Rev. Lubbers is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith… 

I Timothy 4:1-5

Some Introductory Observations

First, we notice that the verses l- 5 delineate some particulars concerning this departing of some from the faith. We are told that such apostatizing is the particular earmark of the latter days. It is the first manifestation of the spirit of anti-Christian teaching. It is the first view of the proud boasting of many who shall come saying “I am Christ.” These shall deceive many (Matt. 24:4, 5). We must not be deceived! 

Secondly, the false teaching will be another form of what Jesus called “the leaven of the Pharisees” (Matt. 16:6-11). It will be a teaching which is inspired by Satan, the liar from the beginning. “…seducing spirits, doctrines of devils, ‘speaking lies in hypocrisy” (I Tim. 4:2). 

Thirdly, such who “depart from the faith” never were of the number of those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (I John 2:15-29I John 4:1-5II John 7). 

The Scriptures teach that Christ is a “stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed” (I Pet. 2:8).

“Some Shall Depart From the Faith” – verse 1

The text does not say “some of you will depart from the faith.” This “departing” of some does not merely refer to some “individuals,” but also to some in their generation. Yes, outwardly they were organically included in the visible church. However, they were not ingrafted into Christ by a true and living faith. These are the branches who never were fruit-bearing. These stumbled at the word of the Cross. These are the heretics which must needs appear, that they who are approved may come to manifestation. Did not Christ come to make division? (Matt. 10:31-39).

The Great departing from the faith” Clearly Set Forth – verses 16-30

1. We should notice the grammar. Paul writes one rather lengthy sentence here, the entire section made up of verses 1-5. It is really a sentence in which we see the spiritual-psychological downfall of a heretic. Paul says of such that their conscience is as it were cauterized, made unfeeling. No, their conscience is such that these really do not need to be warned more than twice. The reason? These hypocrites are to be rejected. We must know that such are subverted, and that they sin, being condemned of themselves (Titus 3:10, 11). 

Notice the steps in the doctrinal “departing from the true gospel.” 

a) This pictures a “giving heed” to seducing spirits. These spirits are not human spirits, but they are demonic spirits which entered into their thinking. These induce them to reject the “truth of the gospel, the true faith, the great mystery.” God is manifest in the flesh, the truth of the Logos- Incarnate (John 1:14). Those who depart are ever being seduced inwardly in their spirit. 

b) And thus with the tongues of the seduced they preach Satan’s doctrines. They preach a false gospel which has its source in the liar from the beginning. They do not preach the one, true gospel of forgiveness in the atoning blood of the Son of God. Their doctrine is that man is become God. The true “faith” is that God is “manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (I Tim. 3:16Phil. 2:5-11Heb. 1:1ff.). From this faith they who departed apostatized, never to return in repentance (Heb. 6:1-8Heb. 10:25-31). 

This is a New Testament phenomenon in history. It was approximately A.D. 200, when the church had spread abroad over three continents, that this horrendous lie not only came to manifestation in small dimension, but the gates of hell did their utmost to prevail against the confession of the entire catholic church to subvert the truth in manifold “doctrines.” This lie needed to be rejected in confessional form. The basic question was and ever will be: Who do you say that I the Son of Man am? (Matt. 16:15-19). Look in the back of your Psalter and read the Ecumenical Creeds, three in number: the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creeds. In this “departure of some” there was a total departure from the “faith.” Christ indeed came to make “division on the earth.” The sword of the Spirit must therefore be wielded (Matt. 10:34Eph. 6:14-17). 

c) Someone will say: What a fuss and ado over such a minute, harmless matter as “forbidding to marry” and “to abstain from meats.” But let us see! Not so, in the mind of the Spirit who speaks so very “ex expressly.” Here is not a muttering and peeping, but are turn to the “old paths” spoken of in Jeremiah 6:16, 17. For notice thatinITimothy4:1-5 the basic truth is at stake: What did God say in Genesis 1:1-31 and Genesis 2:15-25? Jesus’ approach in Matthew 19:4-6 is “have ye not read?” It is not a matter concerning the sanctity of marriage, as we read in Deuteronomy 14:1 ff., but concerning how things were when they were created by God “in the beginning.” The Holy Spirit writes in I Timothy 4:3 b, “…which (both marriage and meat) God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good . . . for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” These matters are mysteries of salvation. They are not mere trifles! 

