1 Timothy 1:3-7
The Wrong Use of the Scriptures
“The sermon is a music of its own. No matter the text, no matter the topic, the tune is the joyous anthem of God’s slaying the dragon, a redemption song.” – Jared C. Wilson
The precise beginning of the church at Ephesus is not exactly known. However, we can construct what we do know from the book of Acts.
Priscilla and Aquila were involved early on in the shaping of the church and maybe in it’s founding as Paul left them there on a brief visit as he left off for Antioch (around 52 AD) while on the second missionary journey (Acts 18:18-22).
When Paul returned to Ephesus he stayed there for a 2-3 year stint preaching in the local synagogue and then in the hall of Tyrannus (Acts 19:8-10).
Paul’s ministry at Ephesus was a strong one. The Gospel did some transforming among the people. The idol making industry took such a hit that the idol makers created an uproar that led to the Ephesian riot (See Acts 19).
The ministry at Ephesus established a powerful ministry center for the Asian world as Ephesus was, perhaps, the most important city of the Roman province of Asia. From Ephesus the evangelization of Asia Minor was launched.
Paul addresses the Ephesian elders in his farewell address in Acts 20:25-31:
“And now, behold, I know hat none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming he kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of you all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore, be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.”
As Paul writes this letter of 1 Timothy a few years have passed. Maybe 5 years have passed (depending on when one dates the book of 1 Timothy and I date it at AD 64). Trouble has come to the church from within. Some savage wolves are after the sheep.
Paul has sent Timothy to Ephesus to deal with the problem(s). It’s vital that Timothy’s mission succeed, so Paul sends Timothy with specific directions about conduct and order in this book known as 1 Timothy.
As we saw last week, the greeting was intended to strengthen Timothy’s heart that these instructions are God’s instructions and that the Lord’s care for him was abundant and is more than able to overcome his weaknesses.
But at the same time, “…the greeting is ominous because it does not include Paul’s thanksgiving for the church that almost all of his letters contained. What was taking place in Ephesus was no cause for thanksgiving.”
So Paul gets right to work charging Timothy with his task. Lets get to work with him…
1. Plant your life and command false teachers to stop teaching false doctrine v. 3, 6-7
Plant your life and charge people to teach what is right v. 3, 6-7 (stated positively)
“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.”
“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. Right teaching is an immediate need and long-term task
“remain at Ephesus”
2. Right teaching involves demanding people to stop teaching different doctrine
“…charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.”
a. The idea is that there is right doctrine and different doctrine is wrong doctrine
3. Swerving from right doctrine is to wander into vain discussion
“…by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion…”
a. The implication is that right doctrine has practical use
b. Another implication is that different doctrine is useless
4. Swerving from right teaching is ignorant not “deep”
“…desiring to be teachers of the law…without understanding what they are saying…make confident assertions.”
a. Rabbis were called “teachers of the law” (Luke 15:17; Acts 5:34). These “elders” in Ephesus seemed to be aspiring to be Christian versions of rabbis…authoritative interpreters of the deep things of the Old Testament.
b. Deep is not necessarily right. Deep may be an abyss.
2. What is the nature of the false teaching? v. 4a
“…nor devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations…”
A. Myths and genealogies
1. “The Old Testament is full of genealogies that made perfect fodder for ‘Jewish myths’ (Titus 1:4) – the fanciful allegorical creation of stories about the people in the genealogies. The Jewish tradition included books such as The book of Jubilees (135-105 BC), a fanciful rewrite of OT history from creation to Sinai. The later Biblical Antiquities of Philo (70 AD) retells more of the OT story from creation to the death of King Saul. Thus there were ample allegorical models for the Ephesian elders turned Christian rabbis to imitate.”
1. These allegorical tales made for speculating.
2. It may not be that these teachers set out to be heretical, they just wanted
to go “deeper” and beyond the simple exegesis of the text that Paul had done.
3. “They did not set out to abandon the gospel doctrine that salvation is by
faith alone, but in fact their progressive accretions smothered the gospel.”
3. God practice comes from knowing God not by inquiring on how to do stuff better v. 4b
“…rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.”
A. Stewardship from God by faith is contrasted with speculations
1. Stewardship – “oikonomia” – management or good order from “oikos” – house contrasted with “zetesis” – philosophical inquiry
2. These guys were seeking to “go deeper” and neglecting the practice of
managing the advance of the Gospel.
a. These are the 3 bible study guys who do nothing with their faith
b. These are the guys who are always asking questions but doing
c. These are the guys who are staying up until 3 am asking dumb
questions to equally stupid roommates and never acting on the
truth they know.
2. Notice: Stewardship is FROM God.
a. Right order/practice comes from God and to get right order one must know God.
b. Sound doctrine leads to sound practice not the other way around.
c. Knowing God is more vital than a plan. Plans come from
4. What is the purpose of the command to teach what is right and demand what is wrong be stopped? v. 5
“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
What is this love? It is the Matthew 22:37-40 love. Jesus proclaimed the classic dimensions of love here when he summed up the 10 commandments by telling us to love God with all our being and our neighbor as our self and that all the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.
“Love is the overflow of joy in God which gladly meets the needs of others.”
In other words, love for God leads to love for each other and their need for the good management of God’s people doing God’s mission NOT seeking more spirituality and deeper experiences.
Where does this love come from?
1. Love from a pure heart
a. This kind of love comes from a transformed heart
(Jeremiah 32:38, 39)
2. Good conscience
a. Conscience is one’s inner awareness of the rightness of their
actions informed by the Spirit and the Word. – Jolly
b. Here in 1 Timothy conscience means the sense of one’s moral
actions as part of the group. (I cannot isolate my actions from the
whole of the community; my actions affect the community and thus
must be filtered through what is good for the whole and what is not)
c. Biblical morality is in place and that causes love to issue forth.
d. If morality is off then love may be the first thing to go.
3. Sincere faith
a. Literally “a faith without hypocrisy”.
b. In other words, if one really believes they will really love.
Paul’s heart was pure, his conscience was clean and his faith was real. Therefore, he and the Apostles and other leaders could not but command that the false teachers stop. He loved the church too much and the false teachers too much to allow them to pillage themselves and others because the end for them would be destruction.
5. Ways to avoid false teaching as a false teacher or as a recipient of false teaching
A. Don’t presume to be a teacher flippantly (James 3:1)
B. Don’t come to expositional conclusions using extra-biblical texts. Use Scripture to interpret Scripture. If your conclusion cannot be attained by a normal, Spirit-filled, bible believing man / woman / pastor with no special degree it’s probably wrong.
C. Do not build theological systems on obscure passages of Scripture, particularly on obscure single verses. Remember, the bible one book, 66 chapters, one author, many scribes, one story, many supporting cast members and one main character. Therefore, building systems on one verse isolated from the rest is a recipe for epic failure.
D. Leave your personal agendas on the table. Don’t go to the text looking to justify your deal. Go to the text with a blank agenda and let the text fill your agenda. Don’t use the bible like Adolf Hitler.
E. Gather with the people of God to be equipped, worship, filter your study through community and submit to biblical leadership.