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1 Timothy 1:37, 1220 comment (0)

September 28, 2006

By Jerry W. Batson

Related Scripture: 1 Timothy 1:37, 1220

Bible Studies for Life
Associate Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

Take Hold of Truth
1 Timothy 1:3–7, 12–20

This lesson is the first of five studies in the Epistles to Timothy. It speaks to the question, How can I guard against false teachings? In a culture that seeks to blur the edges between truth and error, this study can help equip believers to survive and thrive in a culture that applauds relativism and mocks absolutes.

What’s a Christian to do? We can draw a bead on Satan’s lies and label them for what they are. We can make a firm commitment to stand on the truth of the gospel. When faced with opportunity, we can contend for the truth revealed in Holy Scripture.

Identify False Teaching (3–7)

Paul instructed Timothy to take a stand against false teaching in the church. To do so, Timothy needed to identify false teaching. To help him do this, later in the Epistle, Paul gave Timothy two criteria by which to make the identification. Does the teaching agree with the words of Jesus? Does the teaching promote godly living (1 Tim. 6:3)? In this lesson passage, Paul focused on a third criterion. Does the teaching lead to practicing Christian love?

In developing this third question, the present passage raises some negative questions about the outcome of false teaching. Does the teaching deal with such topics as myths and genealogies? In so doing, does the teaching become nothing more than fodder for idle and fruitless speculation that never arrives at any meaningful conclusions?

By contrast, teaching that results in love will be evidenced by a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere trust in God. False teaching can by identified by the extent to which it abandons these lofty goals of inner purity, clear conscience and genuine reliance upon God.

Stand on the Gospel of Grace (12–17)
The acid test for any religious instruction is: Will this teaching do for sinners what the gospel of grace did for Paul? If no evidence exists that the teaching changes lives, abandon it. If, on the other hand, the teaching transforms lives, embrace and stake your life on it. Against the background of these basic questions, Paul offered himself to Timothy as a prime example of God’s transforming grace. What happened to Paul can happen to others. This indeed is good news.

As used in the letters to Timothy, the gospel refers to a body of truth that God has revealed and is now recorded in Scripture. Taking the revealed truth of the Bible as the touchstone, all other teachings may be evaluated against the gospel. Just like Paul, with a sense of wonder and gratitude over what the truth of the gospel has worked in our lives, we Christians can confidently take our stand on this gospel of grace. This gospel is solid rock; all else is but sinking sand.

Contend for the Truth (18–20)
Taking a stand for the truth of the gospel is like engaging in battle. Paul urged Timothy to wage a valiant war in contending for truth. The weapons for this battle are always faith and a good conscience. A good conscience results from sincere obedience to God’s Word. The combination of correct belief and right living furnishes a powerful arsenal for battle against the error of belief and/or behavior.

The seriousness of doctrinal error in the church is illustrated by the disciplinary action upon Hymenaeus and Alexander. These two believers were guilty of serious doctrinal error. At the least, a part of the error of Hymenaeus is given elaboration in 2 Timothy 2:17–18. All comfort in continuing in the church fellowship was to be withdrawn from the two false teachers. These individuals had suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. So long as they embraced grievous error, they were to be treated as outsiders — two people whose lives were relegated to the unconverted world where Satan holds sway. However, this drastic action was with a view to their reclamation through them being taught not to blaspheme.

As Christians, all of us need to be equipped to distinguish God’s truth from Satan’s lies. By so doing, we can avoid the dangers of a shipwrecked faith. Our challenge is to develop a faith that is firmly grounded in the truth of the gospel of God’s grace.

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