Leaders: Take Up The Doctrinal Charge

imagesIn 1 Timothy Paul writes a letter to an emerging leader who has been entrusted with the house churches of Ephesus. These churches arguably represent some of Paul’s dearest endeavors. He spent more time in Ephesus than any other missionary stop. Paul cared about the health of the church in this important city of Asia Minor. Now Paul is preparing his protégé to lead these fellow followers of Christ into the future. Timothy is also very dear to Paul. He calls him his “true child in the faith.” Three times in the first chapter Paul makes use of the word “charge” in relation to Timothy and his leadership role. This word, in it’s context, means “to order or command.” Paul uses it here twice as a noun and once as a verb. Paul orders Timothy to order false teachers to cease in their deception. Paul provides the all important objective of this order, and Paul speaks of Timothy’s
“charge” as a calling to be grounded and protected for a lifetime.

What is core to this opening “charge” is the need to preserve a right doctrine among these house churches. Paul knows that false teaching can quickly subvert leaders and followers and take them away from a strong pursuit of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 11:3, Paul also states his fear that fledgling believers could be “led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” Evidently there were some religious teachers from within these churches in Ephesus who were spreading lies about the gospel. Paul predicted this in Acts 20:29-30. Apparantly some of these false teachers were even known to Paul, as he makes mention of Hymenaeus and Alexander at the end of the chapter as being shipwrecked in their faith.

This issue of preserving right belief, which will lead to right living, should always be a continual treasure to be guarded by every Christ-centered leader. We live in a day where some of this priority has been lost. Theology is up for grabs in some quadrants of the Christian faith. And we are paying the price as we watch some making a “shipwreck” of their faith. In every era there are those who look down on doctrine as being of no daily, practical value. Scholars are attacked for haggling over insignificant points of theological discourse. Pastors are tempted to teach only on topics that appeal to the felt needs of believers and unbelievers. But we are in desperate need for the teaching of core doctrine that will ground followers of Christ for right belief and right living. Paul felt so strongly about this that he commands Timothy to command the false teachers to cease and desist. We can look to some of our historical catechisms and confessions for what should be core. This was the Church’s way of preserving that which mattered most to preserving the gospel.

But equally important, Paul provides the goal of this “charge.” Verse 5 states, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” The end result of correct doctrinal thinking and belief is love. Real love will flow from a center that is doctrinally correct. That center is triad of a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Right belief should always have this effect of purifying, making good, and creating sincerity. Sometimes right doctrine must be vigorously defended, but that is not an excuse for not doing so with love.

The markers of right biblical doctrine are evidenced by a heart, conscience, and faith that reflect the grace and mercy of the gospel. In chapter 6, verse 20, Paul pleads with Timothy again to “guard the deposit entrusted to you.” Only a pure gospel taught and preserved will have the life changing impact expressed outwardly in real love. Leaders, this is your charge!

2 replies
  1. Ed Maggard
    Ed Maggard says:

    Gary, this was a timely word and very encouraging to Kari and me. I have been thinking a lot about doctrinal error triggered by trying to be relevant and organic and other hip approaches to ministry. This was a good reminder to be about truth and grace and to allow that if some reject Christ it isn’t necessarily because I am at fault. If I present The Biblical Christ from a pure heart He is more than able to glorify Himself and the Father in the hearts of men. The pressures off.

    • Gary Runn
      Gary Runn says:

      Ed, Thanks for the comments and glad it was helpful. I agree with you, in our attempt to be missional, in some cases we have slipped into being too accommodating. We can’t deviate from core doctrine or we leave people with a less than glorious Savior. Good words and thanks for adding to the discussion.


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