Timothy 1:3-7, 4:1-5, 6:3-5
(c) Copyright 2005 Rev. Bill Versteeg
This morning we are going to be
reading from Paul’s first letter to Timothy, chapters 1,4,6,
and as we read, I hope you will notice the reoccurring theme that is on
Paul’s mind as he gives to Timothy instruction.
1 Timothy 1:3-7
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in
Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false
doctrines any longer 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless
genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s
work—which is by faith. 5 The goal of this command is love,
which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere
faith. 6 Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless
talk. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what
they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
1 Timothy 4:1-5
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will
abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by
demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose
consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people
to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God
created to be received with thanksgiving (the reason for prayer around
meals) by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything
God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received
with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and
1 Timothy 6:3-5
If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to
the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4
he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest
in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife,
malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between men of
corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that
godliness is a means to financial gain.
Paul repeatedly gives Timothy instruction about certain individuals who
were teaching false doctrines, getting involved in myths and endless
genealogies, following deceiving spirits, doctrines taught by demons,
meaningless talk, quarrelling about words, using godliness for
financial gain. These instructions are as meaningful today as they were
2000 years ago. My objective this morning is to give you an
understanding why these old instruction still apply.
Paul was giving these instructions to Timothy in response to a
religious movement called Gnosticism. Gnosticism was a philosophical
and religious movement that believed that salvation and a sense of
divinity was accomplished by knowledge. We actually get our verb
“to know” from the Greek word gnosis and if you
have ever wonder why know is spelled so strangely, it is because the
Greek letter G is hidden in the know of the “k” of
knowledge. Literally Gnosticism means good knowledge or to be good at
Gnosticism had the following characteristics.
1. Gnosticism, which started some
time before Christianity, probably about 400 BC, 2. focused
on esoteric and secret mystical knowledge. It involved speculations and
sometimes simply contradictory talk, meaningless talk. For example, the
Gnostic document called the Gospel of Thomas says that a women will be
saved when she becomes a man.
3. Gnosticism was Pantheistic - it believed that on a certain level
everything was God, but that creation or material existence was the
very lowest expression of God. Because matter was essentially negative,
almost evil, Gnosticism would forbid sex, it would forbid marriage, it
would talk about abstaining from certain foods because these had to do
with flesh and matter and were less godly. For the same reason, anyone
pertaining to be from God could not be human.
4. Gnosticism liked to speculate about the feminine goddess dynamic or
the Sophia dynamic of god and had all kinds of speculation about how
reality came to be by illegitimate relations between the god and a
5. Gnosticism was profoundly syncretistic. Gnosticism did not simply
adopt beliefs from other religions, but redefined beliefs and words
from other religions to fit the Gnostic religious system. As Paul says,
they would quarrel over the meaning of words.
Paul gives to Timothy strong instruction to stand against those who
were promoting this pagan religious system called Gnosticism among
Today, that old old religion called Gnosticism is once again rearing
its head, trying to rise to the surface, and in the last while it is
having some very significant success.
Many have called New Age theology basically the Gnosticism of today.
After all, when we think about it, New Age thought tends toward
mystical esoteric knowledge, celebrates god as a women, tends toward
pantheism where everything including you and I are gods and it is
profound syncretistic. All you have to do is read books like
“Touched by the light” to recognize that Christian
language is being used by New Age teachers to trick Christians into
believing the New Age thought is basically Christian. I am
sure that many of us have watched the show “Touched by an
Angel.” Some of us might even think it is a Christian show.
And though the show sounds Christian and it borrows our language, how
often has it communicated that the deepest human problem is our sin and
rebellion against God, and the solution is forgiveness and
reconciliation through the death and resurrection of Christ? Touched by
and Angel usually communicates that what we really need is more
knowledge. It is New Age Gnosticism. We talk about being born
again - and by it we mean that God gives us his Spirit by which we
receive a new nature that wants to obey him. New Agers talk about being
born again - but by that they mean reincarnation.
