As we continue looking at the first Chapter of 1 Timothy, a closer examination of the fruit of “different doctrine” as opposed to “sound doctrine” is in order. Last week we talked mostly about why Holy Spirit had to focus so much attention, not only in this letter to Timothy, but in just about all of the letters of the New Testament, on correcting false teaching in the churches. We looked briefly at Galatians 1, where Paul very forcefully wrote “To the churches of Galatia:”
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:6-9).
Judaizers, proto-Gnostics and others teaching false doctrines very quickly came to, and even arose from within those new churches (as Paul warned the elders of the church in Ephesus in Acts 20). The emphasis in the letter of the New Testament should remind us that the need to contend against false teaching has not diminished, but rather has increased more and more as the centuries have passed. We all need to be like the Bereans, who “received the word with all eagerness, [but then] examin[ed] the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
The tests that we use to determine whether or not any teaching or preaching is sound, is healthy, is good, is “how does this accord with what the rest of Scripture says?” Another test that we see in 1 Timothy is to look at the fruit. Does this teaching produce “love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim 1:5)?
Paul characterizes the false teachers as focusing on “myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations” (v.4), “vain discussion” (v.6), and roundly condemns them as “desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions” (v.7). We spoke last week of this pointing to those who focus on obscure passages of Scripture, thinking themselves to be more wise than other teachers, more enlightened perhaps, but their wrong focus takes time and attention away from the clear teaching of those things “which pertain unto God” (Rom 15:14), or to the genealogies in Genesis, or 1 Chronicles, trying to prove a closer connection for some to Noah, Abraham, or the Twelve Tribes of Israel, when the Good News of Christ, salvation in His NAME, is available to all, regardless of genealogy.
There may be different areas of focus in weak or false teaching in our day. Certainly many “Christians” and whole denominations have lost confidence in the Bible as the inspired, inerrant, authoritative and sufficient Word of God, as applicable in our day as in any other. We might also think of churches that have become more “pragmatic” than “dogmatic,” focusing on what seems to work, on spiritual “milk” rather than the “meat” of the Word (Heb 5:11-14), or abandoning “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude v.3) where “modern ears” find it to be harsh, or judgmental, or “unenlightened,” not in keeping with modern thought.
Such teaching, according to Paul, doesn’t produce love. Is it loving to allow someone to continue to hold opinions, particularly concerning core salvation truths, that are contrary to what is clearly taught in the Word? Is it loving to allow someone to continue in attitudes and behaviours that God says are abhorrent to Him, and invoke His just wrath? As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:4-6:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
And Paul warns about what will be happening in the latter days, before Christ comes again, in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 as in other places:
The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Are you worried about being “on the wrong side of history”? Which side would you like to be on, the side that is deceived, that follows after teaching that suits their “itching ears,” or on the side of God and the truth that He has revealed to us in His Word, written and Incarnate? Therein is love, that we believe and teach the truth to one another, “from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
For a more printer friendly version, please see the PDF version below: