Online Bible Commentary
A Church, or a Social Club?
1Timothy1:3 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 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work--which is by faith. 5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. 8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers--and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. (NIV)
The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, probably while in Greece, shortly before his martyrdom, which occurred about 67-68 A.D. Paul was in his early to mid 60’s when he wrote this letter, about 64-66 A.D. Timothy was a young man from Lystra, in present day Turkey, who had been instructed in the Scriptures by his mother and his grandmother. His mother was Jewish and his father Greek. Paul had discipled Timothy.
At the time of this writing, Timothy was helping the church in Ephesus, also in present day Turkey, to deal with false teachers in the church (v.3). Paul instructed Timothy to “command certain men” in the church not to resort to “myths and endless genealogies” which detract from the real work of the church – to produce faith (v.4). Paul’s ultimate goal in his instruction is to produce love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (v.5).
Some, those false teachers, Paul says have “wandered away” from this goal and turned to “meaningless talk” (v.6). One of my seminary professors would always say if we weren’t teaching from the Bible we were just giving a “good talk”. That is what these false teachers were doing, except it was not even “good”, it was just “meaningless” talk.
The same thing happens today when Bible teachers get away from the truth of the Bible and start trying to prove their own agendas. Paul says they “don’t know what they are talking about”, although they may sound very confident in their presentation (v.7). This brings to mind a certain son of a prominent pastor who confidently asserts his own convictions, while tearing down Christians, the church, and God’s word. He falsely teaches that we can ignore portions of God’s word if it does not fit the “intent” of Jesus. Of course, he confidently claims to know Jesus’ intent himself, apart from Scripture. He ignores the fact that Jesus made His will, His intent, known through His word. Do not be swayed by false teachers because they sound confident in their presentation. Always test what any teacher is teaching, including myself, by the word of God, the entire word of God.
Paul continues by saying the “law is good”, if used properly (v.8). Here he seems to be referring, not to Moses’ law, the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, but the Ten Commandments specifically. He begins by saying the law is not for “the righteous”, Christians (v.9a). We do not become Christians by good works, obeying a set of beliefs. Every other religion is based on that. We become Christians by faith, and then God works through us to produce good works, obedience. Trying to become a Christian by doing good works is called legalism. This was the false teaching in the church at Ephesus.
Paul then says for whom the law, the Ten Commandments, exists. It exists to convict non Christians of their sin, so that they might come to Christ. Paul identifies those non Christians by their sin, according to the first eight of the Ten Commandments. The first four Commandments refer to man’s duty toward God (Godliness): “lawbreakers and rebels” (first); “the ungodly and sinful” (second); “the unholy and irreligious” (third); “for those who kill their fathers or mothers” (fourth) (v.9b). The final six Commandments refer to man’s duty towards his fellow man (righteousness). Paul cites: “murderers” (fifth) (v.9c); “adulterers” (immoral heterosexuals) and “perverts” (homosexuals) (Romans 1:28) (sixth) (v.10a); “slave traders” (seventh) (v. 10b); “and liars and perjurers” (eighth) (v. 10c). Paul then completes his list of sins with a sweeping statement of “whatever else is contrary” to “doctrine” of the “gospel” (vv. 10d-11). This would include the false teaching prevalent in the church at the time, and prevalent in some churches today.
Paul is commanding Timothy to challenge the teachings of some in the church. In the same spirit, I would encourage everyone to examine the teachings of their church or their Bible teacher, and to challenge them if it seems “contrary” to the teachings of the Bible. You may be able to correct a brother, or he may correct you. That is Biblical: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). None of us want to be guilty of teaching false doctrine. None of us should belong to a church that teaches false doctrine. If a church is not teaching the truth of the Bible, the whole truth, they are teaching “meaningless talk”. They are not a church. They are a social club.