There are three characteristics that are consistent across every person I’ve ever known who was looking for a fight.
1) Some if not all of them Just liked to argue.
2) They believed at some level that they might be wrong and thus were prepared to duke it out from the start, no matter what the issue.
3) They had a much higher view of themselves than they merited. People who do not know them might well describe them as arrogant after meeting them.
Last time we talked about the identifying marks of a heretic; while this week we are going to look at a few more identification marks which pretty well double up to show us some of what motivates them. So in order to help refresh your memory: a heretic:
teaches a different doctrine,
disagrees with sound teaching,
and as a result rejects godliness which the gospel should invariably produce in the life of a true believer.
By rejecting the scriptures they embrace ignorance never examining the end result of their obstinacy. Proverbs 21:16 says, “A man who wanders from the way of understanding will rest in the assembly of the dead.” The end result of heresy is death. Thus it is nothing to be trifled with.
If you return to 1 Timothy 6:4 we step into their motivation.
And chief among them is that they love controversy. They just love to argue.
They love to argue
He states that such a person, “…has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth…” (1 Timothy 6:4-5)
That word Morbid translates “sick”. He has a nauseating tendency towards controversy. This doesn’t apply to someone who is honestly searching for truth and is asking hard questions to get there. There’s no loss there. These are people who enjoy the controversy.
I used to work with a man who upon discovering I was a Christian began to bombard me almost daily with some pretty intense questions. He would ask about the resurrection, evolution, divorce and remarriage, and topic after topic. I would answer his questions to the best of my ability and whenever I got near to nailing him down he would shift his position like a politician in a church pew.
Finally in exasperation I asked him one day, “Be honest with me, do you want the answer to your questions or are you just looking for something to argue about?” To his credit he paused long enough to give an honest answer and said, “I guess I just want to argue.” I told him to come back when he wanted to learn something I was done wasting my time.
What do you do with someone like that? Titus 3:10 tells us to “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning,” (Tit 3:10, NASB95) So rebuke him once, rebuke him twice and then cut them off.
Back in Timothy, these false teachers that we are warned against they love to argue and as a result they leave a stream of chaos behind them.
They create chaos
Look at this list of the result of their passion for controversy. Envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, constant friction… Compare that to 1 Timothy 1:5, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men straying from these things have turned aside to fruitless discussion…” Here Paul sums it up with “constant friction…”
1 Timothy 1:7 defines them as wanting to be teachers of the law but they don’t even understand what they’re saying, neither do they understand the issues at all.
Discord and chaos follow these false teachers. Think of the reasons. Some want to argue against them as they must. Others will argue for them as they can. All of their arguing is joined in by others with a comparable ignorance to their own. The pooling of ignorance does about as much good as sending a corrupt politician to Washington to fix the corruption.
It’s also apparent from the first chapter (1:4) that the teaching of the heretical opponents created lots of discussion; but activity is an insufficient measure of accuracy.
In the process of creating chaos they not only create problems, they also prevent any true Spiritual growth from happening. Having rejected the pure gospel they display their ignorance and develop a wrongheaded desire to argue over words and to speculate about things not relevant to crafting Love from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1:5) Having gone astray from those things the only natural result is strife, arguing, slander, evil suspicions, and the like.
A wicked man with a bible is still wicked. In this instance the fool who rejects sound doctrine is “deprived of the truth”. That’s quite a picturesque phrase. It literally instructs us in the dangers of rejecting the gospel in that the gospel will literally be taken away from you just as the truth is taken away from these men.
At any rate they demonstrate that they don’t know the truth by their behavior. By their persistence in rejecting the truth they are then robbed of it.
They may be ignorant and they may be arrogant but it appears that the greater motivator is often nothing more than the idolatry of common greed.
They look at the ministry as a means of financial gain.
1 Timothy 6:5 ends their indictment by simply saying that they “suppose that godliness is a means of gain.”
Apparently whatever else they were teaching while it was problematic it wasn’t the source of the problem. Their primary motivating factor for teaching, preaching or whatever it was they were doing was because it would make them a profit. As Mounce aptly states, “Behind the opponents’ facade, their supposed intellectualism and false piety, lies the real motivation for their ministry: they want to make money.”1
Now if you look back at 1 Timothy 5:17 it becomes rather obvious that Paul is not against the concept of money being involved. He has already said in 1 Timothy 5:17 that elders who do well especially teachers should be doubly paid. But pay must not be the motivation as it was for these false teachers.2
When you begin to consider the ramifications of what these false teachers were doing it is sobering. We are told at the close of the first chapter that a couple of the teachers in question, Hymaneus and Alexander had been handed over by Paul into the hands of Satan. Willfully rejecting the scriptures for any reason is not only dangerous it is eternally deadly.
Let me give you then four reactions that you and I should have to this indictment of these heretics.
Personally Confirm The the Gospel
The downward fall of the false teachers was marked by their outright rejection of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you cannot testify that Jesus Christ is the Only Son of God, that he lived a perfect life on this earth, that He suffered was crucified and put to death as a payment of the penalty for your sins; and that he was buried in a borrowed tomb, that he was in that tomb for three days and that on the third day He came back to life. If you cannot then testify that You believe that Jesus is Lord, and that you have turned your back on sin in repentance and have accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as your own sacrifice; if you cannot confirm these truths – your salvation is a fraud and your soul is in peril. In that case I ask you right now to seek for your salvation.
Every man, woman and child has sinned against God and deserves a heretics’ condemnation. Only those who come to God through Jesus Christ with repentance and faith will be saved. If you want to come to Jesus today and let him run your life, don’t even wait for me to finish speaking you come up here and accept him.
Assuming then that you’ve accepted Jesus Christ we move on to another of the distinguishing marks of a heretic: their lives demonstrated no godliness whatsoever. It is no mistake that towards the end of the chapter Paul will give a powerful exhortation to Timothy to pursue Godliness (1 Tim 6:11).
I can do no better than to issue the same call. Flee from sin and pursue godliness. Failure to even desire godliness should be a warning bell to your heart.
Consider your motivation
Think about your own motivations in your Christian walk. It is always easy to point out sin in the lives of others. But it is always profitable to ask yourself where that sin exists in your own life. There is very often a blind spot however when looking at your own life. So I council you to ask God to show you the blind spots.
Examine the fruit of your ministry
And if you say pastor I’m not in ministry – than you’ve done two things. First you’ve revealed that you do not understand that your life in Christ is a ministry to others. It is a ministry to your family, and to everyone around you including this church. And second you’ve isolated where you need to get intentional about your discipleship.
The heretics in Ephesus generated lots of excitement but their fruit was all wrong (1 Timothy 1:4-5).
What is happening to yourself, and to others as a result of your discipleship?