Avoid worldly and empty chatter...
1 Timothy 6 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against. 2 Those who have believers as their masters must not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but must serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved. Teach and preach these principles.
3 If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. 7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8 If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
11 But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.
17 Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.
20 O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”— 21 which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.
Grace be with you.
In today’s text Paul says: guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”— which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Earlier in the text he said: If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth Paul knew well that knowledge does not always lead to godliness. He himself had been well educated in the scriptures and trained in the Jewish religion. Yet it was his personal encounter with the crucified and risen Lord that changed his life.
I think that sometimes we try to over analyze the Bible. We try too hard to interpret what it means. We do word studies, we apply hermeneutics. We look at the cultural implications. All of these are good things to help us better understand and apply the truths of God’s word, but we must be careful not to put knowledge about the word ahead of the simple message and application of the gospel. In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul says: I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted. (2 Corinthians 11:3-4) Although Paul himself was highly educated he says: I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)
It seems that those who over analyze scripture generally have one of two motives. Either they seek to add to the simplicity of the gospel, adding human wisdom and human regulations to faith in Christ, or they seek to find loop holes, ways to work around the clear call of the Bible and of Jesus Himself, to turn from sin, to repent and live a holy and godly life. It seems as though every area of our society and culture has become polarized. Morally, socially, politically and sadly even in our Christian faith we tend to view things from one side or the other. Again, Paul says this results in: controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men. We certainly see the rotten fruit of this in politics and in our society, but it should not also be in the church, among believers. Those who preach, teach and follow a simple message of love and grace and those who preach, teach, follow and focus on repentance, living a life free from sin should not be opposed to each other. The variety of interpretations of the gospel message and the words and actions of Christ Himself, create a wide variety of doctrines. Jesus Himself says: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) The variety of doctrines are like that wide way. The narrow way of Christ is not on the side of religious regulation and tradition, it is not on the part of the path worn and traveled by those who focus on the sinfulness of man. Neither though is the narrow way of Christ on the far other side of the wide way. The narrow way of Christ is not found by those who teach and follow a doctrine which emphasizes grace for sin without repentance from sin. The narrow way of Christ, the simplicity of devotion to Christ, is a message of love and grace, Christ crucified for sinners. But it is also a message which causes and requires change. We cannot believe in Christ and His love, mercy and grace, demonstrated on the cross and continue to love sin and the things which caused His pain, His suffering, the very things which He freed us from through the cross.
The message of the gospel is not either grace or righteousness. It is righteousness through grace, but it is both. To allow ourselves to be polarized to walk only on either side of the wide path will not lead us to life but to destruction. Jesus says: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6-7) We cannot allow our preferred doctrines, our preferred interpretations of scripture to keep ourselves or others from the narrow way, the only way, Jesus Christ, Him crucified for our sins and we in response, to be devoted to Him, changed by Him.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit, forgive me when I wander to one side or the other of your narrow way. Thank You for Your love, mercy and grace. Thank You for calling me away from sin to righteousness. Amen