Taking the Epistle

A biblical journey through the epistles

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Avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless – Titus 3:8-11

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Avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless – Titus 3:8-11 – 02/25/2016

This bible study is part of a series on the book of Titus, in order to see the full series please check out our “epistle” page or alternatively please check out our page dedicated to the book of Titus for other studies in this book.

Titus 3:8 (ESV) The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. 9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

Paul continues his thought in the middle of this letter in verse eight; let’s look at the text on a verse by verse basis…

V8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

In the last article we looked at those who were foolish and disobedient, and Paul reminded those to be submissive to rulers and authorities and gave some great characteristics of how a Christian should be especially in a society that is not “Christ-friendly”, Paul continues this thought and finishes it with this sentence, he was insistent that the Christians focus on what is important.

We are all called to a battle, a heavenly war if you will and as soldiers in that battle against darkness we all have to stay on task. We are fighting an enemy who is relentless in his pursuit against the people who have chosen to follow the messiah Jesus Christ; I know from personal experience that my most trying times where I have been spiritually attacked have been when I have been deepest in the trenches following the will of God in my life.

We are to be devoted to good works, that is what we are saved for, we are called to be different to this world, as the world gets darker we are supposed to shine as beacons of light that point towards our Messiah Jesus. Paul goes on to look at our conduct as Christians…

V9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.

Paul goes back to the beginning of his letter and almost brings it full circle and continues the thought that began when he spoke of the things that should not be taught, Paul uses a word for “avoid” that literally means “point the other way” and that is possibly a better understanding for us. My advice to the modern day Christian is the same, ask yourself a question “will this debate matter in five years?” or “Is this debate worth the people it will cost me?” and often times that will change our minds in getting involved in discussions that we really have no business being in.

We usually do this electronically these days as opposed to in person, when we add our fellow brothers and sisters onto our Facebook/Twitter/Instagram accounts we give them access to ourselves and sometimes that access leads to viewpoints that are different, most often in the areas of theology and politics, just because they sit near you in a building on your preferred day of worship (most of us Sundays) does not always mean that they mirror your stance on every issue.

The Pharisees were tremendous at causing dissention and creating “holy laws” (or cultural laws) in addition to the already unattainable Law of Moses and often times they created these great religious discussions to flex their theological muscles and show how much they knew. That also happens today and as Christians we should avoid any discussions that stoke individual pride even if we are doing so “for God”. If the motivation (and be honest now) is prideful or the motivation is to show how holy you are then it will have little worth.

Quite often we see the mission of God as discussions like these and we neglect the basics such as “loving our neighbor” or “mentoring up a weaker believer” claiming that we are simply too busy to do these simple works when we are tying ourselves up in great theological disputes that will often cause contention and very rarely win a soul to Christ.

And lastly we should avoid contention for the sake of contention. I have friends who are young earth, some who are old earth, I have friends that are pre-trib, I have friends that are post-trib and I respect and value their friendship enough that I won’t keep tagging them in article that are against their viewpoint on these issues that are contentious. If they have known me for more than five minutes they will know my individual stance on these articles and how I back that stance up with scripture. I find that most drama can be avoided with a little care on the instigators part. Here is what Paul says about these types of people…

V10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

We all have those folks, we maybe know those folks, and we maybe are those folks who could cause a fight in an empty room. Even as you are reading this I bet you are casting your mind to some folks that you could think of who are like this. Paul is not using this as an excuse to cut someone loose that is contentious (I have seen this passage of scripture used to shun someone who has less popular viewpoints in the hope that the person eventually gets the message and leaves) but more as a guideline that they should not be shunned as stated earlier, that we should be pursuing that person who has gone his own way.

