I think we need to take another look at last week’s passage to understand the context of this week’s passage.
Read 1 Timothy 1:3-7
Paul urges Timothy to command certain teachers at Ephesus to stop teaching a different, false doctrine. A few things we can learn about the wrong doctrine from v4: devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship[a] from God that is by faith.
The teachings weren’t Scriptural but spiralled and revolved around myths and endless genealogies which were causing speculations and confusion to arise in the church. Once I remember a teacher who taught on the story of the Fall in Genesis 3. He started by stating the facts, Adam and Eve ate the fruit and sin entered the world through that act.
He paused and then asked a question: What if Adam and Eve repented right after the sinful act? Would there then be a need for Christ to come to the earth? He said this and then proceeded to talk about something else. Now he was addressing teenagers and young adults. Just imagine how he would’ve harmed the faith of a lot of young adults by asking these twisted questions.
Another instance was when a preacher claimed that the Ten Commandments were inspired/copied from the rule book of an ancient Egyptian king called Hammurabi. With that one statement he belittled the authority of Scripture and made it look like it was man-made piece of fiction. Upon hearing this, the leaders of the youth group protested because we knew this wasn’t biblical.
But look at the damage it caused. The youth that were actually seeking God during this camp would’ve been terribly confused because this was what the “preacher” said. Other youth became really sceptical of these discussions because they felt that “religious” talk always ends in controversy and fights. How is this promoting the stewardship from God that is by faith?
And that’s why I totally agree with Saju’s point last week where he said that we need to pay attention and form the right doctrinal framework to discern between right teaching and wrong teaching. Only if you’ve seen and studied the original Rs. 500 note, will be able to discern that from the counterfeit Rs. 500 note.
Another learning is that if you find a preacher who constantly talks about controversial topics that is not leading you to love, trust and obey Christ, a red light should go out.
We also know from this text that wrong motives or intentions were behind this false teaching. Their false teaching was spurred and motivated by pride. How do we know that? It says “desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.”
Later on in 1 Tim 6:3 & 4, Paul says “If anyone teaches another doctrine and disagrees with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and with godly teaching, 4he is conceited and understands nothing. Instead, he has an unhealthy interest in controversies and semantics, out of which come envy, strife, abusive talk, evil suspicions”
In other words, wrong doctrine always and always finds its root in wrong motivation. It’s one thing to preach stuff out of ignorance. But if you make confident assertions of things that you yourself don’t understand then there has to be a prideful motivation attached to it. In contrast, correct and sound doctrine finds its root in love, purity and sincere faith. And this will be a key theme in the book.
Coming to our main text for today:
Read 1 Timothy 1:8-11
V8: Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully
What is this law that is being spoken of? Law of the land? Law of the Country? No, this is the Mosaic Law comprising of the 10 commandments and other laws that were mentioned in the first 5 books of the Bible.
Why did God want to give people a law?
God gave people a law so that they could know Him and obey Him through it. The intention was that through the law, sinful people like you and I should understand what it would take for us to experience a relationship with a Holy God. Each of those commandments revealed a certain aspect of God’s glory and His character.
For eg: Why does it say “You shall not murder”? Because God is life.
Why does it say “You shall not bear false witness/lie”? Because God is truth.
Why does it say “You shall not commit adultery”? Because God is pure.
Therefore, the law is good for teaching. But the condition is also stated “if one uses it lawfully”. So there is a lawful way of using the law. What’s that?
1. The lawful way of using the law is to expose the sin in our lives.
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” (Rom 7:7)
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Rom 3:20)
It was to show us God’s Holy standards and in doing so expose how greatly sinful we are. In our sinfulness we may compare ourselves to each other and be comforted with the thought that we aren’t too sinful. But that’s the mistake. The standard for holiness is not us…it’s not of human origin. The standard is declared and set forth by God Himself. Because we are His creation created to reflect who He is. And sin doesn’t at all reflect the majesty and glory of God. So God gives His people the law to know what sin really is: to identify sin!
2. The law is not laid down for the just but the lawless
The law isn’t created/set for the righteous, upright and virtuous but for the lawbreakers. Imagine a country which didn’t have a law. It’s a state of utter lawlessness. Suddenly one day, a law is established. Who do you think will it affect the most? The one who abides by the law or the one who breaks the law? The one who breaks the law. Let’s look at each of these words/phrases closely:
These are words to describe someone who cannot be subjected to control. Someone who is unruly. We hear it being used in these phrases a lot: “Disobedient child or disobedient student”. Can that be described of our relationship with God? Are we easy to control? Or is there always a struggle for us to continue to be in control? When we think about these words “Master, Lord, Owner”…does it ring true about Christ in our lives or is it us?
