by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 2 Study # 3 Lincolnton, NC March 5, 2006
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:
5 wranglings of men corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, supposing that godliness is a way of gain.
I. Paul's Revelation of the Underlying Motive of False Teachers.
A. There is always a "driving agenda" behind every expended effort.
B. Many times, the true agenda is clouded by many secondary issues.
C. When ungodliness is rampant, it is because "godliness" has become a means to a false end.
1. The issue of a "corrupt mind" is, according to the way "corrupt" is used in the New Testament, a matter of the "mind" being "chewed away" so that it cannot function as a "mind" any longer. The primary issue of the "destruction" is its fundamental orientation: a fixation upon personal profit at the expense of others. Once this orientation is established (and it has been such by Genesis 3), there is "no" understanding. The governing "umbrella" dictates all conclusions.
2. The term "destitute/bereft" is a word that is consistently used to indicate the act of taking from another what one has no right to, and that by false pretenses. The blatant self-centeredness is so primary that, though people will often not only admit it, but boast in it, they never see it as the destructive force that it is. Students, for instance, who can be "bribed" into studying for an exam by the promise of a reward will almost invariably turn the "bribe process" into a "legitimate" thing and, then, refuse to study unless they can get a reward. This is a blatant manipulation, but it is not even seen as the brutish death-force that it is. "I will not do what I should do unless I can manipulate it into a way to get what I want." In this text, however, the verb is a passive participle that is set in the past. This indicates that these men were "defrauded of the Truth" by a subtle enemy so that, now, they have no access to it.
3. The reason: they "suppose" godliness to be a "methodology of gain".
a. The thoughtful reader will note that the Authorized Version reading is the reverse of the ASV reading. There is a significant difference between "supposing that gain is godliness" and "supposing that godliness is gain". How do we know which translation is correct? The problem is that we have a "subject" of a linking verb that has a "predicate nominative" to describe it. In Greek syntax, the "subject" is indicated by the presence of the definite article ("the") and the following predicate nominative is "anarthrous" (without a definite article). Also, the issue involves the word translated "gain". Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon says that it signifies a "means" of gain. In other words, what Paul is addressing is the mindset of the false teacher who is seeing "godliness" as a meanstoanend, and the end is personalprofit. This is as fundamentally flawed as a matter can be. Moving in a direction that is 180 degrees "out" of the direction in which one is supposed to be going is asfaroutasonecanget. Jesus once said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35), yet almost no one, even those at the head of "ministries", seems to really believe that. Why is there such a fixation on "you give me this and that" in "Christian" ministries? Most, if not all, "stewardship" preaching is greed, cloaked in the garb of "trying to teach the people of God their financial responsibilities." Covetousness is idolatry no matter what "clothes" it is wearing.
b. Thus we have Paul's "revelation" of the real motive of those who refuse sound doctrine: their interest is not that for which "godliness" was designed. Paul's more serious interest is in whether "believers" present a legitimate picture of God to those around them. Since God is not a "taker", anyone who presents himself/herself as a child of God is under serious obligation to refrain from "taking". That is not the same thing as "receiving". Gifts freely given ought to be received with gratitude, but no "giving" should ever be coerced by the receiver. The most pitiful hypocrisy in this world is the "ministry" that regularly "reminds those for whom it supposedly exists" of their "obligations to support it". It is true that most people are "takers"; but it is awful when "takers" are in control and are garbing their greed in the pious terms of the Scriptures. No legitimate ministry will ever suffer from it efforts to "give", but many illegitimate "ministries" will suffer a lack of material support because of their efforts to "take". And, when the lack sets in, the "ministers" will invariably and automatically move into the "stewardship preaching mode" because "the people of God need to be instructed on how they are supposed to support the work of God."