15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles” (Matthew 7:15–16, NKJV)?
Where have all the false teachers gone? They still exist despite those who say false doctrine is not sinful and does not risk one’s fellowship and future with God. Jesus warns us to be on guard for those who falsely claim to speak for God. They appear innocent as their deceitful message soothes the ear (Rom. 16:17-18). But we must test their fruit (their message) and not be fooled by appearances (John 7:24). When the teacher’s doctrine contradicts revealed truth, it is not sound doctrine (1 Tim. 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13; Titus 2:1). Jesus said we would know false prophets (false teachers) by their fruit (v. 16). False teachers are identifiable by their “destructive heresies,” “destructive ways,” and “deceptive words” (2 Pet. 2:1-3). We know the false prophet by his false message. The false teacher’s bad fruit (false teaching) is not God’s word. It is fit for destruction (Matt. 7:17-20). We must test the teacher’s fruit (teaching) against “the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21; Gal. 1:8-9; Jude 3-4; 1 John 4:1, 6; 2 John 9). The Lord is not telling us to judge the teacher’s sincerity but the accuracy of what he teaches. Does it accord with the will of the Father (the Scriptures, 2 Tim. 3:16-17) or the wisdom and will of men? Indeed, we will know them by their fruits (1 Thess. 5:21-22).
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV)
In today’s verse, “spirit” is the mental disposition that defines and characterizes the Christian’s faith. Our faith is not timid. Contextually, Paul encouraged Timothy to be bold in his “genuine faith” and unafraid to use the miraculous spiritual gift he had received (2 Tim. 1:5-6; 1 Tim. 4:14). He was duty-bound to use his gift with the power, love, and a sound mind. A sound mind is disciplined, exercising self-control in all things. Let us discipline our minds and bodies with self-control to choose godliness and resist evil (1 Cor. 9:24-27; Gal. 5:23). Otherwise, we tarnish and defile the gifts, abilities, and opportunities God gives us (Rom. 12:3-8). A bold faith disciplines itself with the power of God’s truth and love. The power of truth defines and guides our path, while love shapes our motives and objectives. When these combine with a disciplined mind, we are equipped with the confidence of faith not easily overcome by the world (1 Jno. 5:4).
6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:6–7, NKJV)
Even with a miraculous spiritual gift from God, Timothy needed to be encouraged to be courageous to kindle its use. Although such gifts have passed away, we still need boldness to speak the truth and stand for righteousness. The cancel culture would silence voices of reason and faith. They tried to silence early Christians with threats, imprisonments, beatings, and death (Acts 4:17-21; 5:40; 8:1-4; Heb. 10:32-34). Power, love, and soundness of mind are attributes of faith that embolden sincere hearts to speak the truth in love, and with all boldness speak the words of truth and reason (Rom. 1:16; Eph. 4:15; Phil. 1:20; Acts 26:25). Being the salt of the earth and the light of the world requires that we speak out against sin in all of its forms. Any system that oppresses minorities should be called to account for its prejudicial sins (Jas. 2:1; Rom. 13:8, 10). Any system that legalizes killing unborn babies should be called to account for facilitating sin (Rom. 13:9). Any system that legalizes same-sex marriages and other forms of fornication should be called to account for sanctioning sin (Matt. 19:4-6; Heb. 13:4). Any system that teaches children they are not their biological gender should be called to account for such corruption (Gen. 1:27). People form systems of government, economics, education, etc. When people choose to live in sin, their societies become corrupt, too. God’s people must not call evil good and good evil (Isa. 5:20). We must abhor evil and cling to what is good (Rom. 12:9). That takes virtuous courage (2 Pet. 1:5; 1 Cor. 16:13).
7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, (2 Timothy 1:7–8, NKJV)
Fear and shame are companions. The fear of isolation (from family and friends), the fear of retribution (from influential people), and the fear of rejection (from those we love), and the fear of reprimand are mere samplings of the fears that cause the silence of shame and the retreat of fearing men rather than following the Lord (Matt. 10:28; Jno. 9:22; 12:42-43). Paul called Timothy to the courage provoked by faith. Paul experienced abandonment from brethren due to the gospel and his imprisonment for it (2 Tim. 1:15; 4:10, 16). But, the Lord stood by him, strengthened him, and delivered him from evil for salvation in His heavenly kingdom (2 Tim. 4:17-18). We are urged not to be ashamed of the gospel that saves us or those suffering for it (Rom. 1:16). Anchored by faith in His unshakable word, we can resist the temptations of fear and shame with power, love, and soundness of mind. May we boldly face every foe of faith, confident that “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37-39).
