Follow Up on Wednesday’s Post
I was somewhat amazed at the comments I received on the July 7th’s topic. The comments were great and I surely appreciate them, please don't stop! The comments led me to believe that I did not adequately or clearly expound the fundamental or basic point of Paul’s command to Timothy. Since this is an imperative, or a command, it is essential that I get it right. I hope to be clearer today than perhaps I was this past Wednesday.
First of all, I did not point this at any particular group, pastor, teacher, or practice. One comment lamented the fact that many preachers use the pulpit to proffer useless information and pet peeves. Unfortunately that is absolutely true. However, this Scripture isn’t addressing nor condemning those who do so. Thank God we have other Scriptures that do that specific thing.
Second, Paul’s command was not designed to prohibit spiritual or scriptural discussion. Paul was not cautioning Timothy to guard against pride or defensiveness when our “positions” are attacked or challenged. This imperative is not designed for Timothy to justify any teaching or position.
Thirdly, I do not think that Paul is referring to an intellectual debate that is designed for one side to be the winner and the other side being the looser. This may be my fault. I did use the word, perhaps unfortunately, “debate.” This may be how the water got somewhat “muddy.” I did not want us to focus on “debate” but on knowing how to use the Scripture to keep a presentation of false doctrine from being pursued in a public corporate “church” meeting.
In the early church, particularly the apostolic period, the majority of the Scripture used in the services was the Old Testament. The New Testament was still being written, circulated, and utilized. The cannon of Scripture had not yet been fully developed nor did all of the churches at this time have all of the letters, gospels, and narratives that had been written to date.
The church experienced, at least until the end of the apostolic age with the death of John, the need for teaching, clarification, revelation, and spiritual directives. As a result, God, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit would utilize prophets, teachers, and the apostles to give further clarification and revelation to the churches. Naturally, since Satan is the greater deceiver and imitator, Satan would influence individuals to infiltrate the churches under the guise of being a prophet or teacher.
Things got so out of hand at the Corinthian Community Church that Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit had to give guidelines to those in the church who considered themselves as prophets who spoke under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. What did instructions did Paul give?
First, no more than two or three prophets should speak at a time. Paul wanted the service to be conducted decently and in order. Secondly, he stated that the prophets only spoke one at a time, not like the pagan get-to-gethers where such speech was uncontrolled. Thirdly, Paul stated that the prophets were subject one to another and that they all must examine what was spoken in light of what had already been revealed by God in order to make sure there were no “false” utterances or speech that would contradict previously revealed doctrine or information.
Paul had left Timothy at Ephesus to further guide the Ephesian church and to set some things in order. One of the things that Timothy was to deal with was false teachers who were present in the church at Ephesus. These false teachers are the primary reason for Paul having written this letter to Timothy. The letter discusses the false teaching and then Paul gives instructions to Timothy about dealing with it. It isn’t clear to us today what the exact false teaching was, but both Paul and Timothy were well aware of it.
When Paul comes to the second letter that he has written to Timothy, he is now in prison. Paul has been abandoned by many of his friends. Many co-workers are busy in the field serving churches and are unavailable. Paul knows he is about to die and he writes a final letter of exhortation to his friend, co-worker, protégé and successor. He wants Timothy to come to Rome and be with Paul before he is beheaded for the sake of Christ and the gospel.
Paul gives Timothy several instructions about how to conduct himself and how to minister. Paul wants Timothy to conduct himself as befitting the saving power in the gospel, as one who has been called to redemption, and as a minister of the gospel. He wants Timothy to live right and to handle the Scriptures properly.
So, Paul tells Timothy to not let false teaching into the meeting or the service of the church. He tells Timothy to know Scripture so well that Timothy can use the Scripture properly to shut down false teaching. Timothy needs to know how to use the Scripture in the way God intended it to be used, with the meaning it was intended to have, and to allow Scripture to expose and confute false doctrine particularly in the official corporate service or gathering of the congregation.
Timothy is not being told to never have nor allow a discussion about spiritual or scriptural things. I was not referring to a debate where one side one and one side lost, nor was Paul. At times lengthy discussions of the Scripture are certainly necessary. We are all well aware that men are not persuaded nor do they come to Christ the first time the gospel is taught. Paul’s command to Timothy does not say nor was it designed to be confusing. Paul did not say that discussions that lead to discipleship, instruction, guidance, or correction were to be prohibited. His design was to ensure Timothy knew the proper Scripture, at the proper timing, with the proper intent, and with the proper demeanor to prevent false teaching from being presented in the church meeting which could negatively influence those present.
Our services are different today. We don’t have several men who stand and share teaching, information, or revelation in the service. We don’t usually run the risk on Sunday morning at our gathering of someone attending, rising to their feet and teaching for example that the resurrection has passed and no one present will be resurrected. Should that take place however, a minister, shepherd, or pastor must be able to use the correct Scripture properly to refute and terminate the presentation so that it doesn’t turn into a discussion that could lead certain congregants to accept the false teaching that the resurrection has passed already and no one present will experience the promised resurrection.
I hope this is clearer than Wednesday. Timothy is to properly use the Scripture, the key is properly, it is not a club to beat up people, to allow Scripture (not Timothy by the way) to shut down further discussion because the truth has exposed the error of potential false teaching.
For example, if the Scripture teaches that baptismal regeneration does not save, and Scripture does by the way, and if someone wants to stand in the meeting of the congregation and teach baptismal regeneration, then the pastor, the elders are to utilize the Scripture to expose the error of this “teaching” and disallow it so that the discussion does not get so involved that it leads some away from the truth toward the error.
There is no thought of prohibiting the discussion of Scripture, discipling by Scripture, correcting by Scripture, guiding with Scripture or any other positive use of Scripture. This is a command to properly use Scripture to expose and shut down the often dangerous false teaching in the corporate service.
Now, here is where I think the “rub” is or what the potential problem is – one must know what biblical doctrine is and what false doctrine is. I am well aware that this is a topic all and of itself! Since I am past my word count, I think I will address one more issue in another post.