The Uncovering of Apostasy

While the message will not be focused on Mother’s Day, I do want to do this. God has graciously brought each of us into this world through mothers. And God says, “Honor your father and mother.” Two quick things I want to emphasize regarding mothers. First, no one’s mother is perfect. Yours is not and mine was not. But even knowing this, we can express true thanksgiving to God for our mothers. And today whether we will be with our mothers or not, whether she is still here or if she has passed away, in all cases, we can bow before God and say, “Thank you Lord for your provision for me through my mother. Thank you Lord.” Secondly, we are commanded to honor our mothers. There is no exception to this. We are to speak well of them, respect them, show them honor as those God has put in our lives. There may be some of you who are estranged from your mother. I would encourage you to reach out to her, to love her, to honor her as unto the Lord. Take the opportunity to do that for the glory of God.

1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:1-5)

We continue today to look at this troubling paragraph regarding those who will depart from the faith in the later days. Or you could say, those who will depart from the faith in our day. We are, biblically speaking, in the last days. So this is about our generation too.

This will happen, those who have looked like Christians, who have said Christian-like things, who understand the gospel message, some of these will depart. They are those who have never truly been saved but who have given some appearance of Christianity in their lives. The question is why, having known the truth, why do they then choose to depart from the truth instead of fully embracing it by faith? Why do some, in other words, get right up close to true Christianity and then walk away to never return? How does this happen?

Well, we saw last week in verse 2, the last part of verse 2 that some will choose to devote themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons. Remember that? That sounds really bad and even distasteful, I mean who would devote themselves to a demon? But we have to understand this rightly. Satan and his spiritual, fallen angels are deceitful. It’s not like we look up and one day see an evil, grotesque, scary demon and think, “I think I will follow that one now.” No! Satan disguises himself as what? As a messenger of light, of righteousness, as a righteous one. He deals in trickery. He presents something that sounds good, looks good, feels good, promises good, maybe even seems right, and yet it is all a big lie and meant to deceive. That is how sin is and that is who Satan and his followers are. And this is how humans are, men and women who follow such lies.

2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:2-5)

We begin to see some of what is taking place. We begin to see not just Satan and demons but the people whom they use. We begin to see what the Bible calls “wolves in sheep clothing.” So there is a shift here to human involvement, the human minions and their moral condition. This is a collusion. This is a partnership of deceit. Those who are leading people away from the faith are called liars and also that their consciences are seared. They are insincere liars. Do you think that you can spot an insincere liar if you run into one? I mean, I think this is where many get into trouble, that is we think we can spot a liar and that we are somehow above being duped by them. Maybe it is arrogant, like, “No one can fool me, no one can pull the wool over my eyes, I’m a good judge of people, I know when someone is trying to fool me!” Really?

We have to be careful, we have to know that we can all be vulnerable. And these liars are so accomplished at their lying, so committed to their lies that their lying does not even bother them in the least. It is not like someone who is lying and feels guilty about it and that guilt shows. No, these no longer even have a conscience. They don’t even have a conscience that bothers them about it. Words just roll off their tongues with such ease as if it is really true. The word for seared means to cauterize. To cauterize is to burn. The conscience is what affirms or condemns.

14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them. (Romans 2:14-15)

The conscience gives us a certain amount of sensitivity about right and wrong. Paul refers to his own conscience in Romans 9:1 – “I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit.” And you might recall back in 1 Timothy 1:18-19 that Paul has already referred to the consciences of the false teachers when he said, “This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith.” The false teachers had rejected their own consciences.

Here is the point. These lying religious teachers are really good at what they do and they do it, speak lies, with great ease and with no guilty feelings. They are convincing. It doesn’t matter how nice someone may appear to be, how much they are able to relate to you or make you feel comfortable or how many other people are following them, all of these things do not mean that truth is being spoken.

Now, Paul is going to give us some detail about what untruths were being spoken in Ephesus. And it is really interesting the two things he mentions. He mentions marriage and eating, two common things in life. These false teachers were not encouraging a giving up of worship, or committing murder, or denying the Old Testament Law. But they were being more subtle than that. They told their lies in subtle ways that many might find it easy to believe. Isn’t this a scheme of Satan? Start with something minor, something easy to believe, nothing that will cause too much disruption in one’s mind. The spiral into sin starts with what is palatable and then moves, progresses to what is unthinkable.

