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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Saturday Sermon: Staying or Straying

1 Timothy 1:3-7

In looking at the “Pastoral Epistles” we are getting an insider look, as a fly on the wall, as we saw with Titus 2. Also we see this in Matthew 28:18-20 – if these are the things they were supposed to teach, then these are the things we are supposed to be doing. Here Paul is teaching Timothy diligence and discernment, and everyone can learn from this.

Vs.3As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine,

Stay in Ephesus and stay with the scriptures. The importance of doctrine cannot be overestimated. Paul had already talked to Timothy personally about it, now he puts it in writing. Just because it seems that false doctrine is pervasive and truth is scarce and no one is listening or learning doesn’t mean it is time to leave. Certain persons were overthrowing the faith of many, and it is important that true shepherds and true believers contend for the faith, fight the wolves, correct, rebuke, admonish and exhort believers, rooting out those little pet doctrines that have ingrained themselves into individual lives and spread out unawares to others in the congregation.

What would be the “different doctrine” Paul was warning about? It would be anything not echoed by the New Testament writers, or logically derived from New Testament concepts, something that wasn’t related to the Gospel. Trying to reinvigorate OT types and shadows as offering some sort of new blessing is speculation at best.

2 Corinthians 11:4,12-15 / Galatians 1:6-9 – Continue in the doctrine as Paul had taught, something new wasn’t something true. Timothy was to charge people that they teach only apostolic doctrine. Of course even old doctrines can be new to our ears. We do need to teach the old doctrines in ways that engage our lives today, but they aren’t new truths. Paul is saying that there is absolute, unchangeable, spiritual truth, and that the Apostles were preaching it, and that they had a corner on it!

Paul’s concern was not primarily that Timothy himself would begin to teach wrong doctrine. His concern was that Timothy would allow others to spread these other doctrines. Timothy had to stand firm against difficult people. No wonder he felt like leaving Ephesus. He wasn’t to present the option of correct doctrine, he was to charge, to command it like a military officer.

Vs.4nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.

Promoting speculation or stewardship? What you are devoted to is what you will promote. Some promote myth / magic / superstition / speculation instead of God’s redemptive plan, and how it works out through all of life. Silly distractions may be popular and fascinating in the short term, but in the long run they don’t build up the body of Christ in faith. Doctrine is important, but it is Gospel doctrine, and is simple and yet profound, not some esoteric mysticism as purveyed by the gnostics or reinvented or reinvigorated law keeping as taught by the Judaizers.

Vs.5The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

Right teaching MUST be under-girded by right goals. We aren’t all the way there yet, but this is where we are to be going toward, and those other things lead us the wrong way, bad doctrine makes for bad practice. It is not that being good in practice means we necessarily have good doctrine (it can be a shadow for a while) but that right doctrine will lead to right practice.

The foundation is faith and the end result is love. Correct stewardship of the faith, correct doctrine, will lead to correct and true love. Those qualities are the wellspring of love, and they issue from a correct understanding and faith in true doctrine. And what Paul had taught Timothy was correct doctrine, which is what we need, and we don’t need new things Paul didn’t teach.

The charge is good doctrine, that is the first thing, not that if we find our way to these qualities, or that if we come to these ends, that our doctrine is okay, but that we need our doctrine to line up rightly and these qualities will be okay. Paul tells Timothy why he needs to be concerned with correct doctrine, so that these other qualities will be right. True doctrine will result in a pure heart, good conscience and sincere faith that will make for true love. If someone or something looks like true love, but it doesn’t come from true doctrine, if they don’t have true doctrine they don’t have true love, no matter how it looks or works.

The aim of the charge is love, but not any old type of love, but love that issues from these qualities and that love is made by doctrine. If someone seemingly has these qualities but not true doctrine it isn’t true love that issues forth. The charge is about right doctrine, and the aim of having right doctrine is having the right love, which issues from these qualities, which have been formed by the stewardship of faith, correct doctrine.

Again lets get the order right, so that we can have discernment, and so we don’t fall for a counterfeit. Good doctrine, the doctrine of the Apostles, the doctrines Paul taught in his epistles, it leads to a truthful state, one that has a pure heart, etc. and from this comes true love. Paul makes the connection between doctrine and God’s love clear in this passage. We can see people do all sorts of good things, and they are good as far as helping humanity, but if these people organizations, religions etc do not have the right doctrine then that love is only born out of common grace, not out of agape love, and not out of the stewardship of true, saving faith. A Muslim or a Mormon can have a pure heart toward their god a good conscience and be sincere and love out of those things but it still wouldn’t be a true, godly agape love because it isn’t done from true doctrine.

