In the years leading to the American Civil War, some church leaders made the grievous error of using the Bible to justify slavery. One bishop preached, “[There are] millions who have learned the way to Heaven and who have been made to know their Savior through the means of African slavery!” Using the gospel to justify slavery was not only evil but an example of false teaching.
The church in Ephesus was being influenced by a group of false teachers (v. 3). While we do not know the exact nature of their teaching, one scholar suggests it was a “form of aberrant Judaism . . . that overemphasized the law and underemphasized Christ and faith.” Paul urged Timothy to take a strong stand against their teaching. Their misuse of the Old Testament law was causing confusion and blocking God’s work (v. 4). Instead of helping the church grow in their love for God and neighbor (Matt. 22:37–40), the false teachers were engaged in “meaningless talk” (v. 6). Even worse, they did not realize their error. They were confident in their teaching. Instead of trying to impress their listeners with their knowledge, these teachers should have had as their goal “love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (v. 5).
The Old Testament law is a wonderful gift from God (v. 8). But like any good gift, it needs to be used properly. Paul reminded Timothy that the purpose of the law was not to encourage endless speculations or show off our knowledge, but to expose people’s sinfulness and highlight their need for a Savior.
>> As you study the Bible, are you growing more in your love for God and others? Or are you engaged in “meaningless talk” and immoral behavior? (vv. 6, 9–11). Understanding the Bible is not just about mastering content, but allowing God’s Spirit to transform us into the image of our Lord Jesus.