Friday after the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:1-16 (NKJV)
1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.
4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; 5 for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. 6 If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. 7 But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. 8 For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. 9 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance.
10 For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. 11 These things command and teach. 12 Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 13 Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. 15 Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. 16 Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
The righteousness of faith has always been attacked by the devil. From Cain, who thought God should accept him because of his sacrifices, to Old Testament Israel, to the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day, to the Judaizers in the early Church, men have always tried to find a way to gain God’s favor by inventing ways of serving Him.
This will get worse as time goes on, as Paul warns Timothy. Many ceremonies, traditions, and requirements of the Roman papacy fulfilled this apostolic prophecy: forbidding priests to marry, forbidding certain foods during certain seasons of the year, urging people to seek extra favor from God through monastic vows, etc. As we confess in the Apology, “Popes, or some theologians, and monks in the Church have taught us to seek the forgiveness of sins, grace, and righteousness through our own works and to invent new forms of worship, which have clouded over Christ’s office and have made out of Christ not the Atoning Sacrifice and Justifier, but only a Legislator…such teachers will always exist” (Ap.:III).
To defend against such doctrines of demons the “good minister of Jesus Christ” will need to be well nourished in the words of faith and the sound doctrine. He will need to exercise himself toward godliness. He will need to immerse himself in the Word of God, both in studying it and in teaching it, and even “commanding” it, as Paul says, both for his own benefit and for that of his hearers. We should expect our pastors to be doing this, and supporting them as they do.
Father, guard us against the doctrines of demons. Grant our pastors wisdom and boldness to know and to proclaim Your truth rightly at all times, and through their preaching preserve Your flock in the true faith; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.