************ Sermon on 1 Timothy 4:16 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 7, 2003
1 Timothy 4:16
"Teachers: Watch Your Life and Doctrine"
In our Scripture reading the prophet Malachi speaks highly about Levi and a covenant with him. Yet, when we look at Genesis or in the death poem of Jacob there is nothing complimentary to Levi. So, what is Malachi talking about? Who is Malachi talking about?
Malachi's language and choice of words makes clear he is talking about a descendent of Levi by the name of Phinehas. We meet Phinehas at Shittim, on the opposite side of the Jordan River from Jericho, after Israel has wandered through the wilderness for 40 years. It was at Shittim that the daughters of Moab succeeded in seducing the sons of Israel to indulge in the sexual immorality associated with the worship of Baal Peor.
The Lord brought judgment and destruction upon Israel. Then all the people of Israel repented and stood before the Tent of Meeting weeping with sorrow for their sin.
While this act of penance was going on Zimri son of Salu brought a Midianite woman to his tent; he did this openly, brazenly, boldly, right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel. When Phinehas, son of Eleazar, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand and followed Zimri into his tent. He caught Zimri and the Midianite in the act of sexual immorality and drove the spear through both of them (Numbers 25). The Bible tells us this was "credited to (Phinehas) as righteousness" (Ps 106:31) because he was zealous with and for God (Num 25:11).
Phinehas. What a man of God. Phinehas. What we need today are more people like him.
In our Scripture reading, the prophet Malachi has Phinehas in mind when he says,
(Mal 2:6) True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.Malachi speaks this morning of the kind of priests and leaders and teachers the Lord wants over His people. He tells us the Lord wants priests and leaders and teachers like Phinehas, priests and leaders and teachers who teach the truth and live lives that honor Him.
We are at the start of another church year. Our youth programs have started up again. Today is the first day of church school for all ages. Choir begins today. Evening Coffee Break has begun; morning Coffee Break and Story Hour start this week. Senior Fellowship and the Men's Society and Women's Bible Circle will start up again soon. As we start another church year, we want to listen carefully to what our Bible text and Bible passage say to us.
I Watch Doctrine and Life
A The Apostle Paul, in writing to Timothy, was stimulated by the words and warning of Malachi. He says, "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them ..."
Don't forget, Timothy was a pastor, a leader, a teacher in the church of Ephesus. Timothy was quite young to have such an important position, so Paul writes to him and gives him help and advice on how to be a man of God. Paul's advice to Timothy: be like Phinehas; be like Phinehas and teach the truth and live a life that honors God. "Watch your life and doctrine closely."
B Timothy is told to watch life and doctrine. We are being reminded that the two should always go hand-in-hand, that articles of belief should bear fruit in ethics, that salvation should result in works, that justification should lead to sanctification. And, when the two contradict each other, we say the people involved are hypocrites, pretenders, fakes. Paul says that we must always live out what we believe. Let me illustrate this:
Topic: HypocrisyBecause his doctrine and life did not go hand-in-hand, we would have to say that Jesse James was a hypocrite.
Jesse James killed a fellow in a bank robbery and shortly thereafter was baptized in the Kearney Baptist Church. Then he killed another man, a bank cashier, and joined the church choir and taught hymn-singing. He liked Sundays, Jesse did, but he couldn't always show up at church. On two Sundays, he robbed trains.
C "Watch your doctrine," says Paul. Paul says this because there were those in Ephesus who taught false doctrines. These false teachers loved devoting themselves to myths, endless genealogies, and controversial subjects; they forbade marriage and ordered abstinence from certain kinds of food and thus robbed people of God's good gifts (1 Tim 1:3; 4:1; 6:3).
"Watch your doctrine," says Paul. Especially in mind are the doctrines about Christ. Paul spells them out:
(1 Tim 3:16) Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.
(1Tim 1:15) Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners ...
"Watch your doctrine," says Paul. Paul says this because the church can always expect false teachers who do not teach the truth (cf Acts 20:28-31; 2 Pet 2:1-3; Jude) and members who do not want to hear the truth (cf 2 Tim 4:3-4) about Jesus. For instance, United Methodist bishop Joseph Sprague publicly denies that Jesus rose bodily, that He is eternally divine, and that He is the only way to salvation. He has been charged four times with teaching heresies, and four times denominational representatives have acquitted him.
According to Christianity Today (August 2003, "Tangling with Wolves") this is not a lone incident. For decades before his retirement, Episcopal bishop Jack Spong publicly repudiated nearly every line of the Nicene Creed and yet was never disciplined by his denomination.
"Watch your doctrine," says Paul. "Persevere in them." Unlike heretics and false teachers, Timothy is to hold fast the beautiful teachings of the Gospel. Timothy is to cling to the Good News of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Only the blood of Christ can offer cleansing. Only the blood of Christ gives hope to a lost-in-sin mankind. So, "Watch your doctrine." Never stray from Christ and His blood.
"Watch your doctrine." Timothy is to make sure that from his mouth there is only "true instruction ... and nothing false" (Mal 2:6,7). Knowledge and instruction (Mal 2:7), not ignorance and falsehood, should be heard from him.
"Watch your doctrine," says Paul. Watch your teaching. This also applies to the Christian Reformed Church. I've been taking a peek at CRC Voices and cannot believe what I am reading. More than one person says straight out that you cannot tell a practicing homosexual that what he is doing is sin. That is unloving and judgmental. But you know what is unloving? Not telling him that if he doesn't repent and believe in Christ he will end up in hell!
