1Timothy 1.1-11: Wolves
May 2, 2010 Series: 1 Timothy
Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Timothy 1:1–1:11
May 2, 2010
Intro: Church & Your First Church
Last week, we began our new series on 1st Timothy titled CHARGE. We call it CHARGE because it’s a book written to a young pastor about HOW to fight and WHAT to fight about to protect the church. This is the first of three letters to pastors in the Bible. The author, Paul, wrote many letters, dealing with many issues, to many churches. But in these letters, he writes more poignantly to church leadership about how to lead the church. As our church grows, changes, and gets older, it is essential to our sanity and sanctity that we regularly study these letters for encouragement, correction, and guidance.
Beginning in Acts 16, we were introduced to a young man named Timothy (probably about 30) who had been commissioned by Apostle Paul (after years of ministry together) to lead a mini-reformation of the church at Ephesus. Five years or so earlier, after Paul planted the church, he had warned the Ephesians elders to keep watch for wolves who would attack the church from within. As expected, false teachers rose up, and it appears that they may have even been elders. Paul knows, as we all should, that sheep don’t play with wolves, WILD KINGDOM 101: wolves eat sheep. If the Shepherd allows any wolves to hang around your church or your family, eventually, someone in the flock will be killed, usually the weak and immature, sheep. So, within the first few sentences of his letter, Paul charges Timothy FIGHT the wolves. Shepherds must learn to pick fights well. Anyone can charge a hill and fight for something…but if you’re going to die on a hill, you best make sure it is the one God wants you to die on. I can safely say that I have not always picked the right fights.
These letters are not just for “professional pastors”, but for anyone and everyone who has been chosen by God to Shepherd another heart now, or in the future. Wolves have and will rise up inside our church community AND inside our families—our first churches. And if not confronted, these wolves will lead those in our care away from the truth to sin and certain death. Whether you’re are a man, woman, mom, dad, husband, wife, grandma, grandpa, single, married, young or old, you must become a sword wielding wolf-slayer. But, we don’t SLAY WOLVES in the hopes of building a trophy room of wolf-heads so we can brag about all the bad churches, bad leaders, bad beliefs, bad books we kill. We do this because we love the flock. And because we love the flock, we hope for the flock to grow. Timothy’s mother and Grandmother taught him the Scripture because they believed that the Scripture was “able to make [HIM] wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” I don’t want those I love, those in my care, happy, comfortable, intelligent, and satisfied if that means WHAT they believe and HOW they live is not biblical. AND I don’t want them biblical if their supposed “wisdom” isn’t rooted in the gospel of Jesus. We are not trying to make Bible thumpers but Biblical Gospel thumpers.
Verses 1-2 From a Father to a Son
In the opening of Paul’s letter, he addresses the “wolves” indirectly and Timothy directly. He writes in his greeting in verses 1-2: 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.
A Command of God
Paul starts this letter with a little more SAUCE then some of his other letters. As we’ll read later in chapter 4, Timothy’s authority has undoubtedly been questioned based on his relative age and inexperience. It’s likely that Paul’s own authority has also been questioned, so here he stresses the fact that he is an Apostle of Jesus by command of God. Here, Paul puts himself on the level with the 12 apostles, minus Judas, and plus Matthias. The common use of the term APOSTLES describes someone sent on a commission, and today it is often used to describe the gifting missionaries and church planters. In its more restrictive use, the apostles were set apart. These were the guys who were chosen by, taught by, and commissioned by Jesus himself. They were eye witnesses, especially gifted, and Ephesians 2.20 says part of the very foundation of the church. In that sense, there are no “new” apostles. Paul pulls the “apostle” card as one commissioned not only by Jesus himself but God the Father.
A True Son of Faith
His self-description is for the wolves a warning and for Timothy an encouragement. But Paul gets a little more personal as he addresses Timothy who probably isn’t overflowing with confidence right now. In the first, of several places, Paul addresses Timothy directly calling him MY TRUE CHILD IN THE FAITH. We’ve already learned that Timothy was the son of a Jewish mother and Greek Father. His Father was not a believer and he would have been considered illegitimate according to Jewish Law. But his mother and grandmother were faithful. I was reminded of all of the children being raised by faithful single moms of faith, whose children do not have a godly male role model because their single practically or single spiritually. Many people learn their faith from their mothers, but A FATHER will communicate truth or lies about THE FATHER like no other. That is why as a church family we must love the widows, and single moms, that they might have godly models and leaders to point to and follow.
Grace Mercy and Peace
Paul’s letter contains words from a Father to a Son. He tells him, you’re my boy, I believe in you, now man up and lead. But he says more than that. The best words a Father can give is not simply YOU’RE A FORD, it’s you’re a Christian, you’re Jesus boy, with the power of the gospel. NOW, man up and lead.
