Preaching error and making confident assertions with seemingly full assurance

by Mike Ratliff

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. (1 Timothy 1:6-7 NASB)

God is not the author of confusion. His truth is clear and discernable by the regenerate heart. On the other hand, our enemy, being the source of lies and deception, must create a climate in which what his false teachers expound is disguised as the truth and there will be attempts by those defending these false teachings to demand tolerance so that their error will not be open to detailed scrutiny. It is all a paradigm of smoke and mirrors. Rob Bell has taught, for instance, that it is wrong to use the Bible as our plumb line, our standard of truth. Whenever any of us address these things he says, out come his defenders with their smoke and mirrors attempting to redirect the focus from Bell to those demanding that he be held to account as a false teacher. They call us divisive and all sorts of other things in their attempt to deflect our scrutiny. The Church must withstand false teachers. Just because they preach with assurance does not mean they are right and that the source of what they are teaching is from God. 

The more I dig into these things the more God keeps bringing to my mind a statement I hear quite often from those unrepentant in their error when confronted with the truth from God’s Word. They say, “Well, I don’t believe it!” The standard for truth then becomes what they believe to be true rather than what God says is the truth. Christians are not immune from this my brethren. That is why we are commanded to stay immersed in God Word and be transformed through the renewal of our minds by that (Romans 12:2).

1 Παῦλος ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ κατʼ ἐπιταγὴν θεοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν καὶ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τῆς ἐλπίδος ἡμῶν 2 Τιμοθέῳ γνησίῳ τέκνῳ ἐν πίστει, χάρις ἔλεος εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς καὶ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν. 3 Καθὼς παρεκάλεσά σε προσμεῖναι ἐν Ἐφέσῳ πορευόμενος εἰς Μακεδονίαν, ἵνα παραγγείλῃς τισὶν μὴ ἑτεροδιδασκαλεῖν 4 μηδὲ προσέχειν μύθοις καὶ γενεαλογίαις ἀπεράντοις, αἵτινες ἐκζητήσεις παρέχουσιν μᾶλλον ἢ οἰκονομίαν θεοῦ τὴν ἐν πίστει. 5 τὸ δὲ τέλος τῆς παραγγελίας ἐστὶν ἀγάπη ἐκ καθαρᾶς καρδίας καὶ συνειδήσεως ἀγαθῆς καὶ πίστεως ἀνυποκρίτου, 6 ὧν τινες ἀστοχήσαντες ἐξετράπησαν εἰς ματαιολογίαν 7 θέλοντες εἶναι νομοδιδάσκαλοι, μὴ νοοῦντες μήτε ἃ λέγουσιν μήτε περὶ τίνων διαβεβαιοῦνται. (1 Timothy 1:1-7 NA28)

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope, 2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 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 speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. (1 Timothy 1:1-4 NASB)

Paul had urged Timothy to remain at Ephesus. Why? It was so “he may charge”  (παραγγειλης) certain persons not to continue to teach error. This Greek word refers to one making an announcement or one giving a word, an order, charge, or command. Paul is using Timothy to deliver a command to these people to “not” (μη) “teach any different doctrine” (ἑτεροδιδασκαλεῖν). We have looked at this word before. Paul was telling Timothy to command these people to not teach doctrines different that what he taught. He also included a command to not devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies because all this does is create an atmosphere of speculation rather than one that promotes the proper stewardship from God that is by faith. Rob Bell, for instance, is very big on teaching that it is wrong to be set in God’s Word as truth concretely. He teaches that the best way to know God is by believing that no one can know the truth because it is all a mystery. Well, Paul sure did not teach anything like that. He taught clear doctrines that he expected the Church to know, grasp, and live by in all they did. Notice what happens when the teaching atmosphere is speculative rather than clear and precise. It leads the people away from walking before the face of God by faith.

5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5 NASB)

The word charge (παραγγελιας) in v5 is closely related to παραγγειλης. The difference is in emphasis. The word used in v3, παραγγειλης, is simply a charge or command, but here in v5 Paul uses παραγγελίας, which is a command based on his apostolic authority. This charge based on this authority is what? It is that those in the Church love (ἀγάπη) one another with a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (ἀγαθῆς). What a contrast to what the false teachers were stirring up! These false teachers caused the opposite of this. The reason this is vital in the Church is that this love Paul is speaking of, ἀγάπη, has as its source only the internal, Holy Spirit-worked changes that have produced a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. The contrast to each of these is from the counterfeit doctrines that come from all false teachers. Instead of a pure heart, false teaching creates an environment that promotes sinful desires. Instead of a good conscience, those subjected to these false teachings find themselves laden with guilt. Instead of having a sincere faith, they have pretense and hypocrisy. The counterfeit teachings cannot be the source of what the spirit produces in the hearts of God’s people. Instead, it only causes outcomes that are flesh based.

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. (1 Timothy 1:6-7 NASB)

What was the cause of these false teachers’ apostasy? By swerving from (ἀστοχήσαντες) the apostolic command to love one another from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith, they have turned aside (ἐξετράπησαν) into error (ματαιολογίαν). The word Paul used here that is translated as “straying from,” ἀστοχήσαντες, describes a deviation from the truth resulting in missing the mark. This is an aorist tense participle in active voice. All that means is that it describes simple action that has taken place prior to the action of the main verb, which is “turned aside” or ἐξετράπησαν. This word describes a deliberate turning aside from the main way. Because these false teachers have swerved aside from the apostolic command to love another in the Spirit they have wandered off the main path into error. The word translated “fruitless discussion” here, ματαιολογίαν, describes random talk that is nothing but babble in the form of vain jangling. In other words, false doctrines or false teachings cannot hold a candle to the authoritative pure doctrines of God that produce Holy Spirit-worked changes in God’s people. All they produce is vain jangling that leads to confusion.

My brethren, I did not write this to be mean-spirited towards those people who are obviously teaching what is contrary to the pure truth of God’s Word. No, I pray that these people will be pierced through with the grace of God to repentance and conformity to the pure doctrines given to us in God’s Word. However, if this does not happen then what we have is another promise by our Lord for them.

21 “ Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? ’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from ME, you who practice lawlessness. (Matthew 7:21-23 NASB)

Soli Deo Gloria!

6 thoughts on “Preaching error and making confident assertions with seemingly full assurance

  1. Reblogged this on A Common Life and commented:
    It is important to know what people like Rob Bell are saying. There are pastors who say things like him, and the people listening do not even realize it as they are slowly turned from a full confidence in God’s word to a questioning view. God’s sovereignty is not something to forget or doubt, and we must be assured of the truth. God’s word is truth.


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