1 Timothy 1:8-11
The Law is Good
Good Morning! Lets grab our Bibles and turn to 1 Timothy, chapter 1. As I say every week, if you do not own a Bible, please take one from the back table as our church’s gift to you.
So, we started going through Paul’s first letter to timothy last week and the context surrounding it. We saw that Timothy was sent by Paul to pastor and shepherd the famous (Infamous?) church at Ephesus. One of his primary tasks was to protect the flock from false teaching that was come from both within and without. We touch on some of that false teaching last week and we will be looking at it many weeks as we go through these letters from Paul.
These false teachers would come in and simply, they would teach contrary to biblical teachings. They would teach different than what the Bible teaches. Not always obvious either, sometimes very subtly and very persuasively.
Paul has in many places addressed legalists. Very similarly, Jesus often addressed the Pharisees during his ministry. These two groups had a common trait. Their world view was all law, it was very rigid, focusing solely on obedience, without any regard to love and grace.
But we have and see the opposite problem in scripture as well. It was prevalent then and its rampant now as well. All “love,” and all “grace,” and no law. The idea that is all over our culture, “Do what ever you want.”
“God wants you to be happy.”
“He has already forgiven all sin.”
“Its not that big of a deal.”
“That was for a different time, and more primitive culture, not for now, when we are enlightened.”
All these and more are a part of the false doctrine, false teaching called antinomianism. It means anti law. And Paul addresses that here in the passage we are looking at this morning.
SO lets go ahead and read our passage for this morning. We will be reading 1 Timothy 1:8-11. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your preferred translation. Again, 1 Timothy, chapter 1, verses 8-11.
Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes to Timothy:
Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers,[b] liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound[c] doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
One of the most common misunderstandings in Christianity is that the law is no more. Yet, Jesus says in Matthew 5:17, Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. So the law has not gone away. It is still there. Others also have the misunderstanding that the law is bad, that is too hard, that it is antiquated, that it is just there to punish those who break it.
And yet Paul says right here that the law IS good, IF you have a right and accurate understanding of what the law is and what it is designed to do. That misunderstanding is rampant and it reminds me of parts of the Sermon on the Mount.
In Matthew 5:21-48, 6 times Jesus says, “You have heard it said…” Jesus points out the common, contemporary understanding and then corrects it from what the scriptures actually said or what the true meaning of the scriptures was. It feels like Paul is doing that here too.
“You have heard it said that the Law is bad, or old, but I say to you that the Law is good if one uses it lawfully.”
And Paul does and has shown exactly what that looks like. The law is a mirror, that, when we look into it, points out our blemishes, our sin. It points out our unrighteousness so that we can understand that we ourselves need someone else’s righteousness. See what Paul writes in Romans 7:7-12:
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
Again, the law is a mirror to point out our unlawful behavior. The best description I have heard, Ive shared this before, but the law is the diagnostic tool. You go into the Doctors office and they give you an Xray or an MRI and the find something wrong with you. Did the MRI cause the issue? No, it helped identify the issue. The Law is the MRI. It identifies our issues. Sin is the disease. It is already in there, festering, growing, killing. If we don’t identify it, it will grow unchecked and it will kill us without us even realizing it. That’s one form of False teaching though, the one Paul is addressing here. The Law does not cause sin. The Law is not bad. The law is good.
But we also have to not swing too far the other way. The MRI does not cure the disease. The Law does not eliminate sin. The Law is not the cure. The law does not provide righteousness. It points out unrighteousness. As Paul does here in verses 9 & 10. He lists a small number of sins, small compared to the other lists he provides in his New Testament letters.
This list of sins is not exhaustive, and is not meant to be. It ends on verse 10, with the phrase “And whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.” So, if its not meant to be exhaustive, then what is the purpose of this list. Paul is showing both what happens, what we easily fall into and justify when we have a wrong understanding of the law, but also, he is showing what False teachers teach is ok, what they encourage. Remember the last line in Romans 1, verse 32, Paul says, Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
False teachers will make your favorite sin, your specific temptation be ok. They will twist it so that what ever it is that you struggle with, Guess What? You don’t have to struggle with it any more because its not really a sin, or its not really that bad. They make sin and lawlessness subjective. Right and Wrong are culturally determined.
Bethel Church, up in Redding put out this statement recently:
God loves all people, LGBTQ+ and straight. The message has never been “All Must Change.” We share these stories specifically for Christians who are unfulfilled in identifying as LGBTQ+. For those of you who feel fulfilled and happy as you are, we love you!
God doesn’t force people to change, and people – including Christians – shouldn’t force others to change, either. We stand against any and all forms of shame, manipulation, force, humiliation, or physical harm in so-called “ministry” or therapy.
CHANGED is a safe space for Christians seeking an alternative to LGBTQ+ as they follow their faith according to their personal convictions.
You see that? However you want to live, is fine. You can follow Jesus and you dont even need to change anything! You can stay living exactly the same as you always have; disobedient, unholy, profane, not honoring mothers and fathers, murder, sexually immoral, homosexual, enslavers, liars, oath breakers, and everything else contrary to sound doctrine, everything listed in Romans 1:24-32, in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, in Galatians 5:19-21.
Free and easy, cheap grace that demands nothing of you. Instead, all you have to do is replace Jesus as God with your own desires, your own passions, your own sins as your god.
Thats the exact opposite of what the Gospel calls us to. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. The Gospel calls us to repent. It is the first thing mentioned in regards to the Gospel, Jesus says repent and believe the Gospel. Martin Luther says that a Christians life is one of repentance, meaning continual, lifelong change and growth. False doctrine says you are good just how you are.
