One of the things that cause my heart to grieve is when I experience a brother or a sister making shipwreck of their faith. And the other thing that causes my heart to grieve is wrestling with the concern or the fear that I too could make shipwreck of my faith. None of us are immune to the threat of becoming a Judas to our Savior and his bride.
1 Timothy 1:8 – 11…
8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
The newspaper headlines give us more than enough warning that the danger of shipwrecking our faith is real and the damage left in the wake of a proclaiming Christian gone rogue is absolutely devastating.
You don’t have to research to far on the internet to find long lists of Christian leaders who have wandered from the faith, swerved away from sound doctrine and caused major damage to the body of Christ. Everything from sexual scandal to financial mishandling to emotional abuse to flat out heresy abounds in the American church today.
How does this happen? How do Christians go from faithful and trustworthy one day to fallen and shipwrecked the next? These stories make my heart feel sad, angry and sick. And it’s easy to point the finger at the fallen while dismissing the reality that deep within every one of us lies the capacity to commit the same kind of shipwrecking sins. None of us are immune to becoming a Judas to our Savior or his bride.
This is why Paul warned the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28 – 30 to 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. (Because) 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.
The Apostle Paul spoke these words in person with tears to the Ephesian elders. And he spoke these words just four years before he wrote the letter we are currently studying. Forty-eight months ago we would have received that face to face warning from Paul. And then a few years later we would have received the letter to the Ephesians. And now a few years after that we would receive this letter. What does that tell you about how concerned Paul was for Timothy and the Ephesian church?
And I don’t think Paul had any clue who the wolves would be when he warned the Ephesian elders about them. But I also have no doubt that when Paul sat down to write this letter to the Ephesian church and her pastor Timothy, that his heart was grieved. I think his heart was sad. I think his heart was sickened to know that some of those very leaders that he had warned in tears on the beach of Ephesus had now shipwrecked their faith.
They were teaching false doctrine and they were plastered across the front pages of the newspapers bringing shame to the name of Christ instead of the glory that is due to him. How does this happen? And how do we protect ourselves from not only the influence of these kinds of wolves but how do we protect ourselves from becoming these wolves?
I think Paul’s words to his young son in the faith here in 1 Timothy 1:8 – 11 teach us some things about how to walk in authentic love and purity of heart with a clean conscience and an unshakeable faith. That’s what these false teachers lacked. And the first protective thing we see Paul say to Timothy is that the law is good.
We Need To See That The Law Is Good… (8-10)
What is the law good for? First of all, the law restrains rampant chaos. Second of all, the law condemns evildoers. And third of all, the law helps us to walk rightly. I love to describe the law like guardrails and speed limit signs on a highway. Guardrails and speed limit signs keep us safe when we are driving. They reveal when we are driving recklessly. And they teach us how to drive rightly.
And Paul says that the Law is good. But it’s not good in the hands of someone who uses it to abuse others. And it’s not good in the hands of someone who uses it to justify their sinful desires. And that’s exactly what was happening in Ephesus. Some self appointed leaders were using the Law of Moses to draw people away from the plain teaching of the gospel into the study of extra biblical literature like the Apocrypha or the lost gospels.
And Paul says hey Timothy, the law is good if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.
When Paul makes this list of sins, he’s actually taking the 5th through the 9th commandments (Deuteronomy 5:6-22) and he’s pushing them out to their logical extreme ends. He’s not just drawing attention to people who dishonor their fathers and mothers. He’s drawing attention to the extreme ways in which we do dishonor our fathers and mothers by physically abusing them.
He doesn’t just draw attention to people who struggle with lust or adultery but he describes the most extreme ways that lust and adultery manifests itself through immorality and homosexuality. And after he works through his list of sins that break the commandments and therefore break the heart of God, he tacks on a junk drawer of whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine. In other words, anything that is contrary to teaching that promotes spiritual health.
When I think of spiritual health I think of the four categories that Paul built for us in verse 5 when he says that the aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. By swerving away from a focus on developing these character traits, these once upon a time Christian leaders are now wandering away on the back roads of worthless discussions that promote spiritual sickness rather than spiritual health.
The law is good in the right hands because it’s meant for everyone who is sick with the infection of lawlessness, the infection of disobedience, the infection of ungodliness and infection of sin. Is there anyone here who isn’t infected with one of these? And the law is also good in the right hands because in the right hands the heart is taught how to love authentically, how to stay pure, how to stay clean and how to remain steadfast in the faith.
