Paul Is Speaking to Us
As I urged you when I left for Macedonia, I’m asking that you remain in Ephesus to instruct them not to teach or follow the error of deceptive doctrines, nor pay any attention to cultural myths, traditions, or the endless study of genealogies. Those digressions only breed controversies and debates. They are devoid of power that builds up and strengthens the church in the faith of God.
For we reach the goal of fulfilling all the commandments when we love others deeply with a pure heart, a clean conscience, and sincere faith. Some believers have been led astray by teachings and speculations that emphasize nothing more than the empty words of men. They presume to be expert teachers of the law, but they don’t have the slightest idea of what they’re talking about and they simply love to argue! 1 Timothy 1:3-7 The Passion Translation
I am reading in The Passion Translation as I work my way through Paul’s letters. The language is personal and powerful, speaking ancient wisdom into our day and time in a way we can grasp. Yes, there are deeper levels of meaning, as there always is when reading scripture, but what lays on the surface should catch our hearts.
In the first words of 1 Timothy, Paul begins by returning to a familiar theme, deception in the church. In this case, he is writing as a mentor to his young friend, Timothy. This relationship was so important to Paul that he refers to Timothy as his “spiritual son,” an honorific we would do well to pursue. Aside from personal warmth and affection, the letter is one of a senior pastor to a young friend just beginning his ministry. It is interesting that the very first subject he broaches is that of deception among believers. This shows us that what we face today is no new thing. The deceiver has long been at his task.
Paul instructs Timothy to teach the church to avoid deceptive doctrines and to not pay any attention to cultural myths, calling these the “empty words of men” who “don’t have the slightest idea what they are talking about” and who “simply love to argue!” The church today should listen to Paul! We are bound up by widespread belief in deceptive doctrine and cultural myths, and we can’t stop arguing about them. In fact, for many, these have become their “passions of faith.” Yet, they are completely futile, or even worse. It hurts to say it, but I believe much of the church has turned to the wisdom and words of man as its source, and man is being manipulated. We need to wake up and realize our real purpose and get back to it as God intends.
Allow me to be blunt, less some miss my point. When was the last time God used division, animosity, hatred, anger, slander, character assassination, or lies to work His will? When, ever?
I do not believe this applies to the majority of today’s church, but far too many have fallen into the trap of listening to man instead of listening to God. We spend more time taking in the bitterness that pervades society than we do the Word of God. We believe conspiracy theories and demonize our tormentors because we don’t like the way things are and naturally, we need someone to blame. Instead of turning into God’s heart for peace and wisdom, we turn on the news channel or YouTube, or dive into social media to listen to others who feed us more vitriol. How is that working out? How is any of it witnessing God’s love, power, and dominion?
Paul and those he wrote to lived in a time when their faith was persecuted, often to the death, a time when they lived under government harassment, and a time when even other religions abused them. Sound familiar? What was Paul’s counsel to them? “…love others deeply with a pure heart, a clean conscience, and sincere faith.” He is telling us to love others, despite their lost condition, their hatred of truth, and their persecution. He is telling us is that Love is impotent unless we put it into action.
Where do we start? Where we always start when something has gone wrong. It is time for the church to come to the cross and do what we always do there – get on our knees to confess, repent, and beg forgiveness and mercy. It is time we start acting like we believe in an all-powerful God whose love, power, and mercy redeemed us. It is time we start trusting in His provision through the trial, His grace that provides all we need to endure, persevere, and overcome. It is time we trust in Him and not man.
It is time we illuminate to a lost world the difference between it and God’s holiness and righteousness made alive through us. It is time we become who He created us to be – truth lovers who seek His face, His truth, His wisdom, His peace and who walk in His steps, love with His heart, and stand in His strength.
It is time.