1 Timothy 4:1-7
In writing to young Timothy, Paul told him, and us, that “the Spirit speaketh expressly” or ‘pointedly’, “that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils”. Someone asked me recently if I felt that the church was entering a period that could be defined as “the falling away” (2 Thessalonians 2:3) or “the latter times”. I responded that I believe that we are certainly in the latter times, but that we have been in them for nearly 2000 years on God’s time clock. As for the falling away, I do not believe that we are entering that period now; I believe that we are already in it!
When Paul wrote of the falling away from the faith, he was writing it from the perspective of his gospel. What was it that Paul preached? He preached pure grace with salvation coming by faith alone in what Jesus had finished at the cross. Paul never preached the law as a means of salvation or as a means of maintaining or improving one’s salvation. Paul advocated a complete separation of the law from the preaching of grace, claiming that the law would inflame sin (Romans 5:18) and cause saints to fall from grace (Galatians 5:4).
To envision a church that would fall away from the faith, Paul sees one that no longer preaches pure grace. It should be obvious that we are not entering this period of church history, but are already there. The gospel of pure grace has all but vanished from many pulpits, with the hybrid message of law and grace being so prevalent as to be considered the only true gospel. In my part of the world, preachers that scream and yell and condemn people to hell are praised as preaching the “unadulterated gospel”, while they are truly instruments of condemnation and death. Paul would be hard pressed to find the comfort and exhortation being ministered that he personally worked so hard to foster.
He warns of “old wives’ fables” while not actually giving us one. However, the Word does share one with us that is of particular importance. The word of the LORD came to Ezekiel and this “wives’ fable” was confronted:
“What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?’ As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:2-4)
This old proverb in Israel stated that if a man ate sour grapes, his child’s teeth would hurt. In other words, if a man sinned, his son would be punished. This teaching of generational curses passed back from God’s teaching Moses on Mt. Sinai that he would “visit the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” (Exodus 20:5). God states that it can no longer be used, but why? The answer is found at the cross.
Jesus is thirsty at Calvary, so he asks for something to drink. They fill a sponge with “vinegar” or “sour wine” and lift it to Jesus. After he had received it, he said “It is finished”. At Calvary, Jesus drank the sour wine so that you will never have your teeth set on edge. He was punished so that you can go free. Remove the old wives’ tales and rejoice in a New Covenant!