What the apostle has instructed Timothy concerning the duty of slaves toward their lawful masters, whether these latter be believers or unbelievers, we have noticed in two former essays. This matter of the true relationship of a slave toward his master, as he lives under the grace of God in Christ Jesus, is very important to be remembered and to be taught. It is the only possibility of the slave to work out his own salvation with fear and with trembling. Hence, Paul ends this exhortation with a word of exhortation to Timothy: “These things teach and exhort!”
Now the apostle turns his attention to evil men in Ephesus who are really grievous wolves, and who do not spare the flock; they are perverse men, bereft of the truth, speaking perverse things to draw the disciples after them. Of these Paul has nothing good to say. From this kind of men the church must turn away, cast them out and not listen to them. They have a different and erroneous teaching! It is truly amazing with what great pretense such teaching comes.
But let us listen to what Paul writes concerning them: “If any man teaches a different doctrine, and consenteth not to sound words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is puffed up, knowing nothing, but doting about questionings and disputes of swords, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, wranglings of men corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, supposing that godliness is (a way of) gain” (verses 3-5).
The apostle here takes in the entire scope of those who fall in this class of teaching a “different doctrine.” He makes no exception to this judgment upon such false and evil teachers. Hence he writes: “if: any man;” it makes no difference who he is, whether great or small, Jew or Greek, bond or free, male or female, yea, though he be an angel from heaven. What he says here is applicable to all who fall in this class of those teaching a “different doctrine.” We are here transported into the “climate” of Galatians 1:6-9 where we read: “I marvel that ye are so quickly removed from him that called you in the grace of Christ Jesus unto a different gospel; which is not another gospel; only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we or an angel from heaven should preach unto you any gospel other than which we have preached unto you, let him be anathema. As we have said before, so say I now again, if any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye have received, let him be anathema.” Here we have the holy thunder of the apostle who has a gospel not of men nor by men, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. And this same holy thunder and righteous indignation we hear in this passage under consideration.
Let us put the shoes from off our feet.
It may be that we detect some of these errors in ourselves, at least in our flesh in which there dwells no good, and which is sold under sin!
Let us first notice the basic description of a man who teaches a “different doctrine.” Such a one teaches this “different” doctrine under the pretense of teaching the real and only doctrine. He is, in other words, a deceptive man. These teachers are they who will not lend their ears to “sound words,” which afford a healthy life and world view in Christ Jesus. What Christ teaches concerning the relationship of His Kingdom to the kingdoms of this world they reject. They do not desire the Kingdom of heaven, but the kingdom of this earth; theirs is a wisdom from below which is earthly, natural (psychical), devilish. It can be expressed in one word: it is the Lie! Let us take a look at this liar as X-rayed here by Paul.
Fundamentally, he does not desire to give heed to the words of the Lord Jesus; he does not desire the words that he who humbles himself shall be exalted; that we are to work out our salvation in this world, yet not being of this world! That the final victory is ours over sin and death through the death and resurrection of Christ is not desired; waiting in patience for the appearing of Christ from heaven is not desired. Hence, they could never teach the slave to be obedient to his master that the name of God be not blasphemed, nor could they have the motivation of service and all honor to the believing master since he is a partaker of the benefit: They do not understand that Christ came to make all things new, eternal, heavenly!
How men shall live godly in this world these men have never desired to know, neither do they understand it. The great mystery of godliness in Christ coming into the flesh, His death and resurrection, is not understood by them. These are not able to teach men and women how to live a life of thankfulness.
For them a life of thankfulness, godliness as they understand it, is a means to a selfish end, and is not for the praise and the glory of God on high. They would have “godliness” as a way of gain. It is not entirely clear just what this means. The term “gain” can refer to purely financial gain, but it may even refer to the gain of honor, esteem, prestige amongst men. It is the gain of self-advancement in this world of which man becomes the measure of all things, such as all humanistic modernism is. The world must be made a fit place to live in—no more wars, depressions, hard times, sickness and even death. And then what they call “godliness,” which is really a paganistic religion, must serve as a means to that end: gain!
Such is the entire modern church world.
Paul does not have a kind word for such teachers.
