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Paul’s ministry to Timothy is significant, this is recorded in Acts 16.  Later Timothy becomes the pastor of the church of Ephesus.  All pastors need instruction, regardless of the age.  So Paul pours into him.  He writes this letter mainly to combat false teachings and to encourage Timothy.    

The Problem of False Teachers vv.3-7

We are not sure about what type of false teachers they were, but verse 7 gives us a clue.  They wanted to be teachers of the law; therefore, a type of legalistic mix of Judaism could be the false doctrine. 

John 8:44 “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

4 Different Types of False Teachers

The Divider– They will take issues, small issues, and through gossip and deception, destroy a church.  Romans 16:17-18 “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.”

The Disgruntled– This is the person that has been hurt by someone in the church and they make it their mission to hurt others.  Hurt people hurt people.  They may use the false doctrines of legalism or even cheap grace to promote their agenda.  Colossians 3:12-15 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”

The Disillusioned– Those who turn biblical doctrines around and twist them to fit their lifestyle.  2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.”

The Distorter– This person becomes fixated on one or two Christian doctrines and swings into an unbiblical realm.  For instance, end-times prophecy.  The JWs began in the 1870s with Charles Russell’s interest and fixation on End Times prophecy.  From that becomes a lens that one looks at scripture and this lens paints every biblical issue.

The Proper View of the Law vv.8-11

The law is a guard rail, not our identity.  Our identity is the cross.  The law drives us to the cross.  The cross makes the law look easy.  We look at the law and say, “I can’t do that!”  You’re right, you can’t.  That’s the beauty of the cross.  He does the work that you can’t!  Romans 7:6-7 “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

The Praise of the Gospel vv.12-17

If we are not careful, we will forget just how forgiven we are!  This is very dangerous, we become satanically unaware of our need for Christ daily!  Paul reinforces to Timothy that we should daily praise God for the act of mercy and grace He has shown on us!

The Position We Must Stand vv.18-20

v.18 Paul states that we are to wage the good warfare.  If good men do not stand for the truth, many will be led astray. 

How should we approach false teachers and was Paul’s treatment harsh?  Look back at verse 5.  The aim is love.  Love for the false teacher to be restored and also love for the flock not be led astray.  The worst case scenario may be that a person needs to be brought before the church in a matter of discipline as described in Matthew 18.  Paul tells Titus in 1:10-11 “For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.”

We will loving tell the truth of God’s Word and stand against false teaching.  I do not believe anyone has been argued into the Kingdom, but the Holy Spirit can use us as a loving instruments to reveal His truth. 

What is the prescription for false teachers?

Prayer– there is nothing more powerful than praying for those who teach the word and for the hearers.  

Proclamation– hear, read, and study the word.  Many are led astray because of their lack of knowledge of God’s Word.

Participation– If you are busy doing ministry, you do not have time to be caught up in divisive work.