“But THE SPIRIT SPEAKETH EXPRESSLY, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” (1st Timothy 4:1)
Let us look at 2 aspects of the statement : “the Spirit speaketh expressly” :
1) “the Spirit speaketh”
2) “speaketh expressly “
Part 1 : “the Spirit speaketh”
Harry Ironside : “All prophecy is by the Holy Spirit. It is He alone who can foresee the future. It is not given to man to do this. Men may guess what the future may be, and sometimes their guesses may turn out to be correct, but no man can speak authoritatively as to the future. He does not know what the next day may bring forth.”
John Wesley : “But the Spirit saith – By St. Paul himself to the Thessalonians, and probably by other contemporary prophets.”
The Pulpit Commentary : “… (For examples of these prophetic utterances, see Acts 11:28; Acts 13:2; Acts 20:23; Acts 21:11; 1 Corinthians 12:8; 1 Corinthians 14:1-40. ’30, 32, etc.)”
Adam Clarke : “It is very likely that the apostle refers here to a prophecy then furnished by the Holy Ghost, and probably immediately after he had written the words in the preceding verses; and as this prophecy contains things nowhere else spoken of in the sacred writings, and of the utmost moment to the Christian Church, we cannot hear or read them with too much reverence or respect.”
Matthew Poole : “It was usual with the prophets, when they declared the oracles of God, to assert in the beginning of their revelations, that the Lord hath spoken, Isaiah 1:2 ,Jeremiah 1:2, Joel 1:1. The apostle in the same manner, in the beginning of his prediction of things future…”
John Gill : “The prophecy hereafter mentioned was not an human conjecture, but, as all true prophecy, it came from the Spirit of God, who spoke or delivered it; either in the prophets of the Old Testament, who, as they spoke of the Gospel dispensation, so of the defection that should be in it… or in the Lord Jesus Christ, who foretold that false prophets would arise and deceive many; or in some of the prophets in the Christian church, such as Agabus, and others, who might in so many words foretell this thing; or rather in the apostle himself, at this time…”
Commentators are not in complete agreement as to when this prophecy was first given. Some believed that this was a new prophecy given to the Apostle Paul during his ministry. Some commentators like Mede and Poole on the other hand believed that the words “the Spirit speaketh/saith” did not refer to a revelation given in the New Testament era but rather pointed to a prophecy already found in the Old Testament in Daniel chapter 11 because of the words “Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, NOR THE DESIRE OF WOMEN…” (Daniel 11:37a) which are the only prophetic words in the Old Testament to my knowledge pointing in any way to celibacy if this be how we are to interpret the words “the desire of women”*. I tend to believe that Paul had received a new prophecy giving further characteristics of the future apostasy which he had already mentioned previously during his ministry (see warning to the Ephesian elders in Acts chapter 20, 2nd Thessalonians chapter 2). I don’t believe Daniel chapter 11 has anything to do with 1st Timothy chapter 4 because the events of Daniel 11 were all fulfilled prior to the Coming of Christ as ably demonstrated in Philip Mauro’s book “The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation”.
*concerning the “desire of women” here is what we find in the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown commentary : “Elliott rightly makes the antitypical reference be to Messiah. Jewish women desired to be mothers with a view to Him, the promised seed of the woman (Genesis 30:23; Luke 1:25, Luke 1:28).”
Part 2 : “speaketh expressly”
Albert Barnes : “Speaketh expressly – In express words. It was not by mere hints, and symbols, and shadowy images of the future; it was in an open and plain manner – in so many words. The object of this statement seems to be to call the attention of Timothy to it in an emphatic manner, and to show the importance of attending to it.”
Vincent’s Word Studies : “Expressly. In express words.”
John Wesley : “Expressly – As concerning a thing of great moment, and soon to be fulfilled.”
Matthew Poole : “… that is, either clearly revealed it to me, as Acts 10:19, and Acts 13:2, thus expressly is opposed to obscurely; for sometimes the revelations given to the prophets were under shadows and figures in divers manners, but the Spirit discovered in a most intelligible manner what seducers should come in the church”
John Calvin : “By a solemn announcement, therefore, he recommends to us this prophecy; and, not satisfied with doing this, he adds that it is plain, and free from all ambiguity.”
Adam Clarke : “Manifestly, openly.”