They say “doctrine divides”, well I like to say it better, doctrine discerns…The word of God discerns (Hebrews 4:12), its teachings discern, not our feelings as foremost or other qualities, but the Bible and its teachings, and we line up and mature and grow in our discernment as we grow in God’s Word, and then we can discern more accurately (Philippians 1:9-11).

That is why we have some people, who know the Word of God in truth, these people can instantly know if some things are wrong, because they see something that doesn’t line up with biblical teaching. It is not those who get a spooky feeling about it, but those who have renewed their mind and been trained over time to discern. It isn’t their discern-o-meter, or some overtly mystical thing, but that their biblically informed conscience is working well. Yes, it can start out like a “check this out further”, or “check” in our spirit, but our goal should be to go from the “check” or “something doesn’t seem right” experience to the “I know this isn’t right because” experience, and this can happen as we get to know true doctrine more clearly over time.

It is okay, and actually it is very good if we sense something isn’t quite right, and we can’t quite put a finger on it, and so we go and check it according to the Bible (Acts 17:11). It is a right thing to do to test things (1 Thessalonians 5:21), but we want to grow up in God’s Word so much that we know it so well that we can test things quicker and more accurately and we can put a finger on it immediately. So the test isn’t if something seems pure, good, or sincere, but if it matches correct doctrine. A love for the truth, that is what Paul was teaching Timothy, and that was what the false teachers were and always are straying from.

Not that these things are the measure of good doctrine, but that Paul was wanting Timothy to teach good doctrine, and so the love, etc. would be in accordance with godliness. Purity, conscience, and sincerity are not the arbiters of truth. True doctrine will lead to a love that is truthfully pure hearted, has a truthfully good conscience, and a truthfully sincere faith, a true faith grounded in truth. One can be loving, pure in devotion, have a seemingly clean conscience, and be sincere, but still be wrong. Paul isn’t saying that these qualities are what make up good and true doctrine. Paul is saying to stick to true doctrine, as he has taught, and then you will be loving out of a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. (Agape, the God kind of love).

Not good doctrine issues from these qualities but good doctrine will issue out these, true love issuing from truth. Ask yourself; do a truly pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith come from us or from God, from being grounded in His truth or from our own efforts? Yes, we want sincere faith, a good conscience, and a pure heart, which will result in true agape love, and these are acquired through God Himself, and He relays these through the renewing of our minds by the truths of the Gospel, by true and right doctrines.

Let’s apply this right now. Speaking of truth before feelings, notice he doesn’t tell Timothy (or Titus) to make sure they have a great praise band! The Pastoral Epistles seem to be silent on the style and content of music. Or are they? Indeed they are not, for if Paul continues on and on about doctrine, then the means of which it is delivered must also adhere to his strictures. By his silence Paul isn’t saying anything goes, especially if it is loving, has a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. No he is saying that good doctrine will lead to those qualities in truth, which would lead to good music choices. He isn’t saying anything goes he is saying anything that goes must go according to his doctrine. When he says doctrine he means Gospel.

He isn’t implying that music isn’t important but he is obviously intending to say that music is secondary, it is an instrument for doctrine, doctrine first, and music as a means of delivery of doctrine. By concentrating on doctrine Paul doesn’t say don’t do music he is saying that all our music should be doctrinal leading to devotional. Right devotion is informed by right doctrine.

Music teaches us something, not just by what it says but also by what it doesn’t. If it is only fluff with no meat it is teaching us that doctrine doesn’t matter. It obviously does to Paul and to God since the NT focuses on teaching, and so obviously the content of our songs of worship must be doctrinally rich if they are to be biblically sound. Paul doesn’t downplay worship; he exalts it by exalting the Bible! First things first: in keeping his students focused on doctrine, he is keeping them focused on the content of their worship. It isn’t that “worship” is unimportant, but that it is, so much so that it needs to be seen in the right order. Focusing on the Bible will help us to focus correctly in worship.

Vs.6Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion,

They stray from teaching these qualities that issue from good doctrine, they go from a pure heart, good conscience and sincere faith into vain discussions, silly distractions, and such. They are straying from a love for the truth, and led by their desire to be teaching so-called deep truths. Paul is telling Timothy that he is down in the depths and that he has given Timothy the deep truths, and that if others are trying to go “deeper’ they are leading people astray.

Looking at verses 4,6, and 7 we see that the evil that the enemy sought to introduce, with regard to doctrine, had a twofold character; fables of human imagination, and the introduction of the law into Christianity. The first he dismisses as human folly, but the second he explains in verses 8-13, because the law does have its proper use. The law is to bring us to Christ.

