“These are the things you are to teach and insist on. 3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.”
These are strong words! Not only is Timothy to teach the things Paul has mentioned but he is to insist on them. In a world where tolerance means acceptance of everything and anything this is very intolerant. The Bible teaches that we are to disagree with and speak out against falsehood but at the same time to love those with whom we disagree [2 Timothy 2:24-26].
What about Paul’s description of the false teachers? Is he going overboard and lumping everyone in the same bucket? Aren’t some of these false teachers genuinely trying to do what they think is best? The answer to that last question is yes, but that is their problem. They might be doing what they think is good but that is the heart of sin – when we substitute our wisdom for God’s, and our teaching for what God teaches. That is being conceited. It is showing that they are indeed enemies of God. They were downplaying the significance of the cross as the means of our salvation and elevating our own efforts. That makes them enemies of the cross of Christ. It sounds harsh but that is the Bible’s assessment, well-meaning as some of them may be. Romans 8 clearly sets out the truth that people are either led by the Holy Spirit or led by their sinful desires, and the latter, says Romans 8:7, are hostile to God and cannot please God.
We are all aware of those religious teachers who preach for financial gain that you can hear on TV and online. Many of them lead people astray with their teachings that often sound biblical but really aren’t. It is good to check out such teachers and not just accept all they say as true. Some useful tests for false teaching are:
- Is it good news? If the focus is on our good work, then it is most certainly not good news. If I have in any way to earn my rescue, then it is not good news.
- Does it focus on us or God? Does it bring glory and honour to God or us?
- Does the teacher keep referring to the Scriptures of does he/she keep saying “I believe ….”?
- Is the preacher humble in his or her demeanour or do they draw attention to themselves?
- Is the preacher well-thought of by those brothers and sisters whose theology you trust?
Father of grace and author of the Good News, keep me true to the good news which you have so graciously given me. Bless our churches with godly leaders who love your word. Amen
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
“Godliness with contentment is great gain” – Paul is having a dig at those who think that godliness is a means of gain [v5]. This is a word against those today whose gospel is that God will make you healthy and wealthy. Seriously, how can you read this and then preach a prosperity gospel, but people do!
In their commentary Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell tell the story of a king who suffered greatly and was told by his wise men that he’d be cured if were able to wear the shirt of a contented man. A wide search was made throughout his realm, but no such man was found. Finally, right out in the boondocks they found a man who was truly content, but he had no shirt!
Elton John in Oct 1975 Elton John attempted suicide at the same time that he had two sold out concerts in Los Angeles and the city had just proclaimed Elton John week.
We all know the saying that money can’t buy happiness and yet the pursuit of wealth is still as widespread as ever. Jesus often spoke about the dangers of wealth [Matthew 6:24; 19:21; Luke 12:33; Rev 3:17; Matthew 13:22, 44] because he knew that it could replace God as the one who satisfies. That is the great deception of wealth.
Listen instead to what God says,
“‘Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labour on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
3 Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.” [Isaiah 55]
And the Lord Jesus:
28 ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Theses verses are worth meditating on. Why not commit them to memory this week?
The Lord offers one of the few true treasures of life – contentment – being able to relax in his hands. It is great gain!
Is this your experience?
Father, so work in me by your Holy Spirit that you will be my treasure and that I will be content. Amen
11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time – God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might for ever. Amen.
Timothy is to flee from all the things that describe the false teachers. He is to “run away, run away, run away” to quote Sir Robin in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. One of the tips for resisting temptation is not to put yourself in a position where you could be tempted. Imagine yourself walking along a narrow suspension bridge with no side rails. You’re not going to walk along the very edge of the bridge. That would be foolish. You walk right in the middle, as far away from the edges as possible. You don’t take risks. Paul is in effect telling Timothy not to take risks with any of this stuff: false teaching, controversies over unimportant things, quarrels about words, love of money, the prosperity gospel. Get away from them as quickly as possible. Don’t flirt with them. Paul recommends running away in other areas as well: flee “youthful passions” [2 Tim 2:22], sexual immorality [1 Cor 6:18], and idolatry [1 Cor 10:14]. The Bible teaches us to resist the Devil [James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9], but flee temptation.
After talking about running away Paul then encourages Timothy to fight the good fight of the faith [v 12]. Fighting well can often involve a strategic withdrawal at times. We are in a fight; the Evil one prowls around like a roaring lion seeking people to devour [1 Peter 5:8]. He might use frontal attacks, but he is devious and father of lies [John 8:44], and he will deceive as he did in the Garden of Eden. It is not cowardly to flee, it is a wise acknowledgement of our weaknesses.
