Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.
~1 Timothy 1:15
Notes to the Leader: This lesson examines the risks associated with improper teaching. For all of us who lead bible study, these are the lessons that we respect the most. Paul, of the letter to Timothy, is critical of the teaching going on in the church at Ephesus. Through Paul’s examination of this early church, we can learn some of the expectations God sets for those who assume the role of Christian Leader. Anyone in this role must always be on guard for error introduced by their own interpretations, bias, or lack of knowledge.
What should the background or requirements be for church leaders, especially those who pass on through leading studies, the very essence of the Christian faith?
The following requirements are taken from 1 Timothy 3:1-7
- Must be above reproach
- The husband of but one wife
- Able to teach
- Not given to drunkenness
- Not violent but gentle
- Not quarrelsome
- Not a lover of money
- Manage Their own family well and see that their children obey with proper respect
- Not a recent convert
- Must have a good reputation with outsiders
Section One: The Types of Errors
Have someone in your group read 1 Timothy 1:3-4
What is the caution given to us by the Apostle Paul?
- Be wary of teaching that contains doctrinal errors.
What is the risk of pursuing doctrinal errors?
- We are led off of the real message of the Gospel and lose track of its message.
How do these errors manifest themselves?
- In mysticism. Claims that only the “special” people can understand the real message of the gospel
- The prosperity gospel, the focus on the gains without regard to the costs
- Superstitions or unfounded stories can easily lead us astray.
What are some of the modern day myths we are given concerning the Bible?
- Endless Genealogies. Pride, driven by family heritage or lineage mean little to God.
- Controversies. The early church focused on finding the answer to who was the greatest.
What are some of the current controversies affecting the Church?
- The actions of some of the governing bodies
- Fund raising
- Worship style, including music, times, dress, etc.
- Differing agendas with regard to outreach, mission, service, etc.
Note: These are but Satan’s distractions to dilute the power of the Gospel and the Church.
What is our responsibility in all of this?
- To study and know the Scripture sufficiently, that we may recognize the errors of doctrine and lead our Church back to Christ’s mission.
How do we protect ourselves from false doctrine?
- Accept that the responsibility for our knowledge of the Gospel rests with us, and no one else
- Regular worship attendance
Read 1 Timothy 1:5 to your group.
How can we test our teachers to know whether the message they give is consistent with God’s will?
- The results shown by the lives of the people that hear the message. If they are leading lives dependent upon the Holy Spirit, producing Christ-like characteristics in their lives, and living a life that is pure of heart, of good conscience, and with sincerely, then we should see the results, affection, caring and self-giving to each other.
Should those with false teaching be cast out of the Church?
- Paul doesn’t say that they should be put out of the Church. He says that they should be won back to the truth.
What to you think causes someone to move into the ranks of being a False Teacher (Leader)?
- Desire to gain influence
Final Point: False teaching becomes a problem when the subject matter focuses on legalism rather than the true meaning of the gospel “love.” Legalism is basically rules for rules sake.
Section Two: The Purpose of God’s Law
Have someone in your group read 1 Timothy 1:8-11
How do we know if the Law (as taught to us through Scriptures) is good?
- The Law reveals God. We see the Ten Commandments in action.
- The Law convicts us of sin.
Note: It sometimes helps to point out to your group that the word “law” is found in two forms in Scripture: (a) the lowercase “l” as in law; and (b) the uppercase “L” as in Law. In the first example, lower case “l,” the Bible is referring to the man-made parts of law. In the latter example, the uppercase “L,” Scripture is referring to God’s Law. When reading the Bible, it is important to always note these subtle differences or it can lead to misunderstanding.
If we can be perfect by just following the Ten Commandments, is this a reasonable goal to have a Christian?
- The Law limits us as Christians. In essence we can be perfect by doing nothing. However, the New Testament calls each of us to a greater task, to love one another. This love and its caring, servanthood, and obedience to God go beyond the Law.
Section Three: The Rescue of a Sinner
Have someone in your group read 1 Timothy 1:13-16
The Apostle Paul considers himself to be one of the worst sinners. Why?
- Because Paul’s actions against the Christian Church were done under the pretext that Paul was righteous and they were wrong. It was not that he did not believe, but that he believed but did not understand.
Why do you think that God would have chosen the “worst of sinner” to use as his messenger?
- God has unlimited patience for all; and Paul was exactly the kind of person that Christ came into the world to save.
Section Four: The Power of Grace
Have someone in your group read 1 Timothy 1:18-20, instructing your group to look particularly at the words FIGHT, FAITH, and REJECTED.
In these two short verses, what do you think Paul is trying to bring to our attention?
- To follow God is a fight, it is not easy.
- To maintain one’s faith in the fight is the goal. It is the ultimate prize.
- To be rejected and given to Satan is a frightening thing.
Do you know someone who will be spending eternity with Satan? What do you think Paul would tell us about our responsibilities with respect to that person?
The torments of Satan can do two things, win someone over to an eternal death or cause them to learn that their ways are wrong and that they must change. Our responsibilities are to pray for that person, to share the Gospel with them and to make every attempt to provide them the fellowship of God’s people.
Section Five: A Closing Thought
Pass out the pencils and have each member of your group take a 3 by 5 index card.
Do you have a person in your life that does not know Christ? Are they at risk of spending eternity separated from God?
- Have them write the name anonymously on their card.
- Take time in these closing minutes to pray for them. Ask God to provide the impetus in their lives to acknowledge that salvation begins with God, that sin is a barrier, that Christ is God’s provision for sin, and that they must personally invite Christ into their lives.
Bible Truth Being Taught
God watches the motives of all who step forward and lead His people.
To become aware of the deceptiveness of faulty teaching, and to learn to deal graciously with the difficult people in our lives, through prayer and faith in Jesus Christ.