ERRING FROM THE TRUTH
Paul uses several descriptive terms which indicate the direction some at Ephesus were taking away from the truth. In 1 Timothy 1:6 he says, “From which some, missing the aim, have turned aside unto vain jangling” (Gk.). Vain jangling is just empty talk. Verse 7 continues, “Desiring to be teachers of the law.” They turned from God’s economy to the law, which, as we have said, is only a shadow. Verse 4 tells us, “Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies.” Chapter four verse 7 says, “Refuse profane [worldly] and old wives’ fables.” In 5:13 we read, “They learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.” Instead of caring for the truth, they spent their time gossiping with their neighbors. In 6:3-5 we have a clear contrast between what is healthy teaching and what is not: “If any man teach differently, and consent not to healthy words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the teaching which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but sick about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself” (Gk.). Notice how the healthy words are opposed by those who are destitute of the truth. Those who promote strifes of words and perverse disputings Paul describes as sick.
In the second Epistle Paul continues to warn against these unhealthy words. “But shun profane and vain babblings; for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a gangrene” (2:16-17, Gk.). In verse 23 he further admonishes Timothy, “But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.”
From all these verses we can gather what the state of the church was at the end of the first century. There was empty talk. There were those who had turned back to the law; who were giving heed to fables and endless genealogies; who were tattlers and busybodies. There were questions, strifes of words, perverse disputings, worldly and vain babblings.
CORRECTING AN UNHEALTHY CONDITION
It was to correct such a deplorable situation that Paul wrote these Epistles, in which he emphasized so strongly the matter of the truth. Here are some of the descriptive terms he used relating to the truth. Besides the healthy words and healthy teachings we discussed in Life Message Nineteen, Paul also spoke of the word of God (1 Tim. 4:5; 2 Tim. 2:9), the words of faith (1 Tim. 4:6), the words of our Lord Jesus Christ (6:3), and the Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16). These positive terms are a reminder to us that, for the church to serve as the pillar and base of the truth, we must take in the Word of God.
Second Timothy 3:16 is the only reference in the whole Bible that tells us that all Scripture is God-breathed (Gk.). This is a strange way of speaking. We do not think of our words as our breath. If we write a letter, we do not consider that we breathed out the words. But Paul here introduces the concept that the divine word is God’s breathing. The word in the Bible is more than an utterance; it is the breath of God.
What is the proper way to take in the Word of God? You may say that we must eat it. Yes, there is such a thought in the Scriptures. The Lord Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out through the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Jeremiah also expressed that thought: “Thy words were found, and I did eat them” (Jer. 15:16).
There is, however, an even more prevailing way to take in the Word. Since God breathes His word out, we may breathe it in. How can we do this? It is by prayer. Our spiritual breathing is our unceasing prayer. Eating and sleeping are for a while, but breathing is never ending throughout our life. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17). This verse likens our prayer to breathing. We cannot inhale God’s breath by exercising our mentality; we must inhale by praying.
(Life Messages, Vol. 1 (#1-41), Chapter 22, by Witness Lee)