1 Timothy 4:4–5 (ESV) … “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.”
In verses 4-5, we find Paul dealing with the false teachers in Ephesus who were combining Jewish legalism with Eastern asceticism (severe self-discipline and avoidance of all forms of indulgence) to the Christian faith.
We also find Paul dealing with this same false doctrine in his Letter to the Colossians (Col. 2:8–23 especially). For one thing, the false teachers taught that an unmarried life was more spiritual than a married life, which is contrary to Scripture. “It is not good that the man should be alone” are God’s own words (Gen. 2:18). Jesus put His seal of approval on marriage (Matt. 19:1–9), though He pointed out that not everybody is supposed to marry (Matt. 19:10–12). Paul also affirmed the biblical basis for marriage (1 Cor. 7:1–24), teaching that each person should follow the will of God in the matter.
Beware of any religious teaching that tampers with God’s institution of marriage. And beware of any teaching that tampers with God’s creation. The false teachers who were infecting the Ephesian church taught that certain foods were taboo; if you ate them, you were not spiritual. The fact that God called His own Creation “good” (Gen. 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25) did not interest these teachers. Their authority to dictate diets gave them power over their converts.
Those who “believe and know the truth” are not impressed with the do’s and don’ts of the legalists. Jesus stated that all foods are clean (Mark 7:14–23). He taught this lesson again to Peter (Acts 10), and reaffirmed it through Paul (1 Cor. 10:23–33). A person may not be able to eat certain foods for physical reasons (an allergy, for example); but no food is to be rejected for spiritual reasons. We should not, however, use our freedom to eat and drink to destroy weaker Christians (Rom. 14:13–23). The food we eat is sanctified (set apart, devoted to God) when we pray and give thanks; so the Word of God and prayer turn even an ordinary meal into a spiritual service for God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31).
The emphasis in a minister’s life should be on “the Word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:5). It is tragic when a church keeps its pastors so busy with menial tasks that they have hardly any time for God’s Word and prayer (Acts 6:1–7). Paul reminded young Timothy of his great responsibility to study, teach, and preach the Scriptures, and to spend time in prayer. As a “good minister” he must be “nourished up in the words of faith” (1 Tim. 4:6). Timothy had certain responsibilities in the light of this growing apostasy:[i]
Finally, it does not take much imagination to see that the Creator’s act of giving and the believer’s act of receiving (and enjoying) the gifts of creation are both part of a conscious communication process meant to strengthen the bond between Father and child. Furthermore, the communication is intimate, for only believers (v. 3) can enter fully into it.
There are undoubtedly implications here that go beyond the dinner table to include the Christian’s appreciation of the environment in general, but the starting point for developing this kind of understanding is the recognition through prayers of thanksgiving of God’s gracious provisions. Neither the true gospel nor the life of salvation in this present age calls for ascetic denial. Rather, they encourage responsible use and enjoyment of God’s creation.[ii]