Let us now analyze these clear assertions from the sacred record as it was uttered by the very mouth of God and recorded in the Theopneustic Scriptures (II Tim. 3:16, 17).

The holy ordinance of Genesis 2:23, 24 was believed by our first parents before their lamentable Fall. It was so holy a union that we read “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” Now no man is ashamed of his own flesh in private, but men can in good conscience be ashamed publicly. Our first parents were “both naked, the man and his wife, and they were not ashamed.” There is no shame in holiness. And again, only those who believe and know the truth can and may receive this holy bond of marriage with thanksgiving. Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” The sacred trust of marriage is a pearl of great price; it was purchased by the blood of the Bridegroom Jesus. It is the mystery of Christ and the church. This is not understood by a world characterized by adultery and sodomy. 

“Meat” also is ours as a good (fitting) gift. We do not allow Satan and all his cohorts, demons and men, to beguile us of our reward in a voluntary humility such as consists in insisting on keeping mere human ordinances, summed up briefly in the triad “touch not, taste not, handle not” (Col. 2:13-23). We will live by the rule which is the great truth expressed in Matthew 15:10, 11, and which Jesus further explicates in Matthew 15:16-20!

Some Suggested Questions for Further Discussions

1. How could a matter of “forbidding to marry” and “to abstain from meats” have such great meaning that it implied a total apostatizing from the faith? 

2. Did this “departing from the faith” have such serious implications that it called for the Spirit of Christ to reveal this New Testament development as taking place in “the latter times”? Was this a matter which called for Timothy to receive special instructions to study this matter, to be “a good minister of Christ Jesus”? Compare Paul’s instruction to the church of Ephesus recorded in Acts 20:28-32

3. Do we have in I Timothy 4:3, 4 a good example of biblically grounded refutation of the error of a work-religion attempting to replace the gospel of grace without works of the law? 

4. Does the “forbidding of the saints to marry” in one stroke affect the entire “pattern of sound doctrine” to which the church has been delivered (Rom. 4:15-18)? Notice how often Paul speaks of the “pattern of sound doctrine,” particularly in I Timothy 4:1, 6, 13, 16, 17I Timothy 5:17;I Timothy 6:1, 3. The implication in the Greek term is the “substance” of what is taught. 

5. The “creature” is made “good.” Does the good creature need sanctification? For a good example notice that God “blessed the seventh day and hallowed it” (Gen. 2:2, 3)! 

6. Can the theory of common grace be placed in the category of what is good and hallowed by believers? How would you interpret Matthew 5:45 in the light of I Timothy 4:3, 4

7. Both the teaching and ethics of Gnosticism (finding God by means of a certain special, mystical knowledge [gnosis]) and the teaching of Ebionism (a Jewish perversion of the fear of God) are in church history part and parcel of the teaching that all knowledge and wisdom of God is in Christ, in whom is the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:9). 

For those who are interested in these two 2nd century errors called Gnosticism and Ebionism we recommend The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (vol. 2, pp. 1240- 1248). The author of the piece is Dr. Rutherfurd. This gives helpful information on the entire scope of Gnostic teaching in its attempt to overthrow the Christian faith. The attempt of the “synagogue of Satan” to prevail against the truth that Jesus is the Son of the living God needs refutation. Read ISBE on the subject called “Ebionism” (vol. 2, pp. 890-894). See also the article on the “Gospel of the Ebionites” in “ISBE, (vol. 1, p. 196). It is given under the heading, “Heretical Gospels.” 

For good measure, ministers and professors could read the very instructive word study on the verb gnoosis in vol. 1, pp. 706ff. Anyone interested in the fatal fruit of departing from the faith will be able to trace the dogma-historical development of the “leaven of the Pharisees.”