It is evident that when Paul wrote to Timothy who was “at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine …” (1:3) that already there were those who were trying to improve on the true teaching they had received, using their own wisdom. In chapter 6, Paul tells Timothy, “if anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy …” (verses 3,4).

Each generation since has needed to heed Paul’s warning, the failure to do this is the reason why we have so many different churches. Failure to do this results in the basic instincts of human nature being displayed. Paul says such people are “deprived of the truth” and, even worse they see “godliness as a means of gain” (verse 5), and so we have seen wealthy churches emerge with leaders who display an affluent lifestyle.

We saw in chapter 5 that Paul is not saying it is wrong for “those who labour in preaching and teaching” to receive support for “the labourer deserves his wages” (verses 17,18). But Paul himself, when writing 2 Thessalonians said, “nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but … worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you” (3:7,8). Paul was a tentmaker (Acts 18:3) and set a worthy example.

His aim in life should be, Paul tells Timothy, to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called …” (6:11,12).

Timothy is to encourage them “to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves …” (verses 18,19) for the kingdom. Let us all do this, trying at the same time to correct “anyone who teaches a different doctrine” and develop our understanding of “the words of our Lord Jesus Christ” and the other writings God has written and preserved as much as we can – and then put them into practice.