3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound[b] words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 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, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and[c] we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 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. 10 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. Identifying False Teaching (v3-5)
2. Identifying Godliness (v6-8)
3. Identifying the Desire to get rich (v9-10)
As a church we’ve been studying the book of 1 Timothy. It’s been a very meaningful journey as we’ve learnt what the gospel is and how it affects and shapes the life of the church. We’ve seen how the gospel applies to the roles of men and women in the church, we’ve seen how the gospel helps us select the right people to be elders and deacons of the church, we’ve seen how the gospel trains us up for godliness and over the last three weeks we’ve seen how the gospel empowers us to honor different groups of people: widows, elders and our masters.
Last week’s sermon was super helpful to me as it helped me understand how I could glorify God in my workplace using those 5 biblical principles. This week’s sermon is titled “Getting to the root” and I believe today’s passage speaks about identifying false teaching, identifying godliness and identifying the desire to get rich.
1. Identifying False Teaching (v3-5)
3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound[b] words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 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, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.
The first thing that catches my attention in verse 3 is that Paul is writing against those who teach a different doctrine that doesn’t agree with the sound (healthy) words of our Lord Jesus Christ. The sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ refer to his life, teachings and work. Now why would that be important?
So when Paul brought the gospel to Ephesus and spent that time teaching and training the disciples, he didn’t produce a new teaching. All he did was apply the sound words of Jesus. Even when you read all of the other letters, Paul isn’t trying to bring some new idea to the church. What he does is he elaborates and explains the life, death and resurrection of Jesus! And this is critical in our day and age where we are more concerned about what’s new rather than what’s true! In our Christian culture we are much more eager to listen to a new thought or idea rather than listen to the same gospel message that gives life to our souls!
In Luke 24 when Jesus meets the two disciples walking to Emmaus, he tells them how all of Scripture beginning from Moses and all the prophets concern about himself. Later on in the chapter when he meets his disciples, he tells them how he needed to fulfill all the prophecies that were written about him in the Law of Moses, Prophets and Psalms. (v27, 44-47)
That’s why anyone who strives to be faithful to the Scriptures needs to talk about Jesus all the time because all the Scriptures talk about him. No preacher can add anything to the Bible or the gospel. In fact adding anything would mean making the gospel powerless and ineffective.
When Paul came to the Corinthians the first time, And I, when I came to you, brothers,[a] did not come proclaiming to you the testimony[b] of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men[c] but in the power of God. (1 Cor 2:1-5)
It was a culture that adored and looked up to new philosophies and ideas. They would’ve really been impressed if he changed the gospel and made it look new and hip. However, even then he still didn’t play to the galleries but chose to preach Christ crucified so that people’s hearts be truly changed by the power of God!
In order to know if the teacher is true, the questions for the church to evaluate are:
Is Christ being made much of through the sermon? Does Christ look big to you as a result of the preaching of the Word? Who is the centre of the sermon? Is it the preacher or Christ?
This is a big one. Is the preacher making the message more about his jokes, quips, stories or is it about displaying Christ as he is. As we learnt a few weeks back, the job of the elder is to remove all kinds of barriers to ensure that the Word is handled and preached as it is supposed to be: the Word of God. That also involves removing themselves from becoming the object of worship. This I do understand also has to do with the heart of the listener but there are many today who intentionally use the pulpits to make themselves known rather than Jesus.
Is the message calling you to repent of the idols in your heart? We see that when Peter encounters Jesus in Luke 5. After the miracle, when Peter understands that he is in the presence of Holy God, he doesn’t just stand there and have small talk. He falls at Jesus’ knees and says “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord”.
Are you being encouraged to trust in Christ’s work or yourself?
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8,9)
Talk about counter-cultural. Today if someone came up to and told you “whatever you do, your going to fail on your own strength”. How would that make you feel? Yet that’s the story of the gospel, it tells us how weak and incapable we are to make ourselves right before God. The only way we can be rescued is by relying on the sacrifice made by someone else. Yes, you need to trust in Christ’s life, death and resurrection to rescue you from the wrath that comes upon you for your sins. It humbles us to the core because we know we are helpless.
Is it a teaching that accords with godliness?
In other words if your sin is being exposed through the message, if repentance and faith is being preached in the name of Jesus then it should lead you to greater reverence and love for God. There is always an urge for holiness that comes from true biblical preaching.
I remember once going to a Christian concert. There was wonderful excitement and joy as people worshipped God. In the middle of the worship set, the leader asked us all to be seated and asked us to think about our need for help, healing etc. He then asked us all to respond with a loud shout and call out to God which was then confirmed as assurance of salvation by the worship leader. There was no call for repentance and need to trust in Christ as Savior. Not only did it give the wrong picture of salvation but it also didn’t encourage the believers to grow in holiness. All they got was an emotional experience!
4 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, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.
Now it goes into a description of the fruit of the false teacher: you will get to see it in his lifestyle, the way he conducts himself.
• You’ll see him be arrogantly prideful about matters that he doesn’t have accurate or full information of.
• He’ll have an unhealthy appetite to stir up controversial topics.
