Paul Warned Timothy About False Teachers and Gangrene

“The Escape of Paul”, from the Ottheinrich Bible, circa 1530

3 As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain people not to teach different doctrine 4 or to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies. These promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith. 5 Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. 6 Some have deviated from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, although they don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on.

~ 1Ti 1:3-7 (HCSB)

I recently heard a message about false teachers that was based upon Paul warning Timothy about false teachers.  Ironically, it was given by Moody Bible Institute, but it was pretty much on the mark (the message, not the rest of their theology).  I didn’t take notes, but I did earmark the Scriptures, and it is pretty straight-forward stuff.  However, as is typical of evangelical messages, it was short and hones in on some details — in this case, details that are easy to overlook.

“Why bother?” you may ask.  Simply because the proliferation of false teachers — not to mention false apostles, false pastors general and false prophets — that claim to be part of the Church of God seem ever on the increase rather than in decline.

11 Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.

~ Mt 24:11

Different Doctrine

The first thing we should note in the opening passage is that Paul warns about a “different doctrine”.  Some translations state “strange doctrine”.  To be honest, there are no stranger doctrines than what some in the COG community hold onto.

“Different doctrine” comes from heterodidaskaleo, Strong’s G2085.  It literally means “to teach other or different doctrine”, or, better yet, “deviating from the truth”.  It is contrasted with “wholesome words”, aka “sound teaching”, in 1 Timothy 6:3.

No doubt, we should critically examine doctrines that are put forward simply because HWA stated them.  If nothing else, we should hold to one of his most often touted sayings, “Don’t believe me!  Believe your Bible!  Believe God!”

At the same time, what excuse is there for rejecting an HWA doctrine simply because he taught it?  However, it seems that some go well out of their way to do just that, even if it means latching onto the weird, the speculative and the stuff of conspiracy theories.

HWA also continually pointed to the trunk of the tree.  Everything else is pretty minor stuff.

If he put forward something that is not supported by the Bible, very well.  However, it is obvious that some put forward different ideas simply in order to stand out and be different, to garner attention and to attract those with itching ears for new things.

Myths and Endless Genealogies

Some have bought off on some rather odd and fanciful ideas.  I’ve been reporting with some regularity on a number of these things.

Genealogies seems to be an especially weird oddity.  I remember once hearing that HWA traced his lineage back to King David.  I couldn’t help: 1. Thinking, “Who cares?”, and 2. Thinking of this passage in the Bible.

God used physical lineage with a physical nation.  Physical ancestry is one of the keys to understanding prophecy.  It was certainly a key to understanding who the Son of David was.  However, what is its significance with a spiritual people building a spiritual nation?  None!

Why Point Out False Teachers?

OK, so far, we have not covered why false teachers need to be called out, or even what to do about them at all.  That’s where the next passage Paul writes to Timothy comes in.

14 Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.”

~ 2Ti 2:14-19 (NASB)

I’m going to divide this up a little differently than the speaker I heard did (because it makes more sense to me).

We see that Satan’s end goal, once again, is to “upset the faith of some” in v 18.  Before that in v 14, we see that false teachers can lead to the “ruin” of others!  “Ruin”, or “subverting” in KJV, is actually quite an interesting word.  It means “overthrow, destruction”!  Peter used this word to describe Sodom and Gomorrah (2Pe 2:6)!

“What is the word?”  you may ask.  It is katastrophe, G2692, and as you may have guessed it is the word from which we get “catastrophe”!

So, the result of not dealing with false teachers is what?  A catastrophe!

And, what is the first way to avoid a catastrophe?  To “Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God”!  I worked hard to preserve the italics, since they are added words.  The implication might be “them”, but who is “them”?  I would say “them” should be everyone, including the entire congregation.

Of course, the population is larger than it once was, and the Internet allows the proliferation of false teachers, so one must be judicious with their time.  It takes a while even in naming the big time egomaniacs like David C Pack, Gerald Flurry and Ronald Weinland.  Then, there are the smaller ones with real delusions of grandeur like Bob Thiel and James Malm who continue to hunt and peck around the edges of organizations trying to get on with more important things.

So, while there certainly are false teachers sprinkled around in all organizations, some have gained a certain level of notoriety that people need to be warned against right off the bat.

