《Coffman Commentaries on the Bible – 1 Timothy》(James B. Coffman) Commentator


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How men ought to behave ... This may well be translated "how thou oughtest to behave ..."; but as White said, "It is a matter of indifference"[36] which rendition is followed, the meaning being the same either way.

As Hervey pointed out, "Here again is a somewhat remarkable resemblance in the phraseology of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 12:22,23)."[37] It has long been the conviction of this student that the resemblances between the Pauline literature and the book of Hebrews is impossible to explain, except on the thesis that Paul also wrote Hebrews.

The house of God ... "House is correct here, not household; believers are God's house because God dwells in them."[38]

The church of the living God ... Inherent in this is a comparison with paganism, or rather a contrast, thus: "Church of the living God, not the temple of the dead idols!" "Pillar and ground of the truth ..." Paul had seen the marvelous colonnade of pillars which was the principal feature of the great temple of Diana at Ephesus; and something of the meaning of such pillars is inherent in this. A pillar supports and upholds, exactly what the church does for the truth of God. The word "ground" in this connection has the same meaning.

[36] Newport J. D. White, op. cit., p. 117.

[37] A. C. Hervey, op. cit., p. 54.

[38] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 136.

Verse 16

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness;

He who was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen of angels, Preached among the nations, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.SIZE>

The widely held opinion that this is from some earlier hymn in current use among the earliest Christians is totally without foundation. The supposition is based upon the rather indefinite word which is here rendered "he," but which is also sometimes rendered "which" or "who." Any way it is translated the meaning is exactly the same, namely, that of the KJV which rendered the passage "God was manifested in the flesh," which is exactly what the passage SAYS. "He who" refers to "God" mentioned twice in the preceding verse, and "which" or "who" would also have the same reference to "God." And, of course, it is fully consonant with everything else in the New Testament. God was manifested in the flesh in the person of Christ. In support of the hymn theory, it is frequently pointed out that there are rhythm and balance, etc.; but many of Paul's statements have the same qualities, notably in the salutation of Romans 1:1-7, which see in my Commentary on Romans. This writer accepted the hymn theory regarding this passage in "The Mystery of Redemption," written several years ago, but more mature studies have raised serious misgivings about the various "hymns" said to have been quoted by Paul. Anyway, even if it is a hymn, the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of the proposition that Paul himself was the author of it.

Great is the mystery of godliness ... The New Testament refers to these mysteries:

The mystery of Christ and his church (Ephesians 5:32).

The mystery of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:7).

The mystery of the seven stars and the seven candlesticks (Revelation 1:20).

The mystery of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:51).

The mystery of the hardening of Israel (Romans 11:25).

The mystery of the harlot church (Revelation 17:7).

The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:11).SIZE>

The mystery in view in this clause, however, is the "great" mystery, much more comprehensive than those mentioned above, and in a sense containing all of them. Frequent references to it in the New Testament designate it as:

The mystery (Romans 16:25).

The mystery of his will (Ephesians 1:9).

The mystery of Christ (Ephesians 3:4).

The mystery of the gospel (Ephesians 6:19).

The mystery of God (Colossians 2:2).

The mystery of the faith (1 Timothy 3:9).

The mystery of godliness (1 Timothy 3:16).SIZE>

There is nothing simplistic about this mystery. It has many facets and complexities; and for an extended treatise on the theology of mystery unfolded in the New Testament, reference is again made to The Mystery of Redemption.[39]

Christ himself is the mystery as revealed by this verse, but the close relation of Christ to all phases of the mystery is at once evident.

God was manifested in the flesh ... This is a statement of the Incarnation, however translated, referring to the visitation of the Dayspring from on high. Only of Almighty God, or of the second Person in the godhead, might it be properly said that he "was manifested in the flesh."

Justified in the Spirit ... Christ was justified in the Spirit, because God's Spirit, "without measure," dwelt in him, testified to his deity upon the occasion of his baptism, and was sent by Christ upon the day of Pentecost. In the most superlative degree, all the fruits of the Holy Spirit were exhibited in the life of Christ. He was justified in the Spirit.

