3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:3-10)
Every day in our connected world we are faced with philosophies concerning life and God and mankind and the future and relationships that are counter to God’s Word, counter to what is true. Every news article, every song, every movie, every social media post, really in every conversation someone is trying to convey a message, and often times it is a message that goes against, sometimes subtly and other times very overtly, God’s revealed Word.
I don’t know if we realize the extent of such bombardment of philosophies that hit us daily. And with so much we can easily start to believe what is not true and stray in our thinking away from God’s ways and His will for us. For example, many people live by a philosophy that teaches that if you do good, a good deed, then something good will be done for you. It’s sort of a one for one deal. If you keep doing good then only good will happen in your life. This is karma. Karma means action, work, or deed; it also refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect), even that good deeds or bad ones decide one’s ultimate fate.
This is a philosophy of Buddhism. We are not Buddhist, but do we sometimes live as if we are? Can we buy into this way of thinking from time to time? Do good and good will be done to you, do enough good and ultimately you will reach paradise? Even as parents we may tell our children, “Be nice and they will be nice to you!” Is that true? No, not necessarily. Or, “Do good and good things will happen to you.” I was talking to a man last week at the bank. I walked in and was immediately helped, there was no one else waiting, which was unusual, and I commented to him saying, “Wow, looks like I got here at just the right time.” And he said, “Yes, you must be living right!” I doubt this guy was Buddhist and I don’t know if he lives by a philosophy of karma, but what he said is not unusual. Philosophies of the world creep into our lives, and they do because we hear them all around us and they work their way into our minds.
And let’s be honest, it is hard to be discerning about everything said around us. This information age can be overwhelming. But at the same time we need to be alert. And we can many times or we should many times assume that what we hear will not be consistent with God’s Word, so we’re to be careful with what we believe.
But there is good news. We have the body of truth from God and that is the Bible. This is tremendous news. Our search for truth doesn’t have to include a search for the source of truth because we have the source of truth in the Bible. We have in it the words of Christ. God has chosen to reveal Himself to us and we have that revelation right here. And so when all the voices around are shouting to us, believe this or that, think this way or that way, we don’t have to fall for it. We have the truth.
A big question though that we must ask is this: is it truth that we want? Our problems may be that the other philosophies of the world are more appealing to us than is God’s truth. In our flesh we may want what other philosophies are peddling.
There will always be false teachers, the question is will we follow them? Paul is making one last appeal in this book of 1 Timothy to the church and urging them to stay the course of truth and don’t fall prey to what is false. In this last appeal, he sounds the alarm for those who will hear and he then describes how these false teachers think and how they live.
And just to emphasize the great concern Paul had for the church, this is the third time in this short book that he has addressed this issue of false teachers. Paul is so focused on truth that he is compelled to over and over again give such warnings.
If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness (1 Timothy 6:3)
Paul is not pointing to any specific false teacher here, he simply says if “anyone” teaches a different doctrine. “Anyone.” If your family member, your preacher, or your best friend, there is a problem with anyone teaching a different doctrine. What is a different doctrine or the doctrine that Paul is concerned about? It is any doctrine that does not agree with what our Lord has said or other teaching that is in accordance with godliness. And so Paul sets up a test here. We can test the words of others, and we should, up against what Jesus taught and all that is in accordance with God’s Word or godliness.
We live in a day where everyone is encouraged to set their own truth. What this amounts to is almost like a new religion for every person, a personal, made up religion. And it can get confusing to talk with some who may seem 90% true to gospel truth found in the Bible, but then they veer into heresy on some points. We see this all the time and we may even buy into it.
For example, a teenager may say, “I believe and live by the Bible, but I really don’t have to obey my parents if they are being unreasonable.” Where does that come from? Not the Bible. Or a husband who may say, “I will love my wife and be devoted to her as soon as she starts respecting me.” Still others may say, “I believe God is sovereign over my circumstances, but I’ve got to tell you, right now my world is out of control.”
Ways of thinking creep into our minds and begin to form our thoughts and our lives. But are they biblical? Is it truth we are rehearsing in our minds or is it error from worldly philosophies?
In verse 4 Paul goes on to describe those who are teaching what is false.
he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions (1 Timothy 6:4)
Paul says that one who would turn from the truth of Christ for their own intellectual understanding, this person is puffed up with conceit. Full of conceit. And this is so true. We are talking about someone who would boldly say, “My way is better than the way of Jesus.” This person is saying, “My mind, my understanding is superior to that of the Lord Jesus Christ.” That is pretty bold, and yet this happens all of the time. This person is conceited. They are thinking way too highly of themselves and their abilities. This goes back to Satan’s pride when he believed he was better than God.