Don’t Wrangle About Words

Some believe Paul made up the word for “wrangle about words” here.  It is logomacheo, Strong’s G3054, and it appears nowhere else in Scripture.  It comes from logosG3056, for words or sayings, and machomaiG3164, for struggle or combat (literally or figuratively).  Machomai was used when Jesus’ disciples “strove” about Him saying to eat His flesh (Jn 6:52).

This is the kind of wrangling that I got into more detail about in “How to Interpret the Bible, Part 2: Standard Definitions Don’t Depend on What the Meaning of the Word ‘Is’ Is“.  It is the type of twisting to make the text say something completely different than its clear intent that goes on far too often for various motives.

Paul tells Timothy to charge before all to not engage in such foolishness.

Be Diligent and Unashamed

Paul wrote to the Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel …” (Ro 1:16a).  It would be well for us to heed Jesus’ words that if we deny Him before men then He will deny us before the Father!

Paul here ups it a notch, though.  He tells Timothy to “be diligent” as well as unashamed.  Why?  To be approved by God!  Why would a “workman” of God be ashamed?  Well, if he didn’t “accurately [handle] the word of truth,” then he would have every reason to be ashamed!

Basically, instead of wrangling over words, stick your nose in the book, study it, learn it and be diligent to live it!

How many arguments have their been over what is a new moon?  How many arguments have there been over how the OT defines a tithe?  There even are those who will take the clear and unambiguous meaning of unleavened bread and say that Passover should be kept with leavened bread!  Now, how ludicrous is that?

Instead of doing this, which will lead to shame, study the word!

When will this shame come?  Obviously, this is a vague reference to appearing before Christ when He returns!

Avoid Gossip and Vain Talk

Next, Paul says to avoid “worldly and empty chatter”.  What does this mean?  Well, the world engages in lots of talk about a lot of vain things, but perhaps nothing is more empty that slander and gossip.

There is a whole website run by someone trying to gather a following that does little else than twist a word here, tweak an idea here, and add insinuation to every quote he makes in order to elevate himself in the eyes of others.  Here, Paul says it will “lead to further ungodliness“!  Notice it didn’t start the ungodliness, but it will lead to further ungodliness!

So, where did it start?  In the heart of the person doing it!  By the time it occurs, the sin has already taken started!

17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?

18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.

19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:

20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

~ Mt 15:17-20

Whether the action is to intentionally misquote HWA in order to slander him or to proclaim that three leaders of the COG organizations will die on the same day, it is all vain, empty and an abomination before God!

The NASB says it will spread like “gangrene”.  Some versions (and the NASB has a footnote to this) state “cancer”.  There are a few reasons I don’t think “cancer” is correct.  If nothing else, very little was known about cancer until the 20th century.

However, I do think gangrene does fit.  Cancer does not always spread.  Gangrene, unless treated (and even then there is little chance of success) always spreads.  It is always ugly.  It is always painful.

I had a step-grandfather that died of gangrene.  I’m serious.  I could care less what the coroner said (and I never asked), for I know what killed him.  He lost one foot, then another foot, then up to one knee, then the other above the knee, and then he developed green spots on the top of his bald head.

That is why I say certain sites are poison!  That is why certain teachers are to be avoided!  That is why certain organizations are dangerous!  Gangrene spreads, gangrene is dangerous, and gangrene kills.

Paul further gives an example of foolish talk with two people who were saying the resurrection is past.  They were spreading false rumors and false doctrines.  This led to the predictable “upset” in some people’s faith.

The Good News

However, there is good news, and I don’t just mean the Gospel, for Paul reassures Timothy that “The Lord knows those who are His”.

I was having a discussion with someone just today about something similar.  Not everyone who goes to church is really converted.  Not everyone who seems to keep the Law is righteous.  Not everyone who calls you “brother” has been truly called.

Natural law is towards disorder and decay, but God is a preserver of life.  He will sort it all out, and out of chaos will come order.  That is our assurance.  In Him we must place our faith.




  1. John from Australia

    Talking about Bob Thiel, in his latest post he thinks America will likely experience hyperinflation:

    “Hyperinflation has hit others in the past, and despite what some may wish to think, the USA itself is not immune from it. Its debt policies seem determined to cause it some day. The time will likely come when USA interest rates will rise so much that this will ultimately cause a crisis of intense magnitude. The admitted US federal debt (not counting the money created through the quantitative easing programs) is so large that if interest rates rise to the place that they were in the USA in the early 1980s, the USA will have difficulty even paying the interest on the debt it has been accumulating. This will tend to cause interest rates to further rise and contribute to hyperinflation” (USA interest rates expected to rise; what does that really mean? February 22, 2014).

