Chapter four is different from the other chapters around it because Paul broke from his instructions to groups in order to focus on Timothy himself again. In this chapter, he gave Timothy three sets of warnings or encouragements. First, Timothy was to pay close attention to false teaching that would arise within the congregation (1 Timothy 4:1-5). Even though elders and deacons should have godly character traits, Paul had already warned the original Ephesian elders that “wolves” would enter the congregation from within their own body (Acts 20:28-30), and as Paul’s representative there, it was Timothy’s job to help purge these false teachers from the congregation. The description Paul gave reveals men who had forsaken the truth of Scripture for sensational teachings that, ultimately, come from demons. As innocuous as they sound, they include teachings even about marriage and food, often focusing on what is forbidden in an ascetic way. In Colossians 2:16-23 Paul wrote that we are not obligated to such unscriptural restrictions.
Second, Timothy was to guard himself and his teaching carefully, so that he did not get caught up in such heresies, even unintentionally (1 Timothy 4:6-10). Paul noted that even then there were those who focused on their physical health to the neglect of their spiritual health. While physical health does some good in this life, spiritual health is eternal and must be the priority. Paul’s comment that God “is the Savior of all people, especially of believers,” points to the fact that no one is outside of God’s ability to save. The concept that only a special group can or will be saved is contrary to Paul’s teaching.
Third, Timothy was to both “command and teach these things” (1 Timothy 4:11-16). Apparently, there were some who had dismissed him as their local apostle because of his youth. Paul told him not to let that stop his work there. Instead, he was to be an example of all these things already mentioned, even to the elders of the local congregations. He was to make this his life’s focus, and it would be beneficial not only for him but everyone in his care.