Seen of angels ... The implication here is that angels were extremely solicitous for our Lord's welfare, ever ready to do his will, and importantly identified with his earthly ministry. Angels announced his birth, warned Joseph to flee into Egypt, ministered to him in the wilderness, strengthened him in Gethsemane, rolled away the stone from his grave, announced his resurrection, escorted him to glory and prophesied his return in the Second Advent. Twelve legions of angels stood ready to rescue him during the Passion, and ten thousand of his holy angels will accompany him in the Second Coming. Yes, he was seen of angels.

Preached among the nations ... The alternate reading of this is "Preached among the Gentiles," which in context is far better (see the American Standard Version margin). Paul mentioned again and again the fact that the inclusion of Gentiles was an essential part of the mystery (Romans 16:26; Ephesians 3:6), and thus it would be better to understand this as "preached among the Gentiles." In this also is the fact of the preaching itself, not merely those receiving the preaching, being a vital element of the mystery. "It pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (1 Corinthians 1:21). The great need of this age is preaching the word of God. Evil forces have battered down the outer doors and are assaulting the inner citadel of faith itself. No such crisis in a millennium has confronted the church; the hour of her mortal decision is upon her. She must forsake the evil philosophies of men and return to the faithful proclamation of what the word of God declares, if she is either to be saved herself or have the power to save others. Let the church ring out the message "preached among the nations."

Believed on in the world ... This is a continuing mystery. Contrary to every evil, in spite of what appears to be every good reason against it, the word of God still falls in honest and good hearts; and God continues to reap his precious harvest of souls from the earth. In spite of a roaring tornado of wickedness on every side, God's faithful continue to love him rather than darkness. Countless thousands, or millions, no one knows how many, Continue to live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God; and every passing decade sees more buildings erected in the name of Christ and dedicated to his service than were ever built and dedicated to any earthly ruler in all history. Yes, our Lord is believed on in the world!

Received up in glory ... This has been construed as "received up into glory," and so it may be understood; but as the text stands, it appears rather as a reference to the glorious nature of his ascension. Three great [Greek: parabola] passages of the New Testament deal with this, namely, Philippians 2:5-9; Eph. 4:8,9,2 Corinthians 8:9. The doctrine of the ascension of Christ is in view here, as well as in the other passages cited. The Scriptural accounts of the ascension, or of the "going up" of Christ, seem to have been preliminary to the actual ascension into the spiritual realm above, leading to the unfortunate view that such accounts are contradictory, which, of course, they are not. Christ apparently "went up" from his disciples more than once; and it may be doubted if the actual ascension itself was witnessed by mortal eyes. Like the resurrection, it was announced by angels; and their testimony verified the fact; but the actual ascent was probably too glorious for mortal eyes to have endured the sight of it. The ascension is very properly included among the elements of the great mystery, for there are certainly corollaries of it that shall never be known by men until the saints are caught up to meet the Lord in the air.


[39] James Burton Coffman, The Mystery of Redemption
04 Chapter 4
Verse 1

"This whole chapter (1 Timothy 4:1-16) constitutes a main division of 1Timothy; it deals with coming heresies and tells how Timothy is to be fortified and is to fortify the churches against them."[1] Lenski also denied the proposition that Paul was here merely writing instructions to the minister of a single congregation. "He is addressing his apostolic representative for the whole territory of which Ephesus is the center."[2] The first five verses (1 Timothy 4:1-5) deal with particular features of the great apostasy which all of the sacred writers revealed would develop during the historical progression of Christianity. Before beginning the study of this chapter, a glance at some of their prophecies is in order.


Christ foretold that "wolves in sheep's clothing" would ravage the flock of God (Matthew 7:15ff), indicating that the church itself would be the theater of the apostasy.

Paul, right here in Ephesus, had warned that the "grievous wolves" would come from the eldership itself, "from among your own selves" (Acts 20:28-30).

The Corinthians were alerted to the fact that Satan would seduce them, and that their minds should "be corrupted from the simplicity and purity that is toward Christ"; and the contrast of the bride of Christ with that of Adam points to the church (2 Corinthians 11:3).