• You’ll find him frequently argue and debate about empty, unimportant and trifling matters.
• Those discussions and teachings always result in jealousy, quarrels, damaging each others reputation, suspicion and purposely behaving in a way that’s unreasonable and unacceptable.
Then he goes deeper into the root of the problem:
It’s caused due to a depraved mind (mind that is rotting and being corrupted by desire) and deprived of truth (lack of truth – he didn’t want to hold onto to truth). What is the desire? Imagining that godliness is a means of gain. The issue starts there! Because at the deepest level of his heart his desire is to please himself, that’s why his teaching reflects what he desires and not what God desires, and he arrogantly justifies his position with his pride. It’s hard for me to look at this passage and think that prosperity preachers have good intention especially when they arrogantly boast about it. However, if you have friends or family who are in a prosperity church please don’t write them off. Continue to pursue them lovingly and Scripturally showing them what the truth is. Show them how God desires that at the deepest level of their hearts He wants to see Christ and not themselves or money. But know that this is a very enticing theology and many have been hooked onto it.
2. Identifying Godliness (v6-8)
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and[c] we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
This great gain is contrasted with the wrongful gain in the previous verse. Contentment is a conversation the urban church needs to have today. I’ve actually heard less sermons on contentment. In fact I may have heard more talks or lessons in my moral science class. Isn’t that strange? I think it’s because all of us struggle with finding contentment. Interestingly this verse says that godliness is complemented by contentment. It goes side by side. I believe there are few important things we need to learn about contentment from this passage:
a) We need to understand that our earthly lives are finite. There is a start to it and an end. It’s short-lived too. James 4:14 says our lives are like mist that appears for a little time and vanishes.
b) We weren’t created for money or possessions. That’s why we come into the world with empty hands and we leave the world with empty hands.
c) We need to understand the difference between our needs and our wants. Often our hearts get it all mixed up. Our needs are those things that are essential to us existing. Our wants are the add-ons that we often turn into our needs and then later turn into idols.
d) True contentment is found in God only. 5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb 13:5) We’ve usually only heard the later part which says “I will never leave nor forsake you”, however, we often miss the part before that which says “keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have”. What does that have to do with the promise in the next verse? I think what it means is: our hearts long for satisfaction and security which we often mistakenly look for in money. However, we weren’t created for money but we were created to find that security and satisfaction in the promise that God will be with us forever and never abandon us. As little children do you remember going to your parents and telling them about your fears and things that would trouble you. At those moments you didn’t want to hear the best and most sorted plan to deal with your issues but what calmed you and gave you so much of rest was when your parents put their arms around you and told you that they would be there with you. Now there was nothing more to be afraid of. Isn’t it weird how God tells us that in an even more serious way…by sealing these promises with his blood, but we still don’t believe?
3. Identifying the Desire to be rich (v9-10)
9 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. 10 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.
Another important lesson for the church today is identifying the desires of your heart. We live in a culture and generation where the one who chases after money, gets it and lives a lavish lifestyle is praised! We love listening and talking about rags to riches stories. Materialism is all around us or rather within our hearts…sometimes we get so desperate that we’ll do anything to be able to latch onto material things. These are verses that should give us a sober warning. The love of money is seriously dangerous. Just to clarify, you don’t need to be rich to have the love of money. It’s the desire of your heart. Here are few things we can understand from these verses:
1) By having a love for money we open ourselves to various temptations. The love for money is a huge breeding ground for sin and the attacks of Satan. Because you are constantly thinking of how you need more money to give you a life you always wanted or to buy you things that you always desired. You become open to compromising your faith to get what you want. This leads to destruction.
2) It is a root of all kinds of evil. We probably don’t expect this to be a root of evil. We may expect adultery or sexual immorality to be the root. However, this verse should really give a strong warning that “all kinds of evil” spring up from this desire. No wonder one of the qualifications of an elder and deacon is “should not be a lover of money”.
3) Through this desire, people have wandered away from the faith! I think this has to be the saddest consequence of harbouring the love of money. The worst thing that can happen to a person is not lose a job, lose money or anything else but is to go away from our loving Saviour. It’s like in the Garden of Eden where the saddest moment was when Adam and Eve hid from the presence of God. Moving away from our Creator and Sustainer – you won’t be living without Him! You wouldn’t have been born at all without Him. Not just that but he loved us so much that while we were still sinners, he died a painful death on a cross. He died to redeem us from the curse of being separated from God. He died so that we can be with Him forever. Why would you want to wander away from such a loving Saviour?
Ask yourself these questions to know if you are a lover of money?
Is money controlling your life? Is the presence or absence of money changing you and the way you behave with others?
Would you do anything you can do to get more money? Would you compromise your faith to get more money?
Is money always on your mind?
Maybe the love of money doesn’t quite apply to your current situation. Could it be possible that like the false teachers in Ephesus that in some way you are looking at godliness as a means to some gain? Money, popularity, fame, self righteousness, acceptance etc. Would you repent of that desire and turn to Christ to help and strengthen you? Or you’ve recognized how you’ve been discontent with life and what you have…would you repent and trust on the promise that Christ would never leave you nor forsake you?