Teach No Other Doctrine

[1Timothy 1:1-7 KJV] 1 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
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, 4 Neither give heed to fables
and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is
in faith: [so do]. 5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and
[of] a good conscience, and [of] faith unfeigned: 6 From which some having swerved
have turned aside unto vain jangling; 7 Desiring to be teachers of the law;
understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.

The Apostle Paul’s two letters to Timothy, together with his letter to Titus, are often
called the “Pastoral Epistles.” This is appropriate, in one sense, because these letters
were written to young pastors who were involved in the leadership of churches.
Together they constitute a kind of handbook for pastors. Timothy and Titus were sons in
the faith of the Apostle Paul. He had led them both to Christ. They were very dear to
him, and they had shared many hardships with him on his journeys around the Roman
Empire.

In this first letter to Timothy (whom he had left at the church at Ephesus), Paul is giving
him counsel and guidance on how to conduct himself in the leadership of that church.
Paul traveled with Timothy and Titus around the Roman Empire. He left Titus on the
island of Crete to guide the emerging church there, and he brought Timothy on to
Ephesus with him where there already was a church that had been long established.
The apostle then left Timothy in Ephesus while he himself traveled on up to Macedonia.
The First Letter of Paul to Timothy, a beautiful letter from a father to a beloved son who
is undertaking a demanding and dangerous work.

[1Timothy 1:1-7 KJV] 1 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
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,

Paul identifies himself as “an apostle,” and we find that the church there was under
severe attack. Paul had said this would happen. The 20th chapter of Acts tells of Paul’s
last recorded visit to Ephesus where, from the port of Miletus, he called to him the
elders of the church at Ephesus. In that 20th chapter there is a marvelous, beautiful
word of farewell to these elders from the apostle. In the midst of it, in Verse 29, he says
to them:

[Act 20:29-30 KJV] 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves
enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise,
speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

This was written before Timothy was left at Ephesus. Evidently, these conditions the
apostle had anticipated had already come into being. The church was under attack from
“grievous wolves from without,” and “perverse teachers from within.” Therefore, it
needed an apostle’s authority. Now, Timothy was not sent to Ephesus as a bishop or as
an elder. (There were already elders at the church there — the men whom Paul had
addressed in Chapter 20 of Acts.) Rather, Timothy was sent as an apostolic
representative, that is, as Paul’s substitute, as a bridge from the days of the apostolic
leadership of the early church to the more permanent leadership of eldership oversight,
guided by the Scriptures, as the Lord intended. The New Testament Scriptures had not
yet been written.

(In our time, the written Word of God has taken the place of these apostolic
representatives. From the 1st century on, the church has been guided and guarded by
the apostolic witness to Jesus Christ, recorded in the Scriptures.)

Verse 2: 2 Unto Timothy, [my] own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, [and] peace, from
God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.

There is an affectionate reminder of their relationship. And here is an insightful blessing from the heart of the apostle: “Grace, mercy, (and) peace from God our Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” Usually, Paul’s salutation was only, “Grace and peace.” But here, and in the Second Letter to Timothy, he includes the word, mercy. Perhaps this was because of Timothy’s fears. Mercy is
God’s grace exercised in deliverance from circumstances, and that is what Timothy
needed. He needed the assurance that God could deliver him, so Paul blesses him with
this additional word, “mercy from God the Father.”

In Verses 1-11 the apostle tells Timothy what his work in Ephesus would involve. But in
essence, it was two things: First, Timothy was to stop certain teaching that was going
on in Ephesus; and second, he was to make clear how to use the Law of Moses in the
Christian life the lawful use of the Law.

Verse 3: 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, 4 Neither give heed to
fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying
which is in faith: [so do]. 5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure
heart, and [of] a good conscience, and [of] faith unfeigned: 6 From which some having
swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; 7 Desiring to be teachers of the law;
understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.

It is highly significant that the first task the apostle set Timothy to doing in Ephesus was
to guard the teaching of the church. In other words, the teaching is the most important
aspect of the ministry of a church. It must be kept pure and unsullied. As someone has
well put it, “The main thing is to see that the main thing remains the main thing.”

The central task of leadership in any church is to see that the teaching is in line with the
apostolic revelation. The church exists to declare this unique body of truth. Anything that
differs is not to be taught in church.

Within any congregation you will find believers who are at various stages of doctrinal
understanding. When it comes to teaching, that teaching must be clear and straight and
true. That is the first thing Timothy is charged to do: Stop the teaching that is different,
and oppose these wrong concepts.

