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1 Timothy 1:3-11

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, 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. (verses 3-7)


Timothy has got his hands full. Paul has commissioned him, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to stay in the town of Ephesus and engage in the life of the church to ensure it doesn’t succumb to false teaching. In fact, there are already false teachers on the prowl. Very likely these teachers are actually part of the church’s leadership, for they seem to have a position of influence that has gained them a listening ear among church members.

These men are preaching false doctrines and devoting themselves to “myths and endless genealogies.” They have gotten themselves distracted from the main thing (“the glorious gospel of the blessed God”) and are intent on getting others distracted, too. We don’t know their motivation, nor whether they were sincerely misguided or maliciously deceptive, but the upshot is that their teaching promoted “controversies rather than God’s work.” It would poison the church if it was left to run its course.

Timothy has a weighty task, for Paul has urged him to command these men to stop. Conflict is certain. The battle is on. Push-back and tension and personal attack are entirely likely.

So, how will Timothy approach this mission? Will he timidly back away? Will he press forward? If so, with what attitude will he engage? Steely-eyed, with clenched fists? Fiery emotions fueling angry words?

And what about us? How might we engage in such a mission? When we need to speak Gospel truth over against falsehood, what attitude will grip us?

Although there is intense urgency to this mission Paul has given Timothy – the stakes being incredibly high – the command Timothy speaks to the false teachers is not to be motivated by anger and contention. Rather love is to carry the day. Paul explicitly states it: “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” These are the very things which the false teachers themselves have wandered from – in commanding them to abstain from false teaching, Timothy is meant to draw them back.

So, his own attitude and motivation must be infused with the very things the false teachers are lacking.

How often we get it wrong. We either back away from confrontation altogether or enter theological debate with guns blazing and eyes afire. Neither stance is an expression of love. Rather, we are to have the attitude of God himself who loved us even when we were his enemies, extending grace even when we didn’t deserve it (Romans 5:10, Ephesians 2:5).

Certainly, strong words will be required when confronting falsehood. But the goal is “love … (coming) from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

If we too readily find ourselves relishing the fight itself, we may have already stepped outside that “attitude … which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).


Dear Lord, let me so love your truth that I am ready to guard the good treasure of the gospel entrusted to us. But at the same time, so fill me with your grace that I keep my sights focused on love. Lord Jesus, fill me afresh with your own Spirit that I might truly embrace your attitude, even as I embrace your truth. To your glory.


Reflect: Is it easier for you to “speak truth against falsehood” or to “let sleeping dogs lie”? Whichever your tendency, how should love influence your response?


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