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It's Time to Get Charged Up

By: Pastor Ricky Kurth

 

Note: This article originally appeared in the October 2016 edition of the Berean Searchlight

 

When BBS founder Pastor C.R. Stam's brother John and his wife Betty were brutally murdered by the Communists in China in 1934, hundreds of students from Moody Bible Institute volunteered to take their place on the mission field, with many of them asking to be sent to the very village where this young couple had been martyred.

 

In that same vein, I'm issuing a call to arms to men in the grace movement to step up and train for the ministry in the wake of Pastor Paul M. Sadler's recent homegoing, a call based on texts found in Paul's first pastoral epistle. Paul began this epistle by insisting on the authority of his God-given apostleship (1 Timothy 1:1), an apostleship that came with a new doctrine that God introduced with His new apostle. Paul then went on to remind Timothy that Pauline doctrine is the only doctrine that should be preached in the dispensation of grace, saying

 

1 Timothy 1:3-4

As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, [4] Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.

 

Paul the Beggar

 

We must begin our study of this passage by asking why an apostle would beseech Timothy to abide in Ephesus instead of ordering him. Many modern denominations have a religious hierarchy wherein men at the top have the authority to determine where a pastor ministers, and for how long a tenure. But this is just another area wherein today's religious leaders demonstrate a woeful ignorance of the way the ministry functioned under the Apostle Paul. Paul told the Corinthians,

 

1 Corinthians 16:12

As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have convenient time.

 

Picture a denominational pastor responding like that to a superior who notified him that he'd been reassigned to a church in a distant city! "You know, it's not at all my will to change churches at this time, but I'll consider it when it is convenient for me!" Such a man will likely find himself washing dishes in a denominational soup kitchen rather than pastoring a church!

 

By contrast, Apollos has the liberty to say no when an apostle constrained him. Thus if you are an aggressive type of personality who is thinking of getting into the ministry so you can rise through the ranks and begin to boss people around, you should most assuredly look into another line of work! God can use an aggressive type of personality in the ministry, just not in that way.

 

Timothy the Timorous

 

If, on the other hand, you are of a more timid temperament, God can use you as well. Notice that Timothy agreed to abide in Ephesus only after Paul begged him to do so. This indicates that Timothy was not eager to remain behind in a city that had incited such a fearsome riot in an attempt to expel Paul from their midst (Acts 19:23-41). This timid young man had originally manned up and agreed to accompany Paul on his apostolic journey even after seeing the apostle stoned (Acts 14:19), but remaining behind alone in a volatile city was asking much more! But when his apostle begged him to become the leader in Ephesus that Paul needed him to be, Timothy manned up again.

 

It's not hard to understand why Paul would beg Timothy to remain behind in a city that had a school (Acts 19:9) and was known for its books (19:19), for it seems Timothy was a bit of a bookworm. We know he had studied the books of the Bible since childhood (2 Timothy 3:15), and it's not likely Paul would have left his books and parchments (2 Timothy 4:13) with anyone but a bookworm who would use and treasure them as highly as he did. Pastor Paul M. Sadler used to say that for every church there is a pastor who is "a good fit," and Timothy was obviously the perfect fit for the scholastic types in Ephesus.

 

But if you're thinking that Paul was stashing this mamma's boy[i] in some dead-end, out of the way ministry, think again. The Ephesian ministry spearheaded a ministry that reached all of Asia (Acts 19:9-1)! Does that tell you anything of the confidence Paul had in the leadership ability of a timid bookworm? No matter who you are, God can use you if you are willing to man up and get charged up.

 

A Serious Charge

 

Notice that Paul besought Timothy to "charge" some that they "teach no other doctrine." A charge is a serious thing in Scripture. When the Philippian magistrates arrested Paul and Silas, "they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: who having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison" (Acts 16:23-24). The jailor knew if he didn't keep them safely that he would pay for it with his life. Now that's serious!