This is why I love what David says in Psalm 119:9 – 16. He says: How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
I love Psalm 119. And my prayer is that the kind of love that David had for the Law of God would be the kind of love that you and I would have for the Law of God. I pray this because every one of us faces the threat of becoming a Judas to our Savior and his bride.
And that brings me to the second thing Paul says in our text. First of all, he says the law is good. And second of all, he says the law agrees with the gospel.
We Need To See That The Law Agrees With The Gospel… (11)
How does the law agree with the gospel? Some of you may have heard people preaching that the law is contrary to the gospel or that since we have the gospel now we no longer need the Law. That kind of teaching is heresy. It’s an outright distortion of both the Law and the gospel.
The law is good for protection, condemnation and sanctification. This means that the law helps us to live in safety, it convicts us when we are living sinfully and it helps us to know how to live rightly. But left to itself the Law is worthless and powerless because the Law is only as good as the gospel it agrees with.
This is why Paul says, the law is good… in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. In other words, the Law is only good along with the gospel and the gospel is only good along with the Law. It is the Law that teaches us like a schoolteacher. It is the Law that warns us like a police officer. And it is the Law that judges us rightly as criminals.
But the Law is powerless outside of those things. The law is powerless to save us. You and I cannot earn our right standing with God through obedience to the law. Every time we sin we’ll be back in the judge’s courtroom with the teacher saying I told you so and the police officer saying I warned you and the Judge saying you are guilty and therefore sentenced to death.
And this is where the in accordance with the gospel part steps into the courtroom and sets us free even though we deserve the maximum penalty for our law breaking behavior. The gospel enters into the courtroom in the form of an innocent man named Jesus, a loving father named God and a defending attorney who is the Holy Spirit.
The defending attorney (the Holy Spirit) is our advocate. He walks up to the judge’s bench and he says my client has not only had his fines for his criminal behavior paid but the innocence of this other man who is perfect has been given to the guilty man so he is guilty now longer. And all of this happens as a result of the loving Father who is standing there with his arms wide open to the sinner turned saint.
The law protects, convicts and teaches but it is worthless without the good news of the gospel. So when the Law is taught it must be taught in light of the gospel and when the gospel is proclaimed it is only proclaimed as good news in light of the bad news of the Law.
So the law is good and the law agrees with the gospel and in the gospel we find the power of salvation over the penalty of sin, the presence of sin and the power of sin in the work of Jesus at the cross and in the empty tomb.
As we conclude today I want to bring us back to the application of this passage. False teachers were ravaging the hearts of the flock in Ephesus. And if we look at John’s tongue lashing in Revelation 2 we would learn that the Ephesians learned to love doctrinal truth but lost their love for Christ. They were in danger of becoming Judas’ to their Savior and his bride. And Paul’s simple straightforward instruction is to remind them that the law is good in agreement with the gospel.
Now, I don’t know what your experience with the law has been. And I don’t know how well you can explain the gospel. And I don’t know where your heart is at this morning. I don’t know what you walked in here with. But I do want to leave you with a few application questions and a final encouragement before we conclude.
In regards to the law. I’m thinking of the Ten Commandments, the Greatest Commandment and your ability to articulate the gospel. (Deuteronomy 5:6-22; 6:4-9; 1 Cor. 15:1-11; Rom. 1:16; 8:1-11)
#1: How have you experienced the law restraining your desire to sin? #2: What kinds of sin have you been convicted of lately? #3: In what ways does the great commandment teach you to overcome your sin? #4: How do you explain the gospel and how does it help you to live differently than you did before?
I hope that you would wrestle with those questions this week in gospel community. But I also want to model what that looks like for you a little. I have experienced the law restraining my desire to be lazy. When I get home from work I’m tired and I want to check out behind the TV for a bit. And I’ve been convicted that my desire to be lazy affects my family and it also brings dishonor to the Lord because God calls us to work hard for his glory. The Law also teaches me that I am not loving the Lord or my family when I am lazy.
So I’m restrained, convicted and taught through the law. And now that I know God’s standard, now that I know all the ways I fall short, without anything else, life is hopeless. But this is where the agreement with the gospel part comes in and gives me hope, changes my desires and sets my feet on a firm path.
Jesus was never lazy. Jesus never left me and he never ignored me even when I was at my worst. And on top of that he went to the cross to pay the price for my sin, he left the tomb empty and he walked into the courtroom, he assumed my guilt, he gave me his innocence and he walked out of the courtroom with me completely free. Now I am motivated to engage my family because it is an act of loving my Savior who loved me first. He took a Judas like me and he turned me into a lover of God and a lover of his church. I pray he’s doing the same work in you today.