V. 3-5 The First Charge: Fight for Doctrine
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.
Urge you to stay
Timothy is urged what sounds like a second time to remain in Ephesus. Paul has to “urge” him because it is clear that he is ready to quit. Life was a lot easier when I wasn’t responsible Paul, when you went ahead and I could hide behind you, when people liked me, when people talked kindly about me—remember everyone loved Timothy! As a pastor, I can understand how Timothy feels. Leading a church is amazing, but it is hard, rewarding, but exhausting. Since I have become a pastor, I have lost friends, I have family members who won’t set foot in this place, I have seen people come and go, I’ve cried, I’ve gotten angry, fought wolves, lost sleep, felt sick, depressed, praised, and despised. Whatever the reason, it appears that Timothy is not feeling the love where he is at. He is not enjoying what he is doing and is looking for the first opportunity to leave. Do you know how he feels? In as much as I have felt unqualified as a pastor, I have also felt the same as a parent, a husband, teacher, or any role I’ve held. When times get tough, it is easy to begin desiring a different job. As husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, men, women, pastors, it is always easier to abandon our God-given charge. The truth is that it is easier not to fight. It is easier to avoid conflict. It is easier to indifferent. It is easier not to talk about sin or to draw lines in the sand. It’s easier to be popular. It’s easier NOT to change. It’s easier to do what is comfortable, convenient, and common. It’s easier to pursue my desires and not God’s. It’s all easier, but it is not right.
Charge CERTAIN PERSONS
To make things “easier” Paul gives Timothy a hard job. Paul does not name any names, but says that “certain persons” need to be addressed. He is talking about the wolves. The thing about wolves, everyone knows who they are, BUT people are afraid to talk about or to them. You can identify them quite easily because they are generally divisive people who end up distracting the church from its mission to preach the gospel. In the church, wolves are OFTEN those men who are in leadership, aspire to be in leadership, or drain the leaders time and energy. Meanwhile, they carve out a small following of people they’ve influenced through their foolish and vain discussions. But wolves they don’t LOOK like wolves, they are LIKEABLE, INTRIGUING, often RELATIONAL people, just like the Serpent in the garden. Just as 2Corinthains 11.14 says that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, so do wolves—in all stories! In the Ephesian church, the “certain men” were most likely elders with influence. Up to this point, no fellow elders have said anything—there has been a leadership failure.
We are so slow to speak the truth to someone; to tell them what they are doing is wrong, unhealthy, or unwise, because we’re more fearful of their reaction than God’s, more desiring of their approval than God’s. It doesn’t mean we need to be jerks, but it does mean we don’t remain silent out of fear someone will think we’re a jerk. If everyone remains silent, then these influential individuals will divide and eventually kill the church through relationships.
The same goes for your first church. Wolves come into our lives and influence our family all the time. They can be those people of influence in your life; they might be family, good friends, they might even be popular books, movies, or cultural movements. They are the ones whose lives and words preach to you, your spouse, and your children. They are the things in a position to give you wisdom, even spiritual sounding wisdom, that isn’t necessarily biblical, but because you love or respect them, you listen. In the end, their questions, challenges, or actions don’t BUILD your faith, they build DOUBTS about your faith, God’s Word, your church, etc.. You must protect yourself and those in your care.
Aim of the Charge: LOVE
And Paul says the motivation for any “CHARGE” of this kind is love, purity, and a sincere faith. All of our correction must be motivated by a love for God, a love for the sheep, AND even a little bit of love for the wolf. But don’t think the wolf will necessarily receive it well. Proverbs 17.10 10 A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool. We cannot control how others hear what we say. We cannot control what others say. We can constantly review our own hearts and make sure that they are in line with God
v. 6-10 Law and Lawlessness
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. 8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
Aim of the false teachers
Paul says that these “certain persons” have swerved from love, purity, a clear conscience, and a sincere faith. In other words, they have LEFT any PURE MOTIVE for their mouths and the teaching that comes out of them. They have sinful motives, constantly talking about stupid things that bring greater doubts NOT greater faith. As Paul notes, the wolves desire TO BE TEACHERS of the Law. James warns people about aspiring to be teachers because of how they’ll be held account. They are not interested in TEACHING THE LAW, but in being TEACHERS, in getting as the Pharisees did before them, positions of respect, power, and regard. In other words, their constant talking is motivated by an identity crisis.
Using the Law
Motivated by their own glory, they make CONFIDENT ASSERTIONS about the law without knowing what they are actually talking about. In other words, they try (and succeed) to sound intelligent, “spiritual”, even slightly biblical. The TRUTH is that, just because someone can drop a few verses, write a great blog, quote a dead theologian, explain a Greek Word, or even preach a sermon, does not mean what they are teaching lines up with Scripture. IN FACT, the worst and most powerful lies are the ones that actually SOUND BIBLICAL. I am always cautions when people, preachers, new books, or new movements start taking about “hidden knowledge in the Bible” or “the lost ways of the apostles”. More often than not, something is perverted. In the case of Ephesus, they are teaching Scripture, but a perverted view of God’s law. Paul says that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, implying they were using it wrongly. How do you use the law unlawfully?
