If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. 1 Timothy 6:3-5
You can’t buy everything you hear “hook, line and sinker.” You do have your trusted teachers, but even then, you should check out what is said yourself. There was a group described in Acts 17:11 who did just that:
Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.
As a teacher I don’t mind the fact-checking. This means you have a hunger to know the truth, and it keeps me honest. Go ahead, check a commentary or a word in the Greek. This way you learn the truth twice! This is not to say we become know-it-alls and try to one-up a gifted and godly Bible teacher, but we adopt the practices of the Bereans, and go deeper.
A good Berean will spot a “different doctrine” a mile away. It looks funny. It smells funny. It doesn’t square with the whole counsel of God. Here’s one good way to be tipped off. Is the Bible consistent on a principle except in one instance where the context may be all important? There’s more to be said on this matter, but suffice it to say that we should approach every Bible question thinking the book does not contain inconsistencies; that it’s a matter of us studying harder!
Paul puts every teacher on notice here. “If anyone advocates a different doctrine… .” There are two check points for squaring a teacher’s message with the truth: 1) does it agree with the sound (healthy) words of Jesus Christ, and 2) does it agree with the doctrine according to godliness. The phrase “agree with,” means to “come to” or “come with,” or more clearly, “assent or consent with the mind.” Everything flows out of the teachings of Jesus, commented on and illumined by the gospel writers and the group of men who documented the spread of Christianity in the Bible. Then there’s the Old Testament for our instruction and encouragement:
For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4
If “anyone” wanders off the reservation, it normally starts with an intriguing idea that sounds good. When postulated, we need to ask the simple question, did Jesus propose this in his teaching? Did Paul or Peter or John or Luke introduce the concept to illumine or implement Jesus’ teaching? You’ve got to believe if there’s some winning strategy to reach the lost, it’s in the Bible. Truth is, the guys Paul warns Timothy about never take the time to “get acquainted” with sound teaching (they “understand nothing”).
These guys are vain and conceited (“puffed up”), possessing a sick craving for controversial questions or disputes about words. If a teacher is all splash, wanting to stir things up, it should give you pause.
At this stage of the game (2,000 years in), there should not be some bold new slant on the gospel, some radical new thinking about what the legal profession would commonly call “settled law.” Their modus operandi is to study the Bible to win word-battles, not to discern the truth. This is impossible when you are “depraved” and “deprived.” Also, nothing good comes from these false teachers. Quarrels. Strife. Malicious talk. It’s a bad scene.
Now I know there are disputes going on all the time among evangelicals, but to my way of thinking, most are jousting matches “on the reservation.” What I’m talking about here is best illustrated in the form of a popular hip preacher who purports to know God well enough to to state that he would never evoke his judgment on a person who has never heard the gospel message.
You mean to tell me that someone who seemingly had no chance to learn about Christ will burn in hell? This can’t be, so therefore, I will write my own book saying so.
Given the animosity and disdain for authentic Christianity in the world today, if a new theory gets play in the media, you can pretty much know it’s off -base. The simple gospel truth, that of the Lord Jesus Christ, never gets play in the media!
The word for godliness is “piety,” but could mean, in a sense, “religion.” A new religion could, in fact, be a source of “great gain” when you write a best-selling book. Would an accurate commentary on the Bible ever rise to the top of the New York Times Bestseller’s List or grab headlines? Hardly.
Satan will always use something newfangled that can perhaps distract men from the message of Jesus Christ dead, buried and risen in three days.