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Life-Study of 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemonby Witness Lee

ISBN: 0-87083-155-0
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry

Currently in: Chapter 7 of 28 Section 1 of 3

LIFE-STUDY OF FIRST TIMOTHY

MESSAGE SEVEN

THE PREDICTION OF THE DECLINE OF THE CHURCH

Scripture Reading: 1 Tim. 4:1-5

In this message we shall consider the prediction of the decline of the church as presented in 4:1-5.

I. THE SPIRIT’S PREDICTION

In 4:1 Paul says, “But the Spirit says expressly that in later times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and teachings of demons.” The fact that this verse begins with the word “but” indicates that what follows is in contrast to what is mentioned in 3:15 and 16. At the end of chapter three, Paul reached the high point of the four Epistles of 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, presenting a glorious picture of the church. However, in 4:1-5, he describes something very dark, something much in contrast to the situation in 3:15 and 16.

In 4:1 Paul uses the expression “the Spirit says expressly.” This is the Spirit who dwells in our spirit and speaks to us there (Rom. 8:9-11, 16). We need to exercise our spirit that it may become keen and clear to listen to the Spirit’s speaking and be kept from the deceiving spirits and teachings of demons.

Many in today’s Pentecostal movement follow the Old Testament way of prophesying and say, “Thus saith the Lord.” This expression cannot be found in the New Testament. In the New Testament we see the principle of incarnation. According to this principle, God does not speak directly. Rather, He speaks through man. First, in Jesus Christ God became incarnated and mingled with man. Now after the death and resurrection of Christ, it is possible for Him to be one spirit with those who believe in Christ. In 1 Corinthians 6:17 Paul declares, “He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” This refers to the mingled spirit, the divine Spirit mingled with the regenerated human spirit. In the New Testament it is this mingled spirit which does the speaking. For this reason, 4:1 does not say, “The Spirit of God says,” nor, “The Holy Spirit says.” Instead, this verse reads, “The Spirit says.…” According to the principle of incarnation revealed in the New Testament, this implies our spirit. We have seen that the principle of incarnation means that divinity is brought into humanity and works with humanity. Hence, when the Spirit speaks, He speaks within our spirit, through our spirit, and out from our spirit. If there were no one who was truly one spirit with the speaking God, there would be no way, according to the New Testament principle, for God to speak.

Paul took the lead to be one spirit with the Lord. Because he was one with Him in this way, Paul was able to speak a great deal for the Lord. In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul says definitely that concerning a particular matter he does not have a word from the Lord, but that he gives his opinion, his judgment, as one who has received the mercy of the Lord to be faithful (v. 25). But as we read this portion of the Bible today, we see that Paul’s word is in fact the word of the Lord. When Paul spoke, the Triune God, who has been processed to become the Spirit and who was mingled with Paul’s regenerated spirit, spoke from within him. We also have such a mingled spirit within us today. It is in and through this mingled spirit that the Spirit speaks expressly.

First Timothy 4:1 is a continuation of 3:15 and 16. No doubt, these latter verses were Paul’s words. Now in 4:1 Paul says that the Spirit speaks expressly. Where was the Spirit speaking? There can be no doubt that the Spirit was speaking from within Paul. As Paul was writing to Timothy about the church as the house of God, the pillar and base of the truth, and the great mystery of godliness, the Spirit was speaking in his spirit. This is not the Spirit who suddenly descends upon us and causes us to prophesy, “Thus saith the Lord.” The speaking of the Spirit in 4:1 is according to the way of incarnation. The Spirit spoke from within Paul’s spirit.

If we would hear the speaking of the Spirit, we need to exercise our spirit. Only our spirit can listen to the speaking of the Spirit. The mind is not qualified for this; it lacks the ability to listen to the Spirit’s speaking. The Spirit speaks to our spirit, and our spirit responds to the Spirit. Therefore, as we read 1 Timothy, we must exercise our spirit to listen to the Spirit speaking from within the spirit of the Apostle Paul.


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