There ae no plateaus in the Christian life. The moment we stop ‘growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 3:18), we lose ground.
Paul in his mentoring of Timothy, as a ministry partner and successor, warns of the danger of false teaching. The ‘doorway’ into such destructive lies opens by yielding to the temptation to indulge in ‘godless chatter.’ ‘Godless chatter?’ Is this the wasted conversation of those whose lives bear no evidence of grace? How might a leader, a godly pastoral leader, be tempted to such activity? This is a real temptation and Paul cites the examples of two men, who wandered away from the truth.
“Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.”
Either avoid it, or indulge in it. Noone can successfully ‘play with lies’ and retain a grip on the truth! Ungodliness has an insatiable appetite for more, like all sin. Paul illustrates the spread of this falsehood with a medical snapshot. When gangrene sets into a limb, the only option may be amputation. Lose the circulation in a foot or hand, allow some small infection to go untreated, and the consequences are life-altering.
Hymenaeus and Philetus, likely known to Timothy, were two leaders. We don’t have a full biographical sketch but Paul notes their wandering away from the truth. What took them out? A misunderstanding of the truth of the resurrection. How could they possibly believe it had ‘already taken place?’ Were they living in a resurrected body? Were they claiming to have experienced death? It certainly wasn’t the Spirit of God who led them into this lie. They DIDN’T avoid error, they DID indulge in it and their adoption of false doctrine led to the destruction of faith of others, some who followed them.
Leaders, let’s stop playing fast and loose with the truth. Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus, allow the Spirit of God to guide us into truth, and let’s seek to “correctly handle the word of truth.” Exploration of the latest evangelical ‘fad’ and endorsement of the latest evangelical ‘falsehood’ may be ‘hip’ but the consequences will be disastrous.
Years ago some of my high school friends urged me to ‘covet’ the gift of tongues. They deemed it the mark of the Spirit’s filling, and felt my spiritual health was being neglected because of my inexperience of this ‘sign gift.’ After studying the Scriptures on that and other topics, I still disagree. It is not ‘the evidence’ of the Spirit’s filling, and if it genuinely exists, it will be governed by clear scriptural guidelines, as laid out in 1 Corinthians 12-14 where the gift of interpretation is also clearly required.
Today, I’m urging many of my friends to ‘covet’ the gift of discernment. In an evangelical world filled with fictional ‘theologies’ (e.g. The Shack (now about to become a movie) and wild speculative books on Heaven, etc), I’m more persuaded than ever that the followers of Christ need to heed Paul’s admonition to “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” (1 Thess. 5:21,22) and John’s admonition “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1) May we, like Timothy, avoid the falsehoods which will cause us to become more and more ungodly.