by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 2 Study # 2 Lincolnton, NC February 26, 2006
4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,
5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
1901 ASV Translation:
4 he is puffed up, knowing nothing, but doting about questionings and disputes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,
5 wranglings of men corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, supposing that godliness is a way of gain.
I. Paul's Characterization of Those Who Oppose the Truth.
A. His characterization does not allow for "exceptions": everyone who is guilty of the rather massive failure he is addressing is also guilty of fitting the description which he gives in his characterization.
1. As men, we tend in one of two directions. We either "make allowances" that go too far (we often say, since no one is perfect, we will accept imperfection -- but then we accept too much imperfection), or we "refuse any imperfection" and create an impossible scenario (demanding too much of men eliminates any man from being a qualified elder).
2. It is a huge mistake to use the lack of agreement on the particulars to reject the larger picture.
3. It is a major fault of "believers" to "go along with" those who are characterized by Paul in the terms he uses.
B. His characterization is "heart" related: he is not concerned primarily with how the false teacher "comes across"; he is concerned with the condition of his inner being.
1. He says he is "of the nature of insubstantial, rising smoke". Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon says that the word Paul used refers to someone who is "demented" or "insanely arrogant". Having left the "health-giving" words of Truth, what can he be but "insanely promoting death as life"? Interestingly, it is not the man's "Christology" or his "Soteriology" or his "Theology" that identifies him. It is his "Ecclesiology" as it relates to the treatment of widows, elders, and slave-owners that identifies him.
2. He says he "knows nothing". The term used here is used by Peter in Acts 10:28 and 15:7 to refer to things that were "commonly accepted as true". In Acts 18:25, Apollos is described as "knowing" only the baptism of John. The idea is of "familiarity". He had no exposure to the progress of doctrine that followed John. This is the consistent use of the word in the New Testament; it addresses the kind of "knowledge" that is generated by familiarity with the facts. It is "accepted as fundamentally true". What Paul is claiming is that the one who rejects his instruction to Timothy is completely "disoriented". He has never come to know the basic organizing principles of Truth. The consequence of this is that, as Paul points out in 6:5, he will "suppose" a thing to be a "tool" for an objective that he is not even supposed to be chasing.
3. He then strongly contrasts (...but...).
a. The contrast signals the fact that men who seek to teach others should have a basic familiarity with the fundamental principles of the Servant Kingdom and the God Whose "character as a Servant" defines "godliness".
b. The contrasting facts...
1) He "dotes upon"... the word is used of sickness. It applies to both body and mind. In this phrase, it is used to refer to an unhealthy focus; a kind of mental fixation that is completely unhealthy.
2) ...both "questions" and "strifes about words".
a) The "questions" are investigations of curiosities that have no beneficial impact to make. The pastorals are the home to four of the six uses of this word in the New Testament and those four uses are in contexts which invariably put the "questions" into the category of destructive interests.
b) The "strifes about words" are conflicts which arise by reason of contrary opinions about things that have little to no contribution to wisdom.
c. The contrast reemphasizes the original descriptive word "proud/puffed up": this kind of person is seeking to establish himself as a "man of deep understanding" by delving into details that have no significant contribution to make to "godliness". Interestingly, the fault of men is that they often have no interest in delving into the details of "Life", but they are impressed by those who delve into the details of vanity. And, not surprisingly (since the basic objective here is self-exaltation), the result is "envy, strife, blasphemies, evil suppositions, and perverse disputings". And they are such because the men promoting them are "corrupt of mind" and "bereft of Truth".
4. And he unveils their "real" objective: "gain". In the following words, Paul defines what he means by "gain" -- material riches.