Attention Pulpit & Pew
1 Timothy 6:3-5
Preachers need to spend a lot of time in first and second Timothy and Titus. The apostle Paul wrote to these two evangelists, instructing them about their work, their conduct and the content of their preaching. Every preacher today needs this knowledge.
But not just preachers! Everybody who listens to preaching needs to know what the Bible says about good preaching. It was never intended by God that preaching be just anything people want. To fulfill divine purposes, preaching must be as directed by God. Men in the pulpit need to read and study the letters to Timothy and Titus. People in the pew need the same information. Here's part of that information.
"If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, whose suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself," (1 Tim. 6:3-5).
There Is One Message
Preachers deliver a message. Where they get their message is critical. There is a unified communication delivered in the New Testament, the gospel of Christ. When preachers deliver a message that isn't in the New Testament, they are guilty of advocating a different doctrine. Preachers and audiences need to operate on this conviction - there is only one source for right preaching . . . the right book!
I'm aware, this is not the modern view. Most people today seem to think, there are all kinds of denominations, doctrines and traditions. You can preach any you want; take your pick. Audiences should tolerate anything the preacher says. Tolerance is held higher than truth in most auditoriums. This is common thinking.
Paul teaches there is only one doctrine, and if anyone advocates a different doctrine, "from such withdraw yourself." In the New Testament there is a unified body of instruction - one message sealed by the death of Christ, revealed through the apostles and written in the New Testament. "If anyone advocates a different doctrine," we should have nothing to do with that: don't listen to it, don't agree with it, don't support it. Help others see the folly of it.
This Singular Doctrine (New Testament) Is Godly
Observe the expression, "the doctrine which is according to godliness." The NIV has it: "If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching." Mark that well. "Godly Teaching."
You don't want ungodly teaching do you? Do you want to listen to preaching that is humanistic, unscriptural and lends support to ungodliness?
If God gives instruction, as we participate in learning and using that instruction, we can become godly people, thanks to Jesus Christ. But if the instruction we learn and use is not from the New Testament, it cannot nurture godliness.
Godly people are godly because they have listened to the gospel of Christ and obeyed Him to be forgiven of ungodliness. Godly people are godly because after baptism, they continue to learn and use what the New Testament teaches. And they reject everything else.
If you want to be like God, listen to what He said. And "God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son...," (Heb. 1:1,2a).
What About The Men Who "Teach Otherwise?"
They are "...proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, whose suppose that godliness is a means of gain..."
These assessments are not complimentary. Pride is combined with ignorance, immaturity and greed. At a minimum, it will not contribute to your spiritual welfare to listen to this kind of preacher. First, he is not giving you God's message. Second, by listening to him you expose yourself to the deadly spiritual disease he has voluntarily contracted!
The NIV says these kind of preachers have an "unhealthy interests in controversy." There is a healthy interests in controversy (see 1 Tim. 1:3, 18-20; 2 Tim. 2:1-26, etc.). But these men who do not deliver "the words of our Lord Jesus Christ," have a morbid, immature, party spirit and corrupt militance that unnecessarily divides and agitates. Gordon Fee calls this: "sickly craving to engage in controversy and carry on words battles" with "devastating effects," (p.#142, New International Biblical Commentary, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus - by Gordon Fee.)
And these false teachers have their eye on their own gain. They "suppose that godliness is a means of gain," that is, inordinate, personal gain.
When it is clear that a preacher is guilty of what Paul describes here, there is only one thing to do: "withdraw yourself!"
This passage needs the attention of both pulpit and pew. Men who occupy the pulpit must be men devoted to the truth of the New Testament: "the words of our Lord Jesus Christ," which is "the doctrine which is according to godliness." People in the pew should have that same commitment.
What about the role of the preacher of God's Word?
Preachers are not called to preach what's popular according to the polls . . . People already know all that. What life does that bring? We're not called to preach merely moral exhortations or history lessons or social commentaries . . . We are called to preach the Word of God to the church of God and to everyone in His creation. This is how God brings life. Each person . . . is flawed and has faults and has sinned against God. And the terrible thing about our fallen natures is that we are greedy for ways to justify our sins against God. Every single one of us wants to know how we can defend ourselves from God's charges. Therefore we are in desperate need to hear God's Word brought honestly to us, so that we don't just hear what we want to hear but rather what God has actually said.
All of this is important . . . because God's Holy Spirit creates His people by His Word.
This is why Paul told Timothy to "form a committee." Right? Of course not! . . . "Take a survey"? No! . . . "Spend yourself in visiting"? No! . . . "Read a book"? No! Paul never told young Timothy to do any of those things.
Paul told Timothy, straight and clear, to "Preach the Word" (2 Tim. 4:2). This is the great imperative. This is why the apostles earlier had determined that, even thought there were problems with the equitable distribution of financial aid in Jerusalem, the church would just have to find others to solve their problems, because, "We . . . will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word" (Acts 6:4). Why this priority? Because this Word is "the word of life" (Phil. 2:16). That is the great task of the preacher: to "hold out the word of life" to people who need it for their souls.
- Nine Marks of a Healthy Church (Crossway, 2000, p. 38-39.)
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 15.12; December 2008