Celebrities are no longer just on the movie screens, the concert stage, or the sports field. Through slick communication devices the men and women who call themselves pastors, evangelists, or preachers have transformed themselves into celebrities. Pop-psychology, clever marketing, and a charismatic leader is the sure-fire formula to grow a mega-church or a mega-following. While there are some very godly leaders pastoring large churches, there are also many popular and well-published communicators who sprinkle scriptures around their motivational yet shallow teaching. It poses a grave problem when so-called evangelical pulpits are not proclaiming the uncompromised Word of God and sound doctrine for a listener-friendly message that may be gospel-influenced but not gospel. Even more dangerous is the blatant false teaching that is dressed-up to appeal to felt needs. Of course books like The Shack and Your Best Life Now are flying off the shelves. The enemy is a master of deceit and of mixing a little truth to sound credible.
Paul is concerned with the deadly infiltration of false teaching in his instructions to Timothy. It was a critical issue for the church in Ephesus and it is critical for the church today. What are the effects of false teaching? Paul does not identify who the false teachers are and where they came from (it is assumed Timothy knows this) but he does rebuke the content of their message (v. 3). They were forbidding marriage and certain foods. Clearly they were influenced by Greek asceticism which taught that sex was evil because it concerned the flesh. They were also influenced by the orthodox Jewish kosher laws on food. The Bible does commend singleness (1 Cor 7:25ff) and fasting (Matthew 5:15ff) but these teachers were imposing human works as a requirement for salvation. The false teachers were confusing people and confounding their understanding of God. Notice that this teaching is presented as ‘what is good for you’ and so like false teachings today, you can see the appeal.
The fallout in Ephesus from these liars was awful. Listen to what was at stake for Paul (v. 1-2), “The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron.” There were people who were participants in the church, though apparently not truly regenerated, that rejected the faith. John MacArthur describes these as “those who come very close to the truth that saves, only to leave.” They have been manipulated by dark spiritual forces that presented themselves as helpful. Now the enemy has branded their minds as one would livestock. Do we see what is at stake? We aren’t the only ones trying to reach lost people. How do we respond to false teaching?
1. Respond to bad teaching with right doctrine (v. 4-5).
2. We must be obedient to equip others in sound doctrine (v. 6).
3. Avoid distractions and stay disciplined (v. 7-9).
4. Remember the goal is godliness (v. 10-11).
5. Do not disqualify yourself (v. 12).
6. Make the Word center in your life, home, and ministry (v. 13-15).
7. Watch your life and your words closely (v. 16).
Submit everything to the Lord in prayer and discernment through His Word. If there are areas in my life that distract from or confuse the message of Jesus then I want to submit them to the Holy Spirit for change. If there are points in my teaching that seem more opinion that Biblical exposition then I want to submit them to the Word for correction. Are you watching your life and words? Is your mind, heart, and mouth ready to do battle against false teaching?