In 2 Timothy 2:25-26, Paul appears to speak of believers who have been led astray through false teaching. Satan thus strives to hold people captive to do his will by deceiving them to believe what is false and misleading. If nothing else, this text emphasizes how crucial sound doctrine is. Elders must rebuke but eventually may need to remove those who lead others astray.

True love is never served by compromising the truth. There is no greater expression of love for another than the willingness to make painful and unpopular decisions for the sake of bringing an errant brother into the light. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends (John 15:13 – ESV). Lay down his life for his friend, willing to be wounded because of the backlash, waiting for God to vindicate the position and the truth of the friendship. Long term compassion for them rather than short term comfort for you. Timothy, you may die in the short term, but they live in the long term.

Vs.7desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

Right teaching MUST be under-girded by right goals. What is your desire, to teach the law or to teach love? Is your goal born from a love for being a teacher or from a love for the teachings themselves? Look at the words Paul uses in this passage, right doctrine is more important than personal devotion and desire. Of course there are those who have right doctrine but only in their heads, but right doctrine held rightly leads to right personal devotion and desire.

In their desire to teach the word they were not really good students of the word and so not good stewards of the word. They strayed from the focus because they didn’t stay with the focus as a guide to their study and so they wandered off.

They try and teach strange things they swerve from the main aim and they had impure motives. What they wanted to do was be respected as a teacher and they go off into areas they know nothing of and they handle the word wrongly and deceitfully. They are and they become even more overconfident and unteachable (1 Timothy 6:3-5). These people did not even understand the implications of their own teaching. They didn’t have the law right either and they were missing love. Their knowledge was superficial when they thought it super spiritual. Many think they are going deep but what they’re really doing is just splashing around a lot and making a lot of waves at the shallow end, or worse yet, diving into poison waters.

If you can’t explain the core don’t try and explain more. “I know the core, Jesus died for your sins”, well then is that just the jump off point into more stuff or is it the very life? Can you explain how the Gospel applies to every part of your life? Are you devoted to and desiring to learn that as a disciple? No, well then that is why it isn’t enough for you. The message of the cross isn’t the doorway to more stuff it is the stuff itself. It is the way to love as Jesus loved, and when we do that we fulfill the law from the heart (Romans 13:8-10 / Galatians 5:14).

A healthy church is about a people who love in the right way, they relate to God rightly and therefore to each other rightly. They will be increasing in the knowledge of God’s Word and in the grace of Jesus Christ and so therefore increasing in love and grace toward one another.

Our job as disciples is not just to find out the difficult things but concentrate on what we do know already. Are we even doing that? Then why think the new stuff is the key to doing the old stuff. The problem then and now is with people who seem to be or want to be advanced beyond applying the gospel to their own lives.

Faithful exposition of the Word leads to biblical, true, agape love because it concerns itself and teaches and creates pure hearts, good consciences and sincere faith. Paul told Timothy and God tells us to continue in the Word, and be set free from the folly of fascination with fads (1 Timothy 4:15-16). He says instead that those who stray from the teachings are making a shipwreck of their faith. That is the definition of pastoral concern: keeping people off the rocks, which will leave them shipwrecked. Let's be thankful for all those who are gifted by God to think of the church in this way.

What’s supposed to happen, we are supposed to be being discipled. What is that, it is learning to apply the Gospel to our whole lives. That is our first thing and really the only thing, and if we stray from that, leaving the Gospel behind, we are straying from Christ, as this text teaches.

Timothy was to keep proclaiming and promoting the Gospel, so as to keep people from trying to save themselves by straying from the Gospel. He and we are to be warning and guarding and teaching against those who promote the false ways, straying from the Gospel. Oh they don’t start out like that, it starts out as something not so sinister, like trying to find some deeper meaning from the OT law that would give us more power today or please God better than we do now, or something like that. But Paul is telling Timothy, telling us, and I am telling you that it is indeed straying, leading us away from the real security of clinging to Christ and into the false security of clinging to ourselves.

Straying just a little off the path leads to another path altogether. We must stay on the path of the Gospel, where Christ is our righteousness, and we find in Christ our significance, sufficiency, and security, and we must be aware of the danger of straying onto the path of self righteousness, and self sufficiency which leads to self doubt, self condemnation, and ultimately damnation.

The Gospel is what it is all about, and let’s stay with it, let’s teach and learn and find ways to apply to it to every facet of our lives, instead of straying off the path by trying to find some hidden new secret, key, formula, or method of salvation, sanctification, or life enhancement that Paul never instructed Timothy about, and God doesn’t want us making vain discussion about. The Bible declares for the Christian that Jesus Christ has become for us our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:30-31 – ESV). Come to Him today, He is what you need, and all you need. Amen.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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At 12:34 PM, Blogger Even So... said...

Stay the course...


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