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The Approaching Apostasy (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
May 31, 2023 4:00 am

The Approaching Apostasy (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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May 31, 2023 4:00 am

Paul urgently warned Timothy about the extensive damage false teachers can do within a church. So how can we recognize these “wolves in sheep’s clothing”? And how should we respond? Discover the answer along with Alistair Begg on Truth For Life.


Truth for Life
Alistair Begg

The Apostle Paul urgently warned his young protégé Timothy about the extensive damage false teachers can do within a church.

So how do you recognize those wolves in sheep's clothing, and what should our response be to false teaching? We'll hear the answers today on Truth for Life as Alistair Begg continues our study in First Timothy. Back in First Timothy 4, the falling away is a falling away from faith, and it is a falling away from the faith. The Spirit of God not only tells us what is going to happen but also tells us when it will happen.

It will happen in later times. This is a similar phrase to what you find in 2 Timothy 3.1, where Paul says there will be terrible times in the last days. And when Paul uses this phrase both here in 1 Timothy 4 and then again in 2 Timothy 3, he is referring to the time inaugurated by the arrival of Jesus, which will be consummated by the return of Jesus. Hence Hebrews 1.1. God has spoken in the past in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. In these last days, the writer of the Hebrews in the first century says, in these last days—that was 2,000 years ago, for goodness sake—all I know is that these times—and Peter understood it when the folks came and said, Look, everybody's drunk, and the place has gone hogwild in Jerusalem. We don't know what's going on.

Peter stands up and says, No, no, no, no, these guys are not drunk. This is what the prophet Joel said in the last days. I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. When was that?

First century Jerusalem. What's going to happen? People will fall away.

When will it happen? It'll happen in later times. It was clearly relevant to the people in Paul's day, in Timothy's day. If it wasn't, then why would he give them the specific instructions concerning verses 3, 4, and 5? Why would he tell them in verse 6 that you'll be a good pastor if you tell people about these things?

It's because it was pressingly relevant. Because there's never a season when men and women do not face the temptation to turn away from the living God and turn to myths and genealogies. Now, if you're still with me, what we said was, there is an authority by which he speaks. There is a clarity with which he speaks. He speaks to the what issue, the falling away, apostasy.

He speaks to the when issue by addressing the matter in later times. And he speaks to the how issue, still in verse 1, by pointing out that the ultimate cause of this abandonment is that people follow deceiving spirits and the doctrines of demons. This is a clear reminder of Paul's words in Ephesians 6. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. If we could actually see the sort of demonic activity which is behind so much spurious stuff, we wouldn't be able to handle it. Now, the stuff that is being taught has as its ultimate source deceiving spirits and demonic activity. How is this stuff, then, made proximate in the lives of people? That brings us to the teachers.

Because if the ultimate source of this material is demonic, the proximate source—namely, how do you get it into the hands and minds of people? The answer is through people. What kind of people? People who are hypocritical liars. People who stand as I stand. People who pronounce religious things.

People who appear to be on the straight and narrow when, in point of fact, are far from it. They may unwittingly be the proponents of demonic spirits. They may wittingly be involved in it. But they won't come to you with horns and forks and dressed in red. They will be smart. They will be well healed. They will be apparently well versed. They will probably be quite intelligent.

And their expressed desire is to deceive even the elect if they could. It's a scary thought, isn't it? Were it not for the fact that we know that our times are in his hands. Were it not for the fact that we know that Jesus will build his church and the gates of hell will not be able to push against it.

Nevertheless, it makes us aware and alert as we need to be in our day. Now, what are these teachers marked by? Well, first of all, they are marked by hypocrisy. They are marked by hypocrisy.

They are apparently the proponents of one thing while being the very voice of another. They're hypocritical liars, he says in verse 2, and their consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. In other words, they've lost all moral sensitivity.

