By Elmer Ellsworth Shelhamer
A MINISTRY FOR THE LAST TIMES
(1 Timothy 4:1-8)
By Joseph H. Smith
Two things are to be noted at the outset about the Times. (1) This whole dispensation, as scripturally viewed, is the "latter times". (2) There are pre-announcements made of this age by the Holy Spirit.
Here Paul, in the study before us, is advising his son Timothy of his duty with regard to certain hypocrisies and fanaticisms which would be manifest in the latter times -- all of which appeared as early as Paul's and Timothy's day. And instead of their being peculiar to these seeming closing hours of the day, they have marked the whole dispensation of the Holy Ghost. God is now doing His best and Satan his worst for the human race.
The many false prophets and false christs, with the various antichrists of our times, are direct proof that we are in the very same times of the apostles and the early Christian church, that these things instead of abating are to "increase and abound yet more and more;" and that the ministry enjoined to Timothy is applicable to us.
We will notice, first, three marks of the combat; and second, three features of a good minister for such times. The three marks noted by the apostle Paul are: Apostasy, Hypocrisy and Fanaticism.
(1) "Some shall depart from the faith." Ringleaders in "modernism", "atheism" and in opposition to Holiness and to evangelism were once ardent heralds and witnesses of the Truth as it is in Jesus. Their compromises under "pretense of progress" have been the hoisting of flags of truce, to gain a Balaam's reward or an ecclesiastical office, or a scholar's degree. Judas is not an exception; he is an example of the traitorous spirit that appears in all the developments of these latter days.
(2) "Speaking lies in hypocrisy." Their public punctiliousness is but a whitened sepulcher to their inward rottenness. Their claim to and seeming manifestations of superior gifts of the Spirit are but covert to avarice, self-indulgence, and lewdness of the flesh.
(3) Fanaticism of various sorts, as of "old wives' fables." Satan knows how to utilize the lure of womanhood into the promulgation of error, under her fascinations and persuasions. Their artful proficiency in dealing with men, as acquired by their one, two, or three divorces which entitle them to the designation of "old wives", is enlisting in many of the movements that are claiming to offer something better than the "faith of the fathers". And woman's queendom of the home has been sacrificed for her dictation and domination in cults of religion.
All such "departures from the faith" are here attributed to: "doctrines of devils" (v.1.) Not only so in that some of them do actually further the worship of devils, but more, emanate from devils. They are not simply the convictions of evil men's intellects: but as above holy men's best thinking the Holy Spirit has by inspiration given us the Truth, so beneath depraved men's deepest devisings, devils have imbued their thoughts and animated their speech with damning error. As in Moses' day the devil's magicians in Egypt could well-nigh duplicated the signs and miracles of God's prophets, so in these latter days the "gifts" and unction of the Holy Ghost can well-nigh be duplicated by Satan's emissaries of error. Through this age we are admonished to recognize that the devil runs a counterfeit mill to offset, wherever he may, the currency of the Holy Ghost.
Now, three things are here stated as to a Good Minister. One is that he will not let his courtesy for the divorcees or other society women that are propagators of some such movements, rob him of his courage to "refuse" their profane "fables." Tolerance may become a vice, when it opens the mind, or opens the home, or opens the door of the church to error. (See 2 John 10, 11.)
Again, we note the good minister does not hold his tongue about these errors. "He puts the brethren in remembrance of these things" and nourishes them in words of faith and of good doctrine. He may have to sometimes preach controversially as well as affirmatively. And perhaps in some instances, as where such gross heresies as that "the resurrection is past already" (or what is equivalent thereto, that Christ has already come) he may like Paul (the master builder) speak by name, the "Hymenaeus and Philetus" whom the enemy may be using there to overthrow the faith of some.
And lastly, he exercises himself unto godliness. For as he knows the athlete can no more gain strength and dexterity, or the musician skill and proficiency, without rigorous discipline and much practice and exercise, no more can the minister acquire success in intercession with God or persuasion of men without much and rigorous exercise unto godliness.