In these verses Paul comes right out of the gate with an urgent instruction for Timothy and the people in the Ephesian church. His instruction is simple. Timothy and the church are not to tolerate false teachers in their church family. I can feel Paul’s urgency as he instructs Timothy to confront these false teachers. I can feel the urgency when he describes the reasons and the motivation for the confrontation.
1 Timothy 1:3 – 7…
3 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, 4 nor devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.
In verses 3 – 4 and 6 – 7, we see the instruction. Paul instructs Timothy to charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These certain persons that Paul is speaking of here, were leaders in the Ephesian church who had swerved away from the regular study and application and preaching of the gospel. They had wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they were saying or the things about which they made confident assertions.
And Paul tells Timothy to confront these people not to tolerate them. Paul’s doctrine or teaching is clear and consistent throughout all of his letters to the churches.
- To the Romans and to the Philippians he proclaimed that he wasn’t ashamed of the gospel because it is the power for salvation and sanctification. (Rom. 1:16; Phil. 2:12-13)
- To the Corinthians he reminded them that the message of the gospel, or the good news of salvation was the explicit message that all of his teachings were founded on. (1Cor. 15:1-11)
- To the Galatians he wrote that he was astonished that they could so easily forget the gospel. (Gal. 1:6-9)
- To the Ephesians he warned them not to be deceived by empty words from sons of disobedience. (Eph. 5:6)
- He instructed the Philippians to live lives that were worthy of the gospel. (Phil. 1:27)
- He told the church at Colossae that he proclaimed the gospel to them, warning and teaching them with all wisdom so that they would become mature in Christ. (Col. 1:28)
- He reminded the Thessalonians that he had labored day and night to share not only the gospel but also his life with them so that they would be encouraged to walk in a manner that is worthy of the gospel. (1 Thess. 2:8-12)
So it is no surprise to me that Paul is urgently instructing Timothy and the church at Ephesus to confront false teachers in their midst. These false teachers were most likely not explicitly preaching a different gospel. A short survey of what Paul says here to Timothy and his church reveals that these false teachers were probably just teaching a Jesus plus this or that kind of theology. Which wouldn’t have sounded explicitly false.
It would have sounded like this. “Yes Jesus is your Savior and that’s all fine and dandy and it’s great for baby believers to grow up or maybe even for older believers to reminisce over but I can tell you’re a little bored with that teaching. Let’s go study the genealogies and try to see how the Mosaic Law in the Old Testament connects to everything. Have you ever heard of the book of Enoch?”
I imagine that this is something close to what was happening in Ephesus and Paul instructs them to confront anyone who tries to set themselves up as teachers in this way. He says that their conversations are pointless because they do not understand what they are saying. They do not understand what they are teaching even though they sound so confident and dogmatic.
Now you have to stop here and ask why. Why is Paul so concerned about this? Why is he so urgent about this? Why would Paul instruct Timothy and the church at Ephesus to pick a fight on this? Can’t we all just get along? Conflict is hard right? So why does Paul instruct them to get confrontational?
The Reason and Motivation For The Instruction…
In verse 4, we see the reasons and the motivation for the instruction. Paul says that if you buy into a teaching that is Jesus plus anything else then you are promoting speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. And he also says that the motivation or the aim of his instruction is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
Speculation rather than stewardship. Fresh ideas rather than refreshing faith. These are the reasons that Paul says we should not tolerate false teachers. And the motivation behind what Paul is saying is love, purity of heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. The false teachers in Ephesus had heart issues that needed to be addressed and Paul was drawing a great big fat bulls eye on their hearts as well as the hearts of his listeners in Ephesus.
The false teachers in Ephesus did not have hearts that were full of love for God, love for the gospel and love for their brothers and sister in the church. They were self-seeking and self-serving wanting to be seen as important leaders. They didn’t have purity of heart as a character trait. Their hearts were filthy with pride and they wanted to hide from the spotlight of the gospel. Their consciences were seared and hardened as they turned a deaf ear to their pastor’s preaching. Their faith wasn’t sincere it was as false as their teaching.
And Paul is instructing Timothy and the church family to confront these false teachers because their teaching was mere speculation shrouded in worthless confidence that was infecting the flock with a false notion of love, impure desires, seared consciences and false faith. So here’s the question every one of us must ask at this point.
Where am I replacing the importance of the gospel with something else? Another way of asking the question would be to ask, what consumes the affections of my heart?
It could be simple, seemingly little things like trying to fix your spouse or trying to climb the corporate ladder or trying to get your political ducks in a row or trying to win the latest social justice argument on social media or even a preoccupation with amassing wealth in the name of the Lord or seeking the most entertaining experience in a church. The Jesus plus anything message is so deceptive and that’s what makes Paul’s burden for the church such a timely message for us.
