“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” 1 Timothy 1:5
I was a legalist, and I was not very loving. I will always remember the night my freshmen year of college when my friend Jackie called me out. We were sitting in her room with her roommate and I was making a fool of myself going on about something I knew nothing about. Halfway through my rant she stopped me: “Jon, you’re the problem” she said, and she was right. I have shared the story before on the God’s Heart for Those blog, but thought it a good illustration for this Director’s Corner. What I was saying was false, it was divisive, it upset Jackie and her roommate.
The Church at Ephesus had a similar problem, false teachers had entered the church and were upsetting the orderliness that Paul had put in place. So the letter of 1st Timothy focuses on instructing Timothy on how to deal with false teachers encouraging him to continue to teach right doctrines. But there is a central issue that Paul deals with before Timothy can give instruction concerning these false teachers. Timothy but be charging these false teachers not to teach false doctrines out of love, just as Paul has taught Timothy out of love.
How we deal with one another, especially those who are creating divisions in the church is very important. I remember reading the reasons that a church let go of their abusive pastor. They had gone through all the proper steps in attempting to reconcile with the man and he had still insisted on his way. Had the man not resigned over a trivial issue he refused to work out the church would have let him go. Not because they wanted to, but because that was what was best for a church that was beginning to bleed. By all accounts the situation was handled lovingly on the side of the church, with the intent on restoration, unfortunately it was not handled so on the side of the pastor.
In another instance a leader was unhealthy, devoting themselves to too much, lacking time to allow themselves to be developed spiritually, undisciplined to a point that was hurting the flock. The leadership team gathered together and approached the man based on the standard in Matthew 18 and Titus 3 and on the first time won his attention. The leader submitted to learning spiritual disciplines and has continued as a leader in the church, now bringing others along in the journey of being disciples of Christ.
If you have been following me for a while you know my own journey is not dissimilar to the second man. Over the years several people warned e of my legalism, my older sister was one in particular who tried to issue warnings, my father even referred to me as a “budding legalist.” Neither were wrong, but it was not until Jackie called me out that I realized something was wrong. From there it was not until I half way through my time in Denver that I learned how to apply and grow in love and discipline. Jackie got my attention, it was my mentors and teachers in Denver who taught encouraged me to be quiet and listen, and they all did it out of love.
You see, we must watch out for false teaching in the flock, we must use scripture to encourage right behavior among believers. (See 2 Timothy 2-3). We must be on the look-out for false teachings, and when we find them we must make it a priority to approach falsehood with love for the person and encouragement for sound doctrine.
But this love cannot just come from anywhere. No, it must come from a pure heart, not one filled with evil desires, a good conscious, not one filled with wickedness and deceitfulness and a sincere faith, not one built on falsehood or malicious intent. If we are to correct someone’s teachings then we must know what sound doctrine is, to do that we must have studied. Lest we become like those who “Make assertions about the law they know nothing about” (1:7 Paraphrase).
If we aspire to be teachers then we must know what we are supposed to be teaching on. James 3:1 says: “Not all of you should aspire to be teachers, for we know that teachers will be judged more harshly.” Meaning, teachers will be judged by God, but also that teachers will be judged harsher by man. Paul is concerned that Timothy make sure sound doctrine is being preached, but also that Timothy continues to study (2 Timothy 2:15). James understands that being a teacher is a huge responsibility. It is Jesus, in Matthew 5:16-20 that lays down the gauntlet, telling us “Whoever desires to teach these commands and does not teach them to the fullest he will be considered least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever teaches these commandments to the fullest will be considered greatest” (Paraphrase). Teaching the gospel is a major responsibility, there is a high value on teaching sound doctrine in the gospels as well as in the Epistles. And there are serious consequences for those who do not.
In Ephesus Paul have Hymaneaus and Alexander put out of the church (excommunicated). In the early church it does not get much more serious than excommunication. Paul does this so that they may “Learn not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 1:20). This is because false doctrine should have no place in the church and in our hearts. False teachers should also have no place in our church if they refuse to repent and discipline themselves. If they have been taken before the body and still refuse follow the instructions at the end of Titus 3 “Have nothing more to do with them.”
All of this seems harsh, but it is loving for both them and the congregation, believe it or not. A leader who is not doing these things is far from teaching from the disciples goal, love from a good conscious, pure heart & sincere faith can cause a severe fracture in the body. That is what we should try to avoid, we need to be united as one, lest we be destroyed from the inside out.
Jonathan David Faulkner
10:31 Life Ministries, Director / Founder.