John Gill : “… this prophecy was delivered not in dark sayings, in an enigmatical way, in an obscure manner, as prophecies generally were, but in plain language, and easy to be understood, and wanted no interpreter to unriddle it; and seeing that it is nowhere to be found in so many express words elsewhere: and moreover, the apostle does not say the Spirit “hath spoken”, but the Spirit “speaketh”; then, at the time of the writing of these words, in and by him….”
As I mentioned in a previous post I find it sad that many professing Christians today have not taken the proper time to study the prophecy in 1st Timothy chapter 4 (its context, meanings of original Greek words especially the two Scriptural meanings attached to the word “daimonion”, Church History, comparing Scripture with Scripture, etc…) and have mistakenly interpreted it in so many different ways. The true and unique historical fulfillment of the prophecy was understood by Bible believers in the past. I believe the wording of the first part of the prophecy forbids multiple and divergent interpretations of the passage: “The (Holy) Spirit speaketh EXPRESSLY”. In other words : not with ambiguity, not figuratively, not symbolically, not darkly and not in parables. If there is confusion today the fault is not with the prophecy, which is expressed clearly, or with the Apostle Paul but with the interpreters who because of historical ignorance and/or Scriptural ignorance and/or lack of study and/or intellectual pride (which is not lacking among Protestants and Baptists today) and/or lack of prayer/fellowship with God and/or prejudice and/or emotional attachments and/or ecumenical compromising are unable or unwilling to understand the true fulfillment of this prophecy (and the accompanying prophecy of 2nd Thessalonians chapter 2). Did not Paul in his own day fear the circulation of false teachings concerning the Lord’s return (2nd Thessalonians 2:2-3a)? I believe the devil has been busy in past centuries spreading confusion through his ministers (2nd Corinthians 11:13-15) not only about the Return of Christ but also concerning the coming of the son of perdition, the spiritual leader of the great apostasy. That could also explain in part the different interpretations of this passage despite the fact the Spirit spoke EXPRESSLY.
I believe if interpreters had spent more time considering the 2 possible meanings of the Greek word “daimonion” (translated “demons”) then they would have better understood the doctrines concerning demons. Consequently they would have properly identified the apostates who have held them historically. I hope to explore these “doctrines concerning demons” in detail in a future post God willing.
In considering the present spiritual declension within professing Christianity I believe we would be wise to look at (rather than automatically dismiss) the eschatological teachings of pious believers of past centuries. Let us not act foolishly like Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, who disdained the wisdom and experience of the elders who stood before his wise father and preferred new ideas (1st Kings chapter 12). Question : could all of those past Bible believers who were more pious than we are, who were more zealous for the Bible than we are, who were humbler before God than we are, who were more fruitful in Christian service and evangelism than we are and who were more apt to pray and fast than we are have been completely ignorant concerning the fulfillment of Bible prophecies pertaining to the long period of time of the Church age? Should we zealously promote the writings of the Puritans while rejecting most if not all of their eschatology? Why would God have kept those past, zealous believers “in the dark” while supposedly giving greater understanding and discernment to the lazy, comfortable professing Christians of today? What some past believers may have lacked in terms of a historical vantage point they more than made up for in terms of Scriptural wisdom. I do not believe past Protestants were perfect in their understanding of each prophetic detail – I disagree with some authors on minor points of interpretation – but when it comes to interpreting the figurative, prophetic language of the Scriptures why not go to the experts: the most spiritual, pious, doctrinally-sound, fruitful believers in history? Believers who have been on the spiritual battle front. Believers who have been used instrumentally by God to lead sinners to repentance and faith in Christ. Believers who could teach us a thing or two about self-denial. Believers who were part of true spiritual revivals. If you want advice on how to play hockey at a professional level don’t seek the advice of a minor league player… go to Wayne Gretzky or Patrick Roy or Mark Messier. Let us remember that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10a). If one wants to properly understand Biblical prophecy one must fear the Lord in sincerity and truth. Who would be the better example of a professing believer fearing the Lord, Gary Demar or Jonathan Edwards? Who would be the better example of a man of fervent prayer, Kenneth Gentry or John Knox? Who would be the better example of Christian service, David Chilton or Charles Spurgeon? Who was persecuted more for their views of AntiChrist, the German preterists of the 19th century or the Waldensians of the Middle Ages? Who evangelized more in more hostile circumstances, John Walvoord or John Wesley? Who had a higher view of the Scriptures, Hugo Grotius or John Gill? Doesn’t Christ call us to look at the spiritual fruit of teachers (Matthew chapter 7)?
TO BE CONTINUED
See also :