Loving Confrontation

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,
2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith:
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. (1 Timothy 1:1-7)

Beginning in verse 3 the apostle Paul urges young Timothy to confront certain people regarding some teaching that was making its way through the church. It is like Paul is saying, “Timothy! Go and stir up further controversy in the church! Go and put down this teaching that is contrary to sound doctrine!” This is how Paul starts off in his letter. After his gracious greeting he gives Timothy this strong command. These are stern orders. You may not see this in a quick reading, but let me say this is an intense beginning. And we need to know why.

Is it just Paul, is it just that Paul gets easily wound up over things? Is Paul just being Paul, always seemingly dogmatic about what he says? Or is Paul simply being who we all should be? Is he faithfully fulfilling his role as an apostle of Christ, as an ambassador of our Lord? He is simply, clearly being a faithful ambassador, charging Timothy to be a faithful ambassador, giving an example of being a faithful ambassador of our Lord.

Timothy was to charge certain individuals to not teach any different doctrine than what God had given to the churches. This was a charge, and a charge that was urged upon him by Paul. Paul is actually pleading with Timothy to do this. And what we will notice, both this morning and on future Sundays, is that this sets the tone for the book as a whole. I don’t want us to miss the urgency here in the language used.

This would be like someone coming to you with a serious demeanor, maybe a heightened sense of concern, a voice that is stern perhaps, a person who sees danger ahead and senses that you can or should do something about it. This is Paul to Timothy. And he does this because the stakes are high. It is the glory of God that is under attack, it is the person and work of Christ that is being undermined, the foundation of the church, which is certainly Christ but it is also the body of truth that He has given to us. It is this body of truth that is under fire, and someone needs to step up and do something, say something, rock the boat if that is what it takes, to stand in the gap, to be willing to speak truth even if it means personal harm, discomfort, or persecution. And so these words are appropriate…

I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine (1 Timothy 1:3)

There has been since the beginning of the church a plan to destroy it. Do you believe that? The church will not be destroyed, let’s be clear about that. Matthew 18:18 – “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” In Revelation we see that there is a church in the end. The church as a whole will not be destroyed, it will always be here. However, there are pockets and places where the church has crumbled. What I mean is there are places in our world where the church once thrived and where today you cannot find an active church meeting regularly. We don’t cast a blind eye and say, “Well, the church will always exist,” and then fail to stand up and guard her. No, we are to be those described in 1 Timothy 3:15, where the church is described as a pillar and support of the truth. If the church is overrun by false teachers, then it is no longer a pillar and support of truth. Paul knew that, and so he urges Timothy to speak to those who are wreaking havoc on the church instead of being a pillar and support for the truth.

Now, it may be easy for us to say, “Yeah! You go Timothy!” It may be easy for us to sit back and let the professional handle this, to deal with teachings that are raised up as from God but are not from God at all. If we were in this first century church we may say, “Let Timothy handle this, I mean isn’t this what he signed up for as a church leader?” Well, it is what church leaders are to do, but at the same time truth is to be dear to all believers, right? We are all called as ambassadors of God. As Michael described it well last week, we are those who are sent out by the King to speak on His behalf, sent out by God to speak on God’s behalf, all of us are! Timothy got this direct instruction from Paul, but even while he is described as Paul’s child in the faith, he is also timid and maybe intimidated by the false teachers that he is urged to confront. Timothy apparently needed to be urged.

I get that, and you probably get that too. The question rolling around in Timothy’s mind – again, a man not drawn naturally to confrontation – is, “Am I willing, is it worth it?” Aren’t these the same questions that we so often have to answer? Am I willing to speak, is it worth it to speak up? Are we willing to enter the battle where truth is at stake? Those are good questions, sometimes soul searching questions. Did you know that if you are a Christian, you are called to this? You are called, I am called to stand for God’s truth, no matter the cost.

Here was part of the problem that Timothy was facing, here is what he was to do: instruct “certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.”

There were those who were actively trading the truth for a lie. And not only trading truth for a lie in their own minds, but they were spreading this in the church. This strange doctrine had to do with two things: myths and endless genealogies. Now, we don’t have a lot of information about these two things or details associated with them. However, myths are fanciful, made up stories. They are man-made stories of some kind. Maybe nice little stories that would appeal to the human flesh. Maybe feel-good stories. But they were made up, and these were taking the place, again, of real, God-given truth.

If we are looking and listening closely, we can hear things like this all the time being passed off as God’s truth. In counseling, in preaching, in music, all over the place we can hear people claiming to speak truth on God’s behalf when really they are making up myths or propagating myths that someone else made up. We need to be careful, we need to test what we hear against God’s revealed Word. Is what we are hearing truth, God’s truth, or is it not?

Take those songs you like to hear on Christian radio and analyze the words. Do they flow from the Bible or don’t they? They may sound good, but are they true? Or are they at least potentially leading you or me to fill our minds with error? It’s the same for what we hear in sermons, what we read in books, and so on. Are we testing what goes into our minds? Are we embracing truth, or are we easily susceptible to error? Just because it sounds good or is presented well doesn’t mean it is true.