But Gnosticism is rearing its head in even more blatant ways. Two ways
that I want to highlight this morning. The first is through the book
and in a few weeks the movie “da Vinci’s
code” by author Dan Brown. You may have noticed that he has
been in the news lately because he was sued by other others for
stealing their work. In the past I have felt that the historical
research in the book is so crappy that it was not worthy of a sermon
addressing it. Now however, even the National Geographic has come out
with the find “The Gospel of Judas” and it is
making a big splash, so I am going to spend a few minutes this morning
looking at this book/movie and looking at the gospel of Judas.
At the heart of the da Vinci Code is a conspiracy claim that the
council of Nicea, because of political pressure by Emperor Constantine,
made Christ equal to God, hiding his marriage with Mary Magdalene (the
feminine principle), hiding that he had offspring (an endless
genealogy) who were his real continuing presence in this world, hiding
the fact that Jesus did die and that was the end of it. And they did
this all to maintain their male power and leadership in the church. And
this is a secret that has been kept for centuries, now exposed through
Dan Brown’s novel. Dan is making his millions off of this
I think there are two reasons why Dan’s book and soon the
movie is doing so well. And its not because the book is good, or
historically accurate or insightful. The reason why it is doing well is
because he is charging that the church has throughout the ages
repressed women, but even more than that, he has grasped a very
postmodern theme that suggests that it is the conquerors who write
history. And since the orthodox church won the battle at the council of
Nicea, the orthodox church mixed with Roman power rewrote what Christ
was all about.
National Geographic Magazine and “the Gospel
National Geographic Magazine has promoted “the Gospel of
Judas” as a document that will shake the foundational
Christian understandings of Jesus and Judas and their relationship. It
basically suggests that Jesus convinced Judas to betray him so that
Judas might have a better placement in heaven. They call it a Gnostic
Christian document, I suggest to you that it is not Christian at all.
Let me for a few minute survey early Christian history with you, as I
do, I suspect that you will get a sense of the problems that both the
da Vinci Code and the National Geographic’s approach to the
Gospel of Judas arise.
You will notice in your bulletins a handout that has way to much
information on it. You are welcome to take it home and study it. For
the purposes of this message I invite you to look at the table with the
listing of the New Testament books. The historical picture will come in
simplified form on the overhead. (Click
on the image to see a clearer version)
To begin with, Gnosticism started,
as far as historians can tell at least a few hundred years before
Christ. It is not a Christian religion and it was not part of
Christianity. Both the da Vinci’s Code and the NG regarding
the gospel of Judas assume that Gnosticism was part of
Christianity. In truth, they were not the same religion at
all and that will be demonstrated in the survey I will cover.
An early history of Christianity goes something like this.
There was a Jewish man named Jesus whose teaching shocked people with
it profoundness and authority, who claimed he was the Son of God, equal
with God and demonstrated his claims through various signs and wonders.
He choose for himself 12 disciples who for three years followed him day
in day out, listening to his teaching, and learning his character and
voice. This Jesus told them that he would die for the sins of the
world, but would rise again on the third day. They would not accept
that teaching and so when it happened, they were all shocked, but their
shock turned to Joy when they witness his resurrection, and not only
the disciples but hundreds saw him after he arose from the dead. As he
ascended into heaven, he commanded them to tell the world what happened.
These disciples started preaching,
the church grew, soon persecution arose and Christians were scattered
throughout the Roman Empire. Already, by Acts chapter 15, the church
had to deal with theological controversies - this time Jews who were
proclaiming that Gentile Christians in order to be truly saved must
adhere to all the Old Testament Jewish regulations. Paul, in the
passage that we read at the beginning of this message was preaching
against certain individuals who were distorting Christian truths and
arguing about words - from what we know of this passage - Paul was
already combating the attempts of Gnosticism to co-opt Christian
language and reinterpret the Christian faith.
A Roman Historian named
Josephus records in his secular history record (he was not a Christian)
the story of this man named Jesus and the development of this amazing
religious movement that claimed he arose from the dead.