He starts with marriage, really an attack on marriage. Remember, God has declared marriage as good. God created marriage. In Genesis 2:18 we see that it was not good for man to be alone and so God created a perfect helper for him. God Himself instituted marriage of man and woman.

This does not mean that everyone will get married. In 1 Corinthians 7 we see that singleness should be held in high esteem as well.

26 I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. (1 Corinthians 7:26-28)

God does not condemn singleness. But God does not command it nor does He command marriage. But the false teachers were forbidding marriage.

Here is the great deception. First that God did not say what they were teaching. So, no matter how minor or major we think something may be, if God did not say it and it is being preached or taught that God says it is so, then it is heresy and offensive to God. Secondly they were probably teaching that abstaining from marriage was a way to achieve greater holiness, favor with God, or even salvation. Teaching a way to God or God’s favor that God did not approve of. There are people all around, even today, who urge certain behaviors as a means of holiness for which God does not approve.

The other thing Paul mentions is food – “require abstinence from foods.” This may have come from the Old Testament Law. However, Jesus abolished the distinctions in clean and unclean foods in Mark 7…

14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) (Mark 7:14-19)

Paul’s answer to the demand for abstaining from foods was simply to eat after giving thanks to God through prayer. Be thankful for what God has given and then eat. Here is the basis for Paul’s words. First, what God has created is good. Romans 14:14 says this: “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.” Secondly, we must eat with thanksgiving, this is acknowledging where our food comes from who has given it to us. This is gratitude to God.

And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. (Mark 6:41)

So, what God has created is good and we should eat with thanksgiving. This of course does not mean we can eat and eat and eat as gluttons. God forbids that. We can’t thank God on the one hand for the food and then sinfully consume it in a way that He forbids. This would be duplicitous. We give thanks and then we eat in a way that glorifies God, not as gluttons and not in a way that may offend others. This too is a principle regarding eating. Paul covers this in 1 Corinthians 8.

8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. (1 Corinthians 8:8-13)

So it is not “anything goes” with food, but it is “go with God’s plan” regarding food. Acknowledge that all that God has made is good, be thankful, and be aware of other principles that apply, don’t be a glutton and don’t offend others by what you eat.

Paul goes further to say: “for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.”

There have been, ever since this first-century writing through the present time, many who will give recipes for holiness that run counter to what God has clearly said in His Word. If we are not grounded in the Word we are likely to fall for just about anything. Now is the time to examine all things. What do we do, how do we live, what do we believe, why do we believe it? Are we just buying into what the majority believes? Are we just buying into the American culture? Do we just go along with what our closest friends may say? Can we even defend what we say we believe, and how do we defend those things? Are we in tune with God’s Word, are we testing all things with it? If not then we are in a dangerous place.

Are we willing to simply take what God has given us in His Word or are we forever looking outside of His Word for wisdom and truth? Is God’s Word sufficient or is it not? These are questions we must answer.

How many voices are speaking into your life each day? I suppose that a hundred years ago, you could have gone through your day with only hearing a handful of voices. What about now? We read articles, listen to radio, hear commercials, read on social media, and on and on. There are so many voices out there speaking into our lives every day. Are they speaking truth? Are we testing what we hear against the Word of God?

With so much error out there, so much that can confuse and cloud our thinking, it is so comforting to simply hear and read the words of Christ, whom we can read with confidence, knowing there is no mixture of error. For example, while the false teachers are harping on marriage and eating, and distorting both, Christ gets to the main things, like He did in John 4 when speaking to the woman at the well.

13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4:13-14)

He is saying, “Come to me, hear me, receive from me, be satisfied in me.” That is the message in the Word. Hear when God speaks in His Word, take it in, believe it, live it, don’t be fooled by any other. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:20-26)

Why do we listen to what is false when we have what is true? Christ is who we have, Christ is all we need, and He has spoken to us in His Word. We have the words of truth.

In the verses following these Paul goes on to instruct us on how we can be assured of what we believe, how we can walk confidently in Christ as we navigate this life. I’m looking forward to what He has for us!

1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:1-5)