I TIMOTHY 6:3-5: “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, 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, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” (ESV)
OBSERVATION: What is the definition of “sound teaching”? I personally don’t watch much Christian Television. Please don’t misunderstand that as a judgment against it. In reality, I rejoice whenever and wherever the Gospel is preached. When someone comes to faith in Christ because they have watched a program on Christian Television – I rejoice! However, I have found it to be a strange mixture of really good teaching and a lot of teaching that requires a Biblical strainer to listen to. I think the latter would fall under the types of teaching that the Apostle Paul was trying to warn young Timothy about. Paul constantly warned Timothy about those who teach a “different doctrine”.
So here we have two concepts. First, the call to “sound teaching”. Second, the warning against a “different doctrine”. How can we discern between the two? To Paul it was quite simple. He constantly called young Timothy back to the basics of his faith. “Sound Teaching” is really judged by two simple things. Does it focus on the teachings of Jesus own words? And, does it lead to godliness within, the formation of the image and nature of Christ in us? If we can answer these two questions affirmatively, then we have “sound teaching”. If not – it is not worth our time or investment. It requires a Biblical strainer!
Paul does not tiptoe around this admonishment to Timothy. To leave “sound teaching” is to merge onto the pathway that leads to destruction. Paul reminds Timothy about those who proclaim a “different doctrine” – “…he (they) is (are) 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, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”
Another important test regarding “sound teaching” and “different doctrines” is the end focus of the hearer. Are they drawn to see Jesus? Are they encouraged and equipped to live a life of faith – in holiness, simplicity, and contentment? Paul goes on to exhort Timothy – “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” (1 Timothy 6:6-7 ESV) So here is another important distinction. “Sound teaching” points us to things that are above, not to things that are on this earth. “Different doctrines” focus on drawing attention to the speaker, and to promoting gain in this life, while neglecting the call to foster inner preparation for the next through godliness.
There is nothing wrong with money, success, or possessions. However, Jesus called us to a life that held these lightly, was marked by generosity and giving, and was more focused on the things of the Kingdom, than the things here on earth. If we lived by the example and life of Jesus, and by His teachings and words, we would be drawn to live a life of faith, holiness, simplicity, and contentment. The words of Jesus always lead to godliness. They are the essence of “sound teaching”. It is the “leaven” of “gain” that compromises the Word of God and leads some on the destructive path of “different doctrines”.
“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. 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 6:6, 9-10 ESV)
Lord, help me to hold on to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ and to the “sound teaching” that accords with godliness. This morning I choose to be content and to focus on the things that are above, while stewarding and holding the things of this life lightly. Give me a generous heart and a willingness to give. In Jesus Name!