Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 1:1-11
Some years ago I heard someone say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe something”. This is such a foolish statement because what we believe determines how we live. A vital key to growth in the early church was to continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine [Acts 2:42].
Paul makes it clear that we should recognise what is contrary to sound doctrine [1 Timothy 1:10]. In the original text there are 32 references to “doctrine,” “teach,” “teacher,” “teaches,” and “teaching,” in the three Pastoral Epistles [1 & 2 Timothy and Titus]. Clearly doctrine is important. In the early church, the believers were taught the Word of God and the meaning of basic Christian doctrines. The writer of Hebrews lists foundational doctrines.
Whether they are aware of it or not, there will always be people who teach false teaching and who seek to lead people astray from the truth. This was a major problem that Timothy faced in Ephesus. These false teachers were misusing the law and so bringing people into condemnation [1 Timothy 1:5-11]. In both of his letters to Timothy the apostle Paul warns about false teaching in the last days and of society that is barren of virtue but abounding with vices [1 Tim. 4:1-5 and 2 Tim. 3:1-9]. The majority of the epistles in the New Testament were written to counteract false teaching and present truth.
A simple example of how wrong teaching can affect a Christian is the teaching that spiritual warfare is a struggle with our old human nature. Many times Paul states in his epistles that our old nature is crucified with Christ and therefore dead. We are to reckon it dead [Romans 6:6-8,11]. You don’t need a sinful nature to sin! Adam and Eve did not have a sinful nature when they disobeyed God and obeyed the devil. Instead of trying to fight our old nature that is dead, let’s recognise that the battle is in the mind, where Satan attacks our thought-life with evil suggestions and temptations. “They have read that their old self was crucified and that they should consider themselves dead… And yet they find that they keep being ‘haunted’ by what appears to be their old man. Some of these folks end up spending their entire lives kicking a corpse, wrestling a carcass and otherwise wasting their energy on an enemy that has already died, while the real foe laughs sarcastically through the prison bars of their lives” [Spirit Wars by Chris Vallotton, p.33].
Tomorrow we will look at the nature of some of the false teaching that Timothy was facing and what it did to people.
Why is it important that we clearly understand the foundations of our faith and what we believe?
The apostle Peter wrote, “And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it” [1 Peter 3:15]. Would you be able to explain your Christian hope if a person who is not a Christian asks you? What can you do to be more effective in explaining your faith?