Friday, March 18, 2011

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday March 20, 2011

(Train yourself to be spiritually fit)
(1 Timothy 4:6-16)

After Paul had given instructions to young Timothy regarding worship in chapter 2, and concerning leadership in chapter three, he then moved on to the subjects of false teaching, and, of being spiritually fit to serve GOD. One of the things that the Christian Church had inherited from the Jews was the conceptual belief that “things would get a lot worse, before they got better”. They basically viewed time in two parts, or, two ages. First, there was the “present age”, which was considered to be, altogether, bad, or evil, because it was permeated by the influence of satan. And then, there was the “age to come”, which is to be perfect, because it will be the “age of CHRIST JESUS’ rule”.
In between those two ages would come the much-anticipated, “Day of the LORD”, whereby, the entire earth will be rocked from its foundation, and the ensuing great battle with evil called, “Armageddon”, would take place. This is to be followed by a final “White Throne” judgment, after which, there will be a new day, having a new Heaven, and a new earth. Being Jews (except for Luke) all the New Testament writers clung to that belief, because they themselves were raised in the spirit of that doctrine.
That being said, here in 1 Timothy 4, verses 1-5 we see that this is the very context in which Paul is speaking to his young protégé, Timothy. It is a time, scripture tells us, when false prophets and false teachers will arise and lead many people astray. And in the church at Ephesus where Timothy presided, many false teachers had already come. And even though these teachings came from demons, they still came, through men, men whose consciences had been branded by satan, and who only pretended to be religious (Vs. 1-2).
In verse 3, Paul’s statement about those who forbade marriage, and condemned certain foods, smacks of the heretic religious group known as “Gnostics”, a term that is derived from the Greek word “gnosis”, which means “knowledge”, who were one of the first anti-CHRIST groups to infiltrate the Christian Church in its infancy. The very essence of “Gnosticism” was that they believe that “spirit” is altogether good, and “matter” and “flesh” is altogether bad, or evil.
These heretics believe that people should, as much as possible, abstain from food, because food is material, and therefore, evil. They also believe that people should abstain from marriage, because marriage allows us to play out the sexual instincts of our bodies, which is also evil. In fact, they believe that sexual urges should be suppressed entirely.
Heresy in the Christian Church is as old as the Church itself. In every generation, people have arose, who have tried to be stricter than GOD. However, when we do anything in ways other than the way GOD has already shown us, it is an enormous insult to GOD. GOD created all things, and HIS scriptures clearly tell us, that, all things created by GOD are good (Vs. 4-5).
In 1 Timothy 4, verses 6-15, Paul moves on to the subject of being a good and fit servant of CHRIST JESUS. He begins by telling Timothy that it is his duty as a servant of CHRIST to explain about these heresies and false doctrine to the people of the church. However, he warns Timothy not to get involved, or waste time, arguing over GOD-less ideas and foolishness, and, to instead, spend his time and energy on training himself to be spiritually fit (Vs. 6-7).
In those days, especially in Greece, the younger men were particularly interested in physical fitness, even to the point of making it a religion, worshiping their own bodies. In fact, the gyms where they worked out had become somewhat of a hotbed for homosexual activity. In verses 8-13, Paul is urging young Timothy to separate himself from this kind of foolishness, focusing more on spiritual exercise, rather than so much on the physical. And although physical fitness and exercise is essential to maintaining a healthy life, spiritual exercise is more important because it will benefit us, both in this life, and, in the life to come.
Paul goes on to remind Timothy how hard the Christian has to work, and how much we have to suffer through, in order that others might know and believe the truth. Our only hope is in the LIVING GOD WHO is the SAVIOR of all people in general, and all Christians, in particular. Paul urges Timothy not to cause people to think less of him because he is young, by exhibiting anything less than right behavior at all times. And he was to do this by persisting in, and, insisting in everyone learning and obeying the word of GOD, and then, leading by example.
Paul ends this chapter by also urging Timothy not to neglect his spiritual gift, and to work hard at it so that everyone will be able to see his progress. He advises him to keep his own heart with all diligence, and to be careful in his teaching by staying true to what is right, and that way, GOD will save him, and anyone who hears him.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

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