It may not be without purpose to remind even the thoughtful and attentive reader bf the salient points touched upon in our former article on I Timothy 4:1-5. For the text itself we refer the reader to his own Bible. We suggest that the reader first read the text from this letter of Paul to Timothy as he labors in Ephesus.
If one would take the time to peruse our former article he would see that we touched upon the following exegetical points.
In the first place, we took notice of the term “faith” in the text; the faith from which some will apostatize in the “latter days” according to the expressed teaching of the Spirit. We took the position that the term “faith” does not refer simply to our subjective believing, but rather refers to the objective truth, to that which is believed; it refers to the true doctrine of godliness. Paul has spoken of this true doctrine when he cites the poem (?): “Great is the mystery of godliness, God is manifested in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, and received up in glory.” It is the doctrine that the Son of God “came into this world.” Such is the “faith” once delivered to the saints!
In the second place, we noticed that the “falling away” can only be gauged, in its true meaning and magnitude, against the background of this “faith” which is manifested particularly in the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. The idea of “falling away,” of apostasy, means exactly falling away from the revealed truth of God in Christ Jesus, coming into this world to save from sin.
In the third place, this also explains why this falling away is a peculiar phenomenon of the “latter days,” that is, the New Testament dispensation. The great “falling away,” as here referred to by Paul, could not happen in the days of the shadows when Christ was not yet glorified.
Lastly, we noticed too that the hatred and raging of Satan and all his hosts must needs reach its greatest height exactly in these latter days, when the mystery of God is revealed in the church, the manifold wisdom of God. Compare Ephesians 3:10. Let it not be forgotten that Satan is the prince of this world (kosmos) and that Christ “came into this world” to destroy the works of the devil. I John 3:8b. Does Christ not say in John 12:31, 32: “Now is the judgment of the world, now shall the prince of this world be cast out?” And is such casting out of the “prince of this world” not the counter-part of “And I when I am lifted up, will draw all men (all kinds of men) unto me?” That is why Satan rages peculiarly vehemently during these “latter times.” For he is the king of the demon-world, the hellish scorpions, who sting men with the sting of their tails for five months without killing them, but causing them to be tormented in their conscience, so that they seek death and cannot find it. Rev. 9:1-12. Is this king of the abyss not the Destroyer, his name being in Hebrew: Abaddon, and in Greek: Apollyon?! Did he not personally encounter Jesus in the wilderness, tempting Him when He was an hungered for forty days and nights? And was not the issue: will Satan rule the world as its prince, or shall it be the Son of God, who comes into the world to conquer sin, guilt, death. Behold, then the great wrath of the Apollyon against the “great Mystery of godliness” in these “latter days!”
Such were, briefly, our findings in the former article.
Now we stand before a few questions both of an exegetical and of a conceptual nature. We will here give these questions, briefly enumerating them, and then we shall attempt to answer these questions a little more in detail in seriatem order. We here will ask the following questions:
1. What is the import of the “giving heed” (pro-sexontes) in relationship to the “falling away” from the faith?
2. Who are the “seducing spirits,” here in the text? Are they heretics in flesh and blood, or are they the demon-world, the scorpions from the abyss?
3. What is meant by the phrase “the teaching of devils?” Is this a teaching limited to the two matters mentioned, to wit, “forbidding to marry” and “abstaining from meats,” or does this refer to a teaching, which is as an all-pervading vicious and evil leaven, that will finally deny and oppose all that is of God in Christ Jesus in the “Mystery of Godliness?”
4. Why is “hypocrisy” the spiritual-ethical fountain of this speaking of lying words on the part of those who have fallen away from the truth?
5. Has this “hypocrisy” any causal relationship to their having a “seared conscience,” or is their “seared conscience” the reason for the falling away from the faith? And: is a “seared conscience” a conscience which no longer registers right and wrong, or is it a conscience which bears about in it the sign of condemnation, as did that of Cain of old?
Let us seek to answer these various questions in order.
As to the first question we should notice that the notion of “giving heed” has in it the idea of directing the mindtoward something. This is the requisite in all temptation and in giving heed to temptation as did the first woman in Paradise, later called Eve. The term in Greek for “giving heed” (pros-exontes) refers to themanner of the falling away. No longer listening to the Gospel of God in Christ, and not seeing the Mystery of godliness by faith, they give heed to “seducing spirits.” Here Paul lifts the veil on a terrible reality of the relationship of heretics to the leadership of the demon-world! The demon-world and its influence and communication with men is very real in these “latter days.” Not to see this is to shut one’s eyes to reality.
