From time to time you've seen me write that some teaching or even some teacher was particularly heretical. There should be no room for doubt in your mind that my declarations are not based upon something as ridiculous as personal dislike or even of jealousy. I reserve that judgment for someone who falls within the Biblically defined parameters of a heretic. The Bible calls them false teachers among other more derogatory names. They are individuals who through varying motivations from ignorance on one side of the spectrum to greed or worse on the other side teach with an eye on their own self promotion rather than upon Christ and the Glory of God.
I would like to have you turn back to 1 Timothy again this morning. As we enter the home stretch on this brief letter we will encounter heretics, greed, and some final exhortations.
1 Timothy 6:3 provides two tests of orthodoxy or correct doctrine. First does the teaching your hearing line up with Paul's teaching? Second do the results of the teaching generate both physical and spiritual wellness? Failing either of those tests - the teaching if not the teacher can be labeled heretical.
In the passage in front of us Paul describes for us not only how to identify heresy by it's content but also by it's effect as well as probing the depths of it's frequent motivations. It is my intention this morning to see in this text not merely the identification of Heresy, that is too small a purpose for the text. My greater hope is that each of you will be able to discern the way towards truth as we identify the marks of error.
The Foundation of sound doctrine
Our reintroduction to 1 Timothy begins in this passage. There is little to no need to do any review because much of the purpose of this last chapter is to repeat and review so much of what has gone before. Allow me to quote from commentator William Mounce at length because he so appropriately sums it up this portion of the book.
"The opponents [in Ephesus] are teaching a different gospel, their teaching is not healthy, and they are ignorant, foolish, and given to speculations and arguments over words instead of preaching the message about Jesus Christ. The opposition has arisen from within the Ephesian church, not from without, and the opponents knowingly have given themselves to the error, thus causing self-inflicted wounds. Their motivation is tainted, desiring not only the respect of being teachers of the law but also money. Their teaching is devoid of almost any content and is rather a babbling about words. Consequently Paul cannot provide a point-by-point critique of their theology; instead he draws attention to their wicked behavior as evidence of their error, showing the strong connection between theology and ethics. A theology that produces improper behavior is poor theology."1
By looking at these false teachers we rapidly learn to mark them first by what they teach and what they reject.
They teach different doctrine
Their very first mark is that they advocate or stand up for a different doctrine. In context it is both understood and assumed that there is a doctrinal foundation laid and some of the Ephesian false teachers are going against it.
This is a common thread throughout the new testament. In Romans 16:17 we are warned to “keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.” (NASB) The principle is extended to the Galatian church in Galatians 1:6-8 “
I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” (Ga 1:6-8, NASB95)
Those are powerful words – He is clearly enough saying that if anyone teaches a different gospel they should go straight to hell. But underneath them is the simple concept that once the gospel message is taught it becomes THE authoritative standard of doctrine by which every other doctrine must be measured.
As far as applying this principle to life it's actually pretty easy. Discernment is a faltering skill in our culture – especially among Christians. But discernment starts with making the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ – the foundation of his substitutionary atonement and salvation by grace through faith – taking that doctrine and making it the first line of defense. Every book you read, every study you embark on – every religious conversation should begin with the gospel of Jesus Christ being the foundation grid by which you determine if someone is teaching heresy or not. If that book or that person or that teacher is trying to pass off something different from the gospel of Jesus Christ your task is to turn away from them.
Your need to discern doesn't end with the gospel it just begins there. The Bible contains much more teaching than the gospel of salvation but every teaching it does contain stems from that foundational truth. Therefore every accurate doctrine will accurately reflect the good news that God sent his Son to earth so that he might live a perfect life as a human being. His perfect life was exchanged for our sin upon the cross where he became the sacrifice both for my sin and yours.
They disagree with sound teaching
As if it's not enough to dredge up a different gospel they also actively argued against sound doctrine. (1 Tim 6:3b)
The rest of the verse spells out quite specifically that two sets of sound words are in mind. The first set is called “sound words...of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That word “of” could either mean the words that Jesus spoke in the gospels or more than likely it means “the words which speak of Jesus Christ”. The second group being the gospel itself and the new testament teachings about him which guide towards godliness as a result of salvation.
If you go back to the first chapter of Timothy (1:4,6) you can see that the false teachers in Ephesus were paying attention to myths and endless genealogies, and had turned to fruitless discussion. They replaced the solid teaching with myth and legend (1:4).
As a result they generated a lot of heat and noise but they were not generating Godly lives: Which after Doctrine is the surest test of teaching.
The problem isn't that they weren't living in accordance to what they were teaching, they were. There was a direct correlation between what their mouths taught and what their lives caught. Their life itself evidenced itself in godlessness and greed.
We might think it doesn't have to be this way, but beyond question almost invariably there is little distance between heresy and sinful behavior – and that stems from the reality that false teachers by virtue of ignoring the full gospel, patently disagree that following Christ should lead to godliness.
They disagree with the gospel and result of godliness it should bring
"The two phrases “sound words about Christ” and “teaching according to godliness” are synonymous, the first emphasizing the content of the proclamation and the second the effects of the proclamation."2 Throughout the book of 1 Timothy, sound teaching has been the measure by which behavior is measured. (1 Tim 1:10; 4:6)
The judgment of these men is that despite the fact that they think they are the pinnacle if intelligent, they are merely arrogant and they really are in fact ignorant.
