Paul’s exhortation to Timothy includes this charge: But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels (2 Timothy 2:23). As a general or generic statement, this is good advice. Yet, Paul was not writing in generalities as he penned these words to the preacher. Specifically, this imperative related to the tasks that God had given to Timothy. His ability to be a good servant as an evangelist was contingent upon many things, and this was one of them. If more preachers and more Bible class teachers today followed the injunction that Paul gave to Timothy, the church would be less troubled.
Instead, we spend time on things that have no spiritual value and are, in fact, the seeds of dissension. If a person has a dominant personality and if he or she is outspoken, it is almost certain that any theory that person expresses becomes an assumed truth by some. Robert Richardson wrote, “The religious teacher who propounds a specious and ingenious theory will find many who are willing to give a general assent to his views” (Smith: “Untaught Questions,” The Millennial Harbinger Abridged, vol. 2; p. 47).
What constitutes foolish and ignorant speculations? The Bible was written to engage our minds, and it anticipates our questions. Asking questions is essential to developing one’s belief in the faith. Yet, clearly there is a line to be drawn in the sand. Some things are worthy of meditation, searching, and seeking to know more about. Other questions are not just a waste of time but are even sinful to pursue. How do we avoid them?
Does the question pertain to the doctrines of faith taught in Scripture, or is it about something else? The issue that Paul addresses in 2 Timothy 2:23 is also addressed in 1 Timothy 4:7 — But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness. Again, we read in Titus 3:9 — But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.
An even more direct statement is found in 1 Timothy 6:3,4 — If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions.
These issues were not just “off-topic,” so to speak. These issues erode our faith. As Paul also noted in his first letter to Timothy, “the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:14).
We need to be “grown-up” in our approach to Bible study. The word foolish in 2 Timothy 2:23 speaks of the ignorance of a child. When we are trying to sound as if we are asking the profound questions but those questions are not matters of faith or are intended to just “gin up” a little controversy, we become childish. That’s sinful!
When teachers aren’t prepared to teach and depend on comments and questions to carry the class until its dismissal time, the opportunity to engage in such speculations is present. Let’s commit to being serious about handling accurately what faithful men and women of the ages past did not receive–the living and abiding word God that was preached (1 Peter 1:23) and once for all delivered (Jude 3).
Keep studying and keep serving! DC Brown ©2016