Legalism and God – 1 Timothy 4:1-5

Everything God Created Is Good

1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Demonic Deception

The devil has been at it since the beginning.  He has some direct responsibility with the fall of man, and continues to lash out at God in the only way he knows how – by interfering in the lives of the very beings that God created to bear His image.  Not every spirit is of God, and many have fallen prey to the teachings of evil spiritual beings.  Even now, people struggle with spiritual strongholds in their lives because they have believed something that is not true, and hold to those teachings as truth.

For instance, baptism is an ordinance of the faith.  This is something that disciples should very much desire to do.  However, baptism as an act is not required for the salvation.  Even Abraham, the first patriarch of God’s people, was shown to be saved by believing God which was credited to him as righteousness.

Heretical Hypocrites

Many who are misled are now misleading others, convinced that they alone have the true interpretation of scripture (because it is at odds with what others are saying, therefore everyone else is wrong…).  While we are all sinners, and each of us has a sin nature that impedes our ability to properly and completely follow God (rather than our sinful desires),  this can lead to a life of hypocrisy.  It is very dangerous to lecture people to do something, and then do the exact opposite in private (or worse, publicly!).  And while each of us struggle with the sinful weakness that is within each of us, we must be honest with ourselves and others lest we pass ourselves off as someone who has overcome when we have not.

Many areas of life are affected, and many deceptions are being taught even today.  Cults have arisen around people who say that marriage is evil, and that everyone should stay celibate.  Others – in Paul’s day – were Jews who were still adhering to the Levitical practices of abstaining from eating food that was deemed unclean.  Even Peter was called on this when he had a vision from God in preparation for accepting the Gentiles as being called by God.

But there is the other end of the spectrum where people believe that they are now free to do anything that they want because grace will cover any wrongdoing.  This does not take into account that we are responsible for what we do in the flesh.  We are given grace to give us time to learn the ways of God, not as an excuse to gratify our sinful nature with its desires and the resulting serious consequences.

Thoughtfully Thankful

Paul understood that we are to receive all things with thankfulness, rather than to impose the ceremonial law on them.  Elijah was a prime example.  When sequestered during the great drought that he had announced, God provided him with bread and meat from ravens (unclean creatures under the ceremonial law) to eat every day as he bid his time at the brook in the Kerith Ravine.  We are to have hearts of contentment and thanksgiving, for it is God who provides for all of our needs.  Regardless of the size and type of bounty, we can be assured that God is the one who has provided for our needs.

Created and Consecrated

Paul tells us that we should do all things in thanksgiving to God who created all things as good.  We can enjoy what God provided to us in thanksgiving, not concerning ourselves with ceremonial law.  We need to keep in mind that we are still responsible for what we do.  Paul elsewhere has said:

I have the right to do anything,” you say — but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”-but I will not be mastered by anything.

It is important to realize that although we have freedom in Christ, we are not to abuse this freedom.  We are still to conduct ourselves in a righteous manner, for we are image-bearers of God.  Paul also has said:

23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” – but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God – 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

If in doubt, ask yourself “Is what I am about to do/say/think going to honor and glorify God?”  If you cannot answer “yes” to that question, then why should you do it?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I doing all things with thanksgiving to God, for His glory, in light of His mercy and grace?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have provided all things for us to enjoy.  But even as You instructed Adam to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, keep me now from anything that would cause me to stumble.  Help me to accept that all things were created by You are good, and that while some things may not cause others to stumble, they may cause me to trip and fall.  Give me wisdom and discernment to abstain from anything that would cause me to stumble, and to accept their use by others.  Provide me with the strength and character to ensure that I am not mastered by anything, but rather that through self-control in submission to the Holy Spirit all things that I do, with thanksgiving to You, would be to Your glory.  And if I find that after a period of abstinence that something still has too great a hold in my life, help me to remove it or seek Godly council for help to stay away from whatever may cause me to fall.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

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