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; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. (1Timothy 6:3-5 NAS)
There is a dual role that we have as Elders and Pastors in a community of faith. Titus 1:9 reminds us that Overseers (or Elders) are called to affirm truth and defend it:
He (overseer) must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine (affirm) and also to rebuke those (defend) who contradict it. (Titus 1:9 ESV)
Of course the proverbial question is: What is truth or sound doctrine?
According to Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 6:3-5, there are two measuring guides. First, truth (or right doctrine) must agree with “sound words” which means truth that agrees with what the Lord Jesus Christ taught. Secondly, it must agree with doctrine that conforms to godliness.
Notice that, in the larger text of 1 Timothy 6:3-5, anything that deviates from these two guidelines (words/doctrine that agree with what Christ taught and godliness); Paul has a vivid description of their twisted approach to life. Here are a few observations:
- They are conceited and understand nothing
- They have a morbid interest (lit. – “sick”) in controversial questions and disputes about words
- There are constantly searching after controversial issues and endless disputes about the meaning of words
- They often use abusive language to incite and inflame disputes – deliberately adversarial
- They are always suspicious about others motives and ideas
- They constantly promote friction (endless irritating debate) between others
- People have an interest in godliness as a mean of gain (take advantage for other purposes)
This does not mean we should not ask real questions and sometimes hard questions that are difficult to answer. All of us genuinely struggle with different issues and we try to resolve them in our own hearts and minds because the incongruity is uncomfortable. However, some people never really want to learn truth to apply their lives to godliness and righteousness. They are always learning but never coming to truth – they simply want to keep other people off balance, show the weakness in every else’s position, and seek to show others they are smarter.
The hope of seeking and learning truth is always about how I keep living in obedience to that truth and choosing His godliness and righteousness in the way I live life. We all know that one of our greatest dangers is to keep on being hearers of truth, but not obeying truth. That is a pretty good place for all of us to start – not worrying about what everyone else is doing, but what am I doing? I need to affirm truth in my own life first, then know how to defend it … usually from myself.