The apostasy shall occur, or be centered, in the very temple of God, in context a reference to the church, the spiritual body of Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). See under those verses above.

The falling (apostasy) "away from the faith" in this passage (1 Timothy 4:1-5) carries the presumption that the apostates were once in the true faith.

Another phase of the apostasy, namely, its amorality and lawlessness, is stressed in 2 Timothy 3:1-8; and the indifference of Christians to sound teaching and their desire for "teachers after their own lusts" are pinpointed in 2 Timothy 4:1-7.

Methods and character of the apostate teachers appear in 2 Peter 2:1-3, where is found remarkably supplementary material for what Paul mentioned in this chapter of Timothy, that the false teachers, greedy for money, teach what they know to be a falsehood.

Of course, chapters 17,18 of the Revelation set forth still other characteristics of the apostasy prophesied by the Lord and his apostles; and, in perfect consonance with everything else that was written about it, the heretical and persecuting power is a harlot church.

From the above, it is concluded, to begin with, that the fulfillment of Paul's words in 1 Timothy 4 must be looked for within the church itself, and not in some obscure ancient sect.

[1] R. H. H. Lenski, St. Paul's Epistles. 1Timothy (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1937), p. 626.

[2] Ibid., p. 627.

But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times, some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, (1 Timothy 4:1)

The Spirit saith expressly ... "This means that there was neither doubt nor vagueness about it."[3] The connection of this section with the preceding chapter is seen in the contrast with the triumphant Christ depicted in the final six poetical lines of chapter 3. "Over against the future triumph of the church, assured by the finished work of Christ, we must set the opposition."[4]

That in later times ... This is not limited to any immediate period after Paul's letter. "From the time at which he was writing and forward in all periods of the church, men have apostatized from the faith."[5]

Some shall fall away from the faith ... Paul did not use the same word here for "fall away" which he used in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-11; but as Carl Spain said:

The APOSTASY of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is the same as the DEPARTURE here in 1Tim. 4:1. Both words are from [@afistemi], meaning to abandon, to rebel, to desert. It is translated FORSAKE (Acts 21:21), and "fall away from" (Hebrews 3:12).[6]SIZE>

The obvious connection with other New Testament references to the apostasy requires the deduction mentioned by Ward, "The `later times' foreshadow the gathering eschatological storm."[7] The Second Coming is also connected with the final and complete manifestation of this apostasy in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. Lenski made it "the whole time between the two Advents."[8]

From the faith ... simply means "the Christian faith," giving further emphasis to the Christian roots of the apostasy in view.

Giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons ... It is not taught here that evil spirits actually teach, but that they "through men" (mentioned a moment later) deceived multitudes and are, in fact, themselves instigators of the false teaching. In the Old Testament, the evil spirit who stood before the Lord said, "I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets" (1 Kings 22:22); and the same evil power would be able also to corrupt Christian elders, change them into hardened hypocrites, speaking the most glaring falsehood, with no reproach whatever from their dead consciences. Of course, not elders alone, but ministers, church prelates, and the whole echelon of religious hierarchies are included in this.

Most scholars accept "doctrines of demons" in this passage subjectively, that is, doctrines taught by demons (through men); but there is a very possible interpretation which construes this as meaning "doctrines regarding demons"; and, as every Roman emperor upon his death became a demon to be prayed to, the historical church herself finally began offering prayers "to" its dead saints, which most certainly fulfills the definition of "doctrines of demons" understood objectively.

[3] William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, 1,2Timothy and Titus (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1957), p. 145.

[4] Newport J. D. White, Expositors Greek Testament, Vol. IV (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), p. 120.

[5] David Lipscomb, Commentary on 1Timothy (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1942), p. 154.

[6] Carl Spain, The Letters of Paul to Timothy and Titus (Austin, Texas: R. B. Sweet Company, 1970), p. 73.

[7] Ronald Ward, Commentary on 1,2Timothy and Titus (Waco: Word Books, 1974), p. 67.

[8] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 618.

Verse 2
through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron;

Reference is again made to the passages outlined at the head of this chapter. The very worst mistake that any sincere student of the word of God can make is to assume that teachers of false doctrine are either telling the truth, or that they are unaware of the false doctrines they are teaching. The Scriptures leave no doubt at all on this.

