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In encouraging Timothy to steadfast faithfulness in 1 Timothy 4, the Apostle Paul gives an example of what false teachers were teaching. They “forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (v. 3). To us this might seem odd—forbidding marriage? Abstaining from good food? How would this attract a following?

False teachers, whatever legalisms or lawlessness they encourage, are deceivers—often quite accomplished ones. They promise a good way, a better way. They celebrate their divergent teaching, claiming that it is true, that it provides a deeper experience, more freedom, higher godliness, and more pleasure. But in each case they are actually taking away what is holy, happy, and blessed, distorting good into evil. They do so as part of a constellation of cosmic evil in rebellion against God; behind the men and women who are false teachers stand Satan and the demons, deceiving and destroying (v. 1). In Timothy’s context, the false teachers were distorting God’s good law and making up their own. John Calvin insightfully notes:

The world easily permits itself to be hindered from doing that which God has declared to be lawful, in order that they may have it in their power to transgress with impunity the laws of God[;] . . . hypocritical teachers . . . by setting up false worship, and by ensnaring consciences with new laws, adulterate the true worship of God, and corrupt the pure doctrine of faith.

The way that the Apostle calls Timothy to see the positive opposite reality to these false teachings is instructive for us. Paul wants us to see the Lord’s generous goodness: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (vv. 4–5). Here is specific instruction on how we should receive God’s good gifts: with thanksgiving, with Scripture reading, and with prayer. When God gives us good things and we claim that enjoying these good things is somehow sinful, we reject God Himself as the giver of these good gifts.

These verses also reaffirm to us that it is good and right to read Scripture and pray at our meals, giving thanks to God and asking for His blessing on us as we enjoy His good gifts. But the scope of this verse is much wider than mealtimes. How good it is when our eyes are opened to God’s generous goodness as we enjoy His gifts and as thanksgiving, prayer, and engaging the Word become our response. Every good gift is a manifestation of the Lord’s goodness. One of the most powerful antidotes to the lies of false teaching is the beauty and goodness, the joy and satisfaction of what is true. In great love and mercy God reminds us of this as He calls us to live in the blessedness of greater communion with Him.

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From the April 2022 Issue
Apr 2022 Issue