We need to remember that a church’s doctrine is not to be limited our current situation. We are to recognize that we stand in line with centuries of historical truth. Every church potentially is less than a generation away from compromise. In this passage, Paul calls for Timothy to guard against departure of doctrine (1:3-7) and to guard the gospel of glory (1:8-11).
Guard Against Departure of Doctrine 1:3-7
After his opening greeting (1:1-2), Paul provides Timothy with a serious charge, which reveals the occasion for the writing of this letter (1:3-5). Timothy may have had plans to move on from his role in Ephesus but Paul urges him to “remain at Ephesus” with the view to guarding against a departure from sound doctrine (1:3). Those who have departed from sound doctrine “devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies” (1:4a). It is possible they still teach truth, but they add to it “which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith” (1:4b). The goal of this charge is genuine love. This love has a threefold source, it “issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith“(1:5).
After giving this charge, Paul reveals the conduct of the problematic teachers in Ephesus (1:6-7). They have strayed from the source of biblical love. This has led them to wandering “away into vain discussion” (1:6). This departure from sound doctrine has resulted in their pride (“desiring to be teachers of the law“) and ignorance (“without understanding“). False teachers ignore biblical love (1:5, cf. 2 Tim. 3:2), they don’t source their teachings from the sufficient Scripture and a transformed life (1:4, 6), and they are prideful (1:7). Beware!
Guard the Gospel of Glory 1:8-11
In addition to guarding against departure from doctrine, Paul calls for Timothy to guard the gospel of glory. This is achieved by rightly using the law of God. Though the false teachers desired to become teachers of the law, they were using it unlawfully. God’s “law is good, if one uses it lawfully” (1:8). Though the law has many uses (refer to study question 5), Paul reveals that one purpose of the law is that it is for sinners to come to an understanding of their horrible condition before the Lord and to find grace in the gospel of Christ. He provides a list of conditions and sins that the law condemns (1:9-10). The lawful use of the law is “in accordance with the gospel of the glory” (1:11). The false teachers use the law for their purposes (promotion of pride), whereas the law is to be used as a means to display the power of the gospel.
1. Is doctrine important? Consider the following references and discuss the place doctrine has in the church: 1 Tim. 1:10; 4:6, 13, 16; 5:17; 6:1, 3-4; 2 Tim. 1:13; Titus 2:1, 10.
2. Discuss the importance of the church having biblical, historical and clear doctrine.
3. It is the duty of God’s people to love (cf. Matt. 22:37, 39; 1 John 4:7). Where does biblical love come from? See 1:5.
4. Throughout Scripture we are warned about false prophets and teachers (Matt. 7:15; 24:4; Acts 20:28-30). Jesus taught that we would know them by their fruits (Matt. 7:16). From our passage (and others) what are some of the characteristics of false teachers?
5. What is the purpose of God’s law (1:8-10)? See also Rom. 3:19, 7:7 and Gal. 3:19-24.
6. Pray that the Lord will enable our church to guard sound doctrine and that He would protect us from error and pride.