Sermon Title: The Truth about the Teaching
Text: 1 Timothy 1:1-11
Date: July 13, 2003 AM
Context of Scripture:
I have given this morning’s message the title, “The Truth about the Teaching”, because oftentimes it is not only the teaching that is important but the reason why we teach and the reason that someone else is required to learn. Our text this morning comes to us out of Paul’s first letter to his pupil Timothy. In the next few weeks we will examine this letter in its entirety and flesh out what the Lord would have for us as a body of Christ in this epistle of Paul to his favorite pupil.
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope, 2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, 4 nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.
5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, 7 wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions. 8 But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers 10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.
There is much to be said in regards to first impressions. First impressions govern the beginning of a relationship, in spite of the frivolous nature by which a first impression might be tainted. We know that when we go to a job interview, that our hair must be neatly trimmed and combed. The hair doesn’t affect our job performance, unless it hangs in our eyes and obstructs our field of vision. Our clothes should be clean and neatly pressed, not that it really makes a difference in the way we would carry on our duties. What the hair and the clothes does tell the employer, is what manner of importance you place on the job for which you applied. When we greet people, the manner in which we speak and the manner in which we are dressed and the manner in which we carry ourselves speak volumes beyond the words that might leave our lips.
After we manage to land a job, the critique from those that sign the paychecks continue. If the time comes, and it always seems to be happening anymore, and a firm announces a downsizing, one of the things that they might take into account is the way that we carry out the different assignments that were given. How did we go about accomplishing these things? How much did it cost the corporation? What type of attitude did we display? How was our company perceived with us a the mirror?
It oftentimes seems as the most miniscule facts had the greatest bearing, when in fact we boiled it all down, the bottom line was the sharing of a common goal. Did we care enough to view our appearance in light of the reputation of our company? Did we handle our assignments in such a way that we communicated the companies interest in the business of those that we dealt with or worked for in the manner that we conducted all that we did?
It all boils down to the implications of seemingly unrelated and inconsequential details. Things that we view as being worlds apart from the nuts and bolts of the important issue, that grow in importance as we view them through the eyes of the one who has the full picture in mind.
Prayer for Spiritual Enlightenment:
I. What is in a greeting?
Paul’s letter writing followed a standard format of the times. His letter writing always came in the form of greetings and salutation which was followed by the body of the letter or the reason for writing and then always closed with another greeting and a benediction. The length and structure of those components was always as varied as the recipients and the subjects of which he was writing. Let us look at this particular greeting in the first two verses:
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope, 2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul begins by stating his authority, and by what authority he holds that authority. His title and the manner through which he had the ability to claim it was serious business to him. In his time, the proclamation of being an Apostle of the crucified Jesus could almost be seen as an invitation to his own execution. The Romans were concerned with this upstart sect that was rapidly growing in numbers and powers and was actually fueled in its spreading through the infrastructure of the Roman government. They knew that the following would soon have the ability to disrupt the Roman way of life if left to go unchecked. On the other side of the fence were the Jewish religious leaders. Their way of life, often at the expense of those that were the spiritual leaders of, was in jeopardy. This young upstart religion was causing their meal tickets to wake up and realize what was going on. Despite the danger of the title, it was a title that Paul wore with dignity and he wore without reservation.
Paul continues his greeting by noting his relationship with his student Timothy. Paul was probably instrumental in beginning Timothy’s establishment as a follower of Christ. Paul probably had a hand in Timothy’s preparation for the ministry. Paul continued to have an interest in the affairs and the growth of a co-laborer for Christ. Paul shows us that we do not lead people to the altar and then leave them there to fend for themselves.
What happens when someone finds Jesus but then is unable to pursue the tools that they need to grow closer? They become discouraged! They become disoriented! They become heart-hardened through frustration! They become LOST! The newly established soul for Christ is quickly lost to the devil and all anyone can do is stand around, shrug their shoulders while someone makes the statement, “I didn’t think he would stay the course anyway.”
While everyone is washing their hands of any part in this failure, where was the one who should have taught him to pray? While they were busy pointing fingers at everyone but the one staring back from the mirror, where was the one who would lead them in the reading of God’s Word? While everyone was looking at methods to establish new programs, where were the ones who should have held his hand and led him through that first dark valley and encouraged him on to the eternal victory? Where were they?
Paul took an interest in his student beyond the basics not out of a feeling of obligation to the title that he holds, but out of the fact that it was his responsibility according to the Great Commission. We are to make disciples for Jesus and not simply those that believe.
II. What is the assignment?
Paul’s interest in Timothy goes beyond his need to continue on in nurturing his student. As his student enters the ministry, he does all that he can to ensure that Timothy understands the task at hand. Let us read verses 3 and 4:
3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, 4 nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.
We see that in this first verses that the teachers student is now a teacher himself. What is it that Timothy is to teach? He is to keep other from teaching things that are contrary to the truth. Paul calls them strange doctrines, and by strange he is not implying the teaching of praying while standing on one’s head. He isn’t suggesting the strangeness of wearing of clothes backwards on certain days of the week, he is talking about teachings that are not according to the Good News that Jesus taught, that Jesus came into this world to deliver, that Jesus died upon the cross as a result of.
Timothy was teaching teachers not to be following the myths that were so common at that time. Myths are equally in play in some of the false teachings of today. One of the greatest myths that we face in the world today is that of relativism. Just because it is wrong for you doesn’t mean that it is wrong for you. Morality is a matter of personal choice. All roads lead to heaven – you get the point, don’t you?
Genealogies were on the utmost importance to the Jewish beliefs, however to the Christian beliefs it meant nothing. Genealogies were meant to exclude, they were meant to secure prestigious positions – all things that were worthless according to Christ.
