1 & 2 Timothy - Lesson 2

By John Harrison

What We Should Teach at Church

(1st Timothy 1:1-20)

Objectives: By the end of this lesson the learner will be able to: 

1. Identify the types of things the church should not teach.

2. List the three goals of the church's teaching ministry.

Teaching Aids and Materials:

  1. Easy to understand Bibles for every student (CEV, RSV, NAV,NIV, NRSV, etc.).
  2. A chalkboard and/or marker board and pens and paper for the application section.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class

Introduction: (5 minutes)

  1. Begin class by welcoming members and any visitors; make all necessary class announcements.
  2. Have the class led in prayer. The prayer should include a request that God lead the class into a better understanding of the truth within his Word and for class members to have the courage to require that the church's teaching promote a healthy faith and love.
  3. Explain to the class that in today's lesson they will learn two things: a. The church's teaching should not promote meaningless discussions that only result in promoting speculation. b. The church should teach those things that promote love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, sincere faith (1:5) and 'sound doctrine' (1:10).

Learning Experiences: ( about 30 minutes)

Part I: The false teachers were promoting meaningless false doctrines.

Q: In verse 3, Paul says that the false teachers were preoccupied with false doctrines (Gk. "heterodidaskalein"; "hetero", (other) and "didaskalein" (to teach); so: "teaching other things"). Their false teachings were based on their emphasis on what three specific things mentioned in this chapter?

A: 1. "myths";  2. "endless genealogies"; 3. the law.

It is not clear what Paul was specifically referring to by "myths and endless genealogies" (1:4). Many 20th century commentators thought that these words referred to Gnostic teachings. The word "Gnostic" comes from the Greek word gnosis, which means "to know". Christian Gnostics claimed that "salvation" was the experience of coming to know the truth about the real God who is made known by the Son of God. According to Gnostics, the Son of God provides salvation from ignorance about God by illuminating within individuals the light of God which they possess. Not all people have this light, so some are predetermined to always be ignorant about the truth. Only those who have the light in them can comprehend the truth when it is revealed to them. Salvation for Gnostics has nothing to do with the death of Jesus on the cross, sin or future judgment. A person experiences salvation when they come to know the true God as opposed to knowing only the God who is talked about in the Old Testament. Gnostics had a belief in different "emanations" from God. By "emanations" they were referring to a spiritual being which had emanated from God from whom another being emanated from and so on. The further away an emanation was from God the more imperfect it was. Gnostics believed that "Yahweh" was one of those emanations. The god of the Jews was not worthy to be worshipped because he instructed his people to kill their enemies, to be circumcised, and to offer animal sacrifices. This god, according to the Gnostics, is barbaric and should not be obeyed. The Son of God is higher than Yahweh and he came to show the truth about the real God who is not concerned with physical realities. However, for several reasons, the idea that the false teachers in 1st and 2nd Timothy are Gnostics has not been supported by recent scholars. One reason is that no evidence exists that the Gnostics ever referred to their theory of emanations as "genealogies." Another reason is that Christian Gnosticism didn't arise until the second century, which would have been decades after Paul would have written these two letters. In the 1st century there were certainly Gnostic-like ideas that circulated, but Christian Gnosticism doesn't begin to express itself until the early 2nd century. What Paul most likely meant by "myths and endless genealogies" are the accounts that circulated during this time that retold patriarchal stories recorded in Genesis. The word "genealogy" here does not mean a list of descendant names but accounts of people living in earlier times. Many of these speculative stories, some of which may be found in the JewishPseudepigrapha, were used to promote the origin of God's people and how God wanted his people to obey specific Jewish laws. Paul does not want teachers teaching "different doctrines" which are contrary to Scripture or to the gospel Paul preached (1:11). Paul says that teaching based on spurious material leads to speculations rather than to what God is building within his people's faith. It should also be noted that in 1st and 2nd Timothy the word "to teach" (Gr. Didaskein) carries the connotation of authoritative teaching concerning what the church must believe about Christ and the gospel. It does not refer to teaching in general, but to teaching that carries authority which must be accepted and obeyed by all Christians. When Paul mentions the "law" (1:7ff.), he is talking specifically here about prohibitions in the Pentateuch which outlines how people should not treat one another. Ask the class this question:

Q: Paul says that the law is laid down for the "lawless and disobedient"(1:8) and then gives a list of examples of such behavior (e.g. killing father and mother, murder, fornication, etc.). Does this list remind you of any other type of list in the Bible prohibiting certain behavior?

