God bless you and greetings in the name of Jesus Christ who spoke wholesome words (I Timothy 6:3).
The church in Ephesus had known the blessing of God in a way that few churches in history will ever repeat. For three years, the apostle Paul himself ministered there (Acts 20:31). Before he left, he warned the church elders, saying, “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30). Paul knew that the church at Ephesus, like any church, would come under attack from lying prophets and teachers, and it happened. Is there any wonder why he charged Timothy with protecting them?
This first epistle to Timothy was written when the church was on the rise; the Word was prevailing, and things were going great. In it, the first thing that Paul reminds Timothy is the instruction he gave him at Ephesus before he left, which was to “charge some that they teach no other doctrine.”
I Timothy 1:1-3:
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; 2 Unto Timothy, my own son [true child] in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. 3 As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine [enemy #4 on the list], 4 Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.
Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to charge some: 1. not to teach other doctrines and 2. not to give heed to fables and endless genealogies. Timothy was responsible to know what sound doctrine1 was and recognize when others taught something different from it. Some were teaching doctrine of a different kind than what Paul taught Timothy, and Timothy was to confront anything that was contrary to sound doctrine. Along with the false doctrine, Timothy was to teach the believers not to pay attention to fables and endless genealogies.
These fables were fictional, not true, but a part of Judean agnostic tradition. Some took the form of “war stories” ― things people have lived through that had taken on superhuman proportions. The endless genealogies were pointless pedigrees. They provided bragging rights and were intended to vaunt certain people above others because of a family lineage or who they knew or who got them born again. The same idea comes up toward the end of the epistle, also.
I Timothy 6:3-5:
If any man teach otherwise [heterodidaskaleō, enemy #4 on the list], and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, 5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
When people teach other doctrines, they are not consenting to wholesome or sound words. The standard to which we cleave is the doctrine according to godliness. That is the doctrine of the mystery of godliness that Paul taught. Godliness is the epitome of the practical side of the teaching of the mystery. Verses four and five show how those who teach otherwise are practicing error. Instead of being valiant for the truth, they are destitute of the truth. We are to withdraw ourselves from such. Romans 16 provides specific instruction of how to handle those who teach doctrinal error.
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
The purpose of wrong doctrine is to deceive the hearts of the simple. They may use good words and fair speeches, but it is the intent (to cause divisions and offences), not the delivery, that must be recognized and confronted. It is only after the confrontation is rejected that the avoidance should occur.
That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.
We need to mature so that we are not tossed to and fro. We need to be rooted and grounded in the truth so that we are not blown about. Like the great trees we see, the better we are rooted and grounded, the better we will withstand the winds of doctrine that assault us. It is people who are not valiant for the truth, people destitute of the truth, who play games and use cunning craftiness to deceive. They plan in advance and ambush good-hearted believers. We must grow up and not let it happen to us anymore.
Once we have proven the Word and sunk our roots deep, we can resist these winds of doctrine. We resist because we know it works. We know it works because we have worked it, we have done it; and we have seen it work time and time again. Therefore, we rely on it. Then when God tells us to do something crazy, like march around Jerusalem seven times and break pitchers and shout, we will do that, too. We will do whatever He tells us to do.
At the very end of I Timothy, Paul warns Timothy about one more enemy: what is falsely called science.
I Timothy 6:20-21:
O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science [gnōsis] falsely so called [pseudōnumos] [enemy #8 on the list]: 21 Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.
“O” is an interjection, an exclamation that indicates that Paul has some emotional investment in these concluding comments. Paul was moved when he exhorted Timothy to keep the greatness of the mystery of godliness that was committed to his trust. Paul had been faithful to guard it; now he appeals to Timothy to do the same. To do so, Timothy would have to avoid profane and vain babblings and oppositions of science falsely so called. True science is never at odds with God’s Word. However, enemies will disguise deceit in scientific terminology and try to hold it over believers’ heads. Through their feigned scientific acumen, they vaunt themselves and attempt to coerce, intimidate, dominate and control the believers. If we get fooled by what is falsely called science, we will err concerning the faith.
Earlier in the epistle, Paul also warned Timothy about the danger of departing from the faith.
I Timothy 4:1-2a:
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies [enemy #9 on the list] in hypocrisy.
Giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils will cause some to depart from the faith. When they do, they will speak lies in hypocrisy. A better translation of that first phrase in verse two is: “Through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies.” Men who speak lies are enemies of the truth.
1. Sound (hugiainō) doctrine (didaskalia) occurs four times: I Timothy 1:10; II Timothy 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1.
2. That is the translation found in the American Standard Version and the English Revised Version.