The disciples continued preaching
and like Jesus. As these first disciples got older, they saw the need
to right down the public historical record of Jesus, his teachings and
what happened, these readings functioned as the sermons of the early
church. The first disciples themselves made disciples.
And so disciple John
discipled Polycarp who in turn discipled Iranaeus. We know from the
historical record that Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Ignatius and Iranaeas
were all vigorously arguing against the influence of
Gnosticism especially as expressed through Valentinus and the heresies
promoted by a rich ship owner named Marcion.
Now if you look at your table, (Click
on the following hyperlink to have the table arise in a new window)
- the development of the New Testament, you will see quickly who
approved of what books. Ignatius, the earliest approves of some,
Polycarp approves of more recognizing in them the truth that he has
learned from John about Jesus. But then this list gets very interesting
because we have records of what Marcion and Valentinus thought about
the New Testament books. Notice that Marcion rejected most of them
because Marcion rejected the God of the Old testament and any book that
quoted from the Old Testament was not something that Marcion favoured
unless it was changed.
If however you look at what Valentinus approved of (Va) - you will
notice that he approved of much of what we call the New Testament and
he is approving of some new documents the Gospel of Truth and the
preaching of peter. Gnosticism was syncretistic. It wanted to combine
and overtake the Christian faith by using Christian language and so it
adopted the Christian faith, but changed the meanings of the stories.
By this time, we know from history that Tertullian and Iranaeus,
Polycarp and Justin Martry were all fighting against Gnosticism. In
fact the apostles creed which we regularly confess in this church was
written somewhere around 150 AD - its basic statements were designed to
combat Gnosticism - when it confesses that Jesus died and arose again,
it is fight Gnosticism and other heresies which suggested that he never
really died, it just seemed like it. When it confesses a holy catholic
church, a church out in the open for all to see, it is counter acting
the secret of Gnosticism, when it confesses the forgiveness of sins, it
is countering Gnosticism which said that sins were not the issue, lack
of knowledge was.
More false teaching came along - Arius taught that Christ was not equal
with God. Athanasius defended that Jesus was both complete
God and complete human. And so we confess the Athenasian Creed.
What I invite you to notice is that by the time of Athenasius (A) on
your table, the church had already decided what was reliable New
Testament public witness to Christ and his followers, and what was not
reliable, what they regarded as heretical or not worthy of mentioning.
(Slide 9 Animation 12)
The council at Nicea simply adopted what was already practice in the
early church. The decision of Nicea that said in terms of
confession that Christ was both human and divine had nothing to do with
politics or emperor Constantine or an attempt to keep women down. The
Nicean confession, which we also confess had everything to do with the
churches practice of discerning what was the true faith and what was
not from the very beginning.
In the same way, when we hear of
the Gospel of Judas as found as promoted by National Geographic, we
need to remember that it was a Gnostic Gospel, and just because it has
the word gospel attached to it does not make it Christian. The National
Geographic Society says this document goes back to 180 AD. A lot of
other gnostic documents go back to that time period. It does not make
them Christian. They were not written by the apostles, nor was the
gospel of Judas written by Judas. Judas was long dead before 180 AD.
Not only does the document, which you can read in its entirety on the
National Geographic site have a lot of Gnostic speculation in it, the
gospel of Judas has to do with secret conversations between Jesus and
Judas. How many of you can remember secret conversations your great
great grand father had? You can’t. If you remember anything
about your great great grandfather, it had to do with very public
things about him. The New Testament documents were chosen because they
were public witness to Christ in the churches and that is the reason
why even today we have some 5000 manuscripts and manuscript fragments
of New Testament writings.
This mornings message is simply a warning. Like in Paul’s
day, like in the very early church, there are people spreading
doctrines taught by demons. When we read the books, when we watch the
movies, don’t be deceived by historical and confessional
ignorance. Test everything. The confessions were handed down to us so
that with awareness, we might evaluate what we see and hear.
Like this picture Remember that if you dive into the waters of
deception pass, the likely hood of getting sucked under is high, unless
you choose to stand on the solid rock that has been handed down through
the ages, the true testimony of Christ.
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY
BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984
International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible
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