Paul moves on in chapter 4 from discussing worship in various ways to coaching Timothy concerning his ministry of service in Ephesus. This is a very interesting passage, because it is personal in a sense, and yet stands to this day as some of the best instruction for young ministers, as though they had a chance to sit at the Apostle’s feet and hear him directly.
Verse 1 is simply fascinating to me; Paul is passing on information that he claims came directly from God (“the Spirit clearly says…”). What did the Spirit tell Paul? That in”later times” some will leave the faith and follow teachings of “deceiving spirits” and “demons”. Now before you jump to the conclusion that Paul is talking about our century here, I want to ask you a question: If he were referring to something that would happen thousands of years later, why would he need to warn Timothy about it at that time? Remember that Timothy is on a mission to deal with false teachers…
Paul is not referring to some far off time, but to the present day, the time he and Timothy were living in. Those were “later” times; they were living in the last age then, as we are now. I think sometimes we become confused on this point because we seem to assume that the last age, or the “End Times” must be short; some even teach that these times will only last seven years, but that is not true. So far, this last age has lasted nearly 2,000 years, and we do not know how much longer it will continue. Maybe it will go on another 2,000 years, maybe another week.
Such demonic teachings will come through false teachers with their seared consciences who in their hypocrisy lie about the truth, telling people not to marry or not to eat certain foods. I might add that the list of false teachings has grown over the centuries. Paul deals with the food issue here in these verses, but the principle remains for other areas of falsehood. There are no forbidden foods, for God created everything to be enjoyed by those who know the truth and who receive them with thanksgiving. God did not crate anything evil or debased.
In the first century church, one of the biggest problems they had to deal with were false teachers who taught that a Gentile first had to become Jewish and follow Jewish Law before they could be saved through Christ. The assumption was that since only the Jews were God’s chosen; only Jews could receive salvation. People with this view had missed a very critical fact, and many Christians today still miss that critical fact: The creation of the New Covenant changed everything. God’s people are now those Jews and Gentiles who follow Jesus Christ, for the old ways of the Law are no more. This is true of circumcision; this is true of the dietary laws as well. All foods, all creation are consecrated by the Word of God and prayer.