in Leviticus 11 on clean and unclean animals. This interpretation runs into some problems. First of all, Paul said that this false teaching comes from demons. Did a demon speak the dietary laws in Leviticus 11? Absolutely not! The LORD spoke them (Lev. 11:1). This eliminates the possibility that the hypocritical teaching of I Timothy 4 refers to the dietary instructions! The teaching Paul refers to came from demons, not God.
What foods did God create to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth? Interestingly enough, Paul uses the Greek word bromaton in verse 3. It is translated as ‘certain foods’. This Greek word refers that which God created to be eaten according to Leviticus 11. The false teaching to which Paul refers prohibits people from eating clean animals. The truth Paul refers to in verse 3 is the truth of God’s word and His Law. In Paul’s time, no New Testament existed. The only text that believers had to call truth is the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible. Jesus said that the Word is Truth (John 17:17). There is no other truth for Paul to reference and there are no other foods other than bromaton that God created to be eaten. To learn more about how God views food, read our article: How Does God Define Food? (click here)
Paul then says that everything we eat should be consecrated (or made holy) by two things: the word of God AND prayer. In the word of God, pigs, shellfish, and other unclean animals were never set apart for humans to eat. From the beginning, unclean animals were made for certain purposes, but never for human consumption! Prayer will not make a pig chew the cud or a shrimp grow fins and scales because God did not make those animals that way.
What is the false teaching? When did it manifest itself in history? These false teachers will teach people to abstain from the clean animals and to abstain from marriage. The word ‘and’ in verse 3 is critical in understanding these verses.
In the mid-second century, a series of false teachers arose who forbid their followers from marrying and eating clean meat (which is the only meat created to be eaten). They adhered to some of the worst heresies such as the denial of Christ’s bodily birth and suffering. Among their names are: Basilides, Saturninus, and Marcion (CLICK here to read an article about their false teachings).
Centuries later, the Roman Catholic Church adopted forms of these teachings. They forbid the priests from marrying and taught that believers should not eat any meat on certain days of the week (such as Saturday or Friday).
If you do not know two vitals truths then you will be deceived by this teaching: 1) marriage is not forbidden by God and some animals were made by God to be consumed. Man cannot over rule God’s truth on this subject.
In I Timothy 4:6, Paul mentioned that Timothy was brought up in this vital truth. This is an interesting statement based on two facts about Timothy. First of all, in 2 Timothy 3:15, Paul said that Timothy has known the Scriptures since infancy. The Scriptures refer to the Old Testament. Secondly, Timothy’s mother was a Jewess (Acts 16:1). The truth that Timothy was reared into was the dietary laws. Paul wrote that this made him a good minister and a defender of the truth.
Kelly McDonald, Jr.
BSA President www.biblesabbath.org