heard anything like this: “This religious teacher who
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and further insights as to what will take place in the
future. He can show you how the United States is
mentioned in the Bible and how World War 3 will take place.
He will explain the secret pact made between a Russian
president and the Vatican to usher in the time when all
religions will become one. He can tell you about
Israel's destiny, the Antichrist, and the significance of
666. All of this and more can be found on 14 DVDs
which will cost you only $200; that's an $80 reduction off
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happen!” Maybe you've heard some similar offer.
Guess what? This situation is as old as the New
Testament. The book of 1 Timothy has something similar
Before we listen carefully to the letter's introduction,
let's get some background information. We see that
Timothy is working with the church in Ephesus while Paul is
making his way to Macedonia (1:3). This statement is
significant because it shows Paul is on the move. He
is no longer in prison as we saw at the close of the book of
Acts. Undoubtedly, he was released and is now working
as a missionary once more. This would have been around
65 A.D. About five years earlier, Paul had called the
elders at Ephesus to meet him. They came, and he gave
them this warning in Acts 20:28ff: "Therefore take heed to
yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit
has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which
He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that
after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not
sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will
rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the
disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and
remember that for three years I did not cease to warn
everyone night and day with tears." Sadly and
terribly, what Paul predicted five years earlier is taking
place while Timothy is working in Ephesus! How do we
know this? There are several indications. Look
at 1:18-20: "This charge I commit to you, son Timothy,
according to the prophecies previously made concerning you,
that by them you may wage the good warfare, [waging a good
warfare doesn't sound like all is going well], having faith
and a good conscience, which some have rejected, concerning
the faith have shipwrecked [some members, maybe even some
elders themselves, had rejected a good conscience and had
shipwrecked their faith], of whom are Hymenaus and
Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not
to blaspheme [so Paul has personally disciplined two men who
have been involved in blasphemous teaching]." Now look
at chapter 4:2-3 where Paul explains that there are those
who are "speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own
consciences seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry and
commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be
received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the
truth." This looks like some of the perverse things
that the elders who have become savage wolves are now
teaching to the brethren in Ephesus to try and draw away the
disciples after themselves! Now notice 6:5: "Useless
wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the
truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of great gain.
From such withdraw yourself!" It sure sounds like
these false elders have wandered away from the truth and are
offering other members deeper knowledge, sort of like the
person in our introduction, for a nice price, of course.
They discovered that "godliness" can bring a nice financial
profit! So, these elders have sold out and have gone
off the deep end! Yes, Timothy really had his hands
full combating these fallen elders who were trying to pull
other members into their heresy. Paul hopes to come to
Timothy in a short time (3:14), but in the meantime, this
letter will have to do. So the apostle Paul writes to
encourage Timothy and to give him some advice as how he and
the church can combat these perverse heretics. Yes,
the church in Ephesus is in chaos. Paul gives Timothy
several imperatives to help with the chaos that is going on
in the opening verses.
Let's read the first four verses: "Paul, an apostle of Jesus
Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord
Jesus Christ, our hope, to Timothy, a true son in the faith:
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ
our Lord. As I urged you when I went to
Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that
they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and
endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly
edification which is in faith." After calling God our
Savior and Father and Jesus our hope and our Lord, Paul
gives his typical greeting to Timothy, his son in the faith.
Timothy has already been sent by Paul to three other
congregations: Thessalonica, Corinth, and Philippi. So
Timothy knows how to work in various situations. Now
there is one thing that is very unusual here. Do you
notice that Paul's usual opening prayer is very obviously
absent? Why is that? The chaos at Ephesus might
explain this. There is an urgency about the situation,
so Paul gets right down to business. After urging
Timothy to remain in Ephesus, then notice what he commands:
"Charge some that they teach no other doctrine, no give heed
to fables and endless genealogies." Charge means "to
command", so Timothy is command some members not to teach
something different from the Gospel and not to give heed to
fables and endless genealogies. You see, these members
are not the heretics; these are members who have been
listening to them. So here is the first imperative:
"Warn the unstable!" Paul doesn't want the good
brethren at Ephesus to be lead further astray or drawn away
by the fallen elders. Paul also notes that this false
teaching causes disputes and does not lead to godly
edification based on faith. So Timothy is to warn
these brethren, who might be wavering, not to teach what the
fallen elders are promoting and not to pay attention to
their false teaching. Paul said in Colossians 1:28:
"Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in
all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ
Jesus." Paul took a stand for the truth and when false
doctrines were being taught, he warned others against those
falsehoods so that they could become mature Christians.
