When false shepherds preach error with 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) 

There is a retort made in my direction more times than I can count when I have exposed a certain ministry or so-called Christian leader as saying or doing things that do not line up God’s Word in one or more ways. That retort is, “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). Please carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post (1 Timothy 1:6-7). What Paul is talking about in these verses are false teachers or shepherds who were preaching their error with assurance. Let us put that passage into context. 

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) 

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. 1 Timothy 1:1-4 (NA28)

Paul had urged Timothy to remain at Ephesus. Why? It was so “he may instruct”  (παραγγείλῃς) 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 strange doctrines” (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. Certain “christian leaders” in our time have become very popular by saying that it is wrong to be set in God’s Word as truth concretely. Instead, they teach 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) 

5 τὸ δὲ τέλος τῆς παραγγελίας ἐστὶν ἀγάπη ἐκ καθαρᾶς καρδίας καὶ συνειδήσεως ἀγαθῆς καὶ πίστεως ἀνυποκρίτου, 1 Timothy 1:5 (NA28)

The word charge (παραγγελίας) 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 has 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) 

6 ὧν τινες ἀστοχήσαντες ἐξετράπησαν εἰς ματαιολογίαν 7 θέλοντες εἶναι νομοδιδάσκαλοι, μὴ νοοῦντες μήτε ἃ λέγουσιν μήτε περὶ τίνων διαβεβαιοῦνται. 1 Timothy 1:6-7 (NA28)

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 fruitless discussion (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 “wandered away” 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 sobering 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!

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