Think About Paul’s Burden For The Church…
I think Paul’s heart was burdened for the people in Ephesus. I think he was concerned that they would abandon their love for the Lord as the Apostle John wrote about in Revelation 2 where he issued a stinging rebuke to the Ephesians that we should all pay attention to. (Rev. 2:1 – 7)
And I also think that the Apostle Paul’s burden for the people in Ephesus was rooted in what he had said earlier to the Ephesian elders and to the Ephesian church. In Acts, Paul warns the Ephesian elders to keep a close watch on themselves and on the people in the church because false teachers, wolves, would rise up from within their ranks speaking twisted things to draw away the disciples. (Acts 20:28 – 31)
He warned them not to listen to deceptive words spoken by sons of disobedience because the wrath of God would be their reward for their rebellion. (Eph. 5:6 – 8) And then later in the first chapter of First Timothy, Paul says that by rejecting his message, some people have actually made shipwreck of their faith. (1 Tim. 1:19)
And it’s not like the people who made shipwreck of their faith in the Ephesian church were faceless or nameless people. Paul actually names them Hymenaeus and Alexander. So Timothy and the rest of the church would have recalled their faces. These were men they knew. These were men who once were friends. But these were men who spoke twisted things. They rejected Paul’s message and they sought to draw the disciples away from Paul’s ministry. And because of this, Paul reminds them in verse 20 that he literally threw them out of the church for their rebellion.
Why Does This Matter?
What’s the big deal here? How does this apply to my life? Paul’s heart was definitely burdened for the people in Ephesus. And my heart is burdened too. My heart is burdened for the people in our city. I am concerned that in our boredom, in our reckless pace of life, in our preoccupation with entertainment and in our numbness to sin we have wandered away from the power of the gospel.
We need to ask the Spirit of God to examine our hearts to see if there is any evidence of selfish love, hardness of heart, impure consciences or false faith. And we need to take radical steps to confront the false teacher that lives inside every one of us with the message of the gospel.
- Authentic Love: Where have you not acted or spoke in a way that was motivated by love recently?
- A Pure Heart: Where have you entertained impure desires in your heart recently? Where have you witnessed impatience, anger, bitterness, stubbornness, control, fear or complacency in your heart recently?
- A Clean Conscience: What kind of impure thoughts have you struggled with lately?
- A Sincere Faith: How do you see Jesus right now in light of the sin that the Spirit is revealing in you?
There may be some of you right now who are tuning me out. You’d rather we talk about something else that’s more light hearted. In your mind you’re tired of hearing about sin and you don’t have any desire to dig into these things. Can I just leave us with a warning today?
If you aren’t willing to listen and if you don’t want to talk about sin then you don’t really want to talk about Jesus. You may want to talk about Jesus when he appears to fight for your rights as an American citizen. You may want to talk about Jesus when he hangs out with sinners and gets under the religious leaders’ skin. You may want to talk about Jesus when he flips tables over in the temple because that story always seems to justify Christian anger. Or you may want to talk about Jesus when he is a great example of what it looks like to live a moral life.
But that’s not the kind of Jesus conversation I’m talking about having and to be honest if those are the conversations that dominate your conversation about Jesus then I struggle to think that you actually know him at all. Because the Jesus that I know is the Jesus that starts by accepting you right where you are and then in him you see a picture of who you were meant to be and how terribly short you have fallen and how far he went to pick you back up again.
We need to take radical steps to confront the false teacher that lives inside every one of us with the message of the gospel. So, hear the message of the gospel afresh this morning. God created you and I to be perfectly in love with Him. To have hearts that are on fire with affection for Him. To have consciences that are perfectly devoted and completely consumed with Him. And to perfectly believe and trust that He is all we need.
And yet we fall terribly short of this standard every day. This is the reality of sin and if the topic of sin makes you uncomfortable or it makes you bored or it makes you want to check out then you won’t have any desire for the true Jesus. You won’t want him at all. You’ll want him plus something else. Let me ask you, do you want Jesus today?
Because your lack of want to is the reason he died on the cross and rose again on the third day. He died to pay the price for your war crimes. He died to wash you clean of your sin. And he rose on the third day so that you could live each and every day in freedom from your boredom, freedom your overworking, freedom from your complacency, freedom from your lack of love, freedom from your filthiness and freedom from… fill in the blank. This is the Jesus we worship. This is the Jesus we serve. This is the Jesus who loves you more than you could ever imagine.