A: The list is reminiscent of at least four of the ten commandments,specifically those which prohibit dishonoring one's parents, murder, adultery and perjury (false oaths). Explain to the class that what Paul has listed are very serious immoral actions, which in many cases would have been seen as crimes. Paul is not saying that Christians in Ephesus are actually committing these sins. He merely lists these to demonstrate that the law is necessary for those who are bent on behaving immorally. Paul believes that Christians ought to be guided by other elements than laws of prohibition. Note also that Paul says that the law is good (i.e. knowing which behaviors are specifically prohibited is good), but these prohibitions should be used in the way in which God intended it to be used: to curb the appetite of lawless people to do immoral things. Paul mentions Hymenaeus and Alexander as two of the teachers who taught "other doctrines" and had rejected faith and good conscience. Paul says that he "handed over to Satan" (1:20) these men in order that they are taught not to blaspheme. It is not clear what Paul means by this phrase (see1 Cor. 5:5), but possibly Paul had in mind that some kind of physical punishment would be experienced by these men so that they will understand that God disapproves of what they were teaching. Because they taught what was contrary to the gospel, these men would stand outside the spiritual protection of Christ.

Part II: The church should teach those things that promote love.

Christian love is a central ethical tenant in many NT books.

Q: What do we mean when we say someone has a "pure heart"?

A: There are lots of different answers the class can give to this question. After hearing several replies, explain to the class that by this expression Paul would have meant a person's intentions which are wholeheartedly focused on pleasing God. For a similar idea in the expression"clean heart", see Psalms 24:4 and 51:10.

Q: What do we often think the purpose of our conscience is?

A: Again, there are lots of answers that can be given. Some class members might even say that the conscience (as Walt Disney's Jiminy Cricket insinuates) is some kind of internal guide that allows us to discern freely what are good and bad choices. When Paul used the word "conscience" (Gr. syneideseis) in 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus he often attaches a qualifier to it (e.g. good, clean, defiled, and seared). Here Paul is concerned with the health of the conscience as it has been affected by either belief or disbelief. When Paul's gospel is accepted, the result will be a good conscience. But if his message is rejected, the person's conscience will become defiled. So for Paul, the believer's conscience is something that has been cleansed from sin at conversion and is now tied to the truthful teaching about Christ and the gospel. It is this truth which the conscience uses to judge actions as either moral or immoral. Paul likely has in mind how the conscience judges actions towards others and how they measure up to the implications of the gospel. Explain to the class that in 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus, the word "faith" can have several different meanings: 1) the content of Christian belief (i.e."the faith"); 2) joined with "love" it describes the essence of the Christian life; and 3) an attitude of trust. In verse 5 it carries this third meaning. To have a "sincere faith"then is to have a genuine attitude of trust in God. Christian teaching should aim to teach and motivate Christians to relate to God with authentic trust in him. The goal of the teaching ministry of the church is to help Christians love each other and non-Christians and to behave in ways that acknowledges what is true Christian faith. Q: When you hear the phrase "sound doctrine" (v. 10), what teaching do you think of? A: The class will probably have lots of replies to this open ended question. After hearing what teachings they think of, explain to them that the phrase "sound doctrine" or "healthy teaching" uses a medical imagery (Gk. hugiainouse). If a teaching or doctrine is "sound" or "healthy" it produces in those who hold it a healthy life of faith and love.

Application: ( 5 minutes)

Ask the class to think about their relationships with other church members and ask; "Are they pleasing to God" In other words, Do our actions towards others follow what God has declared in Scripture as just, righteous, merciful and loving? On a piece of paper get people to write a list of 3 actions they could take to make relationships at church more "pleasing to God" or more in-line with biblical teaching. These actions could be things the students do individually or as a class.

Assignment: (2 minutes)

From the list of action items choose 1 action to put into place this week within your life to promote relationships that are more "pleasing to God". Lesson Wrap Up: (5 minutes)The church should not teach either "myths and genealogies" (i.e. stories that sound like they come from scripture but do not) or "laws?" (i.e. laws of prohibition as our major ethical guide).The church should aim to teach those lessons that: 1) come directly from the Bible, 2) urge Christians to love one another, 3) urge them to develop a clear conscience, and 4) helps them to have a healthy faith.

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