The church and the mystery of the faith, 3:14-4:5
ii] False asceticismArgument
Paul now gives us an insight into the apostasy of those members of the church who were taken in by the false teachers. He particularly underlines the asceticism promoted by the false teachers, making the point that his readers were forewarned of this apostasy; they were warned of the emergence of false teachings originating from Satan.
i] Context: See 4:1-5.
ii] Background: See 1:1-11. Numerous theories have been advanced as to the heresy infecting Timothy's congregation. Many commentators think that it is some form of gnosticism (possibly Jewish gnosticism) - the illumination and thus redemption of a person through the acquisition of secret knowledge. The practical consequence of gnosticism is a form of dualism, the separation of spirit and flesh producing asceticism and/or indulgence.
It does though seem more likely that the heresy is nothing more than nomism, namely, an attention to law-obedience to restrain sin and advance holiness for the full appropriation of God's promised blessings. Paul wants Timothy to stand against the notion that "a program of Law observance, such as that forwarded by the would-be teachers (1:7), is efficacious and appropriate", Johnson. See the introductory notes: "The heresy of nomism"
iii] Structure: False asceticism
Exposing those who do not hold the mystery of faith,
As prophesied, some believers have fallen from faith, v1a:
Cause / reason for their fall:
followed deceiving spirits, v1b:
adopted the teachings of hypocrites, v2.
A description of those fallen from faith, v3a:
The reason why asceticism is a false piety, v3b-5:
God's hedonistic intentions in creation;
The human response - thankfully received rather than rejected.
This short passage is made up of a single complex sentence in the Gk.
Paul has made clear to Timothy that, in his administration of the church, he will necessarily have to deal with troublemakers and heretics. Those causing trouble for Timothy in Ephesus are not only perverted in their theology, but also perverted in their conscience; corrupt in both teaching and practice. Paul's aim is to encourage Timothy to engage with the heresy presently infesting his congregation. In v1-5 Paul sets out to describe the heresy, although he doesn't actually analyse it for us. Paul is more concerned with encouraging Timothy to fight it rather than to explain to Timothy what he already knows.
In confronting the law-bound heresy of the false teachers, Paul specifically confronts their asceticism, their "don't do this" and "don't do that" lifestyle. Piety can't make us holy, only Christ can make us holy. Paul hammers the ascetic life with a profound truth; God's creation is shaped for our good, our happiness and enjoyment, ie., God is a hedonistic God, a "don't worry, be happy" God. For this reason the bounty of God's creation should not be rejected, but received with thanksgiving.
v] Exposition: A simple verse-by-verse exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 4:1
Paul outlines the nature of the heresy presently confronting Timothy as he ministers in Ephesus, v1-5. The false teachers are leading believers astray, sucking them into their warped theology and moving them away from faith in Christ. Jesus himself warned that in these last days believers would be deceived and led from their reliance on the gospel, cf. Mk.13:22.
de "-" - but/and. Transitional, possibly "however", introducing the next point. Paul is moving on from his final point in chapter 3 where he speaks of the mystery of the gospel.
to ... pneuma "the Spirit" - Nominative subject of the verb "to say." The Holy Spirit is probably intended.
rJhtwV adv. "clearly" - expressly, explicitly. Adverb of manner. The "word" is a clear one from the Lord.
legei (legw) pres. "says" - The present tense is typical of a word from the Lord, a word that might have been said in the past, but has present ongoing ramifications. This word may be a past prophetic word to the congregation, or a word given at this very moment by Paul.
oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement, indirect speech, expressing the content of the Spirit's message.
en + dat. "in" - Temporal use of the preposition.
uJsteroiV (oV a on) comp. adj. "latter" - the latter [times]. Probably a comparative used as a superlative, so "the last times", ie., "the last days", referring to the days of the messiah's reign - the now and not yet day.
tineV "some" - A reference to someone or something indefinite*. Nominative subject of the verb "to depart from." Those abandoning the faith are obviously members of the church rather than the false teachers.
aposthsontai (afisthmi) fut. "will abandon" - will depart from. Possibly alluding to Jesus' warning of the great "falling away", which future is now, cf. Mk.13:22.
thV pistewV (iV ewV) gen. "the faith" - Possibly an objective genitive, they abandon the Christian faith. Knight argues that it is subjective with objective overtones, ie., they lose their faith and so abandon the faith. The genitive may also be classified as ablative, expressing separation, so "depart away from." "The faith" may be "the Christian faith", Simpson, possibly even "fall away from believing the gospel".
proseconteV (prosecw) pres. part. "follow" - paying attention to, giving heed to. The participle is adverbial, probably modal, expressing the manner in which the action of the verb "will depart from [the faith]" is accomplished, but possibly instrumental, expressing means. Used in the sense of take note of / give heed to and follow.
pneumasin planoiV dat. "deceiving spirits" - deceitful spirits [and teachings]. As with the dative "teachings", dative of direct object after the proV prefix verb "give heed to" which takes a dative of persons. They were lead astray with teachings that are demonic in nature, teachings that undermine the truths of the gospel.
daimoniwn (on) gen. "by demons" - of demons. The genitive is usually taken as verbal, subjective, as NIV.