Branded in their conscience as with a hot iron ... This is a description of the "hardened," "blinded," deadened soul in whom the truth principle has utterly perished. It begins by rejecting what is known to be true, but in its progression it leaves the "deluded" totally without moral or spiritual guidelines. The Scriptures contain a great deal of material on the judicial hardening of willful sinners; and those interested in further pursuit of the subject will find a discussion of it in my Commentary on Romans, pp. 392-395.

Verse 3
forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by them that believe and know the truth.

Forbidding to marry ... This heads the list of characteristics of the great apostasy that shall seduce and mislead the church of God; and one may only be astounded at the fanciful interpretations of this that one finds in commentaries. Note some of these:

False teachers were to arise in Timothy's day, and shortly thereafter who would teach that God did not create matter because matter is evil ... The command to abstain from meats and marriage is based upon the supposed evil of matter.[9]

(This is an indication) of the impious doctrine of some of the great Gnostic schools ... probably in those early days creeping into the churches. The Jewish sects of the Essenes and the Therapeutae had already taught abstinence from marriage was meritorious.[10]SIZE>

A hundred other instances could be cited in which there seems to be a total blindness to the one overwhelming, universal fulfillment of this very prophecy, namely, that found in the apostate church herself, which there is no need to name, because every child on five continents already knows it.

To mention the Therapeutae (as in Spence, above), offers little that is tangile ... We may safely say that no sect that bore this name ever existed.[11]SIZE>

It is only among the more recent commentators that the phenomenal blindness to the historical fulfillment of the apostasy is observed; and therefore we are doubly thankful for comments like the following:

The whole monastic system that developed, together with all the lying teachings from which it arose, appeared soon enough. It still flourishes in Rome and in all the rest of the false ascetism.[12]SIZE>

T. Croskery gave the following historical progression of the development of the heresy of forbidding Christians to marry:

This notion may already have influenced opinion in the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 7); it developed in less than a century into Gnostic contempt for marriage; it entered patristic theology in the form of an exaggerated veneration for virginity; it developed in the Latin and Greek churches into the celibacy of the clergy and of religious orders; it was a tendency wholly opposed to Scripture teaching which allows "marriage is honorable in all" (Hebrews 13:2); it forbade marriage to church rulers and ministers, despite the fact of Old Testament priests and New Testament elders having been required to be "husbands of one wife." Apostles were permitted to take their wives with them on mission tours (1 Corinthians 9:5).[13]SIZE>

Wesley explained the meaning here thus:

Forbidding priests, monks and nuns to marry, and commanding all men to abstain from such and such meats on such and such days.[14]SIZE>

There is also the universal prohibition against marriage during Lent, a ban that denies marriage during a specified period to hundreds of millions throughout the earth. Yes, Paul's prophesy was fulfilled in the most comprehensive and extensive dimensions imaginable.

Commanding to abstain from meats ... This is partially treated under the preceding verse. Paul's condemnation of such doctrine has in view the fact that Jesus Christ made "all meats clean" (Mark 7:19; Acts 10:13-16).

Them that believe and know the truth ... Once again the order of trust, then knowledge, appears in the New Testament, as in "We have believed and know that thou art the Holy One of God" (John 6:69). The knowledge that amounts to an absolute certainty is experiential in that it follows, but does not precede, belief.

[9] Ronald A. Ward, op. cit., p. 78.

[10] H. D. M. Spence, Ellicott's Bible Commentary, Vol. VIII (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970), p. 196.

[11] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 622.

[12] Ibid., p. 623.

[13] T. Croskery, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 21,1Tim. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 75.

[14] John Wesley, One Volume New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1972), in loco.

Verse 4

For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it be received with thanksgiving:

Every creature of God is good ... This is attested by the fact that even those creatures held to be unsuitable for food in some countries are yet considered delicacies in others, as any international market demonstrates.

If it be received with thanksgiving ... Thanksgiving at meals is a basic Christian duty, and the same is in view here.

Verse 5
for it is sanctified through the word of God and prayer.