They've lost any sense of spiritual empathy at all. They're like those to whom Paul refers in Ephesians 4, verse 19, where he says, Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality, so as to indulge in every kind of impurity with a continual lust for more. Now, you may have a different version of the Bible in front of you, where the suggestion seems to be not so much that they have been seared as with a hot iron as that they have been stamped with a hot iron. In other words, that they have been branded. And that is one of the other possible explanations of the phraseology. That not only would we think in terms of their consciences having been cauterized, but we would think of them having been marked with a brand in the way that a beast was branded to identify itself in relationship to an owner. And what Paul may be saying is, if you look at them carefully, if you get behind their hypocrisy, if you get underneath their robes, as it were, you will find that they are stamped with a mark of Satan himself. Now, why would we be surprised by that?

Because the Bible tells us that Satan would come as an angel of light, right? That he would come as a wolf in sheep's clothing. That his strategy is the little red riding hood strategy. My, my, grandma, what big teeth you've got!

What a big nose you've got! He's all dressed up with his basket going through the woods, able to deceive even the elect if he could. Oh, he's such a nice man! Why would you say unkind things about him, Alistair? That's not nice. If you knew Mr. So-and-so, you wouldn't say that. Yes, I would.

I'd say it to his face. I don't deny that he's a nice man. I don't know what kind of man he is. We're not talking about whether somebody's nice.

It's not a personality journey. The question is, are people telling you the truth or not? I don't care how nice the air traffic controller is if he flies me into the side of a mountain by telling me lies. I don't care if he's the nicest guy in the world. He's a hypocrite and a liar. I thought I was at ten thousand feet, and I was at two and a half thousand feet in deep cloud, and he never told me?

You want me to say what a nice man he is? If he did it willfully? In these last times, they will be marked by a hypocrisy that they are prepared to display, and there will be an activity that they are prepared to deny. And what is that? Well, it's two things—marriage and eating certain foods. You can't get married, and you can't eat certain foods. What kind of religion is this, for goodness' sake?

Have you ever seen this in history? We'll just leave that and move on. Now, what underpins this? Let me tell you what underpins it. It is the idea that in abstaining from these outward things, we might obtain a higher spiritual perfection. And as a result of refraining from these things, then we will advance in our spirituality. And so these hypocritical liars come up with these things. He mentions just two.

There's a whole host of them all over the place. But these unlawful requirements, Paul wants his readers to know, are never a means of promoting a superior state of godliness. And what they are suggesting is a self-induced form of asceticism. They are suggesting that by not touching, by removing yourself, by isolation, by staying away from all this, you can advance the cause. And Paul says you can't. He says it here.

He actually says it with great clarity in Colossians chapter 2, at the end of Colossians 2. He says, Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belong to it, do you submit to its rules? What are the rules? Don't handle, don't taste, don't touch. These are all destined to perish with use, because they're based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom with their self-imposed worship, their false humility, and their harsh treatment of the body.

But notice this. They lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. Isn't that what Jesus told the Pharisees? The Pharisees always, Wash the cup once, wash the cup twice, wash the cup three times.

Jesus says, You don't wash the cup till there's no cup left. Well, he didn't say that, but I mean, this is a kind of paraphrase. Basically, he said, You can keep going through all that external rigmarole, but one day you might realize that it's not what goes into a man that defiles a man, it's what comes out of a man that defiles a man. So the idea of being able to remove yourself from all these external things and by so doing advance the cause spiritually is a lie of the devil, which holds men and women in bondage and makes Pharisees out of them and makes their Christianity a bunch of rules and regulations, which are first imposed upon themselves and then, even worse, imposed on everyone else with whom they come in contact. Now, what Paul does in Colossians 3—and you can do this as your homework, perhaps—what he does is he says, Listen, the external stuff can't restrain sensuality.

But since you have been raised with Christ and since the Spirit of God lives within you, then if you will respond to the prompting of the Spirit of God, then you will learn to put to death what is earthly, and you will learn to wear the clothes which are heavenly. But it's not as a result of self-effort from the outside in. It is not a self-induced asceticism.

