This passage is one that should be a stumbling block to most elders 🙂 OK, not a stumbling block, but instead a focal point for their ministry, a mission statement. Look at Paul’s writing to Timothy and see what is instructed here in contrast to what is so often the roll leadership takes in the church.
1 Timothy 1:3-7 (NASB)
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 rather than 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.
So, you see Paul’s instructions are to Timothy, and you think to yourself, “Randy, this is to Timothy, it this for every church?” Good question. I think that in the greater context of the Timothy’s (first and second) that it is clear that Timothy was in Ephesus to help establish a strong elder based leadership at that church. Therefore, I think that since leadership shouldn’t die off in the church, these principles apply to the leadership of the church today.
Looking at verse three we see that Paul, trusting in the Holy Spirit’s work through Timothy, went on to Macedonia. Timothy’s Ephesian charge was to instruct certain men not to teach ‘strange doctrine.’ I love that phrase, it’s fun. In our post-modern, anything goes, relativistic culture ‘strange doctrine’ doesn’t happen. In fact, if Paul were writing (or righting) today I think he might go so far as to say, “…so that you may instruct certain men not to teach whatever doctrine is blowing through town.” The church has become so doctrinally splintered over the last 2,000 years that I believe few actually believe that there are true doctrines worth holding to. Just in case you’re not familiar with the term ‘doctrine’, it means ‘a teaching.’ In this context we can see in verses six and seven that the strange doctrines involve the mixture of Grace with the Law. And, if you know Galatians at all, you know the Law is not to be mixed with Grace.
Verse four tackles an old Jewish tradition/problem wherein Rabbinic tradition and geneology were counted as important. Using tradition is of some external value for some slight details, but it is certainly not to be incorporated into full fledged teachings. Geneology, as you can see in Matthew 1, was thick and rooted in the Jewish culture. Being able to say you were a son of [insert important name here] apparently meant something to these folks. However, Paul does not want them to focus on these things since they were now sons of God! Having been grafted into salvation through Christ, they were adopted children of God (Ephesians 1:5). Finally in this point we see that those distractions don’t lead to God’s final goal for believers on this earth. We also see that they are not rooted in faith.
Verse five gets into the fun stuff because we see that the goal of the leadership in the church should be instruction that produces the following results in the believers:
- Love from a pure heart
- A good conscience
- A sincere faith
Point one in that list points out that we should let the Lord, who bought our hearts, have control of them, and then love through us with purity. It is so easy to not love people. It is even easier to tolerate, ignore or hate people when we’re in the flesh. Pure love comes from a submitted heart.
A good conscience is one that is not distracted by sin, one that is not hounded by guilt, and one that understands the awesomeness of grace. If you know grace, what it means, then your conscience will be clear, past sins will be a forgotten thing because you look for a hopeful future with your bridegroom, Christ.
A sincere faith is one that genuinely believes and knows the truth of Christ and the doctrines upon which the Christian life rests. We all have doubts at times, points in our lives where we question God’s work, our salvation or various other parts of our faith. If we are well equipped with spiritual truth many of the doubts we face (if not all) will be eraced by the confidence in our relationship with our savior.
So you see that a pastor/elder is to be teaching, discipling, and re-enforcing these things in the flock that God has bestowed to them. If you are spiritually mature, you might consider heavily investing these things into others lives. Sure, it will require time, possibly money, and surely a lot of emotional commitment, but it is the call of a spiritually mature believer to do this. I’m blogging about my Bible study time to help teach others what has been invested in me. While this small blog can’t reach all believers, or even a small fraction of believers, I do hope to help encourage those who read to study and know God’s word, which is Christ!
Verse six shows the fruitless discussion that is a result of straying from the fundamental and important things of the believer. Trust me that in seminary I more than once saw people discussing fruitless things that did not edify them, or anyone listening. Sometimes big words, new ideas or any of the other fruitless practices like geneologies and traditions can be distracting. They make us feel like we may have a corner on truth, a new, better solution or any number of fleshly things, however, if we’re rooted in the core of Christianity (Christ) then we’ll be set for growth and maturity.
Lastly, verse seven makes it clear that the Law is not for the believer. Often teachers mix the Law in with their teaching because they feel it instills a moral rightness, a better, more clear instruction for their parishioners. Frankly, it can’t be too much worse than just outright telling them to sin! Why? Because it does not encourage the believer unto Holy Spirit led righteousness. Instead it calls believers to keep accounts of their sins (or not sinning) rather than counting their righteousness in Christ. If the fruit of the Spirit is a long list of good, God rewarding things why not encourage spiritual growth and spiritual thinking (Romans 12:2, Colossians 3:1-3)?
OK, have a good weekend, I’ll be travelling so Saturday or Sunday may not be blogged, but I’ll do my best to post next week!
Resting in Him,