Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

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Spotting False Doctrine

1Timothy 1

Isn't it great when everything goes well? Especially in churches - it's a great feeling. But there are times when things aren't going well at all - and at those times it calls for leaders to step up and for special measures to be employed. That's the situation faced by Timothy.\r
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Timothy was a young believer who came to Christ through his mother and grandmother - so he was a second generation Christian. Paul saw much potential in him as well as Titus. Timothy was not the pastor of a particular church but an apostolic representative of Paul in Ephesus and Crete.\r
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Why did Paul write this letter? Apparently Paul had just gotten out of prison and was planning to head to Asia Minor. He went to Ephesus where Timothy joined him. There they saw that false teachers had come in - preying especially on women: new believers who were just experiencing the freedom in Christ, and experiencing worship and the study of God's Word. \r
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Paul left - and wrote this letter as a dispatch of instructions to his young protégé. \r
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What's in here? \r
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- False Teachers (ch 1 & 6)\r
- Worship parameters (ch 2)\r
- How to handle special groups of people like widows (ch 5)\r
- The choosing of elders & deacons (ch 3)\r
- How to help women in the church behave properly in light of their susceptibility to false doctrine.\r
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There is a lot of controversy as well - modest dress for women, allowing women to teach, and who should be able to serve as leaders. We'll get to all of those - and hopefully shed some light on what they meant to Timothy and what they mean to us today.\r
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But in essence the book is about a church in crisis - how to spot the false teaching, correct those who bought into it, raise up godly leaders to combat it and then be strong as a pastor himself in overseeing the rescue of this troubled fellowship. If we keep that in mind it is easier to understand a lot of what Paul says.\r
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1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, \r
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2 To Timothy my true son in the faith: \r
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Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. \r
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3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than 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 wandered away from these and 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. \r
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(3) The word "command" in the Greek is paraggello which means to "send out the message" to "declare." This wasn't a secret diplomatic mission - it was to be an apostolic command: STOP! What were they doing? 1. Teaching false doctrine and 2. Promoting controversy - arguing for arguments sake.\r
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These guys had concocted their own brand of Christianity. They did it to seem important - sometimes people will argue just to appear like they know what they are talking about. \r
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It is good to reason with the Scriptures - but those that simply go around and around just to keep anything from being settled are to be avoided. It's like the argument: Can God make a rock so big that He can't move it?\r
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These become ways to sidestep the real issues: sin, salvation, and sanctification through the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. As Paul says "they promote controversy rather than God's work, which is by faith." \r
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We don't know exactly what these doctrines were - the endless genealogies could have indicated that they concocted fictitious stories from Old Testament characters in order to continue the discussion.\r
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A common debate technique is to use a series of false but plausible arguments to keep your opponent from ever being able to give their side of the story.\r
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The point is there were are certain basic truths - doctrines - that can be relied upon - going away from those is a BIG mistake. For instance: Paul in Galatians: \r
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Galatians 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!\r
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Another common debate technique is to very strongly assert your position - as if that actually adds merit to it. Someone once said "if you're going to lie, lie loudly."\r
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(5) Paul's goal here is not to destroy anyone - but out of love he wants this foolishness to stop. It's okay to be wrong - it's not okay to ignore those who know the Scriptures and the basic truths of the gospel.\r
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(6-7) It is possible to "wander" away. The word can be translated: "get enmeshed in" or "have gotten themselves bogged down in." It can also mean turning from something that is important to something that isn't. Face it - faith in Christ and belief in His Word is a very self challenging thing. We are told to lay down our lives, live for others, kill the flesh - but when we take up pursuits that make us feel so important - making up stuff that sounds good, isn't exactly accurate - but sure makes for a good argument - we are wandering off to turn to talk that is literally "meaningless." Or: "of no value." Only those things that lead us towards faith in Christ are of value - anything else is a false value.\r
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These people apparently made up legends from Old Testament stories - incorrectly using the Scriptures:\r
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8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that 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 adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers-and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. \r
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Okay - that's a mouthful. I think what Paul is saying here is we can't twist the law so it fits our ideas. The false teachers Timothy dealt with were concocting all sorts of legends and doing things with genealogies in order to make their false doctrine sound true - but people do the same to this day.\r