The false teachers have long lost the ability to discern God's truth (they have a "cauterised" conscience); They are a source of misinformation and this is evidenced by their failure to practice what they preach.
en + dat. "such teachings come through" - in. The preposition here probably takes an instrumental sense, expressing means, ie., the "teachings of demons" are mediated to the believers "by means of" the false teachers.
uJpokrisei (iV ewV) dat. "hypocritical" - hypocrisy. The false teachers are hypocritical since they do not apply their teachings to their own lives, ie., they don't do what they preach. In reality, they probably can't, as is always the case for a law-bound person. They are forced to pretend that they keep their do's and don'ts.
yeudologwn (oV) gen. "liars" - of those who don't speak the truth. The genitive is adjectival, probably attributed, "hypocritical liars", but possibly verbal, subjective. Not so much "liars", rather, those who do not proclaim God's truth; they do not teach Biblical / gospel truth.
thn ... suneidhsin (iV ewV) acc. "[whose] consciences" - [having been seared] the = in their [own] conscience. Accusative of respect; "having been seared with respect to their own conscience."
kekausthriasmenwn (kausthriazw) gen. perf. pas. part. "have been seared as with a hot iron" - having been seared. The participle is best treated as adjectival, attributive, limiting "hypocritical liars." Their conscience is now "ineffective", Towner, which in-turn prompts their hypocrisy. Commentators opt for two possible interpretations: their consciences have been i] "cauterised" in the sense of losing sensitivity toward divine truth, "whose conscience having lost all feeling", CEV, or ii] "branded" in the sense that they now carry satan's brand, ie., they are owned by satan, "branded with the devil's sign", NEB. The first option is to be preferred.
The extreme piety of the false teachers, reflected in their sexual abstinence and their adherence to the Levitical food laws (or possibly even vegetarianism), was likely viewed as the means of progressing their holiness and thus, the full appropriation of divine blessings.
kwluontwn (kwluw) pres. part. gen. "they forbid" - forbidding, hindering, preventing. The participle is adjectival, attributive, genitive in agreement with "liars"; "through the insincerity of liars ...... who forbid marriage and ....", ESV. The false teachers are typical law-bound pietists. They have their package of rules and regulations for the Christian life for the appropriation of the promised blessings of the covenant. Of course, on numerous occasions Paul has countered this heresy with the simple truth that everything is ours in Christ, by grace through faith apart from works of the law. Puritan works of supererogation can take many different forms. The version promoted by these nomists is focused, at least in part, on an abstinence from sex and certain foods. This form of piety is also reflected in the problems addressed by Paul in his first letter to the church in Corinth, 1Cor.7. In fact, it is likely that these legalists align with "the circumcision group" referred to in Paul's letter to the Galatians, "the weak" in Romans, and are the same party who were into "self abasement" in Colossians 2:8-23.
gamein (gamew) inf. "to marry" - to enter into legal sexual relations. The infinitive introduces a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what they forbid. Possibly an abstinence from sex in marriage, or a promotion of an ascetic single life free from marriage - heaven on earth, neither giving nor taking in marriage. Very much a last-days response where Jesus' idealistic teachings are used to promote a super-holiness for blessing.
apecesqai (apecw) inf. mid. + gen. "and order them to abstain from [certain foods]" - to abstain from, to hold oneself away from. Again the infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement, indirect speech, expressing what is ordered, although the command, "and order them" is supplied for meaning. The grammatical form is a zeugma (that which is joined together) ie., the two infinitives "to marry" and "to abstain" are controlled by the single participle "forbidding them", but it only properly suits "to marry" and therefore "order them" has been supplied by the NIV.
brwmatwn (a atoV) gen. "certain foods" - foods. Genitive of direct object after the apo prefix verb "to receive / eat", here as an infinitive. Given the use of this word in Romans and 1 Corinthians, it is likely that Paul has in mind "meat" rather than food in general. This is all about eating spiritually proper foods, particularly meats that are ritually clean (not offered to idols). Of course, it is possible that abstinence from all meat is intended (ie., vegetarian), although it is more likely that Levitical food laws are the issue.
