I. THE APOSTLE’S CHARGE
In 3:9 Paul goes on to say, “But avoid foolish questionings and genealogies and strifes and contentions about the law, for they are unprofitable and vain.” The questionings here are those aroused by genealogies (1 Tim. 1:4), and the strifes issue out of the questionings and genealogies. Contentions refer to fightings, which are due to different opinions issuing from the deviant and mythological studies of the law. The law in this verse is the law of the Jews used for Gnostic Judaism, which stood in opposition to the simplicity of the gospel. These questionings, genealogies, strifes, and contentions are all vain; that is, they are aimless, without any positive result.
The positive things stressed in verses 4 through 8 should be affirmed strongly and consistently, positive things including our Savior God, Jesus Christ our Savior, the Holy Spirit, God’s kindness, love, mercy, grace, and eternal life, with His acts of justifying, saving, washing, regenerating, and renewing. These are the Triune God with His attributes and virtues, plus His divine actions in His eternal salvation: they are things of life, which belong to the tree of life (Gen. 2:9) and produce heirs to inherit all that He is for them. The negative things dealt with in verses 9 through 11 should be avoided. These things include foolish questionings, genealogies, strifes, contentions about the law, and factious, opinionated men. These matters are of the knowledge that is deadening, matters that belong to the tree of knowledge and kill their victims.
Paul’s word about avoiding foolish questionings, genealogies, strifes, and contentions corresponds to what he says about teaching differently in 1 Timothy 1. Differing teachings had begun to creep into the church, and Paul charges Titus to avoid them.
The Lord’s ministry is not the teaching of any individual. The ministry is the teaching of God’s New Testament economy. This means that the Lord’s ministry is the healthy teaching which conveys to us the New Testament economy. Unfortunately, most of today’s Christian teachers have missed the mark of God’s economy. God’s economy may be likened to a kernel or a grain. Most Christian teachers pay attention not to the kernel, but to the stem, the leaves, and even to the husks. They may argue and debate over husks and neglect the kernel.
In Colossians 1:25 Paul says, “I became a minister according to the stewardship of God, which was given to me for you, to complete the word of God.” To complete the word of God means to complete the divine revelation. This completion of the word of God is the mystery of Christ. This expression refers both to Christ and to His mystery. The mystery of Christ is the church. The content of the teaching of the New Testament economy is the all-inclusive Christ and the church as the Body of Christ.
Any teaching which deviates from this central focus should be regarded as a differing teaching. For example, suppose a certain Christian teacher insists that we baptize people in the name of Jesus Christ, not in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and not even in the name of Christ Jesus. Although such a teaching may be presented in a way which sounds fundamental and scriptural, it is actually a differing teaching because it emphasizes something other than the focus of God’s economy and distracts the saints from the proper church life. Yes, the Bible commands us to be baptized. But we should not be influenced by differing teachings related to the name in which the believers are baptized. To pay too much attention to such matters will cause us to be distracted from God’s economy.
It is not the goal of the Lord’s recovery to recover doctrinal truths. The goal of the recovery is to bring us back to God’s New Testament economy, which is Christ and the church. What the Lord desires of us, and what we ourselves need, is to have our entire being focused on God’s economy. In the Lord’s recovery we must pay our full attention to Christ and the church.
As we direct our attention to God’s economy concerning Christ and the church, we must avoid differing teachings. These teachings may be scriptural, and certain preachers may speak of them in an eloquent, attractive manner. However, we must discern whether or not such speaking is focused on Christ and the church, whether or not it strengthens the believers to live Christ and practice the church life. A person may deliver an excellent message on love from 1 Corinthians 13. However, if he has not seen the vision of the New Testament economy concerning Christ and the church, even his inspiring message on love may be a distraction. The more he expounds 1 Corinthians 13, the more those who listen to him are distracted from Christ and from the church life. Instead, they pay their attention to love.
Many seeking Christians have been distracted not by heresies, but by good teachings on certain favorite portions of the Bible. Many Christians are impressed by 1 Corinthians 13, and they appreciate messages on this chapter. But although they may talk a great deal about love and about the need to love one another, they neglect the church life.
Christians today appreciate the book of Psalms. For many, Psalms is their favorite book in the Bible. Paying our full attention to the Psalms, however, may distract us from living Christ and may encourage and strengthen us to be merely believers who emphasize the devotional life. Furthermore, some may be distracted from the church life and even completely neglect it. They may even criticize certain ones in the church for not emphasizing the devotional time the way they do.
How are we to discern which messages to receive and which to avoid? Although we must oppose heresy, we should not oppose teachings which are not heretical. But we should not pay attention to teachings that are not focused on God’s economy, even though they are sound. We need to avoid differing teachings and concentrate on God’s economy concerning Christ and the church.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Chapter 26, by Witness Lee)