Pursuing Ministry Nobility Rather than Religious Pragmatism

1 Timothy 1:3-11 begins the body of Paul's letter to his mentor Timothy. Paul wrote to assure and strengthen Ephesian believers who were unsettled and scared by unbelief. Fearful people need to be encouraged, instructed, and emboldened to take action. Paul urged Timothy to take action against unbelief and help his flock become protectors of the church.


Two threads of unbelief are always present among God's people: legalism and pragmatism. The church needs to understand these and know how to address them because the Gospel is at stake.

Paul makes four points in these nine verses to help believers:

  • We must all individually purpose to address unbelief. (verses 3-4)
  • We must arm ourselves with proper character beforehand. (verses 5-6)
  • We must address unbelief with a pure motive. (verse 7)
  • We must address unbelief with prepared minds. (verses 7-11)
Purpose to Address Unbelief

When Paul "urged" Timothy to "remain" in Ephesus, he used strong terms to both beg and command Timothy to do the right thing. The purpose of Timothy's staying was to protect the church by addressing unbelief. Paul gives timid Timothy a charge to speak out with authority. The word "instruct" refers to an order from the highest military superior. Timothy was to lead his people in confronting false teachers face-to-face. As the pastor leads and the people support him, both are able to articulate scripturally that false doctrine simply will not be allowed.

The phrase "certain men" shows that there were a few people affecting the whole church. The false teachers were probably in leadership, the instructions Paul gives in chapter 3 and 1 Timothy 5:19-21. Paul is so serious about this because the influence of even one unbiblical influence can have drastic consequences. Paul held the whole church responsible to address them, because the whole church allowed these people into leadership.

Paul specified what the leaders were not to teach. They were to avoid "strange doctrine," just as Paul addressed in Galatians 1:6-7. This teaching would influence the content of the real Gospel.

There were also teachers who embellished the Old Testament instead of teaching its plain meaning. They loved allegorizing and adding and subtracting from God's Word. They were constantly looking for a new angle. This teaching method is rooted in unbelief and leads to constant speculation. They never land on a final answer but continue questioning and wondering. Ultimately, the church is stifled in her ability to promote the Gospel by God's plan. By contrast, the church's spiritual success must depend on divine activity, not human achievement.

In next week's sermon, we will see the proper character, pure motive, and prepared minds that are necessary when we address unbelief.

Application Points

  • Are you prepared to confront false teaching if it crops up in our church? Could you articulate sound doctrine from the Bible?
  • Do you accept the plain teaching of the Bible? Or are you looking for the newest way to interpret it, especially when you don't like what it says? Beware: that is a form of false doctrine that jeopardizes the true Gospel message.
  • Grace Church is growing without begin either legalist or pragmatic. Why is this so?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Titus 1:10-14 -- Paul gave the same instruction to the church in Crete.
  • Joshua 7 -- Don't allow even one leader of unbelief.
  • Acts 1:8 -- God's plan to promote the Gospel.
A Hymn to Encourage: "I Will Follow" by Mac Lynch

I will follow Thee, my Savior, where-e’er the pathway may go:
Through the storm or through the valley or through great trials so low.
I rest in Thee, trust in Thee, I place my life in Thy hands.
I will follow Thee, my Savior; Lead on, my Shepherd, lead on.

I will live for Thee, my Savior, Tho’ war and strife mark the way.
I’m so weak, but Thou art mighty, so live through me day by day.
I rest in Thee, trust in Thee, I place my life in Thy hands.
I will follow Thee, my Savior; Lead on, my Shepherd, lead on.

I surrender all, my Savior, I hold no thing back from Thee;
Every part is Thine to use, Lord, Thy living sacrifice be.
I rest in Thee, trust in Thee, I place my life in Thy hands.
I will follow Thee, my Savior; Lead on, my Shepherd, lead on

Quotes to Ponder

"From a Noah’s Ark themed nursery, to jumbotron summer-campish kids church, to pizza parties and rock concerts, many evangelical youth have been coddled in a not-quite-church, but not-quite-world hothouse. They’ve never sat on a pew between a set of new parents with a fussy baby and a senior citizen on an oxygen tank. They don’t see the full timeline of the gospel for every season of life."

"We’ve failed God and we’ve failed our kids. Don’t let another kid walk out the door without being confronted with the full weight of the law, and the full freedom in the gospel."

Ten Surprising Reasons Our Kids Leave Church