We probably tend to think of our time and of our era as an age of unparalleled confusion and disparate voices about what is the truth. After all, there is every version of church and religious organization on every corner of every town with every type of shingle announcing every sort of idea as the center of the truth. Truly, there a lot of loud voices.
Yet the existence of varied and errant voices claiming connection to Christ and the gospel is not new. They were on the scene in the very first decades of the Christian church. Paul had to deal with them, along with his younger disciples and church leaders like Timothy and Titus. This was a task entrusted to Timothy as he took up residential guidance in the church community in Ephesus.
1:1 – Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, to Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. 5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
It is often said about those who teach Christian-related error, that they show up with a book in one hand (Bible) and a book in the other (some extra teaching that explains or expands upon the Word of God, often with equal authority).
The gospel message (the biblical message) is really fairly simple and basic: We are sinners (related to Adam and Eve) and can’t save ourselves in any way. We must trust God in faith – believing in the promise of a coming savior (Old Testament) or the historic work of the Savior Jesus (New Testament) who sacrificially took our place.
Paul and other early church teachers often found themselves contending against various combinations of Jewish or secular ideas that were mixed with the gospel in a way that, at the end of the day, totally perverted the gospel truth. Many times it related to genealogies – either of a Jewish background and connection, or in the case of an error called Gnosticism, sought to explain intermediate beings (called aeons) that were sorta both spiritual and physical. Yes, it’s confusing and murky, which is why Paul said it leads to “controversial speculations” and “meaningless talk.” Imagine what these folks could have done with genealogy.com as a resource!
But wow, they sure sounded good – “what they so confidently affirm.” False teachers do sound good; so do used car salesmen and dealers in gold and silver investing.
Along the way they also promoted some strictures that needed to be followed religiously. But the true faith is not about performing and doing (apart from the overflow of living a life of godliness and love). The true faith is not about law observance; the law (be it the Old Testament) or laws generally are for those who go in wrongful directions …
8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
The great purpose of the Law in the Old Testament was to show a person their sin, to demonstrate how they could not ever measure up to God’s holiness. And sensing that deficiency, a person was to seek grace from God in His gracious offers of forgiveness through sacrifice – that either looked forward to the cross, or back at the historic cross event and resurrection of Christ, the final sacrifice.
Is not the gospel message a wonderful thing? Is it not great that we do not have to go through complicated hoops and rituals of secret beliefs to get to a life-saving reality? It is truly awesome to have a simple message of a gracious offer of salvation from one who paid our price, enabling our lives through faith in that truth to be changed, and for us to have a new way of looking at others and the world around us as we serve God in love. It makes one want to just say, “thank you, thank you” for this gift … which is what Paul essentially goes on to say next to Timothy.