Sermon on 1 Timothy 4:4-5
Text: For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
One of the first lessons that we learned in Sunday School or in a Lutheran elementary school is the account of creation. We were taught that all that exists was created by our God in six days with nothing but his almighty word. He spoke and it came to be. You recall that at the end of every one of those days, we heard these words, “God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:10) God was announcing that what he had done was not only perfect, but also beneficial for the crown of his creation, mankind. The apostle Paul echoes this thought as he spoke to his co-worker Timothy. He said EVERYTHING GOD CREATED IS GOOD. It is to be 1. Received With Thanksgiving and 2. Used For His Glory.
We learn the reason why Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote the words of our text. Just prior to this portion of God’s Word, we read, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.” (1 Timothy 4:1-3) This was the beginning of a false teaching called Gnosticism, which said that the physical world is evil. The only thing that was good was the soul. As a result, they demanded an ascetic life. You should deny yourself the things of this world, if you want to get closer to God. As a result, they told people that they couldn’t eat certain foods. They were not to marry. By denying yourself these things, you can show that you are more devoted to God.
This same thought still shows itself from time to time in the Christian church. There are churches that say that you cannot eat certain types of food. Others will say that it is wrong to have any sort of wine or other alcoholic beverages. Some churches teach that you get closer to God by not marrying. However, as Paul stated in 1 Timothy 4:1, these things are “taught by demons.” They are demonic because they turn the hearts and minds of people to supposed works of piety and away from the perfect redemption that Jesus did for us. The thought is that, if you deny yourself these things, you are a holier person that the one who does them. This is saying that, through your denial of these things, you get closer to God. You have, in some part, earned your salvation.
Rather, Paul says, “Everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” (Verse 4) God created this world for us. He gave us blessings that we are free to use. We are not to reject anything so that we can earn something from him. Instead, we receive everything with thanksgiving. Paul would later write that “God . . . richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Timothy 6:17) God wanted to bless us with good things. Instead of making the world a dull, colorless, and bland place, he has given us many things that are beautiful to the eyes, that taste good to the tongue, and are helpful in our everyday lives.
Unfortunately, when our sinful nature hears that everything that God has created is good and for our enjoyment, it takes that to mean that we have the license to sin. Food and drink are blessings that come from God. Our sinful nature tells us that we should over-indulge on them, which is harmful to us and often leads to other sins. We have the gift of exercise, but some will take that to an extreme and hurt their bodies in the process. The physical shape of the body becomes the driving force in life. We have the blessings of electronics and the internet. The sinful nature looks for ways to misuse them. The sinful nature takes these blessings that come from God and are meant for our enjoyment and turns them into opportunities to sin. It is so easy to fall into one of these two extremes. Either we deny ourselves and think that we are better in God’s sight than others or we abuse the very blessings that God has given to us. Either one of these paths will lead to the same destination, which is an eternity of separation from God.
It is here that the greatest blessing that God has given to people shines so brightly. That blessing is Jesus Christ, who came into the world to be our Savior. He used the blessings that his Father had given him in the proper ways. We hear that, as Jesus prepared to give food to the people, he gave thanks to his Father for it. He did not follow the popular teachings of the religious leaders of his day, who felt that they were so much better and holier than the rest of the people, because they abstained from certain foods and drink. Jesus stayed right in the middle of these two extremes for us. He was perfect in his life. Then, in his love, Jesus suffered and died to rescue the world, to rescue you and me from our sins. His blood was the payment that was given to erase our debt of sin. Through his redemptive act of living, dying, and rising again, we have been made right with God. Eternal life is waiting for us. It has been given to us as our greatest blessing.
As a result of this, we want to thank God for all that he has done for us. One of the ways that we do this is to look at the earthly blessings that he has given to us as opportunities to use them to glorify him. In speaking of these earthly blessings, Paul speaks of them as being “consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” (Verse 5) The word “consecrated” means “to make or declare something to be sacred or holy.” The blessings of this earth were set aside for our use as God pronounced them good after each day of creation. However, they are not holy in and of themselves. They are holy to us as we use them to God’s glory. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” This reminds us that as we use the physical blessings that God has given us, we do so to glorify God. For the Christian, using these things is not merely a secular matter. Our entire lives have become an opportunity to worship our God. Whatever we may be doing, eating and drinking, taking care of things around the house, driving our vehicles, and so on, we want to glorify God by using them in the best way that we can.
Paul also speaks of the fact that they are consecrated by prayer. In our prayers, we acknowledge that God is the giver of all the good things in our lives. We say with the psalmist, “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” (Psalm 145:15-16) He gives us just what we need at the time that we need it. In our prayers, we thank God for all of his blessings.
Also, in our prayers, we ask that God would bless us as we make use of the blessings that he gives to us. We pray that he would bless the food and drink that we consume, so that our bodies are able to live for him. We pray that God would bless our marriage so that we might be the type of spouse that loves and honors and that we might be a good example of what marriage is to be like to our children and to those in our community. We pray that God would bless us in our occupations so that we are able to provide for our families and to show Christian love in helping those in need and in spreading of the Gospel message. We pray that God would bless us as we use the blessings that he has given to us for his glory.
With that in mind, I would like to spend a few moments talking about our table prayers. Probably the most common ones are “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed. O, give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good and his mercy endures forever. Amen.” These are more than just a “nice” tradition. In these prayers, we are asking for the Lord’s blessings on what we are about to receive from his gracious hand and also giving thanks to him for them. Unfortunately, since they are so familiar, it is easy for us to just rattle them off without thinking about what we are saying. They almost become something to do to signal the beginning of the meal. May we be reminded of the wonderful things that we are saying as we pray these prayers, for the Lord truly is good to us and we want his presence and his blessing on what we are about to receive.
When we take a few moments and think about the wonders of God’s creation, it cannot help but fill us with awe. God made this beautiful world for us to enjoy. That is why at the end of each day of creation it says, “God saw that it was good.” We ask that God would keep us aware of all of the blessings that he has given us. When we are reminded of this visible expression of his love for us, we cannot help but be filled with thanksgiving. As we look at the many ways he has blessed us, we are filled with the desire to do everything to his glory. We ask that he would bless us in our efforts to glorify him in everything that we do. Amen.
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