He also mentions genealogies. Again, we don’t have a lot of detail here, but a genealogy is like your family tree, it shows our family line, our history, where we came from. Some apparently were obsessed with this and thought that genealogies were an indicator of spirituality and favor with God. This probably brought great dissension among the people rather than unity. It may have been like a contest, people thinking they are superior to others simply because of their family line. Rather than living in humility as we have been called, this would lead to pride. This might be likened to those who feel their race is superior to others, that the color of one’s skin somehow makes them of more value than others. This way of thinking fails to draw out the truth that we are all descended from Adam, that we are all created in the image of God, and that it is the heart that God values most rather than what is on the outside of our bodies.

These things, myths and endless genealogies, all lead to speculation. Speculation about who God is and what He is like, speculation regarding what God values, speculation about what we are to do, how we are to act, how we are to worship, speculation regarding the church, and really the whole of Christian teaching. If we allow false teaching into our churches then we are adulterating our very faith. If we allow this we come to a place of confusion over what really is true and what is not. This is very serious stuff! Listen to how Paul puts it in Galatians…

8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9)

In Ephesus the main issue was that a different gospel was being preached. And a different gospel, if believed, is misrepresenting Christ and is damning to those who follow it. This is why Paul urges Timothy to act. He writes that these things “promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.”

There are whole religions that are based on speculative doctrines – Roman Catholicism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism – but there are also mainline churches who have replaced sound biblical teaching with what is false. One thing that I really love and appreciate about so many of you here is that you search the Bible to test that things are true, to test that what I say is true, to test what you hear somewhere else to be sure it is true, to test what you read in books against what God says. I know that most of you do that diligently, or even seek counsel if you are unsure about what you have heard or read. From young to old I see this happening among us! There are so many persuasive people out there. Don’t be fooled by them; test all things.

Now there is a way in which we should do this. God gives us instruction regarding how we are to confront others, how we are to stand for truth among false teachers. He is clear about this. Look with me at this very important verse…

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)

We have been talking about conflict, or potential conflict. Timothy was being instructed to go and correct false teachers. This is no small matter, and would surely result in some conflict. But Paul is clear just as he was in 1 Corinthians 13, and as we will see in 2 Corinthians too, that love must be a motivating factor in all that we do. Even in potential conflict, love must prevail.

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthian 13:1-3)

There is no place for speaking truth, even if conflict must be a part of it, without love. Correction must include love, teaching truth must include love, preaching must include love, hard discussions with your spouse or child must include love. Do we get that? Do we understand that? Timothy confronting false teachers must include love.

How often do we want to go straighten someone out, out of a sense of, “I’ll tell them! I’ll put them in their place! I’ll give them what they deserve. Oh yeah, I’ll speak the truth to them!” And our aim is nowhere near motivated by love. You or I might as well bang a noisy gong in their ear!

If love is to motivate us and be intricately woven in our words, then what does this mean? Love toward whom? Well we know we are to love God and love our neighbors.

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

So our words must be pleasing to God, motivated by a love for Him. Our words must also be loving to our neighbor, and we also know that we are to even love our enemies. Matthew 5:44 makes this clear: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Loving enemies is of course what God and Christ did for us. He loved us as His enemies. If He hadn’t, we would still be lost in our sins.

And so love, it seems, extends to all around us. For Timothy then, he was to love God, love the false teachers who needed correction, and love the church members who were hearing false teaching and needed to be served up truth instead of error. This, I think, is so important for us to hear. What motivates us to speak, period? In an easy, light conversation or a hard, heavy conversation? What motivates us to speak? Is it love?

In 2 Corinthians we see something similar. We talked about this passage in our elder meeting last week and another leadership meeting on Saturday…

11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:11-15)

What did he say controls them? The love of Christ controls them. What they say, how they minister, how they conduct themselves in the presence of believers and unbelievers, those who are reconciled to Christ and those who need to be reconciled to Christ, all should be done in love or out of love.

The false teachers need correction for their good. It is sinful to propagate what is false and misrepresents God. Timothy’s words of truth in love would be good for them to hear and to embrace. The congregation needed to hear truth, not what is false. Timothy was in a place where he needed to love God and each of these groups of people enough to step out of where he may be comfortable and act on God’s behalf.

For Timothy to shrink back and not speak, well, that would be Timothy simply loving Timothy. Who might you need to speak to for their good and for the glory of Christ? Can you go in love, love for them and love for God? Going in that way would be going with a “good conscience and a sincere faith.”

It is always good to step back and evaluate why we do what we do. Are we with Paul in this regard? “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

I pray that we can confront when confrontation is needed, but always, always motivated by love. Not just love for God, but love for others involved. We are all called to difficult tasks, to difficult conversations. How will we handle them? Will God be pleased by our motive? Will our motive be love?

3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:3-5)