“from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm” (1 Timothy 1:6-7).
1 Timothy 1:6-7 contains far more than just a general observation. Instead, it describes a serious condition that required immediate attention within the Ephesian church. You see, the false teachers of Ephesus had twisted genuine doctrinal truth from its rightful position in favor of other subjects that were useless and unprofitable. (1)
One commentary offers a useful analysis of this passage…
“Many leaders and authorities today demand allegiance, some of whom would even have us turn from Christ to follow them. When they seem to know the Bible, their influence can be dangerously subtle. They are modern-day false teachers. How can you recognize false teachers?
(1) They teach what is contrary to the truth found in Scripture (1Ti_1:3; 1Ti_1:6-7; 1Ti_4:1-3).
(2) They promote trivial and divisive controversies instead of helping people come to Jesus (1Ti_1:4).
(3) They aren’t concerned about personal evidence of God’s presence in their lives, spending their time on ‘meaningless discussions’ instead (1Ti_1:6).
(4) Their motivation is to make a name for themselves (1Ti_1:7).
To protect yourself from the deception of false teachers, learn what the Bible teaches and remain steadfast in your faith in Christ alone.” (2)
While two people of good conscience may respectfully disagree on a non-essential element of the Christian faith, it’s important to exercise discernment in order to avoid the contentious exchanges that often arise from “empty talk” (CEV), “senseless babble” (Mounce), and/or “endless words” (Phillips).
For instance, a mutually beneficial discussion involves a two-way exchange of ideas between those who are united in their search for truth and understanding. This remains true even among those who hold contrary opinions. However, a fruitless discussion often involves a one-way exchange with someone who is only interested in expressing what he or she thinks.
One pastoral commentator describes his own experience in this regard…
“There are honest questions and there are dishonest questions. There are some people who ask questions only because they want an argument; they don’t want to know the truth. They have a position that they want to espouse, so they want to get you embroiled in an argument. And so they will ask a question, not really seeking an answer but seeking an argument. They want you to state your position so that they can then begin to attack your position; that I call a dishonest question. An honest question [comes from] the man who asks, desiring to know the answer.” (3)
(1) See Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (1 Timothy 1:5-7) Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
(2) Life Application Study Bible NKJV [ 1 Timothy 1:3-7] Copyright © 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 2004 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc., all rights reserved.
(3) Chuck Smith, “Through The Bible C2000 Series” [1 Timothy 1:1-20]