In 1 Corinthians 8:1-2 we are reminded not to think too highly of our knowledge, and the danger of thinking too highly of ourselves.
1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. (1 Corinthians 8:1-2)
Their conceit has so blinded their minds, their pride has so elevated self evaluation that they actually know nothing about true spirituality. This is what Paul was saying of these false teachers back in chapter 1 verse 7: “desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.”
When self becomes so elevated, self importance, then spiritual blindness sets in and truth is set aside. That is what was happening with these false teachers.
He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain (1 Timothy 6:4b-5)
These teachers, they want to stir up controversy, they like to quarrel about words. They have this preoccupation with fighting words. You can see this, I’m sure. One who thinks so highly of himself that he can take on anyone verbally. He is so sure of his ability to defend whatever he thinks is right that he is ready to take on all doubters. Do you see the arrogance?
Beware of those who want to quibble over theories or made up doctrines. It is for some like a sport, a competition to be won. This is not serious discussion over the once and for all truth of the Bible, it is extra biblical debate and is measured out to distract anyone from what God has said. This is craving for controversy and arguing over words.
Now, out of this comes many things: “envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” This list is pretty bad. There are some weighty sins in this list. But we should not be surprised that out of false teaching, a love for what is anti-God, anti-Christ, that there will be some terrible things produced. We see that here.
Envy is inward discontent with what one has. He wants more for himself. He wants what you have or what I have. He is envious. He is not content. This is the opposite of love, as we can see in 1 Corinthians 13. Love is always looking outward to others. How can we help others? Envy is all about self. How can I get what others have? False teachers are not content, they are looking for more, they are wanting some measure of popularity or position, and spreading their falsehoods will be how they achieve it.
Next is dissension. This is conflict resulting from rivalry and discord. Again, the arrogant false teacher has got to have it his way. He is stirring the pot, he is demanding that others follow him and will not be satisfied until that happens.
He also engages in slander. He must bring others down in order to lift himself up. He is willing to lie about others to make this happen. Slander is a willingness to harm other people’s reputation through falsehood. He will do what it takes to elevate himself even if it means destroying his rivals through lies and deceit. His aim is to destroy the competition, and he will do that if necessary.
Evil suspicions, this is to ascribe evil motives to others. This is what judging is in the Bible. Judging sinfully is to ascribe motives to people’s actions. It is a very arrogant thing to do, that is to think we can assume other people’s motives.
In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul is talking about this very thing, that we can’t know all people’s motives, but God does and He will one day make them known.
4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Corinthians 4:4-5)
Our passage in 1 Timothy ends in verse 5: “and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”
False teaching then brings with it constant friction. There is no consensus with false teachers, if they are creating what is false then there is no source of truth for it and so there is no agreement among false teachers but a constant friction.
And these are those with depraved minds. This is the mind that is set on the flesh and that is hostile toward God. They cannot understand the things of God, they do not have the mind of Christ. Their minds are depraved.
They are also deprived of truth. They are apostate. They have rejected truth and are now headed to judgment – a scary place to be, if they only knew it.
Lastly we see a motivation for all of this: “imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” A motive? Money. They believe their teaching will lead to more money. Their pretend godliness will lead to riches. We see this more clearly in the next few verses where we see a contrast with this verse, with true spirituality, and how money is not the great reward.
These verses, these descriptions of false teachers, this is a mess! Not only are they spreading falsehood to many who will listen, I mean if that weren’t bad enough, their own personal lives are likewise a sad picture of arrogant depravity. A sad picture of those who will publicly, for the promise of gain, through money, shake their fist at God and think they can compete with Him. It is a sad state.
For us, we need to be careful that we are not part of the collateral damage because of their teaching. What I mean by that is we need to be careful that while false teachers are spreading their lies, we are not accepting some of them as truth. Our protection, our guard is to test all things with God’s Word. Everything. What has God told us in His Word? That must always be the question we are asking. And we have His Word.
We all know, sadly, people who have forsaken the truth for lies. By God’s grace we can stay the course believing truth.
There is false teaching all around us. Most of it is subtle. Just in daily life it is all around. Who is speaking into your life and is what they are saying in line with God’s truths? Or are they doctrines, philosophies of this world? Examine all things, test all things and see if it is true.
The verses that follow these that we have looked at today include warnings for us and are also super encouraging! They speak of Christian contentment. And I’m looking forward to looking at them with you all.