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I can't tell you how many people I have heard cherry-pick a verse from the Old Testament and create a whole doctrine from it.\r
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The law - the Old Covenant had this purpose: to show that we cannot possibly live up to God's righteous standard, and to point the way to the Savior, Jesus Christ.\r
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Romans 5:20 The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,\r
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Galatians 3:23-24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.\r
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To make the law do anything else is the same error that the Jews had.\r
To the Jews, Jesus said: John 5:39-40 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. \r
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That's also why it's important to study the Old Testament - so we can understand the purpose of the writing and not be swayed by someone quoting from it. Perfect plug for our Wednesday evening Old Testament survey, right?\r
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In keeping with this, Paul gives a practical example of sin and redemption:\r
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12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. \r
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15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. \r
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Paul says: "I was a sinner" and he calls himself "the worst" partly because he so violently persecuted the followers of Christ. But he did it because 1. he didn't know better, and 2. he didn't believe. \r
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By the way - there are only two options - belief and unbelief. You cannot be neutral when it comes to Jesus. You can't just opt out of the debate - if you won't believe then you are unbelief.\r
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Anyway - whether Paul really was the "worst" sinner is not the point - but to show that no matter how bad you are, the grace of God through Jesus is greater. \r
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God showed his mercy to Paul - giving him 1. knowledge (faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God) and 2. faith (believing what God said is true. Then God called Paul into service for Him.\r
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(16) Jesus displayed "perfect" or "unlimited" patience towards Paul so that others would see and say "if Jesus treated Paul like that, He can love and forgive me too if I come to Him"\r
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So now Paul gets to the reason for the letter:\r
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18 Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. 20 Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme. \r
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Timothy had two things to hang his hat on for quieting the false teachers: Paul's instructions and the prophecies that had been spoken over him when he was commissioned. We don't know what those prophecies were.\r
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In a sense you could say that we too have these two sources - the Word of God, and the activity of God in our lives - shaping us and strengthening us to operate in certain areas. Perhaps you have had words of prophecy spoken over you as well - I have - and one in particular is still in the process of fulfillment. \r
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Paul told Timothy that it was going to be a fight - these guys were not going to roll over easily - but it's a "good" fight. Doing the right thing and standing up for God's Word is not always popular, especially among those who want to twist it. But in the end it bears good fruit in those who receive it.\r
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(19) And Timothy should hold to faith and have a good conscience - trusting in the basics of your faith allows you to have a clear conscience.\r
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"Shipwreck" means to "repel" or "push aside." Some people don't think the Bible is the Word of God, or that Jesus is the only way to God, or that all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory - they may profess to be Christians but they are probably not - or they have so polluted their minds that they become like a positive pole of a magnet to a negative - they repel each other and the more you try to push them together the stronger the force repelling them becomes.\r
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The only way to deal with them in this case is to withdraw fellowship - put them back into the world: Satan's domain. The hope is that they will one day come to their senses but it is far more important that the body of Christ be protected.\r
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Conclusions\r
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1. How do we recognize false doctrine?\r
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Here there are several clues: \r
- It does not square with the revealed Word of God\r
- It promotes controversy rather than understanding as the final outcome\r
- God's redemptive work is not done - there is no good fruit\r
- An obvious lack of the basic understanding of the Bible\r
- Especially when it comes to the purpose of the Old Testament\r
- They reject the basic tenets of the gospel of Jesus Christ\r
- They are unrepentant and unapproachable about the truth\r
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2. Do you feel like the worst of sinners?\r
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Experience Jesus' unlimited patience on your behalf - no matter how bad, the sin or the sinner, Jesus can cleanse. And if you've walked with Him but have walked away or not lived in a vital redemptive relationship with Him - come back - He is just waiting, patiently, for you to return.\r
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3. Don't let the presence of controversy stop you from standing for what you believe\r
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I don't know who is speaking into your life - but if you take a hard look at it and it doesn't agree with Scripture - don't think you have to just open up and take it in.\r
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Years ago I put up with some terrible doctrines because they had been shared by a Christian I looked up to. Eventually I realized that they were like poison to my spiritual life and I stopped taking them in and stopped fellowshipping with this person. \r

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