Author: Ron Graham
Fads and Fables
Verse by verse study of Paul’s first letter to Timothy. In this lesson we examine chapter 4 verses 7-11, where we continue looking at the falling away and the false teachers, the subject of our previous lesson.
1 “Old Women’s Tales”
Paul refers to foolish and absurd teaching several times in his letters to Timothy and Titus (1Timothy 4:7, 1Timothy 6:4,20, 2Timothy 2:23, Titus 3:9).
We sometimes call some piece of superstitious nonsense "an old wives’ tale". I doubt that Paul is referring to old wives as such, for he will shortly (in chapter 5) show the greatest respect for older women in the church.
There is a class of women in the pagan world, however, who mumble spells and tell superstitious tales, and pretend (or deceive themselves) that they have ancient magical powers, second sight, and contact with the spirit world.
Such old women are shown by the gospel to be foolish, their teachings insane and their powers demonic. When false teachers replace the gospel with their own speculations, they are no better than such old women, and their teaching is worthy of no more respect than the tales these women tell.
There is a sobering true story in 1Samuel 28:7-25 about a woman who was a medium. I don't know if she was old, but I do know that her ilk, both young and old, are very active in the world today. Some of this activity creeps into the churches, and we need to take note of this.
2 Fads of Bodily Discipline
Certain false religious doctrines promote forms of severe treatment of the body (1Timothy 4:7-8, Colossians 2:23)...
- Inordinate devotion to physical exercise, physical strength and endurance, and bodily feats (the Greek for exercise is γυμνασια (gumasia) [1129-1128] hence “gymnasium”).
- Boldily neglect such as permanent fasting, wearing no clothes, refusing to wash, sleep deprivation, pleasure deprivation, living in poverty, etc.
- Severe treatment of the body such as exposure to cold and heat, whipping or cutting oneself, wearing hair shirts, holding parts of one's body in a fixed position permanently.
- Inducement of stigmata (wounds in the body) by a mental obsession with forms of agony, particularly our Lord’s suffering on the cross.
Whilst moderate discipline of the body is sensible, true religion is not focussed on the body but on the soul and godliness.
3 The Teaching We Can Trust
Fortunately in this confused world, flooded with all kinds of false religious teaching, there is an anchor, namely the gospel, to which we can fix our hope.
This gospel is trustworthy and worthy of full acceptance. Paul gave his whole life to it, as others have also done, and he worked hard striving to provide a solid faith and truth to which we might hold (1Timothy 4:9-10).