1 Timothy 1:3-5 – “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, 4 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. 5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” NASB
In Church, I have witnessed some incredibly zealous people who believed it was their God-given assignment to ‘Set People Straight’ when in doctrinal error or perceived doctrinal error. They were not wholly as the Church of Ephesus of Revelation 2 where they could not tolerate evil men and put to test those who claimed to be apostles and found them false. No, they were equal opportunity correctors of anyone and everyone who strayed from their doctrinal trail and they SET THEM STRAIGHT. There were times they would use Paul’s instructions to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1 to justify their actions as well as using the words of Jesus.
However, before we condemn this action or defend it, we should consider a key statement by Paul regarding Timothy’s assignment and their ministry. In verse 5 Paul says, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Simply, the objective in correction is not SETTING THEM STRAIGHT but leading them to the truth so that restoration can transpire.
That is always the objective in dealing with sin or error. It is not simply putting people in their place it is leading them to the light. I am reminded of the ministry of Priscilla and Aquila in dealing with Apollos in Acts 18. They led him to a more full understanding rather than attempting to put him in his place or set him straight. The objective as in all ministry is reconciliation and restoration. It is bringing people to their fullest potential in Christ and the Gospel.
Paul addressed some of the areas these false or deceived teachers were engaging in and identified their ignorance as well as malice. He does not trash the Law but identifies the truth that the Law is not for the Righteous but the Unrighteous. He testifies of his own ignorance and persecution of those who believed and rejoiced in the Mercy of God. He recognized that it is possible for a person to drift into error and through love be led back to the right path and restored.
I have heard preachers preach hell and judgment so powerfully that one could almost feel the flames of hell leaping at their feet. When that transpires under the anointing of the Holy Spirit out of a heartbroken in love it is incredibly powerful and beneficial. However, I have known some who preach hell as though they enjoyed it and demonstrated a Pharisaical attitude looking down their noses as SINNERS! That is not the heart of God nor was can it be found in Paul’s instruction to Timothy.
Timothy was given an assignment that would be difficult. Often false teachers have a devoted following and when you counter their tenets you encounter the wrath of the devotees. However, if we walk, as Jesus walked and manifest His heart, character, love, and righteousness the Holy Spirit brings conviction to hearts and people are brought back to the right path and enjoy restoration. Our objective is not to present ourselves as ‘holier than thou’ and our assignment is not to SET THEM STRAIGHT but to speak the truth in love and lift up Jesus!
God, bless you as you embark on today’s leg of your life’s journey in Christ!