1 Timothy 1:5-7 (NASB)
5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion,7 wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.
I have read through 1 Timothy a number of times over the years because I find that it has a lot to say to my particular situation. See Paul was writing to Timothy as a mentor to someone who was serving in a church. As I have served in the church full time for many years, I take Paul’s words with extra emphasis. The first part of Paul’s letter, in particularly, has shaped my ministry greatly over the years.
Both Paul and Timothy spent a great deal of time instructing those in the church. I’m sure they had covered many, many truths over their time. They likely taught on topics such as Christ’s death, burial, resurrection and the subsequent impact on the state of man to God’s future plans for mankind and our glorious hope that lies therein. They instructed the church on the impact of Adam and Eve, the betrayal of Judas, and the heart of David. Yet here, in midst of his instruction to Timothy, Paul stresses two very real dangers of being a teacher, especially when you are teaching such important material as God's truth.
The first danger is that teachers, out of a motive to make things more interesting or to prove a theological premise or one of a million of motives that can cause us to stray, begin to make things central that should not be central. They turn to discussion on matters that do not place God’s revealed truth (scripture) at the center or argue about things that have not been revealed. I have found that most of these discussions place logic and the wisdom of men as the focal point of their arguments. It always seems that the farther they go out on the branch of human wisdom, the more boldly and confidently they shout their assertions. I can say that from personal experience and from observing the patterns of my own heart when I stray into these areas.
The problem with all of this kind of teaching is that it is fruitless. These teachings and the wisdom that comes from men will never produce the fruit of love which, according to Paul’s inspired words, is the only fruit that the teacher of truth should be pursuing. Love for God and for others should be the goal of all instruction in the church. This touches on the second danger. It is really easy in our church culture for pastors, teachers, and leaders to focus on unimportant matters, like how many people are listening to us, how many liked what we had to say, did we sound authoritative, or was it practical enough. The only mark by which we should ever judge a teaching ministry is by asking, “Over time, did it produce genuine God-honoring love in those who listened and responded?”
May the church reject man’s wisdom in pursuit of God’s wisdom with the goal of producing the intended result of love for God and for others.