It is a Spirit-filled discipline. And that's why people are making such heavy weather of trying to be Christians, because all they've done is they've decided on a new form of externalism. They once did this and this and this. Then they got kind of interested in Jesus, and now they do this and this and this. And they want to understand that now they have become Christians.

No. Once they were doing kind of pagan things, now they're doing kind of Christian things. But they're still pagans doing Christian things.

Until we come to acknowledge that we're sinners, and then unless God comes and fills us with his Spirit and makes us, inclines our hearts to obedience, then we'll continue to go on our own merry way. Now, the underlying notion here has a very contemporary dimension to it. It takes until about the second century before Gnosticism gets into its own. But the roots of this theory and practice were already abroad in a kind of combination of Jewish ritualism and pagan superstition.

And so these first readers were encountering people who were saying to them this. Matter is evil. God is Spirit. He is not matter. And for these people, you see, Jesus was not actually God.

It was a perfect New Age thing. And what they were saying was, God is Spirit, matter is evil. Therefore, we have to subdue matter. There are two ways you can do it. You can either shun it, which is what is being dealt with here, or you can overcome it by indulging it. But whatever way you do, you just disregard it completely.

You can disregard it by staying away from it, or you can disregard it by doing anything you like with it. And John and Peter and Jude and other places address that kind of sensuality, which was an effulgence from Gnosticism. And Paul here is addressing the other side, which is the idea of do not handle, do not touch, stay away, don't touch this, don't get married, don't do these things, and if you do all of that, hey, you're gonna be a great Christian. At the monastery of Talanisos in Syria, Simeon the Stylite, from 390 to 459, practiced his idiosyncratic austerity of living on top of a column. His austerity was real enough and won the deep reverence of the country people. He attracted many disciples to the monastery, inspired later imitators like Daniel, who lived from 409 to 93.

This Daniel spent thirty-three years on a column near Constantinople. So he's up the pole for thirty-three years in the cause of Christianity. I don't want to be unkind to anyone. I don't want to trample on anyone's toes.

I want to be as nice as I possibly can. But let me tell you, I haven't seen anybody up the pole recently, literally. But the limited amount of travel that I do around this country, I keep coming up against this. An increased disengagement from the culture. We don't want to be involved there. We don't want to be involved there. We don't want to touch this. We don't want to touch that.

So eventually, we're just living in a little bubble all of our own. We might as well be up a pole. All of the salt is in the cellar, none of it's in the potatoes. All of the peppers in the shaker.

None of it's on the pork. And the only time we apparently run out is to get political. And then we run back again. It's funny when Jesus never called us to run out for that. What are the readers to do?

Two things, because my time's gone. Well, they're to enjoy the remedy that is there. There's a remedy that they encounter, and there is a liberty that they enjoy. It's a wonderful little section that Paul then goes to. He says, Listen, God created these things—marriage and these foods—to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.

Not just by those who believe and know the truth. He says, But if men can enjoy being married, and if men can enjoy the food, then why in the world wouldn't Christians be able to do the same? And then he gives the principle, For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. In other words, when we live in the enjoyment of what God has provided in creation for us, then we may enjoy it to the full. It is not that by our praying we somehow or another transfer some special intrinsic goodness to the food.

I mean, sometimes when we sit in some restaurants, we might wish that we could, but the fact of the matter is, we can't. So what does it mean it is consecrated? It simply means this, that when I genuinely thank God for what he's given me, then the food is set in its proper perspective, and when it is set in its proper perspective, then it may be enjoyed, and it will be enjoyed as something sacred. And the same is true of sex. You cannot violate God's command and relationship to human sexuality, either by fornication or whatever else it is, and pray first and pray afterwards.

