1 Timothy 1:8 – The Law and Sound Doctrine

Sound doctrine is a mystery to most despite being thoroughly explained in Scripture.

As I return from my tour of various odd forms of sickness—heat exhaustion, immunization reaction, and a stomach bug or food poisoning—it is time to return to 1 Timothy. We did verses 1-7 … on July 20. I guess this was a long hiatus.

1 Timothy 1:8-10

We were introduced to sound (literally “healthy”) doctrine in verse 3, though Paul did not call it that.

Stay at Ephesus … so that you may charge some to teach no other doctrine.

In verses 8-10, Paul clarifies the problem with that “other doctrine.”

The Law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners … etc. … and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.

Contrary to Sound Doctrine

What is contrary to sound doctrine? Is it Calvinism? Is it an incorrect view of the atonement? Is it amillenianism?

No, what is contrary to sound doctrine is murder, immorality, hating your parents, homosexuality, kidnapping, lying and the like. It is those things that will keep you out of the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21).

As an interesting aside, let me point out the Sermon the Mount. There is nothing in it about Jesus’ return, even though Jesus does talk about his return in other places. There is nothing in it about predestination, even though the Jesus and the apostles do talk about the Father’s call, foreknowledge, choosing, and predestination. There is nothing in it about the atonement, even though the atonement is central to the teaching of the churches.

Despite all that is lacking in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes the incredible promise that if you do the things he taught in that sermon, you will stand through every trial (Matt. 7:24-27).

Even more exciting is the context of his promise. He has just got done telling us the difference between true teachers and false teachers (vv. 15-20) and the difference between those who enter the kingdom of God (those who do the Father’s will) and those who don’t (those who work miracles but practice iniquity).

Thus, we can safely conclude that if we quit worrying about money, stop lusting, stop parading our religiosity, don’t resist evil, quit hating, and in every other way live a more righteous life than the pharisees, then nothing will overthrow us and that we will be given an “abundant entrance” into Jesus’ eternal rule (2 Pet. 1:8-11).

It appears then, that Jesus had the same idea of what was “contrary to sound doctrine” that Paul did.

The Law

Paul mentions the Law here. Look at what he thinks the Law teaches. He doesn’t think the Law is much concerned with circumcision, food laws, the Sabbath, and sacrifices like most Jews would. He thought it was about the same thing Jesus thought it was about.

“Are you without understanding, too? Don’t you understand that something that enters a person cannot defile him? … That which comes out of a man, that defiles him. From within, from out of the heart, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, sexual immorality, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, greed, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:18-20)

Jesus tells us that if we think the food laws are about pork, we are “without understanding.”

The food laws are about the things he listed in Mark 7.

We are the ones who must be clean. He doesn’t care if our food is clean.

Foods for the stomach, and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. (1 Cor. 6:13)

It’s probably worth adding that the rest of that verse is: “Now the body is not for sexual immorality, but for the Lord and the Lord for the body.” He may not care about food, but God does care about sexual immorality. Pork will not defile your body, but living like an uncontrolled animal will.

One more time, there in 1 Cor. 6:13, the Scriptures turn a discussion of clean food into a discussion of clean Christians.

The food laws are not abolished. Jesus said he did not come to abolish the law, and if we teach people to ignore even the most minor commandments, then we will be called least in the kingdom of God. (That’s a comfort. If we have forgotten apostolic teaching on the subject, the teaching once known by all the churches, we won’t be banned from the kingdom, like the greedy and sexually immoral will be, we will merely be called least in the kingdom. Sad era we live in.)

So, don’t mess up the food laws, nor any other. If you want to be clean, pork has nothing to do with it. You … yes, you … must be clean.

You must be a ruminant. You must not eat the Word of God indiscriminately. You must not simply empty what you’ve eaten “into the draught,” having extracted only surface nutrients from it. You must ruminate on it. Bring it back up from your heart, chew on it, and get every nutrient you can squeeze from it before you let it pass on into your memory to be replaced by the next day’s food.

This reminds me of an Amy Grant song:
I know a man, maybe you know him, too
Never can tell, he might even be you …
His spiritual tummy, it can’t take too much
One day a week he gets a spiritual lunch
On Sunday he puts on his spiritual best
And gives his language a spiritual rest
He’s just a fat little baby
He wants his mama and he don’t mean maybe
He sent for solid food once or twice
But he says doctrine leaves him cold as ice

You must not only be a ruminant; you must also be a doer of the work (Jam. 1:25). You must have a parted hoof. This represents your parting from the world, for only in doing so will you be accepted by God (2 Cor. 6:17-7:1).

It is not just here in 1 Timothy that Paul appeals to the Law. He does so as well in 1 Cor. 9 where he treats the Law just as Jesus taught us all to treat the Law. God is not concerned about ceremonies. He is concerned about us and our behavior.

Feasts, New Moons, and Sabbaths

As an aside, he is also not concerned about our literal interpretations of the Law of Moses and our love for ceremonies like the new moons, feasts, and Sabbaths. The true circumcision is the circumcision of the heart, and if you want to be a Jew before God, then circumcision of the flesh will do you no good at all (Rom. 2:28-29). You must have your sinfulness cut away by the circumcision that is done without hands (Col. 2:11).

In the same way, the rest that you must enter into is not a one day a week thing. The Pharisees had that righteousness, and Jesus could barely tolerate their presence. They were his enemies, and thus they were the enemies of God.

No, our righteousness must exceed theirs. God has offered us the rest that is in Jesus. He calls us into kingdom in which we serve under a yoke made particularly for us, carrying a burden carefully chosen for us by God, the Father of our King. The life he calls us to is a life of perpetual rest (Heb. 4:7).

At one time, all Christians knew these things:

The new law requires you to keep perpetual Sabbath, and you [Jews], because you are idle for one day, suppose you are godly, not understanding why this command was given to you. If you eat unleavened bread, you say the will of God has been fulfilled. The Lord our God does not take pleasure in such observances. If there is any perjured person or thief among you, let him cease to be so. If any adulterer, let him repent. Then he has kept the sweet and true Sabbaths of God. (Justin. Dialogue with Trypho 12. c. AD 150)

I guess we’ll stop there. Only three verses today. Really rich verses when you didn’t previously know what Paul was talking about, aren’t they?

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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