Why can't we to the same? Shouldn't we warn other
brethren when someone is spreading falsehood? Like
Paul and Timothy, let's warn the unstable!
Now let's read verse 5: "Now the purpose of the commandment
is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from
sincere faith." It would have been a better
translation if the wording read, "Now the purpose of the
charge is love." You see, the word used in verse 5 is
the same word used in verse 3. Paul is saying that the
purpose of the charge to teach the Gospel and to avoid
listening to the fallen elders is love among the faithful
brethren in Ephesus. Notice how Paul describes the
fallen elders' teaching as fables (1:4), idle talk (1:6),
doctrines of demons (4:1), and idle babblings and
contradictions (6:20). And what has this unhealthy
teaching produced? The answer is found in 6:4 where
Paul says that their doctrine has created "envy, strife,
reviling, evil suspicions, and wranglings." So Paul
desires for there to be brotherly love among the steadfast
members based on the truth of the Gospel. So, here's
the next imperative: Foster genuine love! Instead of
"lies in hypocrisy" (4:2), it is time for the good brethren
in Ephesus to see there are still those who love them from a
pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. "How
sweet, how heavenly, is the sight when those that love the
Lord in one another's peace delight, and so fulfill the
word. When love in one delightful stream thru every
bosom flows, when union sweet and dear esteem in every
action glows" (Swain). Foster genuine love! A
preacher of many centuries ago once made this observation:
"Have you ever noticed how heat will cause things to expand?
In the same way, the warmth of love will expand another
person's heart" (Swindoll quoting Chrysostom). The
apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:9: "Let love be without
hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good."
Foster genuine love!
Now let's read verses 6-7: "From which some, having strayed,
have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of
the law, understanding neither what they say or the things
which they affirm." Don't confuse the "some" of verse
6 with the "some" mentioned in verse 3. They are two
different groups. In fact, the group in verse 6 are
the fallen elders who are trying to gain a following for
themselves. Now notice how Paul describes them.
First of all, he says they have strayed. Literally,
the word means “to miss the mark". In other words,
these leaders have departed from a sincere faith.
Secondly, they have turned aside to idle talk. Oh yes,
these elders can really talk a good game, but its idle talk
that doesn't edify. Thirdly, they desire to be
teachers of the law. Look at moment at Acts 5:34, and
you'll find a Pharisee named Gamaliel who is described by
Luke as a teacher of the law. These fallen elders in
Ephesus are using the Old Testament law as a basis for their
arguments, and they are wanting to be like Jewish rabbis!
Fourthly, Paul affirms that these fallen elders are really
devoid of understanding. Oh yes, they may promise to
give you deeper understanding, but Paul knows that they are
misusing the Scriptures to promote their false ideas about
celibacy and fasting. This leads to a third
imperative: Avoid the heretics or the fallen teachers!
Another commentator makes this good observation: "1 Timothy
is "full of the language of apostasy, of how Christians can
make shipwreck of the faith. Paul [uses] such words as
'swerve off course' (6:21), 'repudiate' [or reject] (1:19),
'abandon' [or depart] (4:1), 'turn aside' (1:6; 5:15),
'wander away' (6:10). All of these verbs imply that a
person had once owned and embraced the true faith, and then
[he or she] rejected or abandoned it ..." (Witherington).
The elders had shipwrecked their faith and had become savage
wolves. Now here's a question for you: Does what Paul
say here support or refute the belief known as "once you
saved, always saved"? Paul says in 6:5 that Timothy is
to withdraw himself from such fallen elders. Avoid the
heretics! Let's now read Hebrews 6:4ff: "For it is
impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have
tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the
Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God, and the
powers of the age to come [you see, these were brethren], if
they fall away, to renew them again to repentance [notice,
these members have fallen away; they haven't just fallen
short; they have fallen away and their repenting apparatus
is broken and no longer functions], since they crucify again
for themselves the Son of God and put Him to an open shame
[these who were brethren have torn Jesus from their hearts
and now murder Him anew through their false practices]."
The writer goes on to say in verse 8 that those who bear
only thorns and briers will be rejected by God and punished.
Heretics are impossible to save because they have reached a
point that they are incapable of turning back to God.
Their consciences are so seared and their hearts are so cold
that Jesus means nothing to them anymore. You know, we
often think that if we'll just give people more time,
they'll change, but when they keep producing thorns and
briers, we'd better beware lest we get pricked by them!
