The young man had only been helping lead the school Christian union for a few months. Suddenly a small group of those who came along started to suggest that true Christians were able to speak in heavenly languages. They said that if people couldn't do that, their faith was questionable. The young man was startled and the Christian union more than a little disrupted. He knew they were wrong, but he needed wise council. What would you have said to him? He could be your Son, or brother, or nephew, or friend or member of the Church CYFA group. This evening we're going to look at the importance of why and how we should be able to answer questions such as that. May God give us understanding as we have prayed.
Last week we began an evening series in this book of the Bible which is called 1 Timothy. It's called Timothy because that's the name of the person the letter is addressed to. And it's written by a man called Paul. Paul was an apostle, a man sent by God to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ of whom he was an eyewitness. And he is writing to his fellow-worker with instructions on how he should act and look after a group of Christians in Ephesus. That's the reason for this letter, Paul writes in chapter two verse fourteen:
Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God.
Now often the first few sentences in a letter can reveal what is uppermost or of greatest importance in the writers mind. Paul begins this letter with the issues of False Teachers. And the first thing that Paul tells Timothy is;
First, DO NOT PUT UP WITH ANY TEACHING OR SPECULATION THAT DAMAGES THE GOSPEL (vv 3-5)
In other words, be watchful and stop anything that is said or done that is contrary to the good news of Jesus Christ. Look at verse 3:
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer.
Certain individuals had started to teach a different message from that which Paul had taught concerning Jesus Christ when he planted this church in Ephesus. That is what is meant by that phrase 'command certain men not to teach false doctrines'. Doctrine simply means teaching. The message that Paul had taught concerned Jesus Christ; his life, death and resurrection, promised in the Old Testament and of which Paul was an eyewitness. Some 'teachers' in the church had deviated from that message and were causing disruption specifically in how they were using the Old Testament, look at verse four:
… nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies.
As we read in verse seven 'these men want to be teachers of the law', the law meaning our Old Testament. But these supposed teachers were totally misunderstanding the Old Testament. Firstly they concentrated on myths - fables, what Paul later in the letter calls 'Old wives tales'. They had no foundation in the Old Testament, and were pure speculation. Secondly they were misusing the Old Testament by quarrying the genealogies found there for personal gain. We're not exactly sure how they were doing this, one suggestion is that they were trying to prove spiritual pedigree by tracing their family trees back into the Old Testament.
And Paul is urging Timothy to command these men to stop. He is urging Timothy to contend for the Gospel. Later in the letter he says:
If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching he is conceited and understands nothing.
So Timothy is to command the false teacher to stop. He is told to contend for the truth, for the Gospel. Look at what Paul goes onto say at the end of verse four:
These promote controversies rather than God's work which is by faith
You see, because this false teaching had no substance, because it was a complete misuse of the Old Testament it produced controversy which results in disunity. When people start propounding their own views, man-made ideas, controversy and disunity will always prevail.
Make sure, says Paul, that 'God's work' is promoted. God's work that Timothy is commanded to grow is the work of the Gospel. That's what Timothy is to be involved in. The Gospel means good news. What God has done for us in history. How he has worked to rescue a people from their rebellion against him. How he has accomplished this through the sending of his Son into this world to die for our rebellion and rise again. Of which the whole Old Testament clearly points and prepares for and the apostles of Jesus Christ clearly proclaimed. That is what Timothy and we are to trust in and promote - the glorious gospel.
Well we are aware that Timothy is a church leader who has special responsibility for this. Not all of us are church leaders. Yet this does apply to certain degrees for all of us. We are not to put up with anything in the family of God, when we're with other Christians that damages and denies the Gospel. And the question is; do we contend like that? Here in church do we see it as one of our duties? Do we contend in the different ministries that we're involved in making sure that no false teaching, or futile speculation that damages is permitted?
And how are we amongst our Christian friends? In our small group Bible studies, our Home groups, wherever we study the Bible with others. We must guard against false teaching, speculation, that sets aside Gods word, and surmises for ourselves, 'The way that I see this is…' and the Bible is set aside, and we start speaking over it involving ourselves in pure speculation, that has no grounding in scripture.
Do we contend like that in regards to the wider church? When we encounter or read of false teaching that is contrary to the gospel, do we speak up? Do we write?
This generation is becoming more and more a people who at best are frightened at worst unbothered and unequipped to contend for the truth of the Gospel. Such an attitude is sinful and one day we will give an account before God for it.
Paul now continues in his letter to remind Timothy that he is to contend for the Gospel out of love.
Look at verse five:
The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart a good conscience and a sincere faith.
Timothy is being reminded that love is the aim for correcting this false teaching in the church. Love for those who have erred 'command them to stop,' and for the church at Ephesus, that love would prevail amongst the congregation as a whole. If false teaching produces controversy and quarrels, then standing for the gospel aims at love which abounds in the truth of gospel. Such an attitude of contending for the gospel comes, we read, in the second half of verse five from…
… a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
these are the fruits of the heart that obeys and promotes the Gospel. Who correctly handle it, not misusing it for their own ends. By the heart, the mind and will are meant as well, these are pure before God, there is no hidden rebellion no secret sin; conscience is without falsity or deviance, faith is humble and obedient, trusting God at his word, not using it for ones own agenda.