As if somehow or another we could transmute evil into good simply by saying, well, let's have a little word of prayer about this. That's not what he's saying. He's saying that when our husband and wife understand the beauty and the enjoyment and the fulfillment that is represented in human sexuality, then they may enter into it with thanksgiving and with great joy. And when we sit down to eat our food, they say it is an amazing thing that God would provide for us in this way.

We don't have to worry about whether it's pork or whether it's fish on Friday or whatever else it is. Sit down and enjoy it. I keep meeting Christians who are frightened because things are going too well. They're enjoying themselves, and they think they're waiting. Oh, man, I've had such a good year.

I think I must be doing something wrong. My marriage is in good shape. There's something fouled up here. Where do you get this from? Do you want to live thirty-three years up a pole or something? Do you know that's what Paul says about the time he ends up in 1 Timothy? He says in 1 Timothy 6—we'll come to it eventually—he says, tell the rich people not to hang their head on being rich.

He said, but remember this. God has given us everything richly to enjoy. He's not talking about ill-gotten gain. He's not talking about rampant materialism. He's not talking about a preoccupation with ourselves that makes us think we're smart because of what we've achieved, because after all, all that we are and all we have is a gift from God in any case.

But what he's saying is that God provides these things for us, and that Christians of all people ought to be able to show the world the beauty and the wonder and the enjoyment of living life. And by our very vitality in life, the world would be coming to us and saying, How come it's like this? Why is your marriage like that?

Why is it like this when we eat in your home? And what will the answer be? We've rejected the nonsense from the hypocritical liars. And the remedy is found in God's creation principles. And the liberty that's enjoyed is a wonderful liberty. Does your life display the wonder, beauty, freedom, and joy that comes from living within God's provision? You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg.

Alistair returns in just a minute. Now, along with providing Alistair's messages here at Truth for Life, one of the things we do is to choose books with great care and with our mission in mind. Books we can recommend to you. I've been mentioning our current title, How Christianity Transformed the World. This is a compelling book that highlights the positive influence of Christians and their faith throughout the centuries.

It's a wonderful testimony to God's grace. Now, today is the last day we're offering this book, so you can request your copy when you make a donation to support the teaching ministry of Truth for Life. You can do that on the mobile app or on our website at slash donate, or give us a call at 888-588-7884.

And by the way, if you'd like to purchase additional copies of How Christianity Transformed the World for your church library or to share with others, you'll find them available in our online store. They're available for purchase at our cost of just $5. Visit slash store. You'll also find a wide variety of quality books and resources that make great gifts to give to graduates or newlyweds, or just to encourage someone.

They're all available at our cost, so give yourself a few minutes and shop the store. Again, go to slash store. Now here is Alistair to close with prayer. Father, so many men coming after your son have tried to tie us up in knots in relationship to what it means to follow you. That we do need to pay careful attention to Paul's words here and be on the alert. Lest we take the grace of God, and we use it as a basis for license—namely, just saying we can do what we like, which would be to violate your truth—or that we use it as a foundation for legalism, which, again, would violate your truth.

Help us not to fall down either side of the narrow striding ridge, which is living in the perfect law of liberty. Thank you for the wonder of your Word, that having been set free, we don't get entangled again in a yoke of bondage. Father, I pray that you will help us to be discerning in these days. Grant that our words may be full of grace and seasoned with salt. Grant that coming out of this sermon, you will remove from our recollection anything and all that would be unhelpful and harmful to the cause of Christ.

And grant that we might just follow hard after you. Make us soldiers of your cross, bearers of your name. Help us in every right way to live life to the full.

After all, Jesus said, I have come that you might have life and that you might have it in all its fullness. Let us then go back to a world in which men and women merely exist, to show them humbly, what it means to really live. And may the grace and mercy and peace of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with each of us today and forevermore. Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for joining us today. Tomorrow we'll find out why you can't lead unless you first follow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-31 05:29:12 / 2023-05-31 05:38:09 / 9

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