a} "which" - The antecedent, with which this relative pronoun agrees in number and person, is "foods", although "to marry" could also be an antecedent with which it would have a notional agreement.
ektisen (ktizw) aor. "created" - [god] created. Christ's lifting of the food laws obviously drives Paul's argument, cf., "nothing is unclean in itself", Rom.14:14, Mk.7:19. Here Paul alludes to the creation, in that what God made is "good" and therefore, not to be rejected.
eiV + acc. "to be" - for [partaking]. Here expressing purpose; "to be gratefully shared in"
meta + gen. "with" - with [thanksgiving]. Here adverbial modal, expressing manner / attendant circumstance, as NIV. This prepositional phrase is commonly used by Paul to express gratitude for God's goodness.
toiV pistoiV dat. adj. "by those who believe" - to = by the believers. The adjective serves as a substantive, while the dative is instrumental expressing means / agency, as NIV.
epegnwskosi (epiginwskw) dat. perf. part. "who know" - the ones having known [the truth]. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of interest, advantage. The single definite article toiV applies to both "those who believe" and "who know [the truth], indicating that both are equally descriptives of the same entity, namely, a Christian.
Paul addresses the issue of asceticism in v3b with an important proposition for humanity, a proposition which similarly applies to believers - "what was created for all men must therefore be legitimate for Christians", Guthrie. In v4-5 Paul restates the proposition that "everything" created by God is "good" and should be received with thanksgiving. The Christian church has never quite come to grips with the notion that our God is a hedonistic God - he is not a party-pooper. He would have us enjoy the wonders of his creation rather than resort to a life of self-imposed flagellation.
oJti "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why it is ethically acceptable for believers to eat all foods (along with getting married) and thus participating fully in life.
pan ktisma (a) "everything" - every creature. Nominative subject of an assumed verb to-be. The construction of the phrase, "all", followed by a noun without an article, serves to emphasise the individual elements of the "all". "Everything created"
qeou (oV) gen. "God" - of god. The genitive is usually classified as verbal, subjective; "everything created by God." Possibly ablative, expressing source / origin. The "every created thing" comes out of God, from God, and therefore by nature, is good. It is therefore, proper for a believer to participate fully in the rich diversity of life.
apoblhton adj. "is to be rejected" - [is good, and nothing is to be] rejected. Predicate adjective. Used instead of the verb apoballw, "to reject", not found in the NT.
lambanomenon (lambanw) pres. pas. part. "if it is received" - being taken, received. The participle is adverbial, usually read as conditional, as NIV. The believer is free to participate in life, but there is a condition, our participation must be "with thanksgiving." In a narrow sense, Paul may be referring to the prayer of thanksgiving performed prior to a meal, a prayer that in a sense, sanctifies the meal. Yet, it is more likely that he is thinking in broad terms. We are free to participate in everything that we can give thanks for, under God. Paul is not advocating a self-absorbed hedonism which is lived at the expense of others, but rather a participation in the "good" that God has given us to enjoy, eg. sex is good, but only within marriage.
meta + gen. "with" - with [thanksgiving]. Adverbial, modal, expressing manner / attendant circumstance, as v3 above; "if received thankfully."
Paul continues to restate the argument he made in v3b. A believer may properly participate in life because God's creation is fit for us, as confirmed in scripture, but of course, it must be thankfully enjoyed under God, rather than enjoyed without reference to God.
gar "because" - for. The NIV treats the conjunction as causal, but possibly transitional, introducing a restatement or summary of the reason provided in v4 as to why it is ethically acceptable for believers to participate in God's good creation.
aJgiazetai (aJgiazw) pres. pas. "it is consecrated" - it is being sanctified, made holy. Holy, in the sense of being fit for use, suitable, acceptable, rather than "consecrated", ritually pure. Here Paul restates the thought of v4. Since the creation is good, it (sex, meat) is "fit" for use (marriage / eating meat, is acceptable).
dia + gen. "by" - through, by means of. Instrumental, expressing agency / means.
logou (oV) gen. "the word" - a word. Numerous "words" are proposed, possibly scripture in general, even Jesus' words on the issue of food, but often taken as a reference to Genesis 1:31, declaring all food as edible.
qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - The genitive is probably ablative, expressing source / origin, "a word from God."
enteuxewV (iV ewV) gen. "[and] prayer" - [and] intercession. Genitive after the preposition dia. Paul is restating the qualification made in v4 where the participation in God's good creation is "with thanksgiving", ie., thankfully enjoyed under God, in word and prayer, rather than enjoyed without reference to God.