This poster caricature of the heretics concludes with the main point Paul wishes to develop. These false teachers were "selling" their teaching. People in that day were often suspicious of the motives of teachers of religion and philosophy. Paul apparently had to deal with similar allegations himself (1 Thess 2:5), and Christians were warned about peddlers of the gospel (Rom 16:17-18; 2 Pet 2:2; 1 Pet 5:2). Here godliness may refer to one of the errorists' own catchwords (see 2 Tim 3:5), their special knowledge of the divine (6:20). As they taught certain things that people wanted to hear (2 Tim 4:3) and offered initiation into an elite club, the false teachers discovered a lucrative business (compare Tit 1:11). In reality, this was the result of corrupted minds that had broken from the truth of the gospel.
As much as we would prefer to avoid this warning, we must not allow Paul's concentration on the motives of false teachers to deflect this word's relevance for those in Christian vocations today. While there is no easy rule to apply, we must constantly evaluate the influence of "financial packages" and "fee structures" on our motives, and be willing before the Lord to make radical adjustments.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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