False doctrine and false teaching is what is contrary to sound doctrine. And how do we know what sound doctrine is? Sound Doctrine is in accordance with the Gospel. Ligon Duncan tells us “The Gospel itself is the measure of sound teaching.” The measure of the law and whether it is used lawfully, the measure of whether we are accurately and correctly keeping the law is Jesus Christ and his Gospel.
Sin is the disease. The law is the MRI and the Gospel is the cure. Our disease, our sin results in death, eternal death, eternal seperation from Gods glory and grace and mercy. The only cure is the Gospel. We cant cure ourselves, not by keeping the law nor by changing and ignoring the law.
So, again, what is the law for? Paul writes in Galatians 3:19-22:
Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.
21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
The law was not given as a cure for sin, but given in response to sin, to show the way to the cure, Jesus Christ. The law cannot make one righteous. But what the law can do, what the moral guidelines that are handed down from God to Moses, written on stone and that are now written on our hearts, they do help restrain and identify sin.
Jesus tells two back to back parables on Luke 18, that point out that show that just physically, superficially keeping the law is not enough to make us rightouess. First, with the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee often gets a bad wrap in this story and he should, but I dont think we really see him clearly. He does all the right things. He obeys all the rules and then some. He acknowledges that God is the one who makes him not like the tax collector. But he thinks that he earned or was good enough to keep Gods grace. He attributes Gods grace to himself as his own righteousness. The point of the prable is not to show that the pharisee was acting or living wrong, or even that his prayer in the temple was wrong, but it was to point out that, despite what the pharisee thought, he was not righteous.
The next parable was the rich young ruler. This guys thought he had lived a good enough life and was searching out various religious teachers and leaders to confirm his goodness and to affirm his righteousness. Jesus pointed out some commands that he did not keep. First, lying, saying he had kept all the commandments since he was a kid. Second, his money and his possessions were an idol in his heart. His was trusting in his own goodness instead of in Gods grace.
Both of these parables are designed to point out that we have no saving righteousness of our own, but need to trust in Christ for his. The law is the way that points to Christ.
False teachers will shove the law out of the way, therefore obscuring the way to and need for Jesus Christ. Or they will focus on the law and teach our ability to keep it enough that we dont need Jesus Christ.
The law is there, again, not as a solution to sin, but as a response to sin. The solution to sin is the Gospel. Pure and simple. Thats what the sound teaching is, the Gospel.
Jesus Christ, truly God and truly Man, sinless and died and pied the penalty for our sins. Gods wrath poured out on Him so that his grace will be poured out on us. The vehicle he uses to pour his grace out on us is our faith in his son, Jesus Christ. God became man to save sinners. Marks Gospel says that Jesus came to be a ransom for many. He paid the price to purchase our salvation.
The change in us, it does change us, and it gives us a heart to serve and obey God. For believers, the law serves as a guide. It gives us perameters to stay within so that we can live right, live the way that God intended and the way that he designed it.
I love how John writes it in his first letter, 1 John 5:1-5, he writes:
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Paul, in his letters to Timothy, will continue to harp on emphasizing sound doctrine, on right, biblical teaching. It is a repeating theme that Paul will pound on again and again, because oit is so important. Sound doctrine, sound teaching are the only ways to combat and fight false doctrine and false teaching.
Ligon Duncan points out, “We are not just teaching so you’ll know more things, we’re teaching so that you will have a healthy Christian embrace of doctrine and experience and practice.”
And that’s the important part, that’s a part of why the law in and of itself is not able to save. Because head knowledge, simply knowing the truth, simply knowing how to live, the physical act, doesnt do anthing. But our heart change, that the Holy Spirit does inside of us, the faith that is a gift from God, the faith that leads to the heart to keep his commandments, that is what saves us.
One of the commands Christ gives us is to be united in the truth. We are to be united as the church, as the body of Christ.
The thing that unites us together is the cross of Jesus Christ. Today we pursue that unity by remembering. We remember and celebrate Christ’s death for us, that act on the cross, that act of pure love, grace and goodness. That perfect act of mercy. God holding out his hands to us, disobedient and contrary people.
We remember the sacrifice, the blood shed. We remember what that means to us, as those who have turned to follow Jesus Christ. It means that we have been declared righteous in his sight and we get to spend eternity with Jesus Christ and God the Father.
We often take this time somberly and soberly, because of what it cost Jesus, what he had to go through. But, We celebrate because Jesus is alive and we get to partake in eternal life with him if we chose to follow him.
Now, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 some things about partaking in communion. First of all, this is for those that have made a commitment to Jesus. This is a celebration and remembrance for what he won, what he purchased when he paid the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave. If you have not made that commitment, out of respect, please pass the plate.
Paul also makes it clear that we need to be in the right state of mind, that we need to be honest with ourselves and with God and about our sins.
I greatly encourage you, as we are passing out the items for communion, take that time to talk to God. Make sure you are examining yourself and you are taking it for the right reasons. Again, please do not be afraid to pass the plate along. There will be no glances, no judgments. What is important is for each of us to make sure that we are in right standing with God.
Paul gives us a picture of Communion in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. In verses 23-25 he writes:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[f] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[g] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
So, what we are going to do here, is Mike and Jim are going to come up here. One will pray for the crackers, which symbolize the broken body of Jesus on the cross. They will pass them out and when we are finished we will take the cracker together as a church family.
Then, the other will pray for the juice, which symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of sins. They will pass them out and again, we will take it together as a church family.