It is not easy being an ignorant follower of Jesus Christ these days. By ignorant I mean those who do not read and study the Word for themselves but instead take their knowledge from others. It may be from the pastor on Sunday morning or from little snippets off of the Internet or even just nice sounding sayings people share on their blog. Their knowledge is more "hearsay" based and is both damaging and dangerous.
As I browse through blogs and read articles on the Internet I am seeing a lot of humanism and other teachings mixed in with biblical teaching. I am also seeing people focusing on minor arguments concerning Christianity. I see in discussions a number of Christians with a little bit of knowledge attacking other people with a little bit of knowledge, both digging in their heals about minor things while losing the big picture of God's plan. There is no love in these discussions as they beat each other up and rob God of his glory. It is good then to consider what Paul had to say to his friend Timothy who was more like a son to him.
Paul had to return to Macedonia but he left Timothy responsible for the huge ministry in the region of Ephesus and he left him there with a purpose:
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. (1 Timothy 1:3-4)
Timothy's purpose was to keep the gospel teaching pure and true, to confront any of the false teaching that was welling up from people with little knowledge. Paul was concerned because he saw how easily it was for people to turn to things that were new, exciting and nice to listen to:
Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. (v. 4)
There it was; anything that promoted self-work over faith is a danger to the truth of the gospel. Anything that convinced people that man was capable of saving himself, by sacrifice or good living is a danger to the truth of salvation by faith. Anything that promotes the human spirit to overcome, that good lies in all of us, that we can find truth the more we look within ourselves, that the answer lies with us, comes in direct opposition to the gospel that says the answer is found in Jesus who did it all for us.
The reason Paul gave this command to Timothy is because the work of God needs to advance. The command was given for Timothy not to destroy people but instead to see them becoming mature in Jesus:
The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (v. 5)
As I have said before, love is the beginning and the end of it. Every day should be spent in the pursuit of discovering the depth of God's love and seeing it put into action in our own lives. But love does not come from a heart bent on selfishness or evil intent. Love cannot come from a heart that is plagued by a guilty conscience. We cannot put this love into affect in our lives if we do not believe it's source is pure and holy. The only way that the love of Christ can permeate our heart and overflow into others is if we accept the gospel as true and follow Jesus according to what he has taught us. Anything else will taint this love with our own failings and in the end will fail.
Paul reminds Timothy of the challenge he faces:
Some have departed from these and have 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. (vv. 6-7)
Paul is saying that people have left the importance of a pure heart, a good conscience, a sincere faith which allows for the flow of God's love. They have left these things in pursuit of lesser things, things that appear to be important, disputable matters. Often we find these people wanting to be teachers of others. They think they know without knowing and so many people fall into the trap and leave what is important.
We need to check ourselves all the time and make ourselves accountable to our pastors and elders. We need to look at what we are promoting; is it what matters? Are we promoting a pure heart, encouraging people to stop being distracted, to cut out things that take away from Christ, to keep their eyes fixed on him? Are we promoting repentance and forgiveness, good relationships between believers and neighbours, considering other people more important than self, a life of servanthood? Are we promoting Jesus Christ, who he is, what he has done, that he is the only way, that he is our everything, that he is our saviour and that we must trust him in all matters? If these are the things we are concentrating on, promoting and teaching then all other teachings will fall away and we will see his love well up in those we teach.
Some of you may think that you are not a teacher and this does not apply to you but let me point something out to you. If you have a blog where you quote scripture, reblog nice sounding sayings, share artwork with sayings or pass on little stories then you are involved in teaching or the promotion of someone's teaching. Be careful. Before you reblog something check it against the Word of God. Before you agree with someone that God is love so there can't be a hell, check it out in God's Word. Before you fall victim to fine sounding arguments and start teaching it to others, check it out against the Word of God. If you are not sure talk to your pastor or one of the elders. That's what they are there for. I encourage you my friends, know the Word of God and stick to the fundamentals: a pure heart, a good conscience, sincere faith which allows God's love to flow from us to others.