Sunday, 3 January 2010

Are their False Teachers in your (the) Church?

This post is taken from John Stott's commentary on 1 Timothy instructing us on important truths that Christians should be aware of regarding false teachers.It also has relevance for both our own local church as well as the Church of Christ in general. At the present time can you see or have you seen false teaching or false teachers 'creeping'into the Church: either through a)trying to turn people from the truth of Scripture, b)bringing division in the church or c) being greedy for financial gain?
A charge about false teachers (6:3-5).
The apostle evaluates the false teachers in relation to questions of truth, unity and motivation. His criticism of them is that they deviate from the faith, split the church, and love money. They are heterodox, divisive and covetous.

a). The false teachers are deviating from the faith.
Once again Paul implies that there is a standard of Christian belief which in this chapter he calls the ‘teaching’ (1, 3b), ‘sound instruction’ (3), ‘the truth’ (5), ‘the faith’ (10, 12, 21), the ‘command’ (14) and ‘what has been entrusted’ (20), From this norm the false teachers have turned aside. Paul individualizes them for emphasis: *If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to (‘does not loyally adhere to’)....sound instruction...* The first of these verbs is *heterodidaskaleo* (as in 1:3), in which *heteros* means ‘other’, ‘different’ or ‘some doctrinal novelty’ (JBP). It is false because it deviates from apostolic teaching, which is *sound (healthy) instruction*. Paul characterizes his healthy teaching in two ways.
First. it consists of sound words (literally) *of our Lord Jesus Christ*. Some think that this genitive is objective, meaning that the teaching is about Christ. But Paul’s instruction did not focus exclusively on Christ. Others take the genitive as subjective and suppose that Paul is referring to words spoken by Christ, perhaps to an already published gospel or a collection of the sayings of Jesus. But Paul seldom quoted Jesus’ words, 5:18 and Acts 20:35 being exceptional.
The third and most probable explanation is that Paul regarded his own words as the words of Christ. ‘He who listens to you listens to me,’ Jesus had said when he sent out the seventy (Lk.10:16), and Luke implied that the ascended Christ would continue to act and speak through the apostles (Acts 1:1). This was certainly Paul’s conviction. He could command and exhort in the name or with the authority of Christ (E.g. 2 Thess.3:6, 12). He claimed that Christ was speaking through him (2 Cor.13:3), and he even commended the Galatians for having welcomed him as if he were Jesus Christ (Gal.4:14). As Chrysostom put it, ‘Thus says Paul, or rather Christ by Paul’.
The second characteristic of ‘sound instruction’ is that it is *godly teaching* (3b), literally, ‘the teaching which accords with godliness’. A similar expression occurs in Titus 1:1, which the NIV translates ‘the truth that leads to godliness’. Here then are two essential marks of sound teaching. It comes from Christ and it promotes godliness. Anybody who disagrees with it, therefore, *is conceited and understands nothing* (4a). Or, putting the two phrases together, he is ‘a conceited idiot’ (JBP) or ‘a pompous ignoramus’ (REB). This is strong language. But then the false teacher is guilty of a serious offence. For to disagree with Paul is to disagree with Christ. Indeed, in the end there are only two possible responses to the Word of God. One is to humble ourselves and tremble at it; the other is to harden our hearts, stiffen our necks and reject it.

1 Timothy. 6:3-5. b). The false teachers are dividing the church.

In addition to being arrogant and ignorant, the false teacher is divisive. *He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words* (4a), or ‘a morbid enthusiasm for mere speculations and quibbles’ (REB). It is noteworthy that Paul portrays him as ‘sick’, whereas he has called apostolic teaching ‘sound’ or ‘healthy’. The false teachers’ relish for profitless argument is positively pathological.
Petty quibbles and quarrels of this kind lead to a complete breakdown in human relationships. Five results are listed: *envy* (the resentment of other people’s gifts), *strife* (the spirit of competition and contention), *malicious talk* (abuse of ‘rival teachers’), *evil suspicions* (forgetting that fellowship is built on trust, not suspicion), *and constant friction* (The fruit of irritability). These evils characterize *men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth...* (5a). When people’s minds are twisted, all relationships become twisted too.

c). The false teachers are lovers of money.
Another symptom of the false teachers’ depraved mind and loss of truth is that they *think that godliness is a means to financial gain* (5b). They have no interest in godliness itself, but only if it proves to be financially profitable.
Precisely how the false teachers whom Timothy had to combat were exploiting godliness for gain is not divulged. But we do know that Ephesus enjoyed great opulence, inflated by the trade which the cult of Diana brought to the city. On Paul’s second visit there it was a silversmith and his craftsmen who were his main opponents. Their sale of silver shrines of Diana had brought them ‘no little business’, but now their income was dwindling under Paul’s polemic against idolatry (Acts 19:23ff.). So it is not surprising that in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul needed to warn them against greed (Eph.5:3).
The history of the human race has regularly been stained by attempts to commercialize religion. It was when Simon Magus thought he could buy spiritual powers from the apostles that the term ‘simony’ was coined, to denote the purchase and sale of spiritual privilege or ecclesiastical office. Paul himself found it necessary to declare that, unlike many, he did not peddle the Word of God for profit (2 Cor.2:17), that he had never coveted anybody’s silver, gold or clothing (Acts 20:33), and that he had never used religion as a clock for greed (1 Thess.2:5).
Yet the church was discredited during the Middle Ages on account of the disgraceful sale of indulgences; religious cults still charge exorbitant fees for personal tuition in their particular tenets; some evangelists appeal for ‘love offerings’ which are never publicly audited; and some television preachers promise their viewers personal prosperity on condition that they send in enough ‘seed money’.
Looking back over verses 3-5 we note that Paul has given us three practical tests by which to evaluate all teaching. We might put them in the form of questions. Is it compatible with he apostolic faith, that is, the New Testament? Does it tend to unite or divide the church? And does it promote godliness with contentment, or covetousness?

1 comment:

Concerned said...

I can think of a few:
Money men-Benny Hinn and evangelists and others make a 'good living' out of religion.
False teachers -who rely more worldly philosophy that the bible.
some may be part of the emerging theology etc.
THose who are hungry for power and have to start their own churches.