“Paul’s Warning Still Relevant”
I struggling with what to write about this month, so I went to the Lord in prayer, which led to a strong urging to open my Bible for the answer. It opened to 1 Timothy, chapter 1, which is a Pastoral Epistle written by Paul near the end of his life to Timothy who he had sent to pastor in Ephesus. My focus fell on Paul’s “warning.” As I read it I realized it was as true today as it was when Paul first wrote it. I felt a connection with Timothy because the Lord has called me to be an instrument in helping churches hear His call and awaken from a state of complacency and a false belief they are already doing enough for the Lord. As you have often heard me say, “God has called me to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
Paul writes to Timothy, saying, “…stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.” (1 Timothy 1:3b-7) These words may seem to you out of place or a poor fit for the church today, but by examining them more closely it is clear they still remain relevant.
Paul warns of people who “teach false doctrines.” Jesus made it absolutely clear that we are to love our neighbor, take up our cross and follow Him, and make disciples of all peoples, teaching them all that He commanded. Any “teaching” that excuses us from doing what Jesus commanded is a “false doctrine.” Yet, many churches today are satisfied as long the bills are paid and worship goes smoothly. But how can we sit satisfied in our own comfort when there are so many in our midst that are lost, hurting and don’t know the Lord’s love? Those who “devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies” are those who say: “This is how we’ve always done it and we don’t need to change” or, “We’re doing as much as we’ve ever done and that’s enough.” These attitudes “promote controversies rather than God’s work” because they create conflict between those who desire to respond to God’s call, and those who resist the change and commitment required.
Paul warns of those who have “wandered away” and “turned to meaningless talk.” How many churches today spend more time “talking” about doing ministry than actually “doing” ministry? They fail because they lack commitment or accountability? It is easier to “talk” than to “do.” It is easier to make excuses than to take action.
Paul warns that there are those who say they “want to be teachers” but “they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.” Jesus spoke of the Pharisees who clung to their old ways and rejected His teachings in a similar way, calling them “the blind leading the blind.”
It could be said of many churches today that they have “wandered away” from what Christ called the church to be. Too many churches are now focused on their own comfort, and the needs of their own members. Christ created the Church not to focus on itself, but beyond itself, to seek the lost, to make disciples for Christ, and to teach and equip people to serve. In Revelation Jesus warns us, saying, “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of My God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you” (Revelation 3:1b-3).
God is calling all churches to wake up! He’s calling us to stop just “talking” and begin “walking” by faith. He’s calling us to stop living in denial, telling ourselves we are good enough and doing enough when we’re not. We need a fresh and renewed commitment to Christ and a willingness to be accountable to those who are capable and willing to lead us.
Your fellow servant in Christ,