They say that when you are driving you shouldn’t take your eyes off the road for more than a second. I remember learning that in Drivers Ed. The sad thing is I don’t always do that. That’s because I get sidetracked pretty easily.
One time my brother asked me if I could drive him to a friend’s house. On the way we came to a stoplight. I saw the light was red, so I started slowing down. The bad thing was I didn’t see the car in front of me. For some reason my brother and I were looking at the gas station there on the corner. I don’t remember what exactly had caught my attention. It might have been the price of gas or maybe I was looking for an air pump. I do remember thinking how stupid it would sound to say to the guy whose bumper I rammed into that I wasn’t paying attention.
Thankfully I wasn’t going that fast and there wasn’t any damage to either of our cars. But it illustrates well the danger of becoming distracted.
What holds true for the road can also be said for the church. The church is always in danger of becoming distracted. And we have to guard against that. If we lose our focus there can be serious consequences. How can I say that? Because it almost happened to the Ephesian church.
The passage before us addresses a church that was in danger of imploding. They were getting sidetracked and were in danger of not being a gospel based church anymore. It was so bad that Paul had to send Timothy special directives on how to deal with the problem.
If we want to be a gospel based church, it is important that we not become distracted. And as we look at this passage, we can glean some lessons on where our focus is to be.
I. A gospel based church will maintain its enthusiasm with the gospel [3-4]
A distracted church will not. A distracted church is a church that begins to be enthralled with other things.
That’s what was starting to happen in the church at Ephesus. Verses 3-4 tell us that the Ephesians were starting to lose their enthusiasm with the gospel. Verse 3 tells us that Timothy was to remain at Ephesus and charge “certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.” Verse 4 goes on to say that the people were devoting themselves to myths and genealogies and speculations.
We don’t know what exactly these myths and genealogies were. But we do know that they were not things that were rooted in Scripture. Myths, as you may know, are fanciful stories. And the genealogies here are not the genealogies of Scripture. It would be fine if someone wanted to do an in depth study of the genealogies of Scripture to see what they could learn. It is always fine to dig through Scripture. But these were promoting “speculations.”
To put it in the most simple terms, these people were not enchanted by the gospel any more. They delving into maters that had absolutely no biblical basis. They were going to coffee shops to hear the latest guru and gathering together in homes for conversations about things that probably sounded religious; they were probably finding these kinds of things “inspirational;” but the fact of the matter is, they were not committed to the genuine teaching of God’s word.
And this is what we have to be on the guard against. It is easy to lose your enthusiasm for the gospel and for real biblical teaching. Some other things that are less meaningful or just downright fanciful thing can get us distracted from the truth that what really matters.
A quick look at the American religious landscape and you’ll see that we are living in a land fraught with this kind of thing. We have a lot of things that can distract us. Some things just occupy our minds too long, like social media or youtube videos. Then there’s other things that have a more religious bent, but they are truly based in the gospel. Like one of the bestselling books in the last two years is “The Four Blood Moons.”
The thing about it is that these kinds of thing have some bible lingo. They have a Christian bent to them, and they are highly interesting. But it’s not really a gospel based teaching.
You’ll find this in a lot of churches too. You’ll find that solid gospel teaching is not what is the main thing on the menu in a lot of churches. Instead of being enamored with the Scriptures, you’ll find that some are dedicated to music. The central thing about that congregation is that they are focused on providing great music. Now, is good music in church a bad thing? Absolutely not. But is it what the church should be what captivates a church? Should that (or any other form of amusement) take precedence over the word of God and the exposition of Scripture? I think we know the answer to that.
They say that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. And that’s what Paul’s telling Timothy here. Timothy’s job was to keep the main thing the main thing. The truth of the gospel—the realities of the word of God—should always be the main thing. Timothy was not to let their minds be distracted by foolish little amusements.
So there you see the primary focus of a gospel based church. It’s going to maintain its enthusiasm with the gospel.
But another attribute of a gospel based church is its love. A gospel based church is going to have a genuine love that permeates its people. To put it another way, a gospel based church is going to have strong relationships because of the love that exists between them.
II. A gospel based church will maintain its love for one another 
Look at verse 5. Paul says “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
Timothy’s work in the church was not to graduate students. He wasn’t there to give lectures that would stimulate deep thoughts or impart some philosophical expertise. Paul says that the ultimate aim of the gospel—the aim of his ministry-- was to produce genuine, unadulterated love for one another.
The goal for every church is that their relationships would deepen and they would become better equipped to love one another.
There are some churches that like to pit love and truth against each other. They say that truth divides and love unites. Or they may say that they want to be focused on loving one another and not be so uptight about doctrine.
But that’s a false dichotomy. You can’t have love without truth. Love and truth are not opposed to one another. They exist in a symbiotic relationship. Biblical doctrine is the pathway that leads to love. Love is the direct result of understanding biblical truth.
Here is the difference between false teaching and orthodox teaching: False teaching will not generate the kind of community that biblical teaching will. You can be assured that the Ephesian church was starting to see a lot of relational breakdown. And it is because false teaching doesn’t have what it takes to make for good relationships. False teaching cannot produce the kind of love that is described here.