For, and that brings us to the second question, these “seducing spirits” are not simply men in flesh and blood, heretics who lead others astray, but refer to, the world of demons, and evil spirits! These demons come from the abyss; they are the devils, who are kept in “pits of darkness,” being kept in chains unto final judgment; evil spirits they are who left their own native principality. See II Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6. By God’s permissive will (see the account of the dialogue between God and Satan in Job 1) these demons sally forth seeking whom they may devour; they torment all who do not have the seal of God upon their forehead; who are not covered by the blood of Jesus. Rev. 9:1-11. These spirits have access to the hearts of such who “give heed to them!” Such are in the power and under the direct influence of this demon-world. And, mark you well, in these “latter days!”
In the third place, this also explains that this being under the influence of, this giving heed to these evil spirits, means giving heed to the “doctrine of devils.” This “doctrine” (didaskalia) of devils comes to stand directly opposite to the “faith” once delivered to the saints. Now concerning this doctrine of these demons it should be noticed:
1. That seemingly it only touches the very fringe, so to speak, of the Mystery of faith. It simply enumerates two points: a. That marriage is forbidden. b. That it is forbidden to eat meats. Seemingly simply some legalistic, Jewish scruples. However, upon closer examination we see that it is with this just as with the sickness called the cancer. It has deep and deadly roots which will corrupt the entire body. Thus it is with all denial of the truth in Jesus. Deny the resurrection of the dead and you have no motive for ethics, Christ died in vain and we are still in our sins. Then we will live by the adage: “Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” No, this is not an innocent lack of understanding the truth in Jesus. It is a denial of all truth, an attempt to overthrow the “pillar and ground of the truth” itself.
2. For notice the following: this forbidding to marry and insistence that meat be not touched is a teaching which has let go of Christ completely and altogether. It is a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, not holding fast the Head (Christ) from whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, increaseth with the increase of God. (SeeColossians 2:18, 19.) Note well: Paul is here speaking of apostasy born from hell itself against God and His Christ! Now whether you call this “the leaven of the Pharisees,” the teaching and practices of the not-mentioned sect in Scripture called the Essenes, or the later second century heresy of Gnosticism, Ebionitism, Marcion-docetism, Roman Catholic fasting on Friday as outgrowth of their Nature-Grace dualism, or the Anabaptism of the Reformation times, or any other dualistic conception of evil and good which finds its origin historically in the Zoroastrian or Persian system based on the assumption that there existed two original and independent powers of evil, of light and darkness, doesn’t make a particle of difference. They all depart from that word of God spoken in Genesis 1:31: “And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good,” and from that other word of God in Genesis 2:24: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” They all deny the Creation of God, that it was “good” from “the beginning.”
The two matters here enumerated by Paul as being the teaching of devils are always and again the symptomatic earmarks of those who are branded in their conscience. They seek evil where it is not; they seek to remove evil from the world apart from the Christ of God, who came not to condemn the cosmos, but who came to save it as the resurrection and the life. Thus He came into this Cosmos. Such, who deny that marriage is as holy as celibacy and that all meats are good, being creatures of God, have never understood or believed the profound confession of Martha: I believe that Thou art the Christ who shouldcome into this world (cosmos).
They deny the mystery of godliness that is great!
They have never understood this grand truth: God ismanifested in the flesh . . . taken up into glory!
They break their neck on this rock of offense, this stone laid in Zion.
Listen to their denial of the truth.
In the first place such deny the good creation! Why? Because in their thinking, in their “idea” of God there is no room for evil in the world. Refusing to confess the sin of man, their sin, as an evil in the heart, they pride themselves that man has two parts: the good part and the evil, that is, body and soul; the former is evil, the latter is good.
In the second place, they must deny God in relationship to evil in the world, His counsel over all things.
In the third place, since they hold that the body, matter, is inherently evil, they will not believe that God was manifested in the flesh. The flesh must be destroyed, shall evil be overcome.
Since marriage is in their mind void of anything higher than matter, flesh, void of the mystery of Christ and the church, it is taboo.
Since “meat” is also body, one must, to be holy, abstain from meats. Meat and drink, man and wife, marriage and children do not belong to the “world” which Christ came to save. He only came to save the “immortal soul.” And then this immortal soul is saved not from the guilt of sin and the spiritual pollution, but it means saved from its connection with the body and from the material world, the world of matter!
Thus the demon-world directs man’s mind away from the Cross, the Savior, the Advocate with the Father, from baptism and regeneration and a good conscience before God—from the Mystery of godliness! And since Christ cannot come into this “matter” He did not overcome the world, and we are still in our sins. Behold, then, this teaching of devils!