Yes contention for the Gospel must always have as its aim love, so that the people of God may be built up in Jesus Christ…
no longer infants tossed back and forth by the waves and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead speaking the truth in love we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4.14-15)
So in our contending for the Gospel our aim must be love, love for one another, love for the church of God, love for the truth. We are never to act out of malice or hatred or one upmanship, always out of love. Desiring to promote unity in the church, unity that only comes from upholding the Gospel.
Well now what is the basis upon which we contend? What is our foundation? We have alluded to it already. How are we to not put up with any teaching or speculation that damages the Gospel?
Secondly, Discern false teaching and speculation by knowing the Gospel (vv 6-11)
We should be always weighing what people teach next to what the Bible teaches.
Doing this enables us to discern false teachers. Look at verse 6:
Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
We know false teachers by what they do - 'they wander away from these,' from the pure heart and good conscience and sincere faith that takes God at his word. They turn from the truth of the Bible and their lives portray the results. They live lives that are impure and that have what Paul calls later 'seared consciences'. So know the false teacher by what he does, know false teachers by what they are saying.
They want to be teachers of the law but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
These men wanted to be teachers of the Old Testament, they wanted to teach it to others - but they knew nothing about it. For they had wandered away, and were basing what they said on myths and false doctrines. They were confident but clueless. They spoke with authority but without the word of God.
What false teachers say will never add up to what the Bible says; and consequently neither will their lives - how can it? They have deviated from the Gospel. That brings us back to the question of how we are able to discern false teachers.
Discern False Teachers and speculation by knowing the Gospel. That's what Paul reminds Timothy and us here. Look at what he writes in verse eight:
We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.
Paul is stating that there is a right way to read the Old Testament (that is the law). By reading it as God's word 'God breathed,' which climaxes in Jesus Christ, to whom everything in the Bible points and from whom everything in the Bible stems. One just has to read the Bible through once to see that. Remember that is the Gospel, God's work, what he has done to rescue a rebellious people through his Son Jesus Christ.
This is what Paul illustrates to us in the rest of our passage, so in verse nine we read:
We also know that the law is not made for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, for the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill fathers and mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers - and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God.
Paul is reminding Timothy of the real purpose of the Old Testament.
First, it shows people up for what they are. It's not meant for the righteous we read, but for:
… lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious…
a summary of every human being that's every lived. We all fall in to that category; continue reading and see, all of us have turned from God's ways and rejected him.
Secondly, it serves to restrain rebellion. That's what laws do, they set a standard which when broken requires punishment - it's there for 'lawbreakers'
Thirdly, the Old Testament gloriously points to Christ. It prepares us for Jesus who will completely and perfectly fulfil the law. Yet who will willingly and utterly take the punishment of all lawbreakers on himself by dying on the cross. That is the 'glorious gospel of the blessed God' and that is the purpose of the law, to make us see our need of Jesus Christ who died for us that we might become the righteousness of God.
Paul models to Timothy and so to us the right use of the Old Testament and for us of the Bible. He reminds us that we discern false teachers by knowing the Gospel.
Look around you. What do you see happening right now? What you should see is people with Bibles open in front of them. That's why all these Bibles are around the place. They're there so that each one of us can read the Bible for ourselves. We can check up on what the person up here is saying, weighing for ourselves. Not to do that, shows either brilliance because you have the whole Bible memorised, or foolishness because you are willing to trust a fallible man with God's word. Only the Bible is infallible and that is why each one of us should have it open before us now.
That's also why each one of us should grow to know God's word more and more. To delight in reading it - there should be no book that you read more; delight in studying it - there should be no book that you study more. Memorising it; meditating upon it, maintaining its truths in our daily living. Listen to others teaching from it at every opportunity- our central prayer meetings should have to be held in the church not in the hall, because people so desire to listen to and study the word of God and pray. We should read the writings of others who have studied the Bible and who are able to help us in our understanding, as we weigh and check what they say next to God's word.
That's why the Moore Course is an excellent course to sign up for, because it aims to help us get to know our Bibles better. Why don't you ponder that for September. That's why there are Bible study notes and books at the back of church to aid us as we read God's word, handling it rightly; living by it; teaching it; guarding the truth that it proclaims from false teaching and speculation.
Yes we discern false teachers by what they do and say because we know what the Bible says.
And that means we not only discern false teachers, but we stop becoming false teachers ourselves, because we are daily grounding ourselves in the scriptures, humbly submitting to God's word, desiring to think his thoughts after him, to be faithful to the whole counsel of God, to the Gospel.
That young man in his Christian union was able to go home and chat with his dad. He is so thankful to God for a dad who not only told him about Jesus, but who showed him Jesus from the pages of the Bible. His dad took him to Ephesians One and showed him how through trusting in Christ we have everything we need - we do not need anything else.
Dearest friends let us not put up with any teaching or speculation that damages the gospel, but rather let us contend for the gospel out of love. And may we do so because we know this glorious Gospel, which we have been entrusted with in this generation, to the glory and praise of God who loved us and gave his son for us.