How to handle counterfeit beliefs
Do you know how the best-trained money handlers are taught to identify counterfeits?
Somewhat surprisingly, they do not spend time studying counterfeit money. Mainly because there’s too many ways to make a fake. With so many variations out there that are trying to pass off as the real thing, it would be impossible to keep up with all of them.
Instead, they are taught all the security features on real money. They are quizzed about the features and practice handling the real thing. The goal is to be so familiar with what is truly valuable that the fake will be easily seen for the worthless paper that it is.
Similarly, Paul wanted Timothy to have his training focused in the right place:
1 Timothy 4:6-8
If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished by the words of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.
But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths. Rather train yourself in godliness
The word but always signals a contrast. When studying God’s Word, if we come across it, then we need to stop and understand the difference being presented. In our verses above, the word rather works in the same way.
When we step back and look at Paul’s structure here, we see he’s following a “concept-opposite-concept” pattern. Paul is equating the words of the faith and good teaching Timothy is familiar with and training yourself in godliness. Paul is also saying that in opposition to these things are irreverent and silly myths.
The myths around the first century church would have been fantasy stories passed off as special histories of Biblical characters. The false teachers of Paul and Timothy’s day claimed that these stories led to deeper piety and special insights into the background of Bible characters. But what, exactly, did Paul mean when he referred to them as irreverent and silly?
irreverent – combination of two Greek words that paint the picture of crossing a threshold and this term is repeatedly used in Paul’s letters to Timothy regarding people or subjects that are opposed to God. Paul would say irreverent topics are those that “cross the line” and are rude or derogatory toward God and his people.
silly – Paul doesn’t mean “cute” silly here, instead he’s referring to what we would call an old wives’ tale – something that people generally believe because it’s comfortable or seems likely, but on closer inspection we find that it’s not really based on anything concrete.
So what are some modern-day irreverent and silly myths that can steal our focus away from the words of faith and good teaching?
Some people believe that dancing, in any form, is a sin.
There are those who say eating or drinking certain foods (like red meat or caffeinated drinks) is sinful.
Others teach that good health always means that God likes you and that you have “enough faith”.
A growing number of Christians prefer feel-good stories to what we find in the Bible.
Every few years, a new “gospel” is discovered and people chase after it, like “The gospel of Thomas” or “The gospel of Judas”
Many authors have taken Biblical names or settings and reinvented them into conspiracy stories or “modern myths”, like The Da Vinci Code or stories of Jesus as a young boy.
And there are many, many more…
How do we avoid being distracted by these irreverent and silly myths? Paul says we should have nothing to do with them. They can’t steal our focus if we’re not giving them attention. Instead, we need to choose to train in godliness, and be nourished by the words of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.