Correcting bad teaching
When Paul sent his letter of instruction and encouragement to Timothy, the very first area he discussed had to do with Timothy’s authority in the church family.
1 Timothy 1:3-4
As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach other doctrine or to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies. These promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith.
Right away, we see that Timothy is in charge. The Greek word Paul uses for command means to instruct, charge, or declare a message to others. This word was often used by the gospel writers to describe Jesus’ teaching to both the crowds and to his disciples. Paul wants Timothy to exercise his authority in the church at Ephesus, as evidenced by him using that particular Greek verb five different times in this letter.
Given the multicultural makeup of the city, its inhabitants, and their multitude of religious practices, the church would have been inundated with many competing ideas about who God is, what He is like, and how a relationship with Him is supposed to happen.
Whenever Timothy would encounter these incorrect ideas about God, and the time came for him to command people not to teach these false ideas, it is easy to understand how tense of a situation that could be. No one likes being wrong, and no one likes being called out for being incorrect – especially on something they are passionate about.
Oftentimes, when a person’s doctrine beliefs are discussed, there is a tendency for pride to creep in. We fight in order to show that our understanding is right…rather than taking the humble route of wanting to make sure we are rightly aligned with God.
That balance between humility and authority will be challenging for a leader, so Paul makes sure that Timothy understands where his motivation comes from:
1 Timothy 1:5
Now the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
Timothy is to give commands because he genuinely loves the people he will be shepherding in Ephesus. While Timothy’s instructions will be authoritative, they will be given for the people’s benefit.
We need to correctly understand who God is and what He is like if we’re going to have a strong, life-giving relationship with Him. As such, correcting false doctrine and false teaching is of paramount importance within the church family. However, to be effective, the goal of our instruction must be love.