Paul was instructing Timothy to teach to those that teach the basics of Christian doctrine.
III. What is the goal?
What were some of the basics of Christian doctrine that Timothy was to ensure that other teachers were disseminating. Look at verses 5 through 7:
5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, 7 wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.
Love from a pure heart – Here we come to the crux of the matter, what is the intention of the heart? Is this a genuine embrace or is it just a cover-up for finding a soft spot in my back in which a knife can be plunged?
Good conscience – not only are we to have the proper intentions of heart in our love for one another, we must be able to live with the way that we have conducted ourselves to others. By other I mean others – and that includes those that we have knowingly done wrong all the way to those that we have accidentally done wrong and have come under conviction later. It is never to late to offer an apology and attempt to make things right, even if it can only be done on the knees because the person wronged is unavailable or gone on to eternity.
Sincerity of faith – Have you ever heard someone say that they would pray for you and you left wondering if they would actually follow through or was this just another way to get rid of you? Pray it if you say it! God knows if you are scamming others with false expectation of intercession.
IV. What are the implications?
Paul goes on to explain the results of the teaching of the teachers. There are the direct results but there are also those that are implied. Reading this morning’s final verses:
8 But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers 10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.
The law is good, if it is used lawfully. In other words, you don’t have a stretch of road with a seventy mile per hour speed limit that suddenly goes into an incline and at the bottom of the hill, as it comes into view post and expect compliance to a 25 MPH limit. A posted limit isn’t for someone who complies but rather for those that fail to comply. The commandment against theft was not for the person who would never steal. The commandment against murder was not for those who would never murder. The commandments were set in place so that there would be reason for applying consequences to those who forged ahead against the boundaries set forth by God. Paul then gives a list of examples that seems to be contradicted by many in the world today. He writes that the laws are not for those that abide, “but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers 10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching.” How many different places do we find these specific things mentioned and yet some say that there is nothing wrong with these transgressions.
We began by looking at first impressions, so I ask the question, what kind of first impression of the Christian faith do we leave with those that we meet? If like Paul, we proclaim ourselves as followers of Christ, how loud would our proclamation be if it were under punishment of death?
Even more importantly, what is our commitment to the young in Christ? If we lead them to the Lord and then simply ignore them, they will more than likely get discouraged and if our efforts to keep them as children of the king pale in comparison to Satan’s efforts to return them to the fold, they may get embittered, they may get disillusioned, and their hearts may harden and when they turn from the ways of the Lord, they may never return again. The writer of Hebrews gives an interesting insight into this, we read in verses 4 through the first half of the 6th verses: “4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance. . .” The writer doesn’t necessarily mean that the backslider is lost forever, but it isn’t a matter of starting again where they left off, there needs to be earnest and honest repentance. There needs to be a contrite heart at whatever altar of prayer they so decide, and they need to seek the forgiveness that was once before offered and yet so carelessly cast away. The blame for a lost soul through negligence of follow-up teaching at times falls more squarely on the shoulders of the one who deserted them at the original altar of prayer. Do we follow up on those that we know are new in Christ? Do we plant a vegetable garden without cultivating the soil? Do we allow the weeds to take over? We don’t if we expect the garden to progress to harvest!
Paul ensured that Timothy knew what he was required to do. Paul knew that in his fulfillment of the Great Commission he was required to bring Timothy into a full understanding of his faith as well as leading and guiding him to the work that the Lord has called him to. The same falls upon us regardless of who we are and what ministry we are called to. If we share our faith and that seed takes hold, wouldn’t we want to see the seed burst forth from the soil? If we lack the requirements to lead them further, don’t we all know someone who can take the lead from there? Are we not told that some plant the seeds and others cultivate and others may harvest?
Are we aware of what proper teaching entails. We have a discipline that clearly lays out the doctrines of this church’s beliefs. Beliefs that were gleaned from the Scripture and prayed over by many, are we aware of what they are.
We, like Timothy are directed to ensure that the teachings are true to God’s Word. If we fail to keep the Gospel pure, then the garden that we so carefully planted will succumb just as vegetation withers and dies from the effects of round-up.
Our goal is to see that the Word of God written by the Apostle Peter, 2Pe 3:9 “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” We serve a righteous and just God who wishes all to enter into a glorious eternity, but along with that justness, our Righteous Creator will also not tolerate or compromise in regards to our sins and iniquities. Is that the message that we share with those around us or perhaps are we being to gentle and as we watch how we spare their feelings coddle them into an eternity of hell.
There are consequences to every action that we take a part in. If we remain true to God’s Word, then the message will go forth loud and clear. If we fall short of the mark, if we succumb to the taking of shortcuts, if we water down and dilute God’s Word, then we become a tool of the devil instead of the Lord who died to ensure us God’s great gift of salvation. We have seen the consequences caused by those who proclaimed a liberal version of the Gospel message. We have seen the consequences of preaching a politically correct Gospel, the implications of those deviation of God’s truth are seen in the society all around us. Let us not be counted among those that will be pointed out as the responsible parties.
Call to Commitment:
As the altar is opened for a time of prayer, let me ask the following question, are we prepared to go forth and proclaim God’s message as He has given it to us? Are we bold enough to go forth and when confronted with sin or sinful conditions that we call it what it is? Are we willing to live among the world today in such a way that when our words leave off that our lives speak the conclusion of the message that we have been commanded by God to spread forth?
Perhaps we are willing but our resolve, or perhaps our abilities or our opportunities are not what they might be. Perhaps this is the time to approach the throne of grace and ask the Lord to begin in us a new work that would make us effective and powerful gardeners in the harvest of the Lord. He hears all earnest prayers. He answers all sincere petitions. If what we ask is according to His purpose, we have no reason to doubt His empowering us to succeed.