Formations lesson for May 11: Healthy Teaching
May 2 2003 by David Stratton , 1 Timothy 1:3-11; 2 Timothy 2:14-19

Formations lesson for May 11: Healthy Teaching | Friday, May 2, 2003
  • Tell teachers of false doctrine to stop spreading their message (1 Tim. 1:3).
  • Avoid discussions of questionable doctrine (2 Tim. 2:14; 16).
  • Do our best to present ourselves to God as those approved by Him (2 Tim. 2:15).
  • Rightly explain the word of truth without shame (2 Tim. 2:15).

    Let us pray that this biblical prescription will keep our churches free from a danger that spreads like gangrene.

  • Friday, May 2, 2003

    Formations lesson for May 11: Healthy Teaching

    By David Stratton 1 Timothy 1:3-11; 2 Timothy 2:14-19

    (EDITOR'S NOTE - The Formations lesson for May 18, "The Virtue of Quietness," was mistakenly printed in last week's Recorder. The lesson below, "Healthy Teaching," is the correct Formations lesson for May 11.)

    "Gangrene set in." Not a pleasant thought with which to begin. I bring it up because one of our passages uses this terrible infection as an illustration of a problem in churches. Those three words, "Gangrene set in," inspire alarm and the need for quick, radical action.

    In its most dangerous form gangrene spreads rapidly. Dead and diseased tissue must be removed and antibiotics must be administered right away. Without such radical, prompt treatment death will result.

    Our passages compare false teaching in church to gangrene setting in. Both are dangerous and require quick action.

    The heresy Paul's co-worker, Timothy, was helping to organize the churches in and around Ephesus. Part of Timothy's task was to address the problem of false teaching in Ephesian churches. While the exact content of the heresy is unclear, there are two relatively specific references to its substance in our passages.

    First, some were preoccupied with "myths and endless genealogies" (1 Tim. 1:4, NRSV). This phrase along with other evidence in Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus lead many to conclude that the false teaching had some aberrant Jewish elements combined with early Gnostic tendencies.

    Secondly, some of the false teachers were claiming the resurrection had already taken place (2 Tim. 2:18). This radical spiritualization effectively denied the bodily resurrection, thus deconstructing a crucial element of New Testament teaching.

    Philip H. Towner in his commentary on this passage in the IVP Series sees another facet to this unwholesome resurrection teaching. By saying the resurrection had already taken place the false teachers indicated that, "all of salvation's blessings were to be experienced now" (45). So Towner sees a parallel between the heresy in Ephesus and the modern-day "health wealth" gospel that presents "the Christian message as the quick solution to all of life's problems" (45).

    Unhealthy effects A host of questions remain concerning the exact content of the false teaching in Ephesus. Perhaps this is just as well. Because, while heresies change from church to church and time to time, the effects of false teaching listed by Paul do not change.

    Heresies, then and now, often "promote speculations," leading to "meaningless talk" that reveals ignorance (1 Tim. 1:4, 6 - 7, NRSV). False teaching, then and now, incites "wrangling over words" that "ruins those who are listening" (2 Tim. 2:14, NRSV). False doctrine, then and now, results in "profane chatter" leading people to "more impiety" (2 Tim. 2:16, NRSV).

    False teaching, then and now, spreads and destroys "like gangrene" (2 Tim. 2:17, NRSV).

    Aiming for love On the other hand, healthy teaching does not focus on novel schemes but on basic "divine training that is known by faith" (1 Tim. 1:4, NRSV). The aim of wholesome instruction is "love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith" (1 Tim. 1:5, NRSV). In other words, one "rightly explaining the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15, NRSV) does not major on questionable theological fads. Rather, the faithful teacher and the faithful student give loving attention to the inner life thus promoting Christ-like conduct.

    Actions to take Unfortunately the difficulty that Paul addressed with Timothy continues to plague many churches today. From endless speculations about signs of the end times to a different gospel claiming Christianity is mostly about health and wealth to a host of other dubious doctrinal discussions, unhealthy teaching still flourishes in many churches. Indeed TV, radio and the Internet seem to spread the "gangrene" of false teaching faster than ever before.

    What are we to do about the deadly infection of false doctrine? We can get a clue from the four actions Paul encouraged Timothy to take in addressing the problem:

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    5/2/2003 12:00:00 AM by David Stratton , 1 Timothy 1:3-11; 2 Timothy 2:14-19 | with 0 comments
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