Their fundamental sin is that of pride. Paul calls it with a descriptive word: “puffed up.” They are inflated with their self-importance and would put God from His throne, and Christ out of the church, and rob God’s saints of their true worship of God in Christ Jesus. Theirs is the same motivation as that of Satan himself which incited him against God when he fell from his own estate. And these too would exalt themselves to heaven in their wicked pride. However, it is really self-deception in these apostates. He really “knows nothing!” Paul gives him zero in his test paper. He has everything wrong and nothing right because he is not even one who has a learning knowledge. He does not have the knowledge of prolonged practice in God’s Kingdom, nor does he have the knowledge of one who is in the process of learning; he is not even a dilettante, a mere superficial amateur; he is an absolute ignoramus prating as a man of knowledge. They are in the class of those who know nothing of that which they confidently affirm! They do not know as much wisdom, nor do they speak as much intelligence as Balaam’s ass! These cannot and do not put spiritual things with spiritual; they are merely natural men to whom the things of the Spirit are foolishness. They do not have the mind of Christ!
They are those “who dote concerning questions and word-strifes.” They will feel greatly insulted when analyzed, but they really are “sick” concerning questions and word strifes. They are not seeking the whole counsel of God, and do not rightly divide the Word of truth. In their morbid state of mind, their sickness both mental and spiritual, they rave on and on about certain questions, certain aspects of the work of God in Christ, and merely have many words without solid truth in Christ. The sound words of Christ as He taught us to seek a heavenly Kingdom they do not understand. They end in a “chaos of cults.”
Lacking a solid basis of the teaching of the sound doctrine, teaching a different doctrine, they have simply a fountain of confusion and quarrels. Wherefore Paul writes, “from which becomes” envy, strife, evil-speaking, evil surmisings and wranglings of men of corrupt minds! Sound doctrine leads to good ethics. Corrupt doctrine and principles lead to sinful conduct. The slogan “not doctrine but practice” is as fallacious as it is prevalent in our day. We must maintain purity in doctrine and in life, and in that order, too!
Why would “doting” about questions and word-strifes lead to envy? What is envy? Envy is not the same as jealousy. Jealousy may be good and righteous. God is a jealous God, that is, He does not allow another to intrude upon that which is His glory and honor, but He is not envious. How could God cherish ill-will towards another because of his superior success or endowments? For God alone is great. However, envy is the portion of sinful man; it is the green-eyed monster and is rottenness of the bones. Because the doting about questions and word-strife does not teach the true relationship to God in Christ, it does not teach the true relationship of each other submitting to the other as greater than one’s self. What we have and are is then not a God-given and God-appointed apportionment and task, but it is every man for himself, every man deeming himself to be a little god! Hence, such doting about questions is the breeding ground of envy!
Closely allied with envy is the term “strife.” Where envy is, there the mutual peace, trust, and consent are broken, and men are actually at variance. This is true in personal relations, family relations, in town, city, state, and nations. It always follows the same pattern. Only where sound words—the words of our Lord Jesus—are adhered to, do you find the blessedness of peace-makers. There is a lot of “doting” in every level of society that is sick to the core; it is daily blared from the radio, and fills tons and tons of newspapers. Only in the church of Christ is all strife principally removed and peace established by the Prince of peace.
Where strife is, there is the medium of retaliation. It is the power of the evil tongue, which is untamable and is set on fire of hell. Here is blasphemy, the corrupting of the good name of others; the truth is here not spoken in love. In the strife rooted in envy there is much evil speaking as a weapon to kill the neighbor. Only those who cling to sound doctrine will have the necessary motivation to avoid this all.
In this atmosphere there is the added evil of evil surmisings. Without solid evidence the most evil motives are ascribed to the other. Suspicion and doubt is cast upon the other. Life loses all stability and mutual trust. Such is the power of envy, which is truly a rottenness of the bones!
Such is the evil fruit of men who know nothing, who themselves are spiritually and morally sick, and who refuse to give heed to the sound doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ. For they are men of corrupted minds, corrupted by the darkness of sin and unrighteousness; separated from the life of God they are! They are bereft of the truth in Christ Jesus and really say with Pilate: What is truth?
Truly from such men we must depart. We must not by to find out just what each stands for. One does not taste all the sour milk which is putrid, does he? Such we leave severely alone, allow them no place on the pulpit, and if need be cast them forth from the church.
And this latter Timothy must do!
Truly the teaching of the church of Christ is a lofty task, requiring lofty and spiritual motivation, rooted, in the contentment of godliness!