    But what does Mr Armstrong think?:

    “QUESTION: Mr. Armstrong; I have investigated your explanation of hyperinflation and can see that you are correct in that this is limited to third world and revolutionary governments. Is it correct to say that as government becomes a bit more aggressive to try to meet its obligations, the economic collapse is a self-destruction process of deflation?

    ANSWER: Correct. We are seeing benefits cut on a major scale. Detroit filed bankruptcy and that shines a light on the path for state and municipal governments going forward – DEFLATION. Even in Germany, about half of the municipal governments are likely to end in bankruptcy. This theory of hyperinflation is just not realistic. We have generally a three-tier form of government – not one. The state and local governments are incapable of printing money. They can only default upon pensions and liabilities. That is what happened to many states during the 1840s.

    Andrew Jackson destroyed the Bank of the United States and shifted federal deposits to state banks. That proved to be a disaster and collectors call this the period of the Broken Banknote era for numerous banks issued their own money. As state banks went bankrupt, some states issued bonds trying to bail out the banks. They ended up defaulting on state bonds where some remain on the books of the Bank of England to this day.

    This nonsense about the risk of hyperinflation is antiquated and fails to take into consideration the modern three tier government structure. Established government ALWAYS, and without exception, keep raising taxes to sustain their power. Even the City of Mainz kept raising taxes driving the rich to flee the city and completely destroyed the entire economy. Mainz had been where the Guttenberg press began and this created like an internet boom. The politicians went nuts and assumed this new found wealth would never end and they borrowed against future revenues that did not materialize. The worse it became, the more they raised taxes. Mainz eventually defaulted on their bonds and the creditors sacked the city and burned it to the ground. This was before there was even a national state.

    If you open your eyes and abandon this prejudice that we have to collapse in hyperinflation, then perhaps you will be able to survive. You will see that the difference between the destruction of the economy by hyperinflation or deflation is like getting on an amusement ride. The question is do you pay for the ride before you get on (deflation) or when you get off (hyperinflation)? This assumption of hyperinflation must be the inevitable outcome is way too generous. You are assuming politicians will create money to meet obligations rather than reduce their promises, change laws, hunt down money and the rich everywhere while rising taxes on everyone, and eventually just default when they cannot sell any more bonds.

    The bankers and foreign governments will not tolerate hyperinflation in a mature economy. Revolutionary and third world governments can go into hyperinflation because there is nobody willing to lend them money. When we have the entire world using US government bonds as “reserves”, it is simply not possible to maintain that position and hyperinflate at the same time. This is why they are hunting down anyone with money right now destroying the world economy going after children and mentally incompetent people.

    There are people who still have not received their refund checks from last year. They are told their payments are under “investigation”. I knew one person who always paid more so he could get that refund check in a chunk. He is still waiting for his $50,000.

    These theories of hyperinflation are far too simplistic. Yet people are so sold on this idea and hell-bent that it just has to happen, they cannot see the trend before their eyes. Government is hunting capital and destroying the world economy. It is not expanding – it is contracting. The velocity of money is declining along with liquidity in markets and volatility in 2013. This is a set up for a major crisis, but it will not be inflation. Sorry, just look at the rising unemployment in Europe. Governments are destroying the future of the youth. We face rising civil unrest because the world economy is being seriously weakened by all these hair-brain ideas of socialism where almost 70% of the national debt went out the back-door to interest payments, not to help a soul.

    So while you are looking for hyperinflation – government will be looking at you and what you have they can grab. Why do you think Homeland Security bought more than 2700 tanks for domestic use and enough bullets to shoot every citizen 5 times? This does not suggest they will meet their obligations and just inflate their way out” (Martin Armstrong, Hyperinflation Is it even Possible? January 14, 2014).

    • @John from Australia: You know, in all fairness to Thiel, if that were the worst thing that could be pointed out about his teachings, then he would still be on fairly solid ground.

      My Bible doesn’t have either the word “hyperinflation” or “deflation” in it. So, the reader is left with the question, “Which is more biblical?” The answer, of course, is neither. We are told in vague terms what will happen in the future, not necessarily how.

      To put it another way: Is the point of prophecy to worry about the economic underpinnings of global financial systems, or is the point to understand how sin, and especially covetousness, contribute to the breakdown even of world economies?