We should be warning him multiple times yes but we should not give up on him. Jesus paid such a high price for our Salvation and we should be doing all we can to welcome him (or her) back if they decide to repent and wish to be part of the church again. Often times the leaving of that person is done in such a way that the person would never be able to be returned to fellowship. Obviously that should be avoided and we must love even in tough love and often times that is missing when situations like this happen and people with axes to grind against churches will often feel “unloved”. (It may or may not be the case but we have to take that idea out of the water)

Obviously, if the person is unrepentant and has to go then so be it, but it should not be the first option. If he chooses to not partake of the communion of the saints and chooses the route of self-condemnation then let him go. I would go as far as to say minister to him from a distance in prayer in the hope that he returns to his messiah and also in the hope of correction of doctrine also. His choices are between him and God now.

Lord willing, in our next article in Titus we look at the end of the chapter and see how Paul concludes this letter to Titus in chapter three verses twelve through fifteen. I pray that you are able to join us as we go through the bible, line by line and precept by precept.

God bless and I pray this was a blessing and please feel free to like, share or comment on here or whatever social media platforms you use as the Lord leads you to, as always I love questions about this or any other article so please feel free to fill in the form below, all comments are moderated to avoid profanity.
TTE
TGBTG
SDG

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A warning against False Teachers

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Warning Against False Teachers

This bible study is part of a series on the book of 1st Timothy, in order to see the full series please check out our “epistle”. page or alternatively please check out our page dedicated to the book of 1st Timothy for other studies in this book. 

When I set this blog up my intention was to explore the epistles and do the occasional bible study based on what I had studied and learned, what you are reading below is notes I have made. I have to confess that this bible study is basic in its content and is not prepared by a pastor and I have to admit I have no theological training; my hope in prayer is that someone will be blessed by the notes below.

Let’s start in verse three of the first chapter of First Timothy.

Remain in Ephesus

3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

Paul commends Timothy to remain in Ephesus, as stated earlier Timothy had a really tough job and he was urged to stay there to combat heresy. This encouragement is evident that he had done well so far, but God was telling him to have Timothy stay in Ephesus; continue the work until he was called elsewhere. 

Ministry is hard, you will be attacked both spiritually and mentally, I have seen good Pastors forfeit wealth, material success and sometimes have health considerations due to remaining in a certain ministry. That is faith, true faith to stay the course because all that is telling you to is that still small voice from God guiding your path. This is even more so when all of the material evidence points to escape being the only option.

Affliction goes with the territory in ministry, sometimes it is seasonal, and some of us are blessed with a permanent state of affliction. Whatever God has us go through he will give us what we need to get through it. God will allow us to be in difficult situations, often times it is to show us lessons that we need to learn. One of my failings is failing to pray for patience to get through the trials I face and my prayer usually involves the theme or tone of “Get me out of this LORD!” rather than “Show me what I need to learn and in your own time LORD let me learn and then deem me worthy to be removed from this trial”.

Why had he to remain? Simply to keep the doctrine straight! To teach no other doctrine, to make sure that the church as a whole avoided heresy and to preach the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul had preached to the Ephesian church and told them straight from the horse’s mouth the correct doctrine. He had set out in his own teachings a certain set of beliefs that were correct and he was keen that the Ephesians stay in the solid doctrine that he established.

Keep the doctrine straight

Paul was very concerned with keeping the doctrinal “ducks in a row” as God is concerned that we believe and what we believe. He is concerned what we believe about him, what we believe about Jesus and also what we believe about truth. Just like the times in which Paul was writing in, (Roman times) they were a very polytheistic society with many “truths”. Paul would be writing in the face of this and advising a singular truth based on the life and doctrines of Jesus Christ.

Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This will be offensive then as it is today, there is only one way to heaven and that is through the gospel of Jesus Christ. You cannot get there through the teachings of Mohammed, Buddha, Confucius or the Dahlia Llama. None of these other folks died for the sins of the world, there was only one person in the history of the world able to do this and that was Jesus Christ.

Teach no other doctrine

Paul was not worried about Timothy’s doctrine but the doctrine of those around him. He was commended that “you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine” he was then given his instructions to stand up against those who wished to teach “different doctrine” this doctrine was obviously contrary to the message and it must have been tough for Timothy. You have got to stop these falsehoods in the church, command if you will because this doctrine was not up for debate; he was to charge it to these certain persons.

