You know, II Timothy 4:3 is a verse that I have been pondering for nigh onto fifty years. As you undoubtedly know, in this scripture Paul shared with his young protégé, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;” My main thought process was, “how could teachers be found who would offer up less than sound doctrine?” Wellllll, in those last five decades I have discovered that there is a lot of “less than sound” doctrine floating around! However, after a little study I have discovered that the subtlety of this modern day “false teaching” is mind boggling!
In his book, “LIVING WITH CONFIDENCE IN A CHAOTIC WORLD,” Dr. David Jeremiah explains what he refers to as “The Priorities of Diligence.” He based his comments on I Peter 1:5-7 – 5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
Dr. Jeremiah’s contention is that this information was shared with believers so that we would not become “Sensuous Christians,” which he describes as “those Christians who live by emotions and feelings rather than a solid understanding of the Word of God.” As you will note, Peter shares “building blocks,” if you would, for us to build our Christian Life, Ministries, and churches with. I believe that this is best “displayed” as a Pyramid, which would look like this.
Let’s quickly look at what each of these “building blocks” are:
- Faith – The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
- Virtue – Courage or Integrity
- This is what formulates a “Moral Base” within us.
- It is also what allows us to seek God’s approval and not man’s approval
- Knowledge – This is referring to Knowledge of God’s Word, not who won the 1964 World Series (By the way, it was the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games!). With this knowledge we can face the rigors of everyday life, and counsel others to do the same.
- Temperance (Self-Control) – In all aspects of life: What we do, say, and even think. One aspect of Self-Control is Self- Discipline, and may not be as easy to accomplish as one might think.
- Perseverance (Patience) – This can best be described, perhaps, as the ability to endure Difficulties and Hardships for the sake of Honoring Christ. Peter’s direct experience in this realm is found in Acts 5:41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. This, obviously, takes a great deal of Intestinal Fortitude, which is based on the four building blocks preceding this.
- Godliness – While there may be numerous definitions for this, I am going to describe it as “Deep Respect and Reverence” for God. It can also mean that we emulate God – – are Christ-like – – are Christians!
- Brotherly Kindness – There is more to being part of the Family of Christ than just calling each other “Brother Jones” and “Sister Smith.” Our responsibility in this realm is probably best brought forth in James 2:15-16 – 15) If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16) And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? This gets down right personal in James 4:17, where we are told: Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. So, as you can see, Brotherly Kindness really is not optional!!!
- Love – Lots of kinds – – Storge, Phileo, Eros, Agape. We know that Peter is referring neither to “storge love” (love for family) nor “eros” (spousal, physical love) as neither of these appear in the New Testament. The word that he actually used is “agape,” which can best be defined as “unconditional love.”
If you will go back and review my first pyramid you will undoubtedly find that the emphasis of many of our churches are “upside down,” and look like this:
In many (in fact I fear most!) instances folks talk about the fact that Christian needs to concentrate on Brotherly Kindness and Love, and seldom, if ever, point out that we need Faith, Virtue, Knowledge, Self-Control, Perseverance and Godliness to lead a successful and fruitful Christian Life.
Now, you are probably thinking, “Pshaw, Floyd, who do you think you are saying that we have to build our Christian walk the way you just said to?” Well, I’m not the one suggesting this is the case – Peter is! As we continue to read in II Peter 1, this is what we find: 8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
Verse 9 pretty much describes the results of what happens when II Timothy 4:3 comes into play: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.” Now, this is where the subtlety really becomes amazing! The unsound doctrine that we are lapping up is the fact that to have a fruitful ministry we should be building it on Love, when the reality is we need to be building it on Faith, Virtue, Knowledge of the Word of God, and Self Control!
As soon as you calm down enough to continue reading, take a minute and look at this issue pragmatically (Pragmatic – dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations). After studying the two “structures” below, answer this simple question: Which one is the most stable and has the most solid base?
Do you see what Peter was talking about? And, what Paul was warning us about? Is Love important? Of course! Is it what we should be building the Church on? God Forbid! We are misleading a ton of people into believing that because God is Love He is not a God of Judgement! That Love covers a multitude of sins and therefore we no longer have to worry about Virtue, the Knowledge of God’s Word, Self-Control and Godliness! So, I’ll ask you again: Is YOUR Pyramid Inverted?