Sanctified ... or "consecrated ..." Ward pointed out the value of this verse in another connection:

Paul says the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife (1 Corinthians 7:14). It cannot mean that the husband is saved because he has a Christian wife. But what does it mean? ... He is not to be regarded as unclean, and therefore divorced; he can continue to be the husband of a Christian.[15]SIZE>

Spence noted that quotations, or allusions, founded upon the Bible often made up a portion of thanksgiving at meals in the Christian community, citing a very old form of the practice from the Apostolic Constitutions, thus:

Blessed be Thou, O Lord, who nourishes men from their youth up, and who givest meat to all flesh; fill our hearts with joy and gladness, so that we, always enjoying a sufficiency, may abound unto every good work in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be ascribed the glory, honour and power unto the ages. Amen.[16]SIZE>

In this connection, Gould also pointed out the "table thanks" common among Wesley and his preachers thus:

Be present at this table Lord;

Be here and everywhere adored;

These creatures bless, and grant that we

May Feast in Paradise with Thee."[17]SIZE>

[15] Ronald A. Ward, op. cit., p. 70.

[16] H. D. M. Spence, op. cit., p. 197.

[17] J. Glenn Gould, Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. IX (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1965), p. 594.

Verse 6

If thou put the brethren in mind of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished in the words of the faith, and of the good doctrine which thou hast followed until now:

This is one of the passages which the source critics have bitterly complained about, Faith in the Pauline epistles is a subjective experience, but in the Pastorals it is more objective in character."[18] Of course, this is their excuse for denying Paul wrote the Pastorals. However, as pointed out extensively in this series, it is simply a conceit on the part of scholars that "faith" is usually subjective in Paul's other writings. "Faith" in this place is undeniably objective, being related not so much to "trusting" as it is to piety and good works; and Paul's letters do not contradict each other. See extensive exegesis on this in my Commentary on Galatians, pp. 69,70.

In his book on Romans, Sanday tells us that we must distinguish between at least seven different senses given the word "faith" in that one epistle, and he says that Paul has all of these meanings before him.[19]SIZE>

The most widespread theological error of this age is that of misunderstanding the use of "faith" by Paul in his letters, and the unlawful, ridiculous interpretation of it as meaning, invariably, "trust/faith." That it does occasionally have that meaning is certain; but as Dr. Howard of the University of Georgia declared, "The usual meaning of the word in the New Testament is fidelity."[20]

Paul's emphasis in this place on sound doctrine is also offensive to some who boast that they do not "preach doctrine"; and such a boast separates one emphatically from the New Testament tradition. "A good minister," in the Pauline definition, is one who is both nourished by and a teacher of the sound Scriptural doctrine upon which the New Testament church is founded.

[18] D. A. Hayes, Paul and His Epistles (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1969), p. 453.

[19] Ibid, p. 458.

[20] George Howard, article: "The Faith of Christ," in Expository Times, Vol. 7 (April, 1974), pp. 212-214.

Verse 7

: New%20Testament -> 54%201Tim -> 54-1Timothy-E
New%20Testament -> 《The Great Biblical Commentary – 1 Corinthians》(Cornelius a Lapide) Commentator
New%20Testament -> Main Point: We cannot take things with us to heaven, so we should put our energy and efforts into storing up eternal treasures in heaven
New%20Testament -> 《The Pulpit Commentaries – Revelation (Vol. 2)》(Joseph S. Exell) 07 Chapter 7 Verses 1-17 exposition
New%20Testament -> 《The Biblical Illustrator – Mark (Ch. 6~8)》
New%20Testament -> 《The Biblical Illustrator – Acts (Ch. 12~14)》
New%20Testament -> 《The Biblical Illustrator – Acts (Ch. 15~17)》
New%20Testament -> 《Trapp ’s Complete Commentary – Matthew (Vol. 1)》(John Trapp) Commentator
New%20Testament -> 《Morgan’s Exposition on the Whole Bible – Mark》(Campbell Morgan) Commentator
54-1Timothy-E -> 《Pett’s Commentary on the Bible – 1 Timothy》(Peter Pett) Commentator

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