Here at home I saw this in the Baccalaureate this past spring. The youth pastor from FCC told the students that it didn't matter how they lived, they just needed to know that God loved them. That was the lie - and it didn't agree with sound doctrine, it didn't agree with doctrines that would guide towards godliness it agreed with the sinful desires of humanity. That was heresy.
Farther away, you might have been aware of a huge so called revival down in Lakeland Florida which lasted over a hundred days and was broadcast around the clock on some cable and satellite networks. The speaker, Evangelist Todd Bentley claimed dozens of people raised from the dead – and by all appearances miracles of some origin were happening in Lakeland. The blind were seeing, the deaf were hearing and more.
There was a cloud around Bentley however, his credibility was questionable from the start. Now Bentley announced not only the end of the Lakeland visits but the end of his marriage as well.
As one author wrote, “From the first week of the Lakeland revival, many discerning Christians raised questions about Bentley’s beliefs and practices. They felt uneasy when he said he talked to an angel in his hotel room. They sensed something amiss when he wore a T-shirt with a skeleton on it. They wondered why a man of God would cover himself with tattoos. They were horrified when they heard him describe how he tackled a man and knocked his tooth out during prayer. But among those who jumped on the Lakeland bandwagon, discernment was discouraged. They were expected to swallow and follow. The message was clear: “This is God. Don’t question.”.”3
If only they had just paid attention to the gospel they had first heard, they would not have fallen prey to deception.
Grady's article continued with stern warning “Many of us would rather watch a noisy demonstration of miracles, signs and wonders than have a quiet Bible study. ...
A prominent Pentecostal evangelist called me this week after Bentley’s news hit the fan. He said to me: “I’m now convinced that a large segment of the charismatic church will follow the anti-Christ when he shows up because they have no discernment.”.”4
The problems which Paul addressed regarding heresy, heretics and run of the mill false teachers who talk a good talk aren't new, and they certainly are not gone.
God's precious gift to you and to me to keep us from falling into the error either of teaching or following error is the process of discerning between good and evil by simply comparing what we hear and read to what the Word of God says.
Let the word of Christ dwell in YOU richly.
1William D. Mounce, vol. 46, Word Biblical Commentary : Pastoral Epistles, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), 334.
2William D. Mounce, vol. 46, Word Biblical Commentary : Pastoral Epistles,
Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), 337.
3source: Grady, J. Lee. , Life After Lakeland: Sorting Out the Confusion -
Fire In My Bones. http://fireinmybones.com/index.php?col=081308~Life+After+Lakeland%3A+Sor...
4source: Grady, J. Lee., Life After Lakeland: Sorting Out the Confusion -
Fire In My Bones. http://fireinmybones.com/index.php?col=081308~Life+After+Lakeland%3A+Sor...
Books & Series
- Church 101: An Introduction To First Timothy
- Chapter 1
- 1 Timothy 1:1 Pastoral Authority Grounded in the Supremacy of Christ
- 1 Timothy 1:2 God Meets Our Greatest Need
- 1 Timothy 1:3 Pastoral Longevity
- 1 Timothy 1:4-7 The Measure of A Church
- 1 Timothy 1:8-11 The Role Of Law
- 1 Timothy 1:12-17 Spotlighting the Grace of God
- 1 Timothy 1:18-20 Fight The Good Fight
- Chapter 2
- 1 Timothy 2:1-2 A Call For Communication With God
- 1 Timothy 2:3-7 God is Pleased When We Pray
- 1 Timothy 2:8 Praying Without Posturing
- 1 Timothy 2:9a What Not To Wear part 1
- 1 Timothy 2:9b What Not To Wear 2
- 1 Timothy 2:10 What To Wear
- 1 Timothy 2:11 Let My Daughters Learn!
- 1 Timothy 2:12 Women In The Church
- 1 Timothy 2:13 The Chronology of Creation
- 1 Timothy 2:14 No Headship in Sin
- 1 Timothy 2:15 She Will Be Saved
- Chapter 3
- 1 Timothy 3:1 A Fine Work
- 1 Timothy 3:2 Character Counts 1
- 1 Timothy 3:2 A One Woman Man (Character Counts 2)
- 1 Timothy 3:2 Character Counts 3
- 1 Timothy 3:3 Character Counts 4
- 1 Timothy 3:4-5 Managing His Household Well
- 1 Timothy 3:6 Let's Get Growing
- 1 Timothy 3:7 Stay Out of the Devil's Snare
- 1 Timothy 3:11 Women, Wives or Deacons
- 1 Timothy 3:8-13 Fit To Serve
- 1 Timothy 3:9 Fit To Serve - Part II
- 1 Timothy 3:10-12 Fit To Serve - Part III
- 1 Timothy 3:13 Rising To the Top
- 1 Timothy 3:14-15 The Effects of Living In Relationship to God
- 1 Timothy 3:16 Being Godly
- Chapter 4
- Chapter 5
- 1 Timothy 5:1-2 Restore Them Gently
- 1 Timothy 5:3 The Church's Ministry to Widows I
- 1 Timothy 5:3-8 The Church's Ministry To Widows II
- 1 Timothy 5:8-16 The Widow's Ministry to The Church
- 1 Timothy 5:17-21 The Care and Feeding of Elders I
- 1 Timothy 5:17-21 The Care and Feeding of Elders II
- 1 Timothy 5:22-25 The Care and Feeding of Elders III
- Chapter 6
- First Timothy Bibliography
- Thank you, please keep me in
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