Doctrine: Clear Understanding and Exposition of the Gospel

Repeatedly, Paul exhorts Timothy to pay attention to the doctrine of the Christian faith (1 Tim 1:3-7; 4:1-6; 6:3-5, 20-21). This includes paying attention to his own doctrine, that it might always be in accord with the God-inspired, apostolic word (cf. 2 Tim 3:15-17). What is more, he must always be aware that such teaching has eternal consequences not only for himself, but also for those who listen to him (1 Tim 4:16). Those who teach the church do so, not merely to fill the people with information and facts from the Bible (important as that is), but to serve the people’s eternal salvation. Eternal life and eternal damnation, therefore, always remain in the balance for teachers, always.

Timothy is also to pay close attention to what others teach. Regarding this matter, Paul’s instruction often comes with urgent warning and with full awareness that those infatuated with fruitless discussion shall arise from within (1:3-7; 4:1-4; 6:3-10, 20-21). Timothy is to remain in Ephesus for the very purpose of “instructing certain men not to teach strange doctrines” (1:3). This also agrees with his responsibility mentioned in 6:3, that he might instruct the church concerning certain teachings that do not agree with “sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ.” By pointing out these things to the brethren, Timothy will become a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of sound doctrine which he follows (4:6).

Without doubt, Paul’s words to Timothy have in mind the spiritual well-being of the church. She bears the name, “household of God,” and shoulders the responsibility as “the pillar and support of the truth” (3:15). Timothy’s awareness of his own doctrine and that of others is not for pride of place in the academy or selfish gain within the church. No, his doctrinal evaluation is for the church, that her members might know the Gospel, believe the Gospel, live by the Gospel, and so uphold the truth of the Gospel. It is not surprising, then, that Paul wants attention given to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, and to teaching (4:13).

What else is so incredible about these exhortations is that interwoven within them are numerous statements which spell out large portions of the doctrine Timothy and the church must understand and heed. In 1:8-11, Paul teaches Timothy about the usefulness of the Law in pointing sinners to the Gospel of the blessed God. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners according to 1:15. Paul finds it fitting to insert two doxologies filled with great truths of the Christian faith: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisibile, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1:17); and “He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen” (6:15-16). Furthermore, Paul mentions that God, who is our Savior, desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Why do they need to come to this knowledge? Because, he says, “there is one God and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus who gave himself as a ransom for all” (2:3-6). Salvation comes with a proper understanding of the content of the Gospel. Moreover, by a common doctrinal confession, the church upholds the mystery of godliness: “He who as revealed in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (3:16). More examples are included in 1 Timothy, but these are enough to show the emphasis Paul places on doctrine, that is, on the teachings that clearly reveal the Gospel of God in Christ.

From these brief observations, we should conclude that the Apostle finds right doctrine essential for the church of Jesus Christ. For Paul, there is one God in Christ who has revealed one Gospel by which men and women must be saved. This Gospel God has also entrusted to his church, and even gifted the church with people to preserve it well. Timothy’s task, therefore, is not small. Gospel-centered ministry demands of his life devotion to the word of life, diligence in teaching the truth, and assiduousness in the preservation of pure doctrine, that the church might not only have a saving Gospel to preach to the lost, but also by that same Gospel be saved herself. 

Bridging the Gap 

In light of these words, consider just three observations from our contemporary situation. (1) One of the largest “churches” in the world rejects justification by faith alone. (2) One of the key leaders in a movement now sweeping many “evangelical” circles in the United Kingdom and America teaches that the Virgin birth and substitutionary atonement are not essential to Christianity. (3) One of the largest and fastest growing churches in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex rejects the Trinity.

Brothers and sisters, be aware. These people preach no Gospel. Shall we not be all the more diligent to forsake the television and labor for the truth of the Gospel of Christ; to understand and explain it well and with precision? Pay attention.

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2 Responses to “Doctrine: Clear Understanding and Exposition of the Gospel”

  1. Faith: Genuine, Persevering Trust in the Gospel « For His Glory Says:

    […] For His Glory “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36) « Doctrine: Clear Understanding and Exposition of the Gospel […]

  2. Right Doctrine, Persevering Faith, Godly Conduct, and Gospel-Centered Ministry « Straight out of the SWBTS Blogosphere Says:

    […] Right Doctrine […]

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