“Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life. Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy” [1 Timothy 6:3-5 NTL].
Paul is scathing in his criticism of the false teachers who misuse the law, cause endless disputes and trouble, and whose motives are impure.
In 1 Timothy 1:8-9 Paul explains the purpose of the law. It is only good when used as God intended. The purpose of the law is to bring conviction of sin to those who are ungodly. Writing to the Galatians, Paul says that the law is a schoolmaster to bring us to God [Galatians 3:24]. The law cannot save, but it can convict of sin. Law and the Gospel go together. The law without the Gospel is diagnosis without remedy. The Gospel without the law is the Good News of salvation for people who don’t believe that they need it because they have never heard the bad news of judgment. John Wesley taught that preaching should begin with law, and then be mixed with grace, and finally grace alone. These statements help us to understand the purpose of the law.
The false teachers misused the law, and added confusing fables and legends to the Old Testament. Paul called them idle talkers [1 Tim 1:6, see Titus 1:10].
The Greek word ‘mataios’ translated as ‘idle’ can also be translated as ‘useless’. They demanded that Christian believers be circumcised, must keep the law and had so added to God’s Word that it confused people and led them astray. Paul specifically named three of the false teachers in the church at Ephesus, Hymenaeus and Alexander [1 Tim. 1:20] and Philetus [2 Tim 2:17].
We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ and not by trying to keep the law. When we turn from sin to Christ the Holy Spirit makes His home in us, and He fulfils God’s law in us. Jesus has set us free from the condemnation of the law and the heavy burden of trying to keep it. Let’s live in the freedom and simplicity that we have in Christ and beware of those who would seek to bring us into bondage.
What do you think are the motives of those false teachers who cause confusion and bondage?
How can we recognise the difference between truth and error? Can you name some of the errors that we are facing in the church today?
Why did Paul emphasize so strongly to Timothy the importance of standing against the false teachers?