D Paul also says, "Watch your life." Like Phinehas, Timothy is to revere the Lord and stand in awe of His name (Mal 2:5). Like Phinehas, Timothy is to live before the Lord in peace and uprightness (Mal 2:6). All that Timothy says and does and even thinks is to be a credit to the Lord and His name. Paul expresses it best when he says,
(Col 3:17) And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. That's the way Timothy is being called to live.
E "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them ..." These are the words of Paul to young Timothy. But they aren't for Timothy alone. They are for every teacher and leader in the church and kingdom: pastors, elders, Christian & Public School teachers, Church School teachers, Bible Study and Society leaders, youth leaders. These words are for every person entrusted with the spiritual care of another; so, yes, they are for parents too.
At baptism parents are asked to promise to do all in their power to raise their children in God's ways. In making this promise we think of such things as the Christian grade school and high school; church school and catechism; Cadets, GEMS, and Youth Group. But no amount of Christian education in the church or the school means anything if there is no Christian education in the home. Parents, the most important thing you can do for your children is to "Watch your life and doctrine closely." In looking at you, in being raised by you, your children have to see someone who believes in Jesus crucified and resurrected. In looking at you, in being raised by you, your children have to see someone who lives for Jesus crucified and resurrected.
II Save Self and Hearers
A Now, why does Paul say, "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them ..." We can mention a negative and a positive reason. First, the negative reason. If those entrusted with the spiritual care of another do not watch doctrine and life then, like the priests of Israel, they will cause those under them to stumble and fall (Mal 2:7).
Topic: False ReligionLike a medicine mixed with cyanide, a teacher or leader or parent who doesn't watch doctrine and life has the power to kill rather than make whole. Like the priests of Israel, they have violated the covenant God has made with believers and their children (Mal 2:7).
On a cold winter day in 1986, Diane Elsroth entered a store in Bronxville, New York looking for something to relieve her pain. She bought a bottle of medicine, not knowing that someone had opened the bottle's tamper resistant wrapping, tainted the capsules with cyanide, and returned them to the store's shelf. Within a short time after Elsroth left the store, the cyanide-laced capsules killed her.
Not watching doctrine and life closely has terrible consequences for our children and youth. But it also affects those outside of the church. It has been said that the greatest testimony to the truth of the Christian faith is Christians – people who live out what they believe, people who closely watch doctrine and life. It has also been said that the greatest handicap to the Christian faith is Christians – people who do not live out what they believe, people who do not closely watch doctrine and life.
Topic: False ProfessionTalk to people who are indifferent or hostile to the Christian faith. Their questions, arguments, and criticism always center on the unsatisfactory lives of those who claim to be Christian. To win people to Christ – or, to not turn them off from Christ – Christians are to watch their doctrine and life closely. And, this is especially true for those who are leaders; they, of all people, have to closely watch doctrine and life. The world always picks up on and takes note of the sins of those who are leaders in the church.
During his early days in South Africa Gandhi inquired into Christianity. For several Sundays he attended a Reformed Christian Church, but, he says, "the congregation did not strike me as being particularly religious; they were not an assembly of devout souls, but appeared rather to be worldly-minded people going to Church for recreation and in conformity to custom." He, therefore, concluded that there was nothing in Christianity which he did not already possess -- and so Gandhi was lost to the Church with measureless consequences for India and the world.
Not watching doctrine and life closely has terrible consequences for our children and youth, for those outside of the church, and for ourselves as well. The Apostle Paul can talk of running in vain, of being disqualified for the prize (1 Cor 9:24-27). In the realm of Christian service, many professing believers go through the motions, but they are only pretenders. They don't closely watch doctrine and life. Someday they will be called upon to stand before the Judge of heaven and earth, and their deception will be revealed. God will then separate the "phonies" from the real Christians. No one will be able to hide in the crowd. Each will be made to face the music.
B Why does Paul say, "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them ..." The positive reason mentioned by Paul is that "you will save both yourself and your hearers."
At first glance you may think Paul is denying the great teaching of salvation by grace through faith alone. If we are saved by grace alone and by Christ alone, how can Paul talk about saving both yourself and your hearers?
Two things appear to be in mind. First, we cannot deny that salvation is a gift from God. Yet, it has pleased God to save people, the elect, through the ministry of the Gospel. As Paul puts it in his letter to Rome:
(Rom 10:13-14) for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (14) How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?Salvation is a gift from God but belief is not possible without teachers, leaders, parents, and pastors proclaiming and living the good news of the Gospel.
Second, Paul is also talking about "working out" salvation. God has worked salvation in our hearts; He has saved us from sin and guilt; He has made us new creatures in Christ. Now we must work this out in our lives; we must both act and believe as people saved by God. We must do this for ourselves and we must do this for those who hear and see and watch us. Remember what Paul said to the church at Philippi?
(Phil 2:12-13) ... continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (13) for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
In a similar vein, Malachi can speak of how the true teacher, like Phinehas, turns "many from sin" (Mal 2:6). Those who watch doctrine and life are able to give true instruction by word and deed. Those who watch doctrine and life are examples, shining lamps, that others can follow and imitate.
"Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." At a start of a new church year, this is a word from God for pastors, teachers, leaders, elders, and parents.
Now let me ask you, are you like Phinehas?, do you watch your life and doctrine closely? Do you win people to Christ or do you turn them off from Christ?
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