Use the Law in Love
On July 11, I preached a sermon from 1 Timothy 1:1-11 at Calvary Baptist Church in Fayette, AL. I am very grateful to Pastor Blake Thompson and the people at Calvary for giving me the opportunity to preach there again. In recent months, my pulpit notes have moved from blocks of text to a one-page outline. Below is an abridged outline similar to the one I used from the pulpit while preaching through 1 Timothy 1:1-11. You can listen to my sermon at mypodcast.com.
What makes a false teacher? It is not simply a sudden transformation, but rather a settled lifestyle of dissentious and ignorant living. What can we do to avoid falling into this unloving falsehood? From 1 Timothy 1:3-11 we will learn how to properly use the law so that we can cultivate an attitude of holy love within us rather than an attitude of deadly legalism.
I. Charge false teachers to stop teaching falsehood (vv. 3-4).
A. There must be no false teaching of any sort!
B. Specifically, there must be no myths (cf. Titus 1:14).
C. Nor should there be “endless genealogies” which involve quarrels about the law (cf. Titus 3:9).
1. There should be no “myths and endless genealogies” because they “promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.”
a. “Stewardship” can refer to salvation, which is “from God” and “by faith.”
b. “Stewardship” could also be translated “good order.” The original Greek word is oikonomia, which refers to the management of a household or of household affairs. When oikonomia is translated this way, it refers to God’s way of doing things, specifically within the church and home (which is what Paul explains throughout much of this epistle’s body).
c. Rather than speculating about myths and endless genealogies then, we Christians must be good stewardships both of our salvation and also submit to God’s way of doing things in the church and in the home. Both our stewardship of salvation and our stewardship of the church and home come “from God” and must be done “by faith.”
II. “The aim of our charge is love” (v. 5).
A. “The ultimate object of Paul’s charge, as of all Christian moral preaching, is not merely negative. If its initial purpose is to check error, it has the further and more positive aim of establishing love in the Ephesian congregation in place of the spirit of contentiousness which the errorists have sown there” (Kelly p. 46).
B. We are to aim for the salvation of those who falsely profess Christ but sow falsehood among believers. They lack love, so what must they (and we) have in order to truly love others?
1. “a pure heart.” Jeremiah 17:9 reveals the utter depravity of the unsaved heart, but God declares in Ezekiel 36:27 that He gives born-again Christians a new heart at conversion (see also 2 Corinthians 5:17).
2. “a good conscience.” To love someone, we must love them with a good conscience, from pure motives. Paul characterizes these “law-abiding” legalists as “liars whose consciences are seared” in 1 Timothy 4:1-3. In 6:3-5, Paul reveals that these false teachers’ “consciences are seared” particularly by greed. These false teachers do not have a good conscience and thus do not truly love the Ephesians.
3. “a sincere faith.” Sincere faith results in love (1 John 4:7). In fact, faith works itself out through love according to Paul in Galatians 5:6.
III. Charge false teachers because they don’t know what they’re talking about (vv. 6-7).
A. Swerving from “a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith” causes “vain discussion.” Such discussion is profitable for nothing; it’s smoke in the wind.
B. False teachers want to teach the law
1. but don’t know what they’re talking about
2. and don’t understand the law at all.
C. “Although Paul stops short of making all the connections, it seems clear that a rejection of the Pauline gospel is somehow tied to misunderstanding of the OT and the purpose of the law within God’s will. The next step is to identify the real usefulness of the law and its relation to the gospel entrusted to Paul” (Towner p. 121).
IV. “The law is good, if one uses it lawfully” (vv. 8-11).
A. The law is “laid down” for those without Christ and for everything “contrary to healthy doctrine [and] … the gospel.”
1. Notice Paul’s list of vices in vv. 8-10. “If he [Paul] strikes us as choosing unnecessarily shocking examples, we should remember that it is characteristic of him to use lurid colors when he is portraying human conduct apart from the gospel” (Kelly p. 49).
2. Paul’s list of flagrant sins in vv. 8-10 serve to point out that everyone is in need of Christ’s offered forgiveness through the cross; everyone needs saving.
3. Indeed, the law is to be used “in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.”
B. Notice what Paul writes in Romans 3:9-20 concerning the purpose of the law:
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, [10 ] as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Christians: take care to not become like the false teachers. Prayerfully cultivate within you the “pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith” that are all prerequisites of love. Non-Christians, do not trust in the law for salvation; trust in Christ! It is His death on the cross that redeems from sins; it is His sacrifice that appeases the holy wrath of God on sin! Look to Christ and live!