You’ve struggled for much of your life with trying to follow and apply many inconsistent, if not impossible church doctrines and burdensome Bible teaching. Lord knows you tried your heart out. All of those struggles with the ups and downs while attempting to maintain your spiritual performance, not to mention the arm wrestling matches that had you going back and forth between guilt and grace—it was just too exhausting.
Then you discovered the true meaning of unconditional love, the message of unlimited grace, and a forgiveness from God that has already been dispensed through the blood of Jesus Christ. It was the good news message of faith and peace that seemed absent from all of those sermons which you had been exposed to over the years. Finally, eternal assurance, relief and rest had been found through simply believing that Jesus did it all on your behalf through a finished work at the cross … it was something to believe in that was much bigger than yourself or your good and bad behavior.
And then … THUD! It happened. Concerned church people felt the obligation to spy out this newfound liberty you have been so excited to talk about. They begin the attempt to slowly let the air out of your tires by cautioning that this unbalanced message of “hyper-grace” is a dangerous doctrine, if it’s applied without the checks and balances of law and commandments. They’ll begin to spout all kinds of “verses” out of context in the attempt to remove the gospel seed that God had planted so passionately, and so carefully within your heart. One of those passages frequently used in their endeavor to throw you overboard into the sea of double-mindedness is from 2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NASB):
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” (bold added by author).
In traditional Christian legalistic circles, those who feel appointed as members of the jury will try to convict those “unbalanced” grace-bibbers by suggesting that the Apostle Paul was warning Timothy about those taking grace to an overly abundant extreme, which they believe will cause sin to increase. (Pssst … here’s a little-known secret … it’s the law and commandments that caused sin to increase—not grace).
Of course, when it comes to warning people about a risky doctrine of a grace overflow, Paul didn’t say anything of the kind to Timothy, but Scripture does reveal to us exactly who and what he was referencing … and it’s the precise opposite of what the jury has led people to believe. They have missed some key evidence.
Paul was coming to the end of his second letter to Tim—his child in the faith. He was wrapping-up the correspondence by reminding him of something he stated at the very beginning of his first letter. This is where Paul revealed the real culprits who would swerve from sound doctrines to teaching strange doctrines. Let’s take a look in 1 Timothy 1:3-7 (NASB):
“As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.” (bold added by author).
Notice how the passages from both letters used the word “myths.” It’s the same Greek word in both epistles (Strong’s G3454). It is defined as a fable, a tale, a fictitious fabrication. And who is Paul pointing the finger at when he admonishes Timothy to instruct these teachers to knock it off? It’s those who would attempt to become teachers of the law of works. That approach simply won’t sync inside of a new and better covenant, where the law was put to an end because it was weak and useless in regards to redemption, righteousness, and sanctification (see Hebrews 7:18-19). In the first chapter of 1 Timothy, Paul continued by saying the law which came through Moses was good if used properly. That is … even though the law was given to Israel, it’s meant to show humankind that everyone has fallen short of the requirement, and this was designed to point people to the truth that Jesus is the only way to God. But notice Paul’s clarification that the law isn’t meant for believers in Christ who have been gifted with God’s righteousness, established in love from a pure heart and a sincere faith.
Conclusion: It wasn’t the gift of abounding grace Paul was warning about when it came to people wanting their ears tickled with strange doctrines from teachers in order to suit their own desires. It was the law of works, also known as the flesh (see Galatians 3:1-5). It’s rooted in the barren tree of fruitless discussion, and it comes from those who are generally clueless about what they are saying as they try to teach a mixed message of law and grace. Stay away from that confusing concoction, because you are not under law, you are under grace and it can’t be both (see Romans 6:14). Grace removes our efforts from the equation and puts Jesus on center stage where He belongs. It takes away the boasting from those trying to establish their own right-standing with God as they needlessly work to make themselves more acceptable, more forgiven, more sanctified, etc. In other words, their ears itch for someone to tell them what they need to “do” to in order to become what God has already made them to “be.”
I’ve known or heard of numerous pastors who had formerly preached a mixed message of old and new covenant confusion, and had very successful attendance records at their church. Then they joyfully discovered the true revelation of New Covenant grace (or “hyper-grace” as it’s often called by religious legalists), and these pastors transitioned to teaching the truth of the gospel of grace and faith-based righteousness. God bless these ministers who are very much in the minority. Now get this … In just about every instance, their church attendance gradually began to shrink as they were accused of a love and grace message that was “out of balance” with the flock’s perceived understanding of Bible teaching, and their misunderstanding of the gospel. Many of these sheep will flock to the church down the road where that pastor will be more than happy to quench their hunger and thirst for strange doctrines, myths and fables, and a modernized version of the Mosaic law. Don’t be surprised, Paul told Timothy this would happen.
“Cross” Reference Bonus Coverage:
“For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work” (Titus 1:10-16 ESV). (bold added by author).
For more on avoiding the trap of religious bondage inside of a new and better covenant, and also gaining a better understanding of the teachings of Jesus, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee.
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