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:18, NKJV)
Christians are to fill themselves with the Spirit, not with wine and its riotous excess. We do so by putting His word, the word of Christ, into our hearts and lives (Col. 3:16). Yet, a growing number of Christians justify the moderate consumption of intoxicating beverages. I wonder, do they also advocate for only being moderately filled with the Holy Spirit? If just a little alcohol is okay (as long as you don’t get drunk), then it follows that only a small amount of the Spirit in your life is okay (as long as you are not full of the Holy Spirit). Absurd? Absolutely. But, that is the consistent application of Ephesians 5:18 and the logical extension of the reasoning that promotes moderate alcohol consumption. The apostle contrasts being filled with wine and being filled with the Spirit. The fact that God’s word condemns drunkenness does not mean the drinking that leads to drunkenness is acceptable. The Scriptures must show it to be good, not merely asserted to be good (1 Thess. 5:21-22). Other passages teach us to be sober-minded, to use sound judgment, and to exercise self-control (Gal. 5:23; Titus 2:2, 6, 12). Consuming alcohol deconstructs and destroys these qualities the Spirit teaches us to possess. How can that be good? Drinking alcohol satisfies the desires of the flesh, but it is inconsistent with the mind of Christ and being filled with the Spirit of God (1 Pet. 4:1-4; Rom. 8:9-14).
2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Timothy 4:2–4, NKJV)
A Christian friend shared the following sign with me: “Too much sugar preaching leads to truth decay.” I like that. Just as we are drawn to the sugary high of candy (that leaves us without nutrition, and eventually with cavities), we can be lured away from sound doctrine by feel-good preaching (that fails to nourish our souls with truth, as it leaves spiritual decay of error in its wake). Do you “endure” (allow, bear with) sound doctrine, or have you replaced it with the soothing scratch of your itching ears? We must not become intolerant of Bible preaching that convinces, rebukes and exhorts. Preach me the word, because its truth convinces me of Christ, of my sin, and of His way of salvation. Preach me the word, because its truth rebukes my error, and does not comfort me in sin. Preach me the word, because its truth exhorts me to bear the image of Christ, to live by faith in holiness and righteousness of truth. The word is not always easy to accept, but it is exactly what we must hear, receive, and hold fast to be fruitful and blessed in the Lord (Lk. 8:15).
20 “O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge— 21 by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith. Grace be with you. Amen.” (1 Timothy 6:20–21, NKJV)
Timothy was Paul’s “true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). Paul charged this young evangelist with guarding the gospel that had been committed to his trust. Timothy would accomplish his task by turning away from base, empty chatter that contradicted the sound words of Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:3-5). This charge continues to ring true. We must distinguish between teachings that are “falsely called knowledge, and what is actually “the faith” (the gospel of Christ). God’s word is a symphony of harmonious truth, not a discordant accumulation of opinions and human wisdom that passes for knowledge. Therefore, God’s preacher must preach God’s word, not the speculations, opinions, and traditions of men that lead souls away from the faith. What message is being preached by the preacher to whom you listen; the faith, or that which contradicts the Bible? It matters. Following the faith keeps you in God’s grace. Following contradictions of God’s word leads you astray from the faith, putting your soul in peril.
“holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” (Titus 1:9, NKJV)
This instruction to elders of the local church gives us insight into the nature of sound doctrine, and how God views its importance. It is clear to see in today’s verse that “the faithful word” corresponds to “sound doctrine.” The word of God is the tool by which the elders are to encourage and warn those who oppose the truth. Those who are not “sound in the faith” need the rebuke from God’s word that convicts and corrects (see Titus 1:13). Just as elders must “hold fast the faithful word,” each Christian must “hold fast the pattern of sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13). Christians are not sound in the faith by merely claiming it to be so. We must hold fast to God’s word, examining ourselves and correcting ourselves to be in harmony with the truth. Personal opinions and self-approving proclamations of “soundness” are meaningless without Scriptural approval. Obey sound doctrine, and then you will be sound in the faith.
For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing. (Acts 17:21, NKJV)
When the apostle Paul brought the gospel of Christ to Athens, it was certainly new to the ears of the idolatrous philosophers of Mars Hill. One God, creative, self-sustaining, sovereign, purposeful, merciful, authoritative, and judge of the world; this was truly an “unknown God” to them. It is alarming that even now, not a few who name Christ as their Lord are discontent with the “old paths” of God’s gospel. They want a new message and exciting messengers. The same old gospel no longer thrills them. Even though a new gospel will not save one lost soul. Every perversion of sound doctrine corrupts and condemns (Gal. 1:6-10). The gospel has not changed since the first century (1 Pet. 1:23-25). Every attempt to improve upon its power to save is a futile and faithless endeavor (Rom. 1:15-16).