“If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.”
Paul thought it was important to warn Timothy about people who believed in things other than Jesus, and it’s a warning we should all take to heart. It might sound a little bit narrow-minded or stuck-up, but we shouldn’t consider any instruction wholesome except that of Jesus, and we should give complete consent to His instruction. I’ve read all sorts of books, and they’ve been bogged down with stories about Christians, some of them nameless, changing the world and turning people’s hearts completely around by refusing to stop believing in Jesus Christ. Those stories make me excited to meet them in heaven one day, and they inspire me to live my own faith undeniably. Jesus’ doctrine, as Matthew Henry’s Commentary well says, “has a direct tendency to make people godly.” Following Him simply makes you better in every way–a better friend, a better spouse, a better sibling or parent…a better person.
Now check out what happens otherwise.
People who believe and teach doctrines other than Jesus’ are, as Paul rather bluntly puts, “conceited and understand nothing.” It’s interesting how those who are proudest tend to know the least. Just look at the Pharisees during Jesus’ lifetime–for all their knowledge, they didn’t understand truly how God wanted them to live, and they couldn’t even see their own pride and deceit. They were so busy debating and displaying their superiority that they didn’t even realize that they were actually DISobeying what God had told them to do. They added all these rules and regulations to law, twisting it so much that it hardly even looked like the same thing God had written on those stone tablets and handed down to Moses all those generations ago.
Debating was one of the Pharisees’ and chief priests’ favorite things to do, by what I’ve seen. But instead of doing good, their controversies only served to eat the life and power out of the religion that they were supposedly trying to follow. The same sort of thing was happening when Paul wrote this letter to Timothy. People must not have really understood what Jesus had been trying to tell them, and whenever that happens, they make up their own ideas and plant them in the minds of others, and because these ideas aren’t rooted firmly in God’s Word, they turn into mischief and essentially break the church by turning people against each other–people who SHOULD be loving and helping each other. These “men of corrupt mind” are destitute of truth; the reason their minds are corrupted is that they don’t stick to the truth in Jesus. It has never gone well for the church when people started imposing their own ideas.
The words of Jesus are wholesome and healing, and bring great contentment, as we will see later in the next post of this section, and as we can see in Isaiah 50:4 (in case you want to look that up). The words of Christ prevent ruptures in the church, because no one with faith in Him will deny the truth of His words. When people leave the faith, they won’t agree with others, and will constantly question them. They become jealous and suspicious, and envious when they see that someone else’s (Jesus’) ideas are preferred to their own adopted maelstrom of beliefs. And, of course, they start thinking more and more about money, that all-too-common faith-killer that has stolen many people’s souls through their concern for it. But let me leave you with this thought, as a precursor to the next few verses: gain is not godliness, while godliness is great gain.