1 Timothy 4:1-5 A pure heart is the only defence against Satan’s deception in the later times

1 Timothy 4:1-5

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 3 men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; 5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.


In the preceding chapter, Paul makes reference to Jesus as the yardstick to godliness. He warns against the invasion of Christendom through deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons. These spirits and doctrines may not be explicitly heretical but they espouse an undercurrent of flamboyance and worldliness, supposing grace as a means to personal gain. In today’s devotion, we learn the importance of keeping our hearts pure so that we may discern accurately and not fall into ruin. Notwithstanding good biblical knowledge, a pure heart is the only defence against Satan’s deception in the later times.


But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons…

Paul, by divine revelation warns Timothy of unprecedented apostasy that will invade Christendom in later times. By “falling away from the faith”, Paul meant the decay of godliness and an increase of tolerance or acceptance of sin in the fabric of the church. Paul attributed this phenomenon to churchgoers paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons. 

Deceitful spirits – Since the dawn of civilisation, deception has always begun with the human heart, which is the seed of desire, the capital of sin. The devil does not start with a misinformed understanding of doctrine, but by capitalising on the evil desires of man. The goal of deceitful spirits is to divert man’s attention away from the goal of godliness towards the exploitation of God’s saving grace. If desire is pure and godly, there is no such foothold for the devil, and man will continue to refine his doctrinal understanding towards the truth. But if desire is evil and self-serving, man will find a way to manipulate doctrine to justify or conceal the motives of his heart. Deceptive spirits endeavours to preserve the appearance of biblical correctness while denying the spirit of it.

Doctrines of demons – While working insidiously beneath the appearance of correct doctrine, the devil seeks to legitimise his deceptive suggestions. By way of demonic doctrines, he deceives man into thinking that there is salvation apart from true repentance and enduring regeneration. What is so toxic about doctrines of demons is their ambiguity; they concur to the importance of godliness but yet do not emphasise it in their teachings. They accentuate the finished work of the cross, supposing that one’s salvation is sealed and irrevocable regardless of one’s moral direction. As a result, followers of demonic doctrine are lulled into a false sense of security being fixated on earthly pleasures instead of sanctification and godliness. Paul warns the Gentile believers of the danger of falling away from the faith,

Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. Romans 11:20-21

If Jesus did not spare the Jews but condemned them for their unbelief and evil, He would also not spare the Gentile christians who were introduced to the faith at a later time. Doctrines of demons thrives by holding God’s infinite patience as security, preying on undiscerning churchgoers who are gullible and ladened with unfulfilled desires. Proponents of demonic doctrines are of the view that accuracy of doctrine and the reading of the word are not important, but to get people blessed is.

The end result 0f one who embraces deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons is irreparable damage to one’s conscience, for he is no longer able to receive God’s truth with conviction (seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron). The searing action by a branding iron impairs one’s ability to receive and appropriate the pure word of God; he finds himself fighting the pure and unadulterated revelations of the Spirit.

The men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods refer to those who are ungodly, who by means of hypocrisy and deception manipulate others into fulfilling their agenda. Such use asceticism and abstinence as a facet to project an image of godliness while revelling in sin behind closed doors. By forbidding others to marry and in advocating asceticism they amplify their profile as a man of stature and proponent of godliness.

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude.

The world and all its riches are created with the purpose of bringing dignity, abundance and fulfilment to the children of God. Hence, it pleases God to see His children enjoying the blessings of this world in peace and security. Having said, enjoyment must be coupled with gratitude towards God and thoughtful consideration towards those who are marginalised. Gratitude is a fitting response arising from a heart of love and humility. Nevertheless, there is a place for celibacy and fasting for a time for those seeking greater intimacy with God. Therefore, one cannot look to one’s ascetic lifestyle or an appearance of holiness as a sure sign of spirituality, but a life that emanates justice, gratitude and mercy and humility.


In the last days, we must do all to keep our heart pure so that we may discern accurately.

In the last days, it is more difficult to decipher the soundness of a teaching just by analysing the specifics of a message. One must first decipher the heart of the messenger before going into the specifics of his message. It is not the correctness of the doctrine per se we are seeking to decipher but the heart and spirit of the man behind it. Jesus says,

The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart. Luke 6:45 

A man may vary the form of his message, but the substance of it still proceeds from the abundance of his heart. A self-serving person will speak to fulfill his personal agenda and glorify himself. Therefore, every teacher must be measured against the stature of Jesus Christ according to the virtues he embodies, not what he explicitly professes. However, unless believers possess a pure heart that is untainted by greed, not only will they fail to discern accurately, they risk being tainted by deceptive messages and lose their souls.

To illustrate, many people are enticed by the message of infinite and unconditional blessings that flowed uncontrollably and unreservedly at the cross. But, the flamboyance and extravagance in which the message is presented is very telling of the spirit behind it. One with a pure heart will quickly notice the incoherence of the message with the spirit of the cross. The cross emanates the virtues of love and obedience in spite of suffering, a far cry from the spirit of flamboyance and worldliness. Needless to say, such messages will bode extremely well with those who lust after the wealth and pleasures of this world. After all, they say… though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9.

False teachings encourage people to turn from the lifestyle and virtues of Jesus Christ towards the pleasures of the world resulting in eternal ruin. A true teacher of the word must in his own life reflect the lifestyle and virtues that Jesus espouses. The apostle Peter warns against the danger of losing one’s place in eternity as a result of teachings from unprincipled men,

You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:17

Enjoy the things that God has given freely, but do not be snared by the love of money and earthly pleasures.

The world has witnessed a common phenomenon, that with greater wealth, comes greater greed and sin. As an attempt to restore holiness to the church, some factions of Christendom retreat to asceticism. However, the fact that God created this physical world with its abundance attests to the original design of God. Jesus says, “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5. Therefore, the earth and its riches are created to be enjoyed by His children. However, the true issue is not with earthly riches, but with the posture of the human heart. There is no evidence to prove that the rich is always beset with greed for many are generous and ready to share. On the contrary, many of the poor became so because greed has overtaken them. Man can enjoy life to the full if he places his confidence not on earthly riches, but on God. Paul writes,

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed. 1 Timothy 6:17

Asceticism may suppress (for a while) certain aspects of man’s greed and desires. However, by shunting earthly riches and pleasures that God has intended for man to enjoy can never bring us abundant living. As long as believers fix our hope on God as the source of life, and put the poor on the top of our minds, riches can be a real blessing.


Are you enticed by the prospects of unprecedented blessings? Or are you contented in knowing that God is with you to do His perfect will? False teachings paint a deceptive picture of God and divert the believer’s attention towards earthly riches and the pleasures of the world. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” I urge you to understand what the Spirit of God is saying to you today and be contented with all that you possess. In so doing, we begin to live abundantly, being in harmony with our family and church and bringing many to the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Dear Lord, as I bare my heart to you, cleanse me from all deceit and fleshly pleasures. I desire to put on the virtues of Jesus Christ and do the work of the kingdom. I thank you for the people that you have placed in my life and the security of my homeland. Use me and all that I possess to build and establish your kingdom. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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