1 Timothy 6:3-4a Believers must study Christ’s life through the gospel as the foundation of godliness
1 Timothy 6:3-4a
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.
Paul, in no uncertain terms warns Timothy of the danger of receiving a teaching that seems correct but devoid of the spirit and virtues that Christ stands for. In discerning any message, believers must first discern the spirit of the messenger in reference to Christ’s manner of life. In today’s teachings, we are reminded of the sound words of Christ, and the doctrine of godliness that is evident in the Christ of the Gospels. Therefore, believers must understand Christ’s life through the gospel as the foundation of godliness. And the purpose of the church is to teach and to lead believers in emulating the way that Jesus lives. At the same time, people must beware of conceited ministers, who draw crowds after themselves by offering unconditional grace and salvation without the goal of godliness.
If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words…
Paul warns Timothy of the dangers of anyone advocating a different doctrine. How does this different doctrine contrast with true doctrine? True doctrine espouses the sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ and the doctrine conforming to godliness. Paul explicitly states that his teachings are in total agreement with the sound words of Christ, thus making the gospel writings the foundation of his teachings. “Sound words” refers to the spirit and virtues that embodies all of Christ’s teachings, which is to transform humanity in accordance to godliness.
A different doctrine may not outrightly deny Christ as Son of God or the effective work of the cross in forgiving sins. It denies the very spirit, the values and virtues that Jesus stands for. Simply put, the motivation of one who advocates a “different doctrine” is fleshly enjoyment and the benefit of self. The motivation of one who advocates “the doctrine conforming to godliness” is to walk in the Spirit, and work towards the benefit of humanity at large. Paul describes one who does not espouse the spirit of Christ’s teachings as being arrogant and completely missing the point. A believer who is familiar with Christ’s life and His teachings will not easily fall prey to a different doctrine.
Truth & Application
Believers must understand the life of Christ through the gospel as the foundation of godliness.
The spirit of the word is encapsulated in the life of Christ; demonstrated in His obedience to God, and the way He deals with different people. The pattern of Christ’s life forms the foundation of the believer’s growth towards godliness. Hence, in order to understand Paul’s teachings, we must understand the spirit of the word, which is Christ. Therefore, if any teacher does not lead believers towards godliness or Christ-likeness, he is not preaching the true doctrine.
a. In the process of establishing God’s kingdom, believers must stand for the truth wherever we are and to defend it. In John 2:13-17, the Jewish leaders are using the temple and its rituals to make money for themselves. They did not fulfill their duties to make the temple a place of prayer and worship. Jesus makes a whip and drives out the people who are doing business there. Jesus risks alienating the Jewish authorities in order to turn the people back to the truth. In the context of the work place, when some unscrupulous people misuse company resources for their personal gain, all employees have the responsibility to flag the anomaly up to higher authorities so that the interests of the organization may be preserved.
b. Believers must guard against discrimination and social bias. Jesus dismisses the prejudices of the Jews towards the people of Samaria and ministers to them (John 4:7-14). He does not let the self-righteous attitude of the Jews prevent Him from witnessing to the woman at the well. He goes into their community and lives with them for a few days. For Jesus, saving souls from destruction is more important than conforming to social norms. Are we negatively influenced by the culture of our race or community? Some cultures that promote unequal treatment of gender, or caste system by giving preference to people of a higher social status hinder the establishment of God’s kingdom.
c. Believers must keep transforming hearts though truth and grace. Jesus, in the days of His ministry is not distracted by popularity or mass approval, nor is His main purpose to provide food to feed the hungry. He does not use His supernatural powers to decimate His enemies. His ultimate purpose is to transform the hearts of people according to the truth and by grace.
In John 6:1-14, Jesus feeds 5000 people with two fish and five loaves of bread bringing unprecedented popularity to Himself. Following the miracle, they want to make Jesus king because of what He did. Jesus, seizes the opportunity and teaches about godliness and the bread that came from heaven. Nevertheless, all 5000 abandon Jesus because He speaks about godliness and refuses to accede to the people’s requests for more bread.
In John 7:3, Jesus’ brothers encourages Him to display His prowess at the feast of the Pentecost, a time where all Jews gather so that He can lead a revolution to free Israel from Roman rule. Jesus knows that military power cannot liberate and free the people to live abundantly, which only truth and grace can. Without conforming to their demands, Jesus goes up to the temple and teaches about truth and godliness.
In another occasion when Jesus heals a man at Bethesda, He seeks him out later on and warns him not to return to sin, lest a worse thing may happen to him (see John 5).
d. Believers must touch people through their physical needs. Jesus fulfils the people’s spiritual needs by first addressing their physical concerns. Jesus has compassion when He sees the physical needs of the people. When Jesus sees the masses that are left in the wilderness without food, He feeds them (see John 6). When Jesus sees the sick, He has compassion on them and heals them. Even though He knows that many will eventually desert Him, He meets them at their point of need.
Jesus teaches us that physical needs are legitimate needs that must be met. In fact, it is through the works of love that the fruit of faith can be seen and experienced. James 2:14 says,
What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?
On the day of Judgment, God judges one’s heart and not his religious affiliation. Jesus explicitly lays down the proceedings when He comes in His glory: those who feed the hungry, who tend to the thirsty, who show hospitality to strangers, who clothe the naked, who visit the prisoners will enter into eternality life. While those who do not will go away into eternal punishment (see Matthew 25:31-46).
e. As believers learn to obey God in all things, more authority will be entrusted to them. Jesus’ ministry displays such power the world has never before seen. He raises the dead, calms the storm, multiplies bread and perhaps the greatest miracle of all is His own resurrection. In fact, Jesus becomes a living testimony of what God can do through an ordinary man who is fully committed to God. Even as Jesus is given all authority to do whatever He pleases, He does only what the Father desires: He humbles Himself even to the point of death. He wrestles with the thought of the cross; its shame, and suffering. In one of Jesus’ contemplations, He says, “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” And to glorify the Father’s name is to do His will. As believers are found faithful by walking in the truth, He gives us power and authority to establish His kingdom in our community. How should believers live in obedience to God?
To put the interests of your organisation and community above your own. To cover the weaknesses and failings of another and to exalt them. To be appreciative for the work done by another. To always be hopeful that tomorrow will be better even though difficulties may persist. To always deliver on the promises that you have made. To always believe in the potential of others and remind them of their strengths. To always speak the truth and maintain integrity and honesty in the organisation. To respect those who are absent in all conversations. As we endeavor to live out the truth, God entrusts to us greater power and authority to change our world.
Dear Lord, as I read and meditate on your word, help me grow in your likeness. As I emanate more of your virtues, entrust to me greater wisdom and authority to do your work. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.