Friday, 9 February 2018
…he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, 1 Timothy 6:4
Paul continues to describe the one who teaches doctrine contrary to the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ. He says that “he is proud.” This follows along with the person mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:6. There he was speaking of a recent convert who, if ordained, might let pride step in and take over. In this, he would “fall into the same condemnation as the devil.” This is what pride leads to. It is pride which causes arrogance, boasting, the belittling of others, etc. A person filled with pride becomes a fanatic, even though he may have no idea at all about the truth of the matter he is prideful about. Instead of having a reasonable understanding, Paul says he actually is “knowing nothing.”
In this, he shows that what such a person thinks he knows is actually completely wrong. Paul, writing to those in Corinth, says it this way, “…if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:2). Having incorrect knowledge of a matter, and still trying to teach on it, is highly detrimental. Instead of properly expounding on what should be taught, such a person “is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words.”
This takes us back to a similar thought that was mentioned in Chapter 1 concerning those who “give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.” Some people, in their perverse desire to show that they are always right, will argue over words. Someone might argue over what the meaning of “is” is. Or, he might take a word which has 20 possible meanings, each which must be derived from the context, and he will arbitrarily pick one meaning and then argue that it is what is being referred to, even though the context says otherwise. The list of such arguments over words could go on all day. It is a perverse-minded soul who is simply obsessed with disputes, and who finds any and every reason for getting into one.
Next he says that from such disputes “come envy.” A person who is argumentative in this way has shown that he is actually unqualified to teach. When he faces a person who rightly divides the word and teaches soundly and with proper authority, envy runs through him. From this will then come “strife.”
The one who argues over words, knowing that he has no sound footing, will simply become contentious and strive to make his point, even if it is completely wrong. He will gather people to his “side” in order to argue against others, thus dividing the congregation. It is his pleasure and his great desire to argue for the sake of argument, and to strive simply because he is supposedly elevated in his own eyes and in the eyes of those he has swayed with his falsities. From such strife then comes “reviling.”
As he lacks true soundness in his teaching, and as it becomes obvious that his words have no merit, he will then begin to revile those he disagrees with. Harsh, abusive language is directed at others when they will not concede to his point of view. He gets myopic, focusing on one or two pointless issues, and he continues to exalt them to an unhealthy status, as if what he is focused on is of the utmost importance. Anyone who tells him to “lighten up” and redirect to what is important is slandered with insults. An easy way to find people like this is to simply post a challenging theological question on social media. The post will light up with a dozen of these reviling “specialists.” When anyone shows them the folly of their way, “evil suspicions” about them are immediately cast forth.
In this, the direction changes from direct reviling, to a conspiratorial attitude. He will attack those who disagree with him by questioning the source of their knowledge, as if it was evil which led them to their conclusions. And this could be evil in the source itself, or evil in the intent behind their ideas directly. The first is a source fallacy. It doesn’t matter where someone learned something. If it is true, how or where he obtained the information is irrelevant. The second is a common attack over those with whom one disagrees. He might say something inane like, “Your point is of the devil because your intent is simply to argue against me.” He projects his own state of mind on those with whom he disagrees.
Life application: The Proverbs give sound advice concerning the people whom Paul mentions in this verse. Solomon says –
Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Lest you also be like him.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
Lest he be wise in his own eyes. Proverbs 26:4, 5
What Solomon is saying is that in arguing with a fool one reduces himself to the state of that fool. However, there are times when a fool is to be answered in order to keep his foolishness from being vindicated and continued on. What this means is that if one is going to engage a fool, do so with precision, defeat his argument, and when he continues to argue, ignore him. Playing Scripture tennis with a fool can only end in you looking foolish as well. Leave the perverse to wallow in his own wretched pool of mud.
Lord God, Your word tells us that there is a time when we should answer a fool, lest he be wise in his own eyes. But Your word also tells us to not answer a fool, lest we become like him. Give us wisdom to deal with the fools of this world so that we can quickly shut down their foolishness, but to not let our dealing with them turn into a fool-fest that we become a part of. Grant us this wisdom, and help us to be sound in our teaching, especially in that which pertains to godliness. Amen.