      Just as important, how much difference does it make either way? Germany after WWI experienced hyperinflation, and indeed it did lead to a revolution that swept the whole world into a dark abyss. From what I see, with many businesses along Main Street with shuttered windows and locked doors, the U.S. is not too far from a third world nation already. I would be highly surprised if our end doesn’t begin with a revolution interally first, only then for another power to come along and grab the low hanging fruit.

  2. Hyperinflation or deflation. I suppose the reason people fixate on hyperinflation is the dreaded visual of people needing wheelbarrows of money to buy eggs and milk.

    We have already seen the US government having issues with continuing to borrow. Our biggest creditor, the Chinese, have made some noise about their concern and have reportedly even cut back on purchasing our debt. The concept of the repeated quantative easing the Fed has been doing is essentially digitally creating money, increasing the money supply.

    We are also seeing the beginning of the end for the 401K in the US. President Obama’s MYRA set up through the Treasury Dept is the beginning of a government grab for the last substantial portion of people’s wealth out of reach from the government. This way people deposit money in government accounts with the promise of a guaranteed return. You don’t actually think that money will sit there untouched do you? Of course it will be raided just like social security. The idea has been floated before that the feds buy out people’s 401ks with the promise of a return. The feds need that money to pay our debt and continue to spend. Of course as long as people are making money in the market and see the 401k balance growing that idea is dead in the water. You would need a market collapse to push that through.

    Oh by the way the market dropped another 326 points today.

    One way or another we are on an unsustainable financial course. Whether the inevitable happens in months or in years it is going to happen.

  3. John from Australia

    While the Bible does not have “either the word “hyperinflation” or “deflation” in it”, they are consequences, especially the latter, of little appreciated financial laws in the Bible. Though they may not be well known they exist and the fallout from not incorporating them as the foundation of any financial system can be terrible.

    “The United States’ economy has been in recession only nine times in the last 60 years, or roughly once every seven years. Before the last recession in 2001, the economy even expanded for a full ten years. And the average recession has only lasted for about four quarters” (Joachim Fels, Recession 2007,, November 18, 2005).

    “We should think of these adjustment periods as the lineal descendant of the biblical concept of the Sabbath year – the seven-year cycle, described in Deuteronomy, which releases debtors… The original biblical text stresses the operating appropriateness of a seven-year cycle as a means of ensuring continued fertility for the land. But the scripture also makes clear that contractual relationships need to be reset. These presumably include the primitive financial relationships that provided leverage for the operating cycle.

    “A super-cycle of seven times seven years was also described in Leviticus. How this larger jubilee differed from the seven-year cycle is unclear. But there was more sophistication at work than simply cancellation of debts or other contracts. In particular, there seems to be evidence of a resetting of contracts around some normalised terms, based on fair returns for time expired.

    “The implication is that the passage of time and the distortions of the capital market cycle was likely to have caused all obligations to drift upwards towards unrealistic onerous levels. Resetting them to a lower, standardised level was therefore appropriate. A protective clause also requires equitable treatment in the immediate per-jubilee phase, so that the benefits of contractual release are not pre-empted by harsh treatment” (Peter Martin, Remember the Sabbath day,, April 8, 2002).

    The downturns in the economy experienced since the Great Depression of 1929-39 have been recessions. The next is likely to a Great Recession or Depression, which is a Jubilee event.

    It took from 1933 to 1951 to get total credit market debt down to a manageable level so that the present financial cycle could begin. Deflation plays its part in pushing through the hegemonic, technological and financial resetting of the economy for the next upwave.

    “The future course of the United States will follow the same pattern. Pre-Revolution, you had separate states. That became the UNITED states in 1789. We will see a breakup of the states most likely banding together in regions because of the difference in cultural views such as the Bible Belt. The fight over Obamacare illustrates the stark differences and this is fundamentally wrong for it is forcing one groups interests upon another. There is no such thing as equal rights but money is the exception. We are all treated the same even in law (no exception for politicians and bankers) or we are not a nation of equal rights. You can’t be just a little be pregnant! The US will break up, but it should not go into a MADMAX event as long as we reach resistance from the people. If the people keep just watching their sports and never notice what the governments are doing to their future until it is too late, then it can go too far and that in the MADMAX event the ended the Roman Empire” (Martin Armstrong, MADMAX v Restructure,, January 15, 2014).

    It is likely that America will break apart in the coming Great Depression and its aftermath. Perhaps this time round it will be a Republican/Conservative ‘South’ that breaks away from the Union.

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