August 29, 2010

Discerning What You Hear

Paul teaches an invaluable lesson through his mentoring of Timothy in two letters to his young protégé. In 1 and 2 Timothy, Paul gives three standards by which hearers can confidently stand equipped to discern any teacher or teaching that they ever hear. It is simple but powerful; it’s powerful because it is simple.
Paul tells Timothy that there are three keys to righteous teaching. Sound doctrine has at its core in an unmistakable manner:

1. The teachings of Christ, the prophets, and the apostles
2. An interest in unity and peace, and
3. The goal of clarity.


Today, I'll cover #1
The Teachings of Christ, the Prophets, and the Apostles

Throughout the Old and New Testament, the followers of the one true living God are exhorted to heed the teachings that have been passed on to them from generation to generation and then from Christ himself or as given to the apostles. The letter to the Hebrews begins with this powerful reminder:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.
Hebrews 1:1–4


The exact expression of God’s nature, the one who holds the universe together by will and word, has communicated to us what we need to know to live a life according to His will. To ignore this is to welcome death. The words of Scripture are the words of God.
Paul tells us over and over again in the two short letters to Timothy that the message once received must be handled properly and kept pure and undefiled from the useless bantering and false wisdom of men.

As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.
But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.
1 Timothy 1:3–11

This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.
1 Timothy 1:18–19

Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
1 Timothy 4:16

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, he is conceited and understands nothing;
1 Timothy 6:3–4

O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called "knowledge."
1 Timothy 6:20

Jesus Christ himself said that men worship Him in vain, holding on to their own teachings while letting go of God’s. They turn from God’s truth in favor of their developed religious traditions (Mark 7:6–8).
Of all those verses mentioned before, the most important are probably 1 Timothy 6:3–5. Paul tells Timothy that anyone who teaches anything outside of Jesus’s teachings and godly teachings (prophets and apostles who communicated wisdom given directly by God to them) is conceited and understands nothing!
The first sign of a godly teacher is that he or she spends his or her time teaching the Word of God with the Word of God doing the explaining. Many men and women today will preach a message disguised as the Word of God by reading the Scripture briefly and then expounding great spiritual truths therein using psychology and philosophical reasoning. Remember, the Bible must always explain life, not the other way around. The Bible speaks for itself.
A well-equipped teacher of the Word who knows how to rightly divide the Word will be a guide through the Scriptures, showing how the text examines and explains itself. My father told me when I went off to college, “If you want to find a church to attend, look for one where the people exit their cars with Bible in hand and the pastor leads them through inside.” Follow a good leader, and a good leader will follow the Word.

Tomorrow, we will look at #2

With you for His glory