View previous posts: 1 Timothy 1:1-2
“As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.” – 1 Timothy 1:3-4
Godly transformation culminates in a proper understanding of the truth of God’s Word. Paul recognized the dangerous results of false teaching within the church which is why he urged Timothy to remain in Ephesus to deal with the false teachers who were teaching “different doctrine”. False teaching comes in many different forms and it can be both intentional or unintentional. It could be that the counterfeit teaching comes from someone who intentionally distorts the truth of the gospel out of malice, jealousy, hate, or greed. Then again, it could be someone who merely misunderstands the Word of God or someone who has been taught wrongly their whole lives and as a result they continue to spread faulty theology. Identifying the false teacher and understanding what exactly the false teaching is really doesn’t matter, which is why this fact is slighted by Paul. What is important is the result of false teaching in the church. The effect of false teaching, whether intentional or unintentional, is the opposite of the intended effect of the Gospel.
In Ephesus the result of false teaching was conjecture. Not having enough information or gaining false information causes someone to form an opinion or supposition about (something) on the basis of incomplete information. This leads to even more confusion, slander, gossip, and to what Paul calls “vain discussions”. Certainly we’ve all probably experienced something of this nature in church. Someone may start talking about something that they have little information about and the next thing you know it becomes a huge discussion with most of it being nothing more than untrue assumptions. Sadly we are even guilty of shaping our thoughts and opinions of other people by what we “hear” about them without ever getting to know them ourselves. Church members who thrive on speculation and pretense hinder the work and purpose of the church and disrupt the unity to which we are called (Ephesians 4:3-6).
“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.“ – 1 Timothy 1:5-7
Paul reveals the aim or goal of having Timothy deal with this issue. The ultimate goal of what he wanted Timothy to accomplish was love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. In contrast, false teaching was leading to speculation and vain discussions, whereas the goal of right teaching is right living grounded in love. Paul exposes certain people who had abandoned the love that comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. This abandonment ultimately led to the church being bogged down in vain discussions and thereby hindering their effectiveness for the Kingdom of God. A transformed church is one in which its members are unified in the love that is produced by the working of the Spirit of God within them to redeem their heart, their conscience, and their faith.
The false teachers yearned to be teachers of the law, but Paul claims they don’t understand what they are talking about even though they speak with confident assertions. The church in Ephesus was giving voice to people who had no clue what they were saying and in doing so they were causing confusion, disruption, and corruption among themselves. The law (Mosaic Law) itself is good, but when used incorrectly or when spoken improperly it can become a stumbling block or hindrance to the truth of the Gospel.
“Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.“ – 1 Timothy 1:8-11
The law is useful for teaching Christians how to live when used correctly. Sound doctrine is what naturally comes from the truth of the Word of God and the message of the gospel that reveals the glory of God. Paul speaks of being entrusted with this gospel which makes him one who has the responsibility to defend the truth of the gospel.
You’ll notice that the church in Ephesus was subject to the authority of both Paul and Timothy in regards to these spiritual matters. Paul will go on in the next few verses to explain his qualifications for being an authority on the subject matter which he made reference to also in verse 11 when he speaks of God entrusting him with the gospel. This can also be seen in the calling of pastors and teachers who are entrusted to speak the truth of the Gospel of Christ. While the work of the pastor will be clearly discussed in the latter chapters of 1 Timothy, I want to make reference to them now as ones who have been entrusted with the truth of the Gospel of Christ. The level that a church trusts its pastor(s) to lead them in truth will determine the depth at which the church will mature. Sheep without a shepherd tend to wander. The pastors, leaders, and teachers in the church are entrusted with the Gospel and responsible for teaching the truth to believers. This is indeed a high calling and one that should never be taken lightly. The transformed Church is grounded in the truth of God’s Word and led by pastors, leaders, and teachers whose high calling is to teach, preach, and live this truth.
It’s also important to note the extent to which the truth of the Word of God should penetrate the inner workings of the church. Just because a church has a pastor and teachers that preach and teach sound doctrine does not mean that church is grounded in sound doctrine. The Bible says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” – James 1:22 Hearing Biblical truth is not the same thing as living Biblical truth. There are many churches who claim the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Word of God and yet the truth of God’s word does not translate to what that church does. Sound doctrine must be at the core of all a church says and does from what is preached to what is done at business meetings.
Sometimes false teaching is not revealed in the teaching and preaching of a church but instead manifests itself in a church’s “ministry” or “business”. People tend to separate the spiritual from the business element of a church and as a result they try to run a church like it’s a corporation in the business world and not a body of believers whose spiritual head is Christ. The business of the church must be just as grounded in truth and led by the Spirit as anything else a church does. The transformed church has at its very core the truth of God’s word and the leadership of the Holy Spirit that penetrates every detail of the church body.