We are starting a new sermon series called Faith Foundations. The basis for our study will be Paul’s first letter that he wrote to Timothy. But Paul is not writing this letter as if it was only intended for him to read with no relevance to us. We know this because God placed this letter as a part of his holy scriptures that will be preserved for all generations. We also know this because of what Paul writes in this letter. In 1 Timothy 3:14-15 Paul says that he is writing so that Timothy will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household. Verse 3 tells us that Paul left Timothy in Ephesus so that he could teach Christians these faith foundations. This book is the foundation for how we are to act as the people of God. Paul is writing this so that his instructions would cause people to hold on to the faith (1:18-19) and watch their lives so that they will be saved (4:16). So in this series we are going to be given pictures for our faith and see the kind of life God wants us to live.
As we begin this book I would have loved to do a whole sermon on just the first verse. Listen to how Paul begins. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope” (1 Timothy 1:1 ESV). We could spend our whole time on how Paul describes Jesus as our hope. Our hope is not on this earth. Our hope is not in other people. Our hope is not in our work or our possessions. Our hope is Jesus and our lives are missing out if we do not look to Jesus as our hope.
The Goal (1:3-7)
The apostle Paul begins by talking to us about the goal. There is a problem in the church where Timothy is at. There are Christians who are teaching things that are false. Further, they are devoting themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Paul is pointing out that there are going to be people to claim to be Christians who teach false things and devote themselves to useless things. People are going to teach things and delve into things that they think are really important. But these things are not the teachings found in the scriptures. Paul warned the Ephesian elders of this as he left them, telling them that there would be wolves among them that would speak twisted things and draw disciples after them (Acts 20:30). We are going to see what the focus is supposed to be on.
First, Paul says the things that these Christians are focusing on and teaching only promote foolish and useless speculations rather than stewardship from God by faith. The things that they are speculating on do not advance God’s work (NIV), do not promote God’s plan (CSB, NET), do not further the work of God (NASB), and do not help people live godly lives (ESV, NLT). If you have been on the pews long enough you have problem seen this happen. Bible teachers get stuck on some particular issue or some particular speculation and the result of that teaching is not clarity of the scriptures or helping people draw closer to God. It is just another innovative idea that they promote. I could use a myriad of examples but for the sake of time I will restrain myself. One issue that was greatly argued about a couple decades ago was over the humanity and deity of Christ. Arguments were over how much was Jesus human while on the earth and how much divinity did he maintain. Do the scriptures answer this question? No! Does it matter how he was human and divine at the same time? No! It is a useless speculation about something that does not help us in our walk with God or advance the work and purpose of God to the world. I wonder who starts this stuff! Arguments exist over how God can be one and yet the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are God. Do the scriptures explain this? No! It becomes another speculation that does not help our walk with God or advance his work. We need to admit that there are so many aspects about God that he has chosen to not reveal to us. It does not take long to think about the myriads of things that God has not told us. There are so many aspects about the end times that we do not know anything about. Yet there are all kinds of foolish and endless speculations about how it is going to all work out. It is sad to think about how many things Christians promote and hold on to that are not in the scriptures or there is not enough information given in the scriptures to make a determination. What is the Book of Jashar (Joshua 10:13)? We do not know. There is no need for speculations. We need to just move on. The first lens we need to have when it comes to our teaching is to consider if it is just a speculation or does it come from the scriptures, advancing God’s work and helping us live godly lives.
