Faithfulness to the Scriptures will help protect the church from internal strife and the harmful consequences that follow pursuit of a materialistic lifestyle. This is the message of 1 Timothy 6, vv. 3-10. You will recall that the text before us is an ancient letter written by the apostle Paul to a young pastor named Timothy who was giving leadership to the first century church at Ephesus. False teachers had entered the church and were causing all kinds of problems. False teaching had to be corrected, public worship had to be safeguarded, and mature leadership needed to be developed. Here in Chapter 6, Paul addresses the threat false teachers pose to church unity. We see that Paul tests Bible teachers against four criteria: (1) a truth test, (2) a character test, (3) a unity test, and (4) a motivation test. Let’s consider each in turn.
Paul begins with the truth test. It could be stated this way: “Does this person’s teaching conform to the sound words of Jesus Christ and his apostles? The Greek word translated as “sound” (ὑγιαίνω) means “healthy and life- giving.” God is our creator, and he knows what teaching promotes true wholeness and genuine happiness. We should follow that kind of teaching. When we embrace unbiblical perspectives, values, and beliefs, it inevitably leads to unwanted, often unforeseen, negative consequences. It is the sowing and reaping principle of Scripture. What you sow, you will reap. It may take a while, but as surely as night follows day, consequences follow choices. God has given us a blueprint for living: The Bible. In it, we find a Savior and his prescription for wise, healthy living. Jesus said that he came that we might have life, and that we might have it abundantly. We need to learn to trust him. After all, He knows us best, and he loves us most!
The second criteria are the test of character: Does the teacher model and does the teaching promote godly living as God defines it in the Scriptures? The fruit of applied Biblical teaching is godly, transformed living. If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ, you already have the spiritual resources necessary to apply Biblical truth in a life-changing way. Paul’s point here is that God-approved Biblical teachers are going to point you to Jesus. They are going to teach and model Biblical truth.
There is a third test for evaluating Bible teachers. Is there unity in the church body? The fruit of applied Biblical teaching is both transformed living and church unity. When everyone in the church submits to the Bible’s standards as opposed to culture’s standards, it promotes a growing, unified church family. Here at TCC, the Bible is the source of our authority, and that makes all the difference! What happens when a church rejects the Bible’s authority, as many today have? It leads to conflict and division. It brings its own judgment, leading to “…envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth and who supposed that godliness is a means of (financial) gain” (vv. 4-5).
In this little phrase, we see Paul applying a fourth test of a Biblical teacher. It has to do with the motivation behind their teaching. (4) Is your goal your own financial gain, or is it the spiritual growth of those under your tutelage? Apparently, the chief motivation of some of these “Ephesian Bible teachers” was to enrich themselves. That was their driving motivation. But the minister’s chief motive should never be to enrich himself. His chief goal should be the spiritual enrichment of others. After establishing that “getting rich” is an improper motive for Christian service, Paul turns his attention to the proper role of riches in the Christian life. The key, he says, is contentment (vv. 6-8). The goal of the Christian life is not the accumulation of wealth, but rather to become more like Christ—to grow in godliness. And godliness itself is a priceless gift when it is accompanied by contentment. Paul has more to say on the topic of riches. He warns that not only will the pursuit of riches fail to bring happiness; it will lead to a dark place, a place you don’t want to go. He cautions us to avoid the pitfall of materialistic pursuits by cultivating godliness and contentment (vv. 9-10). To the person who believes that their work is so demanding that they have no time to pursue their relationship with God, a couple of questions to ponder:  Do you have time for a fractured, loveless marriage and all that it brings?  Do you have time to deal with rebellious teens who have rejected a Biblical morality in favor of “anything goes…if it feels right, do it?”
Pursuing wealth as an end-goal will take you to a place you do not want to go. On the other hand, the pursuit of godliness, along with contentment, is a priceless gift that will pay dividends for generations to come.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- Has the pursuit of the so-called “good life” negatively effected your relationships with God or others?
- Do you embrace any unbiblical teachings or erect any pseudo-intellectual barriers to faith in God?
- Do you pursue the virtues of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness?
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, identify and write down one, concrete step of obedience, small or large but doable, that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)