This does not mean that these teachers were blatant heretics. They were not. They
were probably men from the congregation who, in many ways, were good teachers, but
they were beginning to introduce ideas that were derived, basically, from human
philosophy. Some say that this was a Greek form of philosophy, which later developed
into what was called Gnosticism. (Gnosticism doctrine taught that the world was created
and ruled by a lesser divinity and that Christ was an emissary of the supreme being.)
It is essential that there be unity in the teaching of a church. There are differences of
style that are quite permissible; there are different gifts (they are expected to vary)
among teachers; there are different choices of subjects of the revelation of God. The
heart of truth, however, must remain unsullied, (spoiled, made impure) because the
Scripture is the most powerful weapon the church has to correct error and to deliver
people from bondage into freedom. The teaching of the truth, therefore, must be central
in the ministry.

These teachers were also making a great deal of fuss about genealogies. They were
laying stress on their ancestry, who they were, where they came from, their family ties,
their inherited honors, etc.

Jesus said, “By their fruits you shall know them,” Matthew 7:20. When you question a
teaching, ask yourself, “What does it lead people to do?” Here the apostle tells us very
plainly that this teaching promoted speculations, that is, mind trips, fascinating research
into themes that tickle the imagination, producing endless debate and specious
reasonings, that is on its face seems plausible but is actual wrong. That is what always
happens when human philosophy is interjected into the gospel. No matter what its
source, it begins to promote speculation and fascinate the mind.

The Bible is a fascinating book. There are many themes in it that trigger the imagination.
Now there is nothing wrong with that in itself, except as it so occupies the attention of a
congregation that they neglect to understand the great revelation of the Word of God.
This takes the place of true biblical study. People begin to pursue speculative matters
which take them away from the pure revelation of the Scripture. Timothy was to seek to
turn these teachers away from this because it was unhealthy and unprofitable. It
resulted in a congregation engrossed in speculative mind adventures.

How was Timothy to do that? Here Paul suggests a third thing. Timothy was to
contrast this with the true revelation. 4 Neither give heed to fables and endless
genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.
That is what these teachers ought to have been studying and teaching — a deposit of
truth given by God to men, and appropriated by faith.

Now, faith is not merely belief. Faith is acting on the basis of facts which God has
revealed. This is what the apostle is concerned about. The apostle said, But we speak
the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before
the world unto our glory. 1 Corinthians 2:7. That is the nature of the gospel. It is so
powerful and so radical that it is always under subtle attack both from without and
within. That is why it is so necessary to ensure that the teaching is accurate and true
and biblical, because, when it is, it delivers people, it frees people, it changes whole
families; it has a powerful effect upon society. Jesus said that would happen: If you
continue in my word you shall be my disciples indeed and you shall know the truth and
the truth will set you free, John 8:31-32. The world desperately needs men and women
who have learned how to be free in Christ Jesus, to be what God has intended men and
women to be. That is what the gospel can do.

There are two essentials in the gospel. All through Scripture the emphasis is on these
two things. First, the gospel declares there is a total ending of the old life. This is
symbolized for us and conveyed to us, historically, by the cross of our Lord Jesus. The
dying of Jesus meant that something about our natural humanity was brought to an end.
We are delivered from it. It is dead. It is totally ended. The second aspect is the
impartation of a new life which is totally sufficient for the believer to live on. That is
symbolized for us and conveyed to us, historically, by the resurrection of Jesus from the
dead.

There are the two great facts and focus of the gospel: The dying of Jesus, which
eliminates the old life, and the resurrection of Jesus, which imparts to us a whole new
identity, a whole new basis to live, so we can be new people, no longer hung up by the
old bondages and inhibitions that once kept us from being what we wanted to be. That
is the gospel. That is the good news.

The essence of Christianity is life. That is the key, the fact from which all else flows. The
gospel is the way whereby God has found a means of freeing us from our old life and
giving us a new way to live. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son
of God hath not life. 1 John 5:12.

Paul says it in Colossians, “Christ, who is our life, shall appear…” Colossians 3:4. He
says it in Corinthians, Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things
are passed away; behold, all things are become new, 2 Corinthians 5:17. That is why,
throughout his letters, Paul constantly is exhorting us to “put off the old man which we
died to in Christ and put on the new,” Ephesians 4:22-24, Colossians 3:9-10; to
“consider yourself dead unto sin and alive unto God,” (Romans 6:11). That is the good
news. That is the gospel.

The teachers at Ephesus were attacking this. They did not know they were, they did not
think they were, but they were, because they were denying that the old life really had
ended. By these references to myths and genealogies they were subtly suggesting that
there was something of value that carried over from the old life. Your family
connections, your ties with the past, the honor, position and prestige which your
ancestors had were not rendered valueless, they held. This was an attempt to cling to
what was past. By means of these myths they were exalting the mind of man, the
wisdom of man, the ability of man to understand and rationalize. They were subtly
suggesting (and this still happens today) that everything in the Scripture ought to be
subjected to human reason, and what you cannot understand you should reject. This
means, ultimately, that the human mind becomes the judge of all truth and reality,
whereas Scripture presents it as revelation, confronting us frequently with mysteries we
cannot grasp, but which we are to obey. That is what Paul is talking about and why he
sent Timothy to correct this. He is encouraged to identify it for what it is by the fact that it
“promotes speculations.”

