The Koinonia Bible Study Class, which I am privileged to teach, finished it's study of 1 Kings. We have moved on to 1 Timothy. This is the first of what we call the Pastoral Epistles.
Paul started the church in Ephesus. You can read about that in Acts. At one point, he left Timothy there to be the pastor or overseer. In this letter, Paul wrote Timothy advice and encouragement. It also seems he knew the letter would be read to the congregation, so he included instruction for all of them.
I did a bit of an introduction the first week. Here are the notes from the second week.
1 Timothy 1:3-20
One of Timothy’s jobs in overseeing the church was to combat false teaching. Paul says “different” teaching. This means there was a consensus among the apostles and most of the church as to what the true teaching was. Paul understood the need to keep the truth pure, unpolluted by teachers with different ideas.
The church was quickly assailed with false teachers. That tells me Satan recognized the importance of the true message. He set about to pollute it.
For example, Paul complained that the Galatians deserted Christ for a different gospel. Galatians 1:6.
The last time Paul met with the Ephesian elders, he warned them that “after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you not sparing the flock and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Acts 20:29-30
Here in our text, Paul said these teachers devoted themselves to myths and endless genealogies. In verse 4 he said this teaching promoted speculation (controversy in NIV) rather than the stewardship (ESV) God left to us. It is stewardship as in the truth God left with us to protect. Paul saw himself as a steward of the gospel. The Greek word is “oikonomia”. It can also mean plan. The NASB uses “administration” which carries the idea of plan. The NIV says “work”, assuming, I think, that it means work left by God for us to do.
That is the problem with some teaching today. It promotes speculation about the timing of the end rather than teaching the work to be done until the end comes. It promotes speculation about mysteries and codes and secret wisdom rather than the revealed knowledge of God.
Paul set out the goal of the teacher in verse 5. It is love from a pure heart, a good conscience and sincere faith. However, the false teachers left these for discussions that have no profit to the believer.
Paul said they wanted to be teachers of the law without understanding what they were teaching. What were they teaching? They taught myths and endless genealogies. In Titus 1:14, Paul referred to Jewish myths. Genealogies likely means invented expansions of the Genesis genealogies of the origins of the Old Testament Patriarchs. Paul may refer to Jewish legends and stories that purport to tell things left out of the Old Testament account. We know of some documents that do this, including The Book of Jubilees and The Biblical Antiquities of Philo, which for example, purports to list the names of all of the children of Adam and Eve and the 70 Israelites who went with Jacob into Egypt.
These books were often written to promote a sect. The Book of Jubilees promoted the Pharisee theology and the special place of Israel.
Here is a theological note. We believe scripture is both inspired and sufficient. God inspired its writing, so it is vital we read and learn it. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
But scripture is also sufficient. We do not add to it. We do not add to it even when it does not tell us all we would like to know. God is sovereign and therefore can choose what he wishes to reveal and what he will conceal. Therefore the Bible is sufficient. It is what he wants us to know. When you make up more, you deny the sufficiency of scripture.
I recently heard a well know pastor give a dramatic presentation for his sermon on the “Prodigal Son” story. It made me cringe. God gave us all we need to know about that story. When you make up more stuff, you are saying God’s word on the matter is not sufficient.
There are many books and teachers today that add to the revelation given in the Bible. The Book of Morman is one. The title page says it is another testament of Jesus Christ. The Apocrypha is another, if you treat it as scripture. The so called Gnostic Gospels, like the Gospel of Thomas claiming to contain 12 secret words of Jesus. The novel The Da Vinci Code and other writings like it recycle the same ideas. The Bible Code claims secret messages are found in a numerical system. The dogma of the Roman Catholic Church contains doctrine that is not mentioned in the Bible but given equal weight to the Bible. Have I offended everyone yet?
There will be more descriptions of the false teachings as we get into this epistle.
So we have some contrasts. There is true gospel contrasted with speculation and myth. There is teaching that promotes love versus teaching that promotes division and controversy.