Using the Law Wrongly
Used lawfully, the law is a good thing. The MORAL LAW OF GOD (summarized in the 10 commandments) was used by reveal our sin. It shows us how evil are, how we are not to hate, how we are to love, as it restrains the evil of the world. Using unlawfully, is where instead of God’s Moral Laws being used to condemn sin, wolves use the law and God’s word to justify their sin. I believe that the greatest threat to the gospel in our culture is NOT an overt anti-God doctrine, but a more subtle and naive teaching that reads our own personal beliefs into the scripture. Wolves often make them sound Biblical. In truth, such “doctrine” amounts to an alluring but confusing montage of pieces from orthodox Christianity, with aspects of the self-help movement, and a dash of pop-culture reference. This DIFFERENT theology (which is not new), does not center on God’s Law and lead us to the cross. Instead, it centers on personal experience; it does not recognize the depth of our sin and our need for a savior; and it is more interested in conversations than ever coming to conclusions. The only authority is individual; the only moral value is tolerance, and the only guide is experience. 1Peter 1.16-18 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. The fight for truth is not supposed to be personal, it is supposed to be biblical.
The impact of this myth
Wolves often come in the church and pervert God’s designs and laws. In PAUL’S LIST of sin is contrasted with what he calls SOUND doctrine—the same word from which we get our English term “hygiene”. In other words, there is a NORM, a RIGHT, a CLEAN doctrine and there is a perverted, wrong, and dirty one. A cursory look at this list, one that follows the heart of the 10 commandments, reveals the same issues that we all are charged to fight for/against today:
- Lawless & Disobedient: there is no moral law, it’s all social engineering
- Ungodly & Sinful: there is no sin we are guilty of, it’s all psychological condition
- Unholy & Profane – there is nothing sacred, it’s all cultural traditions
- Strike Mother and Father – (Parents, Teachers, Government) there is no authority, it’s all individual
- Sexual Immoral (Homosexuality, marriage, men, women) – there are no definitions , it’s all personal
- Enslavers – there is no humility , it’s all material
- Liars – there is no one objective truth, it’s all subjective
CONCLSUSION: V.11 Doctrine & the Gospel
As he concludes, notice how he wraps up his list of sin: sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. So that Paul doesn’t become a moralist or worse, a legalist, he throws in a brief statement that is at the heart of our charge to fight against wolves. We are to fight against sin. We are to proclaim and defend the truth. We are to fight against false truth, even if it has a little “Bible” in it. Right doctrine matters; but all right doctrine is in harmony WITH the gospel.
Doctrine without the gospel
If you only have law and doctrine, but not the grace and mercy of the gospel, then you will only despair. You will see how bad you are, how much you covet, how much you lust, how much you worship other things. Without the gospel, wolves will come in an cause you to beat the crap out of yourself because you’re not living a holy life. BUT, if you only have grace and mercy, but no law and doctrine, then you will become prideful, and you will cheapen the grace. Wolves will come in saying you’re sin isn’t that big of deal, that all is forgiven, that you’re under the gospel now so who cares if you live a godly life. But Paul here says that sins that break the law are also contrary to the gospel, proving that the moral standards of the law do not differ from the moral standards of the gospel.
The gospel gives us GRACE and MERCY, which cannot exist without SIN, that we might have PEACE with a loving God. So we don’t fight for “LIBERAL DOCTRINE” where there is NO LAW (but mine), nor do we fight for “MORAL DOCTRINE” where there is the LAW ONLY. We fight for “GOSPEL DOCTRINE”. We talk about sin, we call people to confess and repent, and we trust that we are accepted not because of what we do, but because we believe in Jesus. Gospel Doctrine humbles me AND gives me hope because ALL we believe believe about God and ourselves finds explanation on the cross where we are at the same time declare totally UNLOVABLE; yet God is absolutely LOVING.
- The gospel protects us from fighting the wrong battles and dying on the wrong hills.
- The gospel protects us from pride of fighting AND the despair of failing to fight.
- The gospel keeps us humble and hopeful.
- The gospel ensures that, as we battle for truth, as we draw lines, as we declare things right or wrong/good or evil, as we kill the wolves that come up, we do so knowing that you are not made RIGHT with GOD because of CLEAN LIVES and PERFECT DOCTRINE, but because we depend on Jesus for his.
- THAT IS THE GREATEST AND MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN TEACH YOURFIRSTCHURCH..