The second focus for us is found in verse 5. Paul says that the goal of our instruction is “love that issues from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.” This is such an important lens for us to have. The goal of our teaching is to produce a deeper love for God and for others that comes out of pure hearts, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Instruction is not for the sake of knowledge alone. Instruction is not so that we have something to argue over. We are not to know the scriptures for the mere academic pursuit. The scriptures have a purpose. The scriptures exist and we teach the scriptures alone so that love is produced from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. This is why as Christians we are not to be spewing our opinions. We need to state what the scriptures state because the scriptures are what generate faith, hope, and love. Preaching needs to be the words of God declared, not the opinions of the speaker and his “great ideas.” Teaching needs to have the goal of seeing the glory of God for only then will we be transformed into his image (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Paul points out that the problem is that Christians leave these two critical viewpoints. They leave these truths and go into meaningless talk and fruitless discussions. Rather than focusing on what the scriptures do teach, they leave these things for religious speculations and false teachings. I love verse 7. They want to be teachers but they do not even know what they are talking about. These teachings and issues are not helping anyone. Have you noticed that rather than leading people to loving God and loving others, these kinds of speculations lead to people attacking others? These fruitless discussions only cause more controversies and divisions, not understanding and growing in the faith. They push us away from looking at God and into arguing on things that is strictly from ignorance or guessing. But the teacher acts like they know something and they will try to convince all kinds of people to listen to them and follow them. That is what Paul says at the end of verse 7. They are confident but they do not know.
Worse, these fruitless discussions often cause us to miss the whole point of what God is trying to say through his word. Friends, I have a lot of “I think so’s” regarding the scriptures. I have lots of opinions and ideas. But if they are not advancing God’s work and helping us love God and love others from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith, then I am to keep it to myself. We do not want to be charged with starting or being involved in these useless discussions.
We Need God’s Law (1:8-11)
Now Paul wants to make sure he is not misunderstood. The point is not that we would never dig into the scriptures and enjoy the beauty of God that is revealed in them. We see this in verse 8. The law is good if we use it right. Paul wants us to not use the scriptures for endless speculations and fruitless discussions. Let me slow down here for a moment and let us consider a truth Paul told us. It is possible to misuse God’s law. It is possible to misuse the scriptures. You can quote the scriptures and misuse it like these Christians in Ephesus were doing. The apostle Peter said the same thing that there are those who twist the scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16). The instruction and laws of God are good but we have to use them with their intended purpose.
So what is the purpose of God’s instructions? We already saw it earlier in verses 4-5 about producing love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. In verses 9-11 Paul tells us God’s instructions reveal God’s gospel (good news) to us. God is instructing us so that we will stop our unrighteous living. God wants lawlessness and disobedience to him to stop. God wants unholiness and irreverence to stop. God wants people to stop killing their parents. God wants people to stop killing other people. God wants sexual immorality to stop. Sexual immorality is any sexual activity that takes place outside of the marriage covenant. That is what the Greek word under the translation “sexual immorality” means. God wants homosexuality to stop. The Greek word under the translation refers to any same sex activity. God wants slave trading to stop. God wants lying to stop. God wants lying under oath to stop. God wants everything to stop that is not found in his teachings. This is the message of verses 9-10. God gave us his instructions so that we would just stop all the sinning that we often justify in our lives. Doing these things is against God and his will.
Further, notice what Paul says in verse 11. These sins are not in harmony with the gospel of Jesus. We do not have the gospel of Jesus in our hearts and in our lives when we are living like what Paul has just described in verses 9-10 or in verses 3-7. I want us to see something here. Paul lived in a world like ours. He is living in a world where people who claim to be Christians were being disobedient to God by killing their parents, killing other people, being sexual immorality, practicing homosexuality, enslaving others, lying to others, and all kinds of other sins that God condemns. People in Paul’s day would have had the same reaction that we often have. How dare you tell me how to live! How dare you tell me something is a sin! You cannot tell me what to do! Paul, stop being controversial. Paul, can’t you be more tolerant? No, Paul had to say something. Paul had to tell us that this kind of living is wrong. Why? It is wrong because it does not conform with the gospel of God.
So what is the goal? God’s instructions were given so that we would love God and love one another from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. God’s instructions were given so that we would stop being disobedient to God but come back to him with transformed lives. God’s instructions were not given so that we have fruitless discussions and foolish controversies over things that are not in the scriptures or things that do not promote God’s work and our righteous living. I do not want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the apostle Paul. We do not have the gospel of our blessed Lord when we involve ourselves in any of these things (1:10-11). God’s instructions are good and they are intended to keep you from eternal disaster.