Summary: Paul encourages Timothy to put an end to people who wanted to argue for argument’s sake. It gives us some information on how to spot bad teaching and stand up for what is right!
Isn’t it great when everything goes well? Especially in churches - it’s a great feeling. But there are times when things aren’t going well at all - and at those times it calls for leaders to step up and for special measures to be employed. That’s the situation faced by Timothy.
Timothy was a young believer who came to Christ through his mother and grandmother - so he was a second generation Christian. Paul saw much potential in him as well as Titus. Timothy was not the pastor of a particular church but an apostolic representative of Paul in Ephesus and Crete.
Why did Paul write this letter? Apparently Paul had just gotten out of prison and was planning to head to Asia Minor. He went to Ephesus where Timothy joined him. There they saw that false teachers had come in - preying especially on women: new believers who were just experiencing the freedom in Christ, and experiencing worship and the study of God’s Word.
Paul left - and wrote this letter as a dispatch of instructions to his young protégé.
What’s in here?
- False Teachers (ch 1 & 6)
- Worship parameters (ch 2)
- How to handle special groups of people like widows (ch 5)
- The choosing of elders & deacons (ch 3)
- How to help women in the church behave properly in light of their susceptibility to false doctrine.
There is a lot of controversy as well - modest dress for women, allowing women to teach, and who should be able to serve as leaders. We’ll get to all of those - and hopefully shed some light on what they meant to Timothy and what they mean to us today.
But in essence the book is about a church in crisis - how to spot the false teaching, correct those who bought into it, raise up godly leaders to combat it and then be strong as a pastor himself in overseeing the rescue of this troubled fellowship. If we keep that in mind it is easier to understand a lot of what Paul says.
1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,
2 To Timothy my true son in the faith:
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
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.
(3) The word "command" in the Greek is paraggello which means to "send out the message" to "declare." This wasn’t a secret diplomatic mission - it was to be an apostolic command: STOP! What were they doing? 1. Teaching false doctrine and 2. Promoting controversy - arguing for arguments sake.
These guys had concocted their own brand of Christianity. They did it to seem important - sometimes people will argue just to appear like they know what they are talking about.
It is good to reason with the Scriptures - but those that simply go around and around just to keep anything from being settled are to be avoided. It’s like the argument: Can God make a rock so big that He can’t move it?
These become ways to sidestep the real issues: sin, salvation, and sanctification through the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. As Paul says "they promote controversy rather than God’s work, which is by faith."
We don’t know exactly what these doctrines were - the endless genealogies could have indicated that they concocted fictitious stories from Old Testament characters in order to continue the discussion.
A common debate technique is to use a series of false but plausible arguments to keep your opponent from ever being able to give their side of the story.
The point is there were are certain basic truths - doctrines - that can be relied upon - going away from those is a BIG mistake. For instance: Paul in Galatians:
Galatians 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!
Another common debate technique is to very strongly assert your position - as if that actually adds merit to it. Someone once said "if you’re going to lie, lie loudly."