Now just as error can be detected by what it produces, so too can truth be detected by
what it produces. Paul tells us what it is: 5 Now the end of the commandment is charity
out of a pure heart, and [of] a good conscience, and [of] faith unfeigned: Here is how
you can tell, almost at a glance, what is going on in a church. If a church is giving itself
to some subtle form of human philosophy, it will result in endless speculation. (Paul will
enlarge on that in just a moment.) But if the truth is being taught and preached and
believed, it will always result in a loving congregation. Love is our aim. Love involves
activity; speculation involves the mind. Love involves persons, service, compassion,
involvement, care, time. That is the way you can tell the difference. The great thrust of
the gospel is to produce loving people.

Key: You can tell the gospel is having its effect when that is the effect it has upon you —
when you are becoming a more compassionate, loving, patient, tenderhearted person,
and you are reflecting that to those around. That is what Jesus said would happen, and
that is why his great commandment to us is that we should love one another.
The apostle now traces the course of love back to its source. 5 Now the end of the
commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and [of] a good conscience, and [of] faith
unfeigned: its origin, here in Verse 5. I think we will begin to understand more clearly
what he is saying if we begin at the end and work back. Paul tells us that, “charity is out
of a pure heart,” and behind that, “a good conscience,” and behind that, “faith
unfeigned.” Now, to begin at the end, faith is believing what God has said about the total
end of your old life and the impartation of a new life identified with the righteousness of
Christ — that is what you believe. You are a new person; you are not the same.
Therefore, love begins with sincere faith that the great facts of the gospel are personally
true of you. You are the one who died in Christ, and rose again with him.
When you can fully grasp that, your actions will begin to change. You will begin to see
that some of the things you have been doing, and the way you have been living, are not consistent with a changed life.

They no longer are the normal outworking of a heart that has been made anew in Jesus Christ. Therefore, these things begin to fade. People do not have to be forced to stop things; they begin to see that these things are inconsistent with a changed life. That is what Paul means when he speaks of a “good conscience.” Conscience is the judge of your behavior. It deals with the way you act, either accusing you or excusing you. As you begin to be consistent in your actions with what you really are, and see yourself to be, you have a good conscience; it no longer troubles you. You see yourself forgiven, restored, accepted, the past washed away. Not only the past
before you became a Christian, but the past as you live existentially through your
Christian life. Yesterday, with its sins and mistakes, is cleansed. Every day you begin
anew on this basis, living according to a good conscience.

That, in turn, results in a pure heart. The inner attitudes and the thought life begin to
change because you are no longer the same person you once were, and you do not
think of yourself that way. Your thoughts also begin to change. You find yourself giving
up freely and gladly those times when you used to wallow in lustful thoughts. You will
find the things you use to do are no longer acceptable to you. It is no longer you. You do
not want that anymore; you begin to hate yourself for reading it. Your heart is being
purified, so that your inner attitudes and thoughts have changed.

Then, as that occurs, you begin to be a vessel for the flowing out of the love of God. As
Paul said, The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given
unto us, Romans 5:5. Love begins to touch you and those all around you. That is the
gospel. That is the good news.

There is a fourth thing Paul tells Timothy about these teachers. Timothy is to recognize
their true state — where they are coming from, as we would put it today.
6 From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; 7 Desiring to
be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.
In other words, these teachers become “doctrinal wanderers,” wandering about from
one aspect of human speculation and philosophy to another. If you watch them over the
course of time, one thing is characteristic of them: they never stay with one subject but
are always pursuing theological and philosophical notions. This results in what Paul
calls, “vain babblings.” But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto
more ungodliness. 2 Timothy 2:16. This is one way you can recognize these teachers.
Paul says their motive is a desire for position and reputation, not to see that the truth is
taught or that lives are changed. They desire to be “teachers of the law,” motivated by
ambitious pride. Yet, Paul says, the remarkable thing is that they do not understand
what they are saying or the sources from which they take their knowledge. Though they
appear to be impressive teachers, they are without any real understanding of reality.

That is why these departures from doctrinal truth must be caught at their source. We
must be careful to return to the biblical and apostolic witness of the truth as it is in
Jesus. Anything that takes away from our understanding of the end of the old life or
from the fullness of supply of a new life available to us now is a weakening of the truth
and promotes speculations and vain discussions which go nowhere in a church.
Timothy’s first task was to help the elders of the church at Ephesus to understand that
they were to teach no other doctrine.

Pastor Don Thomason