 

It was also a serious thing when God charged Abraham to go to the Promised Land to start a new nation (Genesis 26:2-5), and when God later charged Moses to lead the nation out of Egypt (Exodus 6:13). And if it wasn't an equally serious thing to bring that nation into the promised land, God would not have told Moses to "charge Joshua" to do it (Deuteronomy 3:28). Finally, it was an eternally serious matter to keep our Savior safe until He could finish His course before dying for our sins, so God promised Him that He would "give his angels charge over Thee, to keep Thee in all Thy ways" (Psalms 91:12 cf. Matthew 4:6).

 

So when Paul told Timothy to "charge some that they teach no other doctrine," we have conclude that this God-given responsibility is equally as serious as any of the charges that came before it in the eyes of Almighty God. That's because the doctrine committed to Paul was "the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery" (Romans 16:25), the preaching that revealed all that God is free to do for us through the finished work of Christ.

 

How Serious Are We Talking Here?

 

How serious is it for spiritual leaders to preach "no other" doctrine? Well, how serious was it when God commanded Moses "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me" (Exodus 20:3)? If God uses that exact same phrase in both instances, we can only conclude that He takes obedience to both these commandments to be equally important. Yet Paul must have heard that some in Ephesus were teaching other doctrines, just as he'd predicted (Acts 20:29-30), or he wouldn't have reminded Timothy here in our text that he'd been left in Ephesus to charge them not to teach other doctrine.

 

Here we must add that Paul's injunction to teach no other doctrine than Pauline doctrine does not mean that pastors should only teach Paul's epistles. Paul himself insisted that "all Scripture" is "profitable" for "doctrine" (2 Timothy 3:16), so if a pastor fails to teach all Scripture, then God's people are robbed of some of the doctrine by which they may profit. If you aspire to "preach the Word" (2 Timothy 4:2), you will never have to wonder what to preach on next Sunday, as is so often the case with pastors who do not preach the Word, for there are 783,187 words in the Bible, and you only have one lifetime to preach them.

 

But if teaching no other doctrine doesn't mean limiting your ministry to teaching Paul's epistles, what does it mean? Well, the only other time the Greek words for "no other doctrine" are used in the Bible is later in this epistle where Paul tells Timothy not to teach "otherwise," that is, other than what Paul taught him (1 Timothy 6:2-3). Thus we know that teaching "no other" doctrine means to teach nothing that is contrary to Pauline truth.

 

More Serious Charges

 

Paul also left Timothy in Ephesus that he might charge some to give no heed to "fables and endless genealogies" (1 Timothy 4:4). The word "fable" means a story designed to teach a lesson. When we hear the word fable we generally think of Aesop's fables such as "The Tortoise and the Hare." But it is doubtful that any of the Ephesians to whom Timothy ministered were forsaking sound Pauline doctrine to give heed to Aesop's fables. It is more likely that Paul is warning Timothy about the same "Jewish fables" about which he warned Titus (Titus 1:13-14). But what sort of fables might the Jews have been telling in those days?

 

Well, when Paul began to preach that we are not under the Law, but under grace (Romans 6:15), some Jews found this impossible to accept (Acts 15:1). Even after the Jerusalem council acknowledged that Paul had been given a new message of grace, some Jews troubled the Galatians with the Law (Galatians 1:7). To prove that God's people were under the Law, I personally believe that these Jews begin to tell "fables" designed to prove their point, stories designed to teach the lesson that we are still under the Law. For instance, under the Law, God told the Jews: "if thou shalt hearken"unto the voice of the Lord"all these blessings shall come on thee "sheep" thy storehouses, and "the Lord shall make thee plenteous in goods" (Deuteronomy 28:1-11).

 

Disable the Fable

 

Believers today are not under this law, of course, and so cannot depend on God's blessing in material and financial areas as a reward for good behavior. But if a Jew in Paul's day wanted to prove that we are still under this law, it would be a simple thing for him to come up with stories that prove God is still blessing those who obey Him. "Why, Brother Alexander is good, and look how God has prospered him!" Paul as a word for stories like that; he calls them fables. A story that is told to teach the lesson that we are still under the law.

 

In our own day prosperity preachers have picked up where Jewish storytellers have left off, and are never hard pressed to produce success stories to show that God is still honoring this promise that He made to the Jews under the law. This is reminiscent of what happens when you tell someone that no one today has the gift of healing. What do you always hear when you share the truth? "But Brother John went to a healer and was healed!" More fables! Stories that are told to teach the lesson that the gift of healing is still being given.

