1 Timothy 1: Beware of False Teachers!

Lurking in the background of most Pauline letters is some person, group, or philosophy that threatens the orthodox beliefs and practices of the Christianity that Paul was spreading.  This is very much true in the letters to Timothy.

As we start our two weeks with these letters, let’s look at a profile of these “false teachers.”

  • They teach “false doctrines” (1:3; 6:3)
  • They want to be “teachers of the law” (1:7)
  • They base their teachings on myths not facts and genealogies not stories (1:4; 4:7)
  • They come off as conceited (1:7; 6:4)
  • They are argumentative, produce controversy, and disrupt the peace in the church (1:4; 6:4; 2 Tim 2:23)
  • They were full of meaningless and foolish talk, showing that they don’t really know what he are talking about (1:6-7; 6:4; 2 Tim 2:23)
  • They encouraged asceticism (4:3)
  • They used their authority for financial gain (6:5)

When you put this all together, this sketch does not produce a definitive identity.  Clearly, like many of Paul’s opponents, they were tying the Jewish law to the way of Christ.  The asceticism and emphasis on myth and genealogy could come from Judaism or from an early version of Gnosticism that was becoming popular in Asia Minor especially.

Maybe the most important point about these false teachers is what Paul says today:

That sort of thing breeds disputes rather than the instruction in faith that comes from God.  The goal of such instruction is love — the love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith. (1:4-5)

This was a false teaching that emphasized the obscure and ineffectual while neglecting the most important elements of the way of Christ: faith, love, and purity.

What does a Christian leader look like today who is similar to these false teachers?

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Categories: 1 Timothy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “1 Timothy 1: Beware of False Teachers!

  1. Melanie

    I thought of two varieties of modern-day false teachers. One is the person whose teachings are laced with materialism. I guess this teacher would be all about what is socially acceptable–sort of a you-can-have-it-all kind of deal. “Good news! You can be both worldly AND Christian!”

    The other is a person who is all about rule following and not so much about grace and mercy. This teacher would be quick to impose expectations that go beyond anything taught in scripture, maybe just to be safe. There would not be much flexibility or much in the way of attempts to find common ground with those who might question or disagree. A person who disagrees or questions would be sen as a heretic.

    • 1. Christianity without sacrifice. 2. Christianity without grace and love.

      I think you are exactly right. These are lethal to the true way of Christ. Paul will say more about the second point on Thursday.

  2. I am struck in this chapter by how Paul stays humble to the end, always aware of his own sinfulness, never thinking he is some how better than others or deserving of anything from God.

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