Online Bible Commentary
Combating False Teaching
1 Timothy 4:13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (NIV)
Paul is writing this letter to Timothy, who is helping the church in Ephesus at this time. The house churches have been beset by some false teachers. Some of the elders have resorted to teaching a different gospel than that of the Bible. Paul, in this letter, tells Timothy how to combat false teaching in the church. This instruction from Paul is very pertinent today. It will help us to combat the false teaching prevalent in some Christian denominations and churches today. The most blatant examples of false teaching in the church today are the teachings that homosexuality and abortion are acceptable Christian lifestyles.
In the previous passage, Paul gave instructions regarding the personal conduct that we need to model in order to combat false teaching. It is a conduct that is pleasing to God, and to others. Specifically. Paul wrote that Christians should model Godly speech, a Godly life, God’s love, staying true to the gospel, and purity. Now, in this passage, Paul instructs Timothy, and us, in how we should conduct our ministry. As Christians, we all are ministers, servants of God. Each of us has been given one or more spiritual gifts to be used for serving the body of Christ, the church. Our spiritual gift can also help us to combat false teaching, either through modeling Christian doctrine or through teaching. The Greek word for teaching is the same root word used for doctrine. “Teaching” is the verb, while “doctrine” is the noun.
Paul is returning from a ministry trip to Spain as he writes this. He writes for Timothy to do these things, “until I come” (v. 13a). His instructions are timeless, and for all Christians. He is giving encouragement to Timothy that help is on the way. In the same way, we are never alone in our ministry. The Holy Spirit is always present, and help is always on the way. We are to “persevere” (v. 16) until that help arrives. God is always working in our future, but we may not see the results as soon as we would like. Waiting on God is a necessary part of the Christian life. It builds perseverance.
Paul’s second instruction is to devote ourselves to our ministry, our spiritual gift. Timothy’s spiritual gift was as preacher-teacher. Paul instructs Timothy to read scripture to the church, to preach on that scripture, and to teach that scripture (v. 13b). Timothy had the gift of preaching, which is the gift to exhort others to Biblical action. He also had the gift of teaching, which is to explain the Bible, called exposition. Others may have a different gift of service, so they should devote themselves to serving the church in some other capacity, such as cooking, daycare, usher, parking lot attendant, deacon, office worker, etc. I started out by serving as an usher, and a parking lot attendant. All spiritual gifts are equal in importance to God.
Paul instructed Timothy to not “neglect” his spiritual gifts (v. 14a). We also are not to neglect our gift. Spiritual gifts come from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the source, not man. Men only recognize that we have certain spiritual gifts. In Timothy’s case, the church elders recognized his gifts by a laying on of hands (v. 14b). This was not an official ordination, but was like an ordination.
Timothy was to be “diligent” and “devote himself wholly” to his gift, just as we should. This is so that others in the church can see our “progress” (v. 15). Paul uses the word “progress” because this word was being used by the false teachers. They were changing the gospel and calling it “progress”. They were claiming to be more knowledgeable in the Scriptures than Paul and his disciples. They were pretending to be “elitists”, claiming that their knowledge was superior to the established doctrine. In reality, they were false teachers.
We see this today in some churches. They preach a “new” gospel. They claim to be enlightened. They claim to be progressives. In reality, they are false teachers and need to be combated by those knowledgeable in the true Gospel.
Finally, Paul sums up his instructions on this matter by warning Timothy to watch his “life and doctrine closely” (v. 16a). In doing so, he will “save” himself, and others, from following the teachings of the false teachers (v. 16b). These are God’s instructions to all Christians. We should all model Christianity. We should be Christ like in our actions. This will show others that we are the true Christians, not the false teachers and their followers.
Also, we should be careful to follow the true teachings, the doctrine, of the Bible. However, we are easily deceived by false teachers when we do not know the Bible. We should devote time daily to reading and studying Scripture. Otherwise, we will be misled by the so called “progressives” of the world. We combat false teaching by knowledge, which only comes from investing time in the Bible.