As I mentioned yesterday, the men’s weekly discipleship ministry at our church began a new study this week. We are studying 1 Timothy and Titus and using a great study guide by John Stott. Stott’s commentary on the same two epistles is entitled, Guard the Truth. It’s no surprise why it’s named that. Here are a few texts that help make the point…
1 Timothy 1:3-4 - As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer  nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work–which is by faith.
1 Timothy 3:14-15 - Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that,  if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.
1 Timothy 4:1-2 - The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.  Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.
1 Timothy 6:3-5 - If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching,  he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions  and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
1 Timothy 6:20-21 - Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge,  which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. Grace be with you.
Titus 1:9 - He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
These are just a few of the more obvious texts on the necessity (indeed, the command) of guarding the truth, though plenty more could be cited. That got me thinking about what I shared with our men this past Monday and Wednesday. I told them that there doesn’t seem to be a high premium on truth in the church today. This is a given outside the Church. But it should not be so inside the Church. We wink way too much on things that probably ought to be dealt with.
Of course, this isn’t to say that we ought to appoint “thought police” to start arresting folks who don’t “think like us.” Nor does it mean that every issue is worth fighting over. There are some things, secondary things, that godly people can disagree over and still not reject the authority of God’s Word and the central doctrines of the faith.
I’ve often shared with folks that when I graduated from seminary I wanted to debate every last detail of every last doctrine. As I have gotten older, and hopefully matured some, I find that the list of things that I care about debating has drastically shrunk. However, the things that I hold dear are not just worth debating… they are worth dying over. (Hopefully that bit of hyperbole will not be taken too literally or understood that I’m going to launch a Crusade when folks disagree with what I hold dear. Instead, I hope it means that I’ll joyfully die to myself, receive scorn or contempt from others, and do all I can to lovingly and graciously teach, preach, defend, and live such precious truths.)
Last week I attended the ordination service of the new pastors of the United Methodist Church in Florida. Here’s an excerpt or two from the service of the ordination of elders…
“Remember that you are called to serve rather than to be served, to proclaim the faith of the church and no other, to look after the concerns of God above all.
“Do you believe in the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?
“Are you persuaded that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments contain all things necessary for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and are the unique and authoritative standard for the church’s faith and life?
“Will you be loyal to the United Methodist Church, accepting its order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline, defending it against all doctrines contrary to God’s Holy Word, and committing yourself to be accountable with those serving with you, and to the bishop and those who are appointed to supervise your ministry.”
I’m proud to say that, at least on paper, my denomination cares about the truth of God’s word… so much so, that ordained clergy are tasked with preaching, teaching, defending, and living it. One of the best parts about attending the ordination service each year is that God reminds me of my calling and vows. He reminds me that we in our day, as Jude pointed out in his day, are heralds and guardians of the faith once delivered to the saints. I look forward to exploring 1 Timothy and Titus with my brothers in Christ to learn about how I/we might do that better.
Someone who is an eloquent and ardent guardian of the faith is Al Mohler. He routinely brings things to light that many of us may miss if we’re not up-to-date on all the newest books and articles. His newest article masterfully critiques a recent book that seems to be a full-blown attack on the very truth that Paul encourages Timothy and Titus to guard with their very lives. Here’s an excerpt…
“Most Christians assume that Christianity is the one and only religion that is God-inspired and that carries the imprimatur of God’s blessing,” laments R. Kirby Godsey. In his new book, Is God a Christian?, Godsey sets out to oppose that assumption and to argue that “the stakes for mankind have grown too high for any of us to engage our faith as if our understanding of God represents the only way God’s presence may be known in the world.”
The great question of the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is necessarily bound up with the most central teachings of the Christian faith, which is why an argument like this must be considered so carefully. A closer look reveals that Godsey is not merely calling upon Christians to reconsider how we define and defend the Gospel — he is calling for a total reconstruction of everything that Christianity represents.
Click here to read the whole article. It’s an important piece to read.
Grace and Truth,
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