Describes someone who is irreverent. No reverence for God. A lack of respect or seriousness for God. It’s not just talking about revering God when we are around other believers but it’s our attitude 24/7. Our zeal for God & passion to obey Him often reflect how much we respect and value God in our lives.
Being devoted to sin. We are sinners not because of the sins we do, we are sinners because at the root of our hearts that’s all that we know to do.
“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen 6:5)
d) Unholy and profane
These are words to describe how wicked and ungodly we can be.
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone. (Matt 15:18-20)
It’s a shocking yet true verse to read. Do you realize that the propensity to commit the most violent and horrible crimes is within you? It’s not in your environment.
e) for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers
Referring to those who murder their parents and others. 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother[c] will be liable to judgment; whoever insults[d] his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell[e] of fire. (Matt 5:21-22) Have you ever been angry at your parents? Bitter fury rage toward them? In God’s eyes, it’s as good as murder.
f) the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality
The word sexually immoral in the Greek is a broad word to include all activities of sexual promiscuity outside of marriage. 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matt 5:27, 28) In God’s eyes, if you’ve looked lustfully at someone other than your spouse you’ve committed adultery. And sexual promiscuity is being glorified in our generation. Lust is used as a substitute for love. And everything which is referred to as progressive in the media and our culture is nothing but outright adultery. Homosexuality : lying with another person of the same sex. In fact you would be ostracized and called unloving if you didn’t accept their lifestyle.
g) Enslavers: those who take people captive and sell them off
Still true of many trades in the world where they forcefully capture people and sell them off. Human trafficking industry is all about it.
h) Liars and Perjurers
Someone who speaks falsehood and perjurer is someone who swears falsely. There’s no one who can claim to have not lied. If they claim to not have lied, then that’s a lie in itself.
and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine
I find it interesting that sound/healthy doctrine is not only referred to teaching but also a lifestyle. Right through the Bible, you’ll find sound doctrine also being accompanied by Christ exalting lifestyle. But coming back to this list which is invariably the Ten Commandments and the law, how many of us can claim to have obeyed this completely on our own? Can we call ourselves “just” by our own efforts?
In fact if anything, this whole passage talking about the law and the other cross references prove that are lives are exposed because of the law. And we agree with Scripture when it says “All have fallen short of the glory of God”. (Rom 3:23)
V11 holds the key when it says “in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.”
3. The law was meant to point us to Christ.
The law wasn’t meant to be an end in itself. That’s why God gave the people sacrifices. When they looked at the law which exposed their sin and lawlessness, they had to trust on a sacrifice to make things right between them and God.
The law paves way for the gospel!
It’s the gospel of glory of the blessed God! There is good news. Christ – God’s Son, came down to earth and took the form of man. 100% God and 100% man. Where we failed in our obedience, purity, attitude and action, Christ succeeded. He lived an impeccable life. The punishment that we deserved for our outright rebellion was borne by Him on the cross. Death for sins. All our sins were nailed on the cross and three days later He rose from the grave defeating all the effects of sin, Satan and death. His sacrifice ensured that we could see God who deserves all our praise, honour and worship!
Based on how we view ourselves in the light of the law, we can find ourselves in one of two sections. Either we’re Performing or we’re Pretending. Here are the applications we can draw from this passage on the law:
1. Performing: Trying to perform in order to earn favour from God.
This can manifest in various ways. One way is thinking that by having your abiding time every day, sharing the gospel and doing other Christiany stuff, it makes you right before God. Another way is that you can get critical about other people’s faith and walk with God. You’re constantly comparing yourself with other people, pointing out their faults and feeling that you’re morally superior to them. Another way is that Bible studies, sermons and discussions with other believers are merely seen as opportunities to check or verify the other person’s theological doctrines and arguments.
If you find yourself there, let this passage remind you of how messed up you truly are apart from Christ. All our righteous deeds, theological arguments are all filthy rags without Christ. The Pharisees probably were superficially righteous but their attitudes were extremely sinful. They were great performers but their faith was rejected and hated by God. That should humble us and make us run to Christ for His perfect righteousness.
2. Pretending: Trying to hide who you truly are
You’ve seen this passage and are convicted because you know you’ve messed up. You look at that list and are burdened with the weight of your sin. You feel condemned and ashamed because of your sin. You’re always thinking what would other people do if they come to know the real you. So you resort to pretending because you think that will protect you from the shame and guilt but it doesn’t.
If you find yourself there, you’ll need to throw aside the weight of pretending and come to Christ confessing your sin and your need for Him. Remember conviction is not the goal, repentance is. Regret is not the goal, fellowship and life with Christ is. The good news is not in your sin but in Christ’s victory over your sin. The good news is not in your condemnation but in freedom from condemnation. The good news is not in shame but in a life of purpose, value and dignity found in Christ. But here also it involves humility to humbly accept what Christ has offered. So run to Christ and receive His forgiveness, hope and joy.