In my last blog through the letter of 1 Timothy I began to tackle the issue of error and deception within the church. If you haven’t read it yet I’d encourage you to check it out at some point. It can be found here.
how do you avoid error in the church? This topic actually crops up quite often but before I launch into some answers I firstly want to say that we can’t avoid error completely. The reason for this is that every one of is fallen and sinful by nature and this certainly doesn’t exclude your pastor or elders. The truth is that sometimes we don’t teach consistently or entirely biblically. No one does. So, what do we do to minimise error in the church? Three things:
We Teach with Authority
It’s a common misconception that the main way we minimise deception in the church is that we teach against error. I, however, don’t think this is the main way we should do this at all. We shouldn’t fill our Sunday meetings and mid-week small groups talking about what we don’t believe. Don’t get me wrong, we need to point out error – graciously and robustly – but we need to do more than tell people to stay away! Think of it like this: what if you raised your children only to understand the kind of food they shouldn’t eat … eventually, they’d starve because they wouldn’t understand what nutrients they DO need to be healthy. In the same way, in the church, we need to teach the Bible. This, of course, includes pointing out error, but it is so much more than this. Look at our text:
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.
1 Timothy 4:13
Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
1 Timothy 4:16
Read the Bible, Explain the Bible, Exhort from the Bible. Teach the Bible. This is Paul’s charge to Timothy. In order to minimise the risk of entering into error know your Bible from the front cover to the back.
Live with Purity
Secondly, Christian understanding, Christian theology is dependent on you and I living out what we are reading. We model our lives on what we read. This is why Paul says:
Keep a close watch on yourself
1 Timothy 4:16
Someone once said that “the world’s greatest need is my personal holiness”. I agree. The way we believe and live by faith in the things that we read will only increase the testimony of the Word of God.
Train in Godliness
7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
1 Timothy 4:7-8
We all know what it means to exercise the body. Some people go to extraordinary lengths to train the body. Paul acknowledges that this has some benefit but he is much more concerned that we also exercise spiritually. What might that look like? Well, certainly prayer, fasting, worship, evangelism are all part of this. Like physical exercise habits of the spiritual life don’t come easily or without purpose but we must persevere.