Jangle Bells!

by Pastor Ricky Kurth

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“Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.

“From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling” (I Timothy 1:5,6).

In football, a player scores a goal when he reaches “the end zone.” God’s “end” or goal in giving the ten commandments was “charity.” That is, His purpose was to get men to love God and their neighbor by telling them how to behave toward God and their neighbor. But some in the Ephesian church that Timothy pastored had swerved from that goal and “turned aside.”

The apostle did not choose that phrase at random, for three times we are told that Israel “turned aside” when they “made them a molten calf” (Ex. 32:8; Deut. 9:12,16). God gave the Jews a Law that said they must make no graven images, and they turned aside from it! So I suspect when Timothy began to preach that “we are not under law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:15) that some in Ephesus claimed, “Timothy is turning aside from the Law.” This prompted Paul to counter by using that same phrase to tell Timothy, “They’re right, we are turning aside from the Law, we’re under grace! (Rom. 6:15). But they’re turning aside from the goal of the Law,” unto something he calls “vain jangling.” So what’s that?

The word “vain” means empty, and “jangling” is an overly loud form of jingling. Jingle bells sound very festive; jangle bells, not so much! Whatever these Ephesians had turned aside to, it was empty, and evidently very jarring. And we don’t have to guess as to what it was, for Paul goes on to say,

“Desiring to be teachers of the law…” (I Timothy 1:7).

Some in Ephesus were turning aside from the goal of the law to focus on the law itself! They were swerving and turning aside from loving charity and focusing on the law that was supposed to produce loving charity. And when the law is taught to members of the Body of Christ who are not under the law, it always leads to the very opposite of loving charity. When some legalists put the Galatians under the law, it caused them to “bite and devour one another” (Gal. 5:15). Interestingly enough, another definition of the word “jangling” is quarreling or bickering