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Throughout the book of 1 Timothy, we have seen the purpose to which Paul sent Timothy to Ephesus spring up time and time again, and that is to set things in order, to reboot the church and particularly to set in line the teaching ministry of the church, rescuing it from the hands of false teachers: the men of whom Paul spoke of during his final meeting with the Ephesian elders at the beach of Miletus (Acts 20:29-30):
“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”
Lo and behold, Paul’s words came to pass. These teachers did rise up from within themselves. In Paul’s correspondence to Timothy, then, his final word is this once again: watch out.
How do these teachers creep in? Today we are going to look at one area through which these wolves enter, leading men and women away from the true gospel of Jesus.
False teachers gain access through the prosperity gospel.
Definition of the prosperity gospel“name it and claim it” gospel, the “blab it and grab it” gospel, the “health and wealth” gospel, the “word of faith” movement, the “gospel of success,” the “prosperity gospel,” and “positive confession theology” “Your Best Life Now”
Theology of the prosperity gospel
- Twisting of the Abrahamic Covenant: God told Abraham that his descendents would be blessed primarily in terms of material entitlements.
- Twisting of the Atonement: Kenneth Copeland: “the basic principle of the Christian life is to know that God put our sin, sickness, disease, sorrow, grief, and poverty on Jesus at Calvary.” 2 Cor 8:9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”
- Twisting of the Reaping Principle: Gal 6-9-10 You can’t outgive God. The idea is that you give more to get more.
- Twisting of the Nature of Faith: Faith is a power or force that we wield to direct mountains to move. Copeland: “if you make up your mind . . . that you are willing to live in divine prosperity and abundance, . . . divine prosperity will come to pass in your life. You have exercised your faith.” This is spiritually abusive. Why are you sick? You must not have enough faith.
Rebuke of the prosperity gospel: This does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus (1 Timothy 6:3)
- The son of man has nowhere to lay his head.
- In this world you will have trouble, but I have overcome the world (john 16:33)
- If they hated me, they will hate you (John 17:14)
- Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22)
Cultivating the prosperity gospel: How are they able to do this? (6:5)
- Depraved in mind: a weakness within ourselves. We long for prosperity and reject suffering or poverty. The prosperity gospel speaks to these longings.
- Deprived of truth: If I can make you biblically illiterate, I can tell you God says jump and you’ll say, how high.
- By holding out hope that speaks to our carnal passions, these false teachers are feeding the flesh, leading the flock into destruction while they feast on the spoils.
The Problem With the Pursuit of Riches
- The orientation of the heart toward riches (6-9-10): Notice that he singles out hose who desire to be rich: not those who have gain their means by shady measures, but simply those who desire it. This is stated two other ways in the passage:
- Love of money
- Through this Craving: to stretch oneself out (as a man desires the office of overseer) What are you stretching yourself out for?
- The fruit of the pursuit (6:9 “fall into temptation, a snare)
- Leads to the committing of evil by the person doing the desiring (the temptation). Suddenly you’re fudging your taxes, or withholding wages from your employee, or cooking books, or storing up treasures for yourself when others are in need.
- Leads to the suffering of evil consequences (the snare): You put your hope in pyramid schemes or get rich quick ploys. Example: the person on unemployment who is manipulated into tithing, then “by faith” goes to get a $24,000 car loan and rejoices when God miraculously moves the heart of the baker to give him the money. Great right? Except that the bills someday come do. He’s now not only unemployed, but now unemployed with $24000 hanging over his head.
- Leads to loss of faith and great emotional scarring
- The specific dangers of the pursuit of wealth (6:17-19):
- pride, elitism (6:17): haughty. You better than the others. You have the finer things in life. You are of a different class. You send your kids to the better schools.
- Uncertain (6:17)– they promise security, but security is found only in the provider.
- They give a deceptive view of life (6:19 : that which is truly life)– I’ve got it all – you have nothing! My best life is now. My greatest treasure is here. My warmest comfort is in my things or my status. This is not our home and this is not truly our life. We gain the whole world and lose our soul. It is a lie.
Battling the Flesh
1) Take up the sword of the Spirit. Study the word of God and consume it so that you can’t be deceived or manipulated. Yes the New Testament does speak of the power of the risen life, but it also speaks of knowing Jesus and being intimately acquainted with his sufferings.
2) Relabel success in life and death
a. Godliness is gain (v. 6): but not gain as the world defines it.
b. Be rich (18): in good works
c. Store up treasures (19): in heaven
d. That which is truly life (19) A.L.I.V.E
3) Learn the secret of being content in whatever the circumstance (6:6-8)
a. God gave you everything: Nothing in : God who richly provides (6:7)
b. Remember: You can’t take it with you
c. Develop a baseline gratitude (6:8) Food and covering and with these we are content. A baseline gratitude magnifies the grace of the giver.
4) Beware of manipulative teachers: Timothy had one ultimate job as a preacher (6:11-16). Can you pick it out?
a. Keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach.
b. You will know them by their fruits
5) Balance your blessing with generosity
a. There will be some who are rich in this world (6:17): The Christian work ethic leads to prosperity. Not a name it claim it prosperity, but a follow the Bible live responsibly prosperity.
b. Because you are in special place of danger, balance your material prosperity with spiritual generosity.
1. Not a tithe – a lifestyle of generosity, which includes contributing to the needs of the church and your neighbor.
ii. Not to purchase the favor of God, but in response to the grace of God.
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 1 Corinthians 9:6-8
6) Remember that the testing of your faith is what proves it as genuine. I know three families having their faith severely tested. All have to do with little babies, the greatest gift God bestows on any of us. Do you not think that each of these families would give every cent for more time with their children? Yet each have placed their hope in God, that no matter what happens, their trust will be in the Lord. The measure of faith is not the prosperity that our faith has led us into, but the severity our faith has led us through.