Passage: 1 Timothy 1:8-11

Speaker: Steve Hands

Series: Truth Over Sping

Spin-Formed Sin

            Spin forms us. Vigorous debate to learn truth forms and strengthens us. When our discussions shift from pursuing truth to winning arguments or proving a point in vain discussions, these speculations also form us in more destructive ways. In 1 Timothys 1:8–11 the spin of false teachers lead to the sin of the people. How do we disentangle ourselves from the formative power of spin? The Law reveals God’s purposes (8) and our sin (9–10) so that the gospel might form us (11). 

            First the Law reveals God’s purposes (1 Tim 1:8). While false teachers used the law poorly for speculations and vain discussions, the problem was not with the law itself but the use of that law. Paul reminds them that “the law is good,” but that the law must be used “lawfully.” One way that the Law is used lawfully is to discern God’s good purposes for his people. Like the Psalmist who delighted in God’s Law (Ps 119:70), our frequent meditation on God’s Word strengthens and arouses us to live out God’s good purposes for us.

            The Law not only reveals God’s good purposes but also our sin (1 Tim 1:9–10). This law is not for the self-righteous but to reveal the “lawless and disobedient,” and Paul catalogues sins exposed by the law. Ranging from murder to lying, all of these sins are seen as contrary to sound doctrine. Clearly the implication is that sound and healthy doctrine promotes right living, but false teaching leads to sin. Martin Luther says the the law is a mighty hammer to crush our self-righteousness and reveal our sin “so that by the recognition of sin [we] may be humbled, frightened, and worn down, and so may long for grace and for the Blessed Offspring” (Christ). In this way “the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.”[1]

            The Law does not only reveal our sin, but it exposes sin so that the gospel might form us (1 Tim 1:11). As we realize our own sinfulness, we see our need for “sound ( = healthy) doctrine” which helps us to flourish. But this sound doctrine is found “in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God” (1:111), the good news that Christ Jesus came to save sinners (1:15). And we can feast on this truth. As we realize our sin, naked and empty-handed, we “flee to his [God’s] mercy, repose entirely in it, hide deep within it, and seize upon it alone for righteousness and merit.”[2]

            We want to be formed by the gospel not spin. These three uses of the Law were spelled out by the Reformers to help us understand its role in our life. And to bring us to the riches of the gospel, we are led by the Law to see God’s purposes and our sin that the gospel might form us. May we be formed by that power in our lives!


[1] Luthers Works 26, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan (Concordia, 1963), 327.

[2] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (trans. F. L. Battles; Collins, 1986), II.7.1–9.