Timothy is to run away from all those things but to run towards righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. It is not enough for godliness to stay away from evil – remember Jesus’ words about casting out demons without replacing them [Matthew 12:45]. We must pursue godliness. How do you pursue godliness? Surely it’s not a case of more bible study, more prayer, more Bible memory work, more resisting temptation! Those things are all good but can be a joyless duty as well. You do it by taking hold the eternal life to which you were called: by enjoying it, celebrating it, trusting it. Surely the way to pursue godliness is to put ourselves in the place where the Holy Spirit is able to do his work on us because we find that what he gives is a treasure beyond compare – “God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might for ever.” There is lots said and sung about “going deeper” into God [e.g., the song “Take me Deeper” by Dan Moen], that could leave us with the idea that there is an almost mystical experience of God that is the essence of true discipleship. That can be misleading. Rather the Scriptures encourage is to live in the reality of the truth of who we have as our Heavenly Father, recognising his worth and his wonder and his glory, and celebrating that. That is what warms our hearts towards him. That is what encourages godliness.
LORD God and my heavenly Father, give me a living sense of your wonder and glory so that pursuing godliness will be my delight. Amen
17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
Paul has already addressed those who want to be wealthy in verses 6-10. Now he addresses those who are already wealthy. Imagine “commanding” the rich in this way! Paul didn’t want to leave them in any doubt about the dangers and obligations of their wealth. “Command them not to be arrogant.” “Command them to do good.” It’s such a good thing that I’m not wealthy!!
In Paul’s mind there is a connection between wealth and arrogance. There is a tendency for the “successful” to look down on those who have not “succeeded in life” as failures, and you don’t have to be incredibly wealthy to think like that. How often do we hear criticisms of those on welfare, for instance; that they just ought to get a job and do a bit of hard work. Sometimes those criticisms may be legitimate, but so often it’s not, and it is easy for those of us with comparative wealth and health to be arrogant in this way and not realise it, as if our situation in life is a result of our own hard work and intelligence. Misfortune, that we have no control over, can fall on all of us, as Paul says here – “wealth is so uncertain.” Our “success”, if we have it, is all thanks to God [James 1:17].
18” Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” I can see it now, Timothy addressing the wealthy in his church and commanding them to share their wealth.
Two things would hinder that happening in the ordinary church today. Firstly, we as congregation members don’t take kindly to being told what to do with our lives, and especially our wealth. As Christians we’re happy to be asked about our Bible reading and prayer life and to be encouraged to use our gifts if we’re really serious about growing as disciples, but how dare any church leader ask us about our giving. Why is that do you think? Why is our wealth such a touchy subject? Could it be that our wealth is indeed our god?
Secondly, for the previous reasons, they would be a very courageous church leader who did address that issue with the rich in their church. Why do so many pastors anxious as they teach about giving and generosity? Why do so many church member get critical when it occurs?
The loving and goldy church leader will indeed address this issue because if we follow the Lord’s instructions here through Paul, we will lay up treasures for ourselves in the life to come and gain a life that is truly life. Godly leader will push these things because it will bless their people. They will do what is best for their people despite what their people want to hear or don’t want to hear. Praise God for such leaders.
Notice that Paul is not pushing asceticism, depriving yourself of things to discipline the spirit and thereby somehow to grown in godliness. No, as he says “God, richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” There is a balance here, as there so often in the Christian life, of enjoying what God has blessed us with and being generous with these blessings.
My God and giver of all good things, please give me spiritual wisdom to keep that balance between enjoying your bounty and being generous. Amen
20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21 which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith.
Grace be with you all.
Timothy is to guard the flock and guard the message. In lots of ways, they are one and the same. The best way to guard the flock is to maintain right teaching. That is not an easy task. Sometimes it will involve making tough decisions, even decisions that some members of the church may not like. There are many models of church governance but at the bottom of it ministers/pastors are not employees. They are closer to independent contractors who are called in to do a job. How they do that job is left up to them. The allegiance of a contractor is first and foremost to the disciplines and regulations of their trade. They will do what a client wants only as long as it doesn’t clash with their licensing. A minster’s/pastor’s allegiance in the end is to Christ. First and foremost, they are answerable to Jesus before they are ever answerable to the church and sometimes those two allegiances my clash. That might occur, as in the case with Timothy, where false teaching has gained a foothold in a church. In that case they will do what Chris has called them to do as the leader of his church, rather than what others want.
He is to “turn away from godless chatter.” That would seem to be covered by “opposing ideas” i.e., ideas that oppose the clear teaching of the scriptures and the apostolic teaching. Anything that is different to the truth of the Scriptures is nothing more than “godless chatter.” Paul is not banning honest, open minded discussion of ideas but rather the pushing of ideas contrary to scripture as though they were truth. “Godless chatter” is big put down and completely intolerant, and rightly so because it is a matter of life and death, spiritual vitality or immersion in darkness. Godless chatter is as dangerous to spiritual health as medical quackery is to physical health. Timothy is to turn his back on such things.
There are at least two applications here.
Firstly, we’re to pray for our leaders, and especially our minister, that they guard the flock and guard the gospel. The ferocious wolves Jesus talks about who will attach the flock are false teachers [Matt 7:15].
Secondly every Christian should know their scriptures and be intolerant of anything that detracts from the centrality of Christ on the Cross in our place defeating death and evil as the only way to forgiveness and adoption into the family of God. We should back our leaders when they make those tough decision for the same of the gospel. The result of not doing that is that it may lead some to depart the faith.
Loving Lord, give your people leaders who will cleave to the message of the cross. Amen.