Avoid the heretics!
Now let's read verse 8: "But we know that the law is good if
one uses it lawfully." Paul had just mentioned how the
fallen elders were using the law improperly. So he
clarifies quickly law itself is God's inspired word, and it
is good if a person will use it in the right way.
Here's the next imperative: "Use the law or Scriptures
properly!" The apostle Peter warns in 2 Peter 3:16:
"... which untaught and unstable people twist to their own
destruction, as they do the rest of the Scriptures."
The Word of God can be twisted or distorted so that a false
meaning is produced. Do you know why fire engines are
red? Here's the logical explanation: "They have 4
wheels and 8 men; 4 plus 8 equals 12, and 12 inches makes a
ruler, and a ruler is Queen Elizabeth, and she sails the 7
seas. The seas have fish, and fish have fins, the Finns hate
the Russians, and the Russians are red; fire engines are
always rushin'; so that is why they are red" (Carson).
That may sound far-fetched, but some preachers today, who
find an eagle in Revelation, suddenly proclaim: "There's a
symbol which stands for the United States!" Isn't it
easy for us to read things into a text? Use the law or
Scriptures properly. Some false teachers like to
allegorize texts. This type of interpretation was even
popular in Timothy's day, and it was probably what some of
the fallen elders were doing to make their case. This
is when you make things in a story stand for something else.
For example, let's take the story where Abraham's servant
meets Rebecca. Remember how he prayed that God would
reveal who should be Isaac's wife by having her offer water
to him and his camels. If you wanted to argue for
fasting, you could say: "The servant stand for old age and
infirmity, Rebecca stand for youth and good health, and this
shows that water, not food, is what you need to obtain good
health!" Use the law or Scriptures properly.
Now let's read verses 9-10: "Knowing this: that the law is
not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and
insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the
unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers
of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites,
for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is
any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine."
"Sound doctrine" means "healthy teaching". The teaching of
the fallen elders was diseased, and Paul says in 2 Timothy
2:16-17 that such teaching leads to ungodliness and is
deadly like caner or gangrene. One commentator made
this good observation: "Healthy teaching leads to proper
Christian behavior, love, and good works; the diseased
teaching of the heretics leads to controversies, arrogance,
and strife" (Fee). So, the imperative here is: "Stay
with healthy teaching!" Paul is being ironic here. You
see, those who are claiming to be teachers of the law are
just as lawless, ungodly, and unholy and those who
flagrantly break the Ten Commandments! Did you notice
how all the sins mentioned here follow the order from the
fifth to the ninth commandments? Did you know that the
word "teaching" is found at least six other times in 1
Timothy? Staying with healthy teaching can help a
church in a time of chaos. Stay with healthy teaching!
Now let's read verse 11: "According to the glorious gospel
of the blessed God which was committed to my trust."
Notice how Paul describes this as a glorious Gospel from the
blessed God. Why would anyone need to improve on that?
Paul believed that the Gospel was God's power to save and
God's means to produce hope (Romans 1:16; Colossians 1:23).
Paul affirmed in Galatians 1:6-8 that if an angel or a
person preached a different Gospel than what the apostles
taught, that being would be accursed (and he repeats that
twice so you can't fail to get his point)! The last
imperative is: "Uphold the Gospel!" Paul says that this
Gospel had been entrusted to him, and we know that he was
commissioned to preach it to the Gentiles! Jesus'
Great Commission to make disciples also means that the
Gospel has been entrusted to us. Earlier this year,
there was a challenge issued to you to think of five people
that you knew that needed the Gospel. Have you been
praying for them? Have you made any effort to reach
them? Do you need some materials to help get you
started? "Are you sowing the seed of the kingdom,
brother? For the harvest time is coming on, and the
reapers work will soon be done. Will your sheaves be
many? Will you garner any (and garner means your
collection of grain) for the gathering at the harvest home"
(Fillmore). Uphold the Gospel!
A church in chaos needs lots of help. Paul's advice to
Timothy is practical: Warn the unstable! Foster
genuine love! Avoid the heretics! Use the law or
Scripture properly! Stay with healthy teaching!
Uphold the Gospel! Jesus never used His teachings as a
way to make a financial profit. His saving Gospel and
grace were offered freely. And they still are today.
Paul presents Jesus as our hope and our Lord in the opening
verses of this chapter. He cannot be your hope unless
you make Him your Lord.