Like any heresy it grows arms and legs, and Paul states “nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.” Timothy was to cut this out at the root because not only were they deviating from the true doctrine of Jesus Christ, they were taking doctrine and applied untruths, myths and applying things to it was never meant to mean.

I will give them the benefit of the doubt and state that I don’t think in the main it was malicious, they were not preaching against Jesus, but they were focusing on the wrong things. If we get distracted in minor points of theology it can be more distracting and can often times do more harm than good.

Gentiles keeping the Law

A prevalent problem in the early church was the Jewish believer trying to force Gentiles to try to keep the law and applying a further burden upon them. Paul was very vociferous against doctrines like this as it caused more harm than good. We do this today in our over complicating of the gospel message and attempting to over intellectualize the message to make it seem more complicated than it actually is.

Jesus+ doctrine

Another fear is the Jesus+ doctrine, this is where most cults error and advise that in order to attain higher spirituality you have to have Jesus plus something else.  The problem with this Paul states quite clearly that “which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith” they are removing the truth of edification from God for the thrill of a speculation from man.

The truth of the edification from God is pure and truthful, where the man is a created being from God and he is not honest and truthful, man is corrupt and will produce a short term thrill while the idea is new, but is nothing but a distraction or a corruption of Godly edification. The rewards are much less and really are profitless and rob you of a much greater blessing.

Pure heart, good conscience, sincere faith

Going on from this we read “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” And Paul shows the loving shepherds heart that he has for these folks, this is important as we have many “fakers”, “part-time believers” or “Sunday legalists” in our bodies today, people don’t change! Jesus called them “white washed tombs” (Matthew 23:27-28) because they looked great on the outside but were dead inside.

We have to check ourselves first and make sure that we are doing this and that we are approaching our doctrine with a pure heart. When Jesus was on this earth, the people he had the most issue is the people who should have known better. It was the ones who knew the law but they approached it with a wicked heart and used it to justify their behavior as opposed to using it to bring you closer to God. It was all about “looking holy” as opposed to “being holy”. Even although we are not Jewish, we still have Jewish type legalists, misunderstanding the doctrines and are “warriors in the church” but “silent outside”.

Examine the harvest

In order to check ourselves we have to examine the fruit in our lives to make sure there is nothing “poisoning the well” A good question to ask is “Are you being changed by God’s word or are we using it as a rulebook that we realize we cannot measure up to and attempt to work our way into God’s good books and deny our sincere faith in order to try to please God by our own efforts.

Vain discussion

V6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

When we get sidetracked, confused and sidetracked into vain discussion (some versions have idle chatter) then we go further down the track of going away from God. Some churches by focusing more on “man-made rules” than “God inspired doctrine” have done this and found themselves in all manners and areas of compromise.

Vain discussion can also be over analyzing of scripture and as stated before taking it into tangents it was never meant to go in or applying man’s wisdom and taking it places it was never meant to go in. It can lead to some interesting discussions but the fruit is questionable as does it really do what it intended to and bring you closer to God? It may very well be entertaining but can erode from the message that God is trying to tell you.

When people get “puffed up” and have something to say about scripture that makes them seem holy, they may desire to be a teacher. In Paul’s day it was the people who were pulling the sheep astray and the very ones involved in the vain discussions (the last people who should ever be allowed near the front of the assembly) they let individual pride, ambition and desire to be known take over from any good they possibly could do as servants because they seek to serve their ambition first and God a distant second.

My or thy will be done?

Please do not confuse this with a holy calling, but anyone desiring to be a teacher should really look at the qualifications in chapter two, examine them with an elder or someone you trust and prayerfully consider whether that it is a calling or whether you are working in “my will be done” as opposed to “thy will be done”. We will go deeper into this when we look at the qualifications much later.

This leads to a conclusion that we could all see coming “without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions” we see these people not seeing their own folly and also not seeing the potential damage they could be doing to the body of Christ as a whole.

Thank you again for finding this article and I pray these bible studies are a blessing. Please feel free to comment, like or share as the LORD leads you to.
TGBTG
TTE