You’ll notice that the kind of love that Paul talks about here is a unique kind of love. It is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. In other words, it is not a self-centered love. It is not a love that is faked or based on polite niceties. It is a genuine, pure, faith based love.
When you look at the book of Acts, what do you see? You see a church that is demonstrating love. People were selling their homes and sharing their goods with those who were in need. Having grasped something of what God’s grace was all about, they were now seeking to be gracious to one another and live sacrificially. They put a priority on those relationships.
I’ve been in churches that are rather cold, and I’m not talking about the temperature of the room. I’ve gone to churches where the people are, at least on the surface, nice and courteous, but they are not churches that are really places that I would call loving churches. Now it’s not like anyone is breaking out in fisticuffs. It’s just that they don’t have a genuine love for one another.
And oftentimes, when you get into the real lifeblood of these kinds of churches, you’ll find that underneath there are some real problems. There’s a problem with gossip and there are deep divisions in the church.
When you are distracted from the gospel, you are going to be distracted from the kind of love that the gospel produces. Most likely, your church is going to be riddled with all kinds of strife because its all about you.
That’s the sum and core of a distracted church. You can’t have good relationships because its not about the Lord anymore. Your concentration is not on what God wants you to do, but upon what you desire and how you can advance your own little agenda.
So keep that in mind. That’s the dynamic of a church that is distracted. At best, a distracted church can only give you a façade of cordiality. It’s not going to be a place where love is truly demonstrated.
But a gospel based church is going to be a bastion of love. It is going to be a place where people are demonstrating repentance and sincerely trying to live together in heavenly harmony.
The last thing characteristic of a gospel based church is its respect and reverence it has for the ministry. A gospel based church is going to make sure that it follows the right people and does not concede the offices of the church to anyone who is not fit for it.
III. A gospel based church maintains its reverence for the ministry
Look at verse 6. In verse 6 Paul talks about certain persons who have swerved from these things (that is the gospel and the love that it was to be produced by it). These people have wandered away into vain discussion. And it’s not just that they are talking a bunch of crazy talk, but it says in verse 7 that they had a desire to be teachers of the law.
In other words, they were not content with their place in the church. They wanted a position of power. They want to be the Sunday school teachers and the small group leaders. They were likely jockeying to become elders and ministers in the church.
Paul is basically telling Timothy, you need to make sure that these people do not become leaders in the church.
Why is that? He goes on to say that these people don’t even know what they are talking about. They “do not understand what they say or the things about which they make confident assertions.”
So, if I could summarize, a church that is distracted is going to have people who are unfit to be leaders in positions of leadership. These positions are going to be compromised, and they are going to be comprised of people who are essentially ignorant and power hungry.
But a gospel based church is going to make sure that they protect the offices of the church. They’re going to make sure that the ministry of the gospel is not jeopardized. So they are going to make sure that they get someone who truly fears God and knows what they are talking about.
In Reformed churches we have historically believed in what we call “a well trained minister.” That translates into a “well examined minister.” We believe that a man who leads the church should be a godly man who also possesses a thorough understanding of biblical doctrine. So there is extensive training that typically takes place.
When I became a minister I went through extensive examination. I’ll even confess that I failed the first time I came for examinations. I didn’t measure up to their expectations. So I had to go back and study up some more. But there was a committee of men who inquired into my personal beliefs and walk with the Lord. They also examined my understanding of Scripture and church history. They were extremely thorough. Besides oral examinations I had written exams that I had to take.
You might think that this was a bit excessive, but you understand the reason why we went through this meticulous process. They knew that they had to put safeguards on the church’s leadership.
We should take a lesson from that. If we are going to be a gospel based church, we cannot permit just anyone to jump into the pulpit and take over leading a church. If we do not give proper reverence to the church’s offices and take steps to guard it, we risk hurting the church’s spiritual wellbeing.
A number of years ago my daughter got terribly sick and we had to take her to Akron Children’s Hospital. When we got there the place was just packed full of parents trying to get their kids in to see the doctor. You have probably been in this kind of situation. We had been sitting there for a while, and we were beginning to wonder how long it was going to take to get in. A few minutes later someone came up to the person at the window and said, “We’ve been here for two hours already, how much longer is it going to be?”
I began to think, what did we get ourselves into here?
But it was just a few minutes later that Katelyn began showing signs of distress. She began to wail and cry out for something to eat and drink. Her duress caught the attention of the nurses and they came to check on her right there in the waiting room. Because she wouldn’t calm down the nurses began to see that she needed immediate attention. Determining her to be a priority, they moved her right into a room. All the other patients were bypassed because this child need special attention.
You could say that this subject that we are studying here needs to take special priority in our church too. Paul has a lot of things to say about how a church should run. But he bypasses everything else that he is going to say in order to place this one before us at the very first. He knows that frivolous matters can be detrimental to a church.
And so we must resist being sidetracked. We must refrain from following fool-hearty people. Their defective teachings put us in critical condition if they sidetrack us. That is why we must guard our little fellowship. We must never allow such things to derail this church from its God intended aims.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.