 

But if a man begins to feel better after seeing a healer today, it isn't because the healer healed him. And if a man is prosperous today, it isn't because of any covenant he has with God, despite all the fables that prosperity preachers might tell to the contrary. All such stories fall under the category of what our courts call "anecdotal evidence," and anecdotes don't make very good evidence. If you plan to get into the ministry, remember that, and preach the Word instead of stories!

 

Shaking the Family Tree

 

Of course, if the "fables" in our text are Jewish fables, it stands to reason that the "genealogies" here are Jewish as well. Especially since we know from the many genealogies in Scripture that the Jews kept careful records of who was born to whom, and for good reason.

 

First of all, genealogies were needed to determine who was a Jew, a child of the covenant that God made with Abraham (Acts 3:25). After that, priests in Israel had to come from the tribe of Levi, and were "put from the priesthood" if they could not verify their lineage "by genealogy" (Ezra 2:62). Next, kings in Israel had to come from the tribe of Judah (Psalms 60:7), so this important office also had to be reckoned by genealogy. Finally, Israel's Messiah had to stem from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), making it easy to see why God's earthly people would maintain meticulous genealogies.

 

But all Bible genealogies are part of the law of Moses, and the only "lawful" use of the Law in the present age is to bring conviction of sin on unbelieving sinners (1 Timothy 1:8-9). After using the Law for this, it is supposed to "perish with the using" (Colossians 2:21-23). It's "not made for a righteous man" to help him to be good.

 

And when it comes to the genealogies in the law, the need for these has perished as well. There is no need to identify who is a Jew in the present dispensation of grace, "for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him" (Romans 10:12). Likewise, there is no need to distinguish who is a priest in an age where there is no priesthood, there's no call for identifying who is a king at a time when Israel has no king, and there's certainly no purpose in identifying Israel's Messiah now that He has already been identified!

 

Perish the Thought

 

So once the genealogies in the Law had been used for these ends, the use of these genealogies was supposed to perish with the using, for they were then of no further spiritual value. But Jews who thought they were saved simply because they could trace their genealogy back to Abraham (Matthew 3:9) were still around in Paul's day, and were no doubt citing genealogies to substantiate their claim to eternal life. Jews like this are still around today. This writer knew one personally.

 

We know there were also Jews who felt that they were better than other Jews because of their genealogy gave them a better pedigree, for Paul himself was one of them (Philippians 3:5). Similarly, today there are Jewish members of the body of Christ who believe they are somehow spiritually better than Gentile believers simply because they can trace their genealogy back to Abraham.

 

It is because Bible genealogies no longer serve a practical purpose that Paul warned about "endless" genealogies. The word "end" can mean purpose or goal, as when you might ask someone, "To what end are you doing what you are doing?" All Jewish genealogies have an end; they end in Abraham. But none of them serve a purpose in the dispensation of grace. So these endless or pointless genealogies today can only "minister questions" (1 Timothy 1:4), questions like who is a Jew, who is a priest, who is a king, and who is of a better stock in Israel, but none of these things matter in the present age.

 

A Better Stock of Believer

 

But if you want to be a better stock of Christian, Paul says that the alternative to these questions is "godly edifying" (v. 4). The word "edify" means to build up, and Paul says that "the word of His grace" is "able to build you up" (Acts 20:32), the word that is found in Paul's epistles. This grace is available to edify Gentiles as well as Jews.

 

Paul calls the message of grace "godly edifying which is in faith" (1 Timothy 1:4) because "as ye have therefor received Christ" by faith, so we are "rooted and built up in Him" (Colossians 2:6-7) by continuing to place our faith in the instructions given to Paul after we are saved.

 

After reminding Timothy of the things he had let him in Ephesus to do, Paul concludes this charge by saying, "so do" them (1 Timothy 1:4).

 

So how about it, man of God? Are you willing to man up, get charged up, and become the kind of pastor who will charge others that they teach no other doctrine? If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

 



[i] When Paul spoke to Timothy about his tears, and his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:4-5), it is not hard to imagine he was a timorous soul (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:10).




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