Watching the Teaching
“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” - 1 Timothy 4:16
Through our study of 1 Timothy, the first of the Pastoral Epistles, we can see two themes that Paul returns to time and again in his letter. First, we are told repeatedly to have nothing to do with heresy, taking time in the ordination of leaders so that errors may not creep into the body (1:3–4, 18–20; 4:1–5; 5:22–25; 6:2a–5, 20–21). It is not that we are to be unaware of the falsehoods around us, only that they must never be given a hearing in the assembly. Practically, this means we must never allow in our pulpits men who preach their opinions and speculations rather than the pure milk of the Word of God. Neither can we ever participate with the intent to worship the one, true God in interfaith services. Even we who uphold the Bible’s authority do well to be reminded of these obvious truths, for it can be difficult to maintain them in a culture that sees us as evil for not affirming that our Muslim, Buddhist, and other non-Christian neighbors are in a saving relationship with God.
Key to maintaining the purity of the church is the care we must take in selecting pastors and other leaders (5:22). Potential officials must first prove their orthodoxy and godly character over time, and those who are wishy-washy regarding the essential truths of the faith must be passed by. Churches do not apostatize overnight; decline is usually gradual as members do not carefully ordain only those who affirm the Scripture’s authority wholeheartedly.
The second key theme in 1 Timothy is inextricably bound to the first, namely, the need for ministers and every other believer to guard the truth vigilantly (4:16). All of us must make sure that we are well-grounded in the mystery of godliness — the central truths of the Son of God’s incarnation, ministry, resurrection, and return (3:16). We must never be ashamed to hold fast to the way our Father would have us order the church (2:8–3:15), because this order is given to maintain the purity of the gospel among His people. In so doing, we must care for the body of Christ (5:1–21) in order that our love might influence them to join us in fighting for the gospel even if it means our deaths (6:11–16). May the Lord give us the courage and strength to give our lives for the gospel.
Take some time today to look over 1 Timothy as a conclusion to our study of this epistle. Thank God for the gift of His Word and for its transforming message. Make sure that you are in a church that faithfully teaches Scripture and pray that you would always be one who guards the truth with your very life. Let us all encourage one another in faithfulness to the gospel and be willing to die for it, should that ever become necessary.
Passages for Further Study
1 Timothy 1:5, 12–17; 4:6–10; 6:20–21