Monday, 6 November 2017
…desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. 1Timothy1:7
Paul now chastises the group of people to whom he referred to in verses 3 & 4, and who he then referred to specifically again in verse 6. They are those who taught “another doctrine,” and who give heed to fables and endless genealogies. It is they who he now says are “desiring to be teachers of the law.” They have “strayed,” and “have turned aside to idle talk.” This now, unlike verse 5, is speaking of the law of Moses. It refers to a different word than that translated as “commandment” there.
The single Greek word translated as “teachers of the law” is used only three times. First in Luke 5:17 when speaking of the Pharisees. Next it is used in Acts 5:34 when speaking of Gamaliel, a Pharisee of the ruling council. And now Paul uses it to speak of those who would desire to be in such a position, but who are obviously contrasted to these other teachers of the law. This is evident from the words, “understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.”
These people were covetous of having the respect and authority of someone like a Pharisee, but in their zeal to obtain such favor, they overlooked what the law was pointing to, and thus its true purpose. The law was given to lead people to Christ, not to be an end in and of itself. Nor was it to be used as a spiritual map for discerning secrets which God has hidden in it. It is true that the law contains hidden pictures and patterns, but they are all intended to lead a person to Christ, not to magical insights and divinations.
Unfortunately, this is what they were doing. More unfortunately, this is still done to this day. Kabbalists use the Bible to obtain mystical insights, Christians use it in an attempt to determine genetic codes, prophetic codes, rapture dates, and the like. The list of such abuses is almost endless. But the Bible is not for predicting outcomes. Rather, it is there to reveal, after prophetic events occur, that God was in control of those events all along. Only afterward are such things discernible.
But it is a source of pride for people to claim they have special insights into the future, or into the mechanics of God’s providential workings in the stream of time, and so they pursue these unhealthy avenues of interpretation without truly understanding “what they say nor the things which they affirm.”
It is to be remembered that Paul is speaking specifically of people who have been saved by Christ in these verses, and yet they have gone off the deep end in their theology. Further, it certainly encompasses any misapplication of the law in their teaching. Therefore, it includes those who reinsert the law (or parts of it) as a mandatory part of Christian living. This includes feast days, Sabbath observances, dietary restrictions, etc. In such, these people truly do not know what they say. The law is annulled, obsolete, and set aside. Therefore, such people in the church are to be shunned, not emulated or adored.
In order to show their error, Paul makes another compound word in the Greek. First was nomodidaskalos, or “law teachers.” In contrast to this he says, diabebaioomai, or “they affirm.” What they wanted to be is not at all what they were, nor what they taught. Paul’s choice of words actually becomes a strong rebuke. He uses the same word once again in Titus 3:8 in a positive sense towards Titus, asking him “to affirm constantly” what is correct concerning belief in God.
Life application: Proper theology will always be Christ-centered. There is never a time that works-based theology will be sound, nor is there any place for using the Bible as a form of mystical insight or divination. Those who proclaim secret codes within the text which can be used for such things are to be rejected. Only when patterns and pictures reveal Christ, and God’s redemptive plans which are worked through Him, are they to be considered valid.
Lord God, what a suitable and remarkable word You have given us for understanding the love You have for the people of the world! Help us to always look for Christ, and the redemption found in Him, as we read the Bible. Equally so, help us to not to attempt to use the Bible as a tool of mystical insight or prophetic divination. May we never be so presumptuous as to believe that we can predict the future. Help us to simply cherish those things which are promised for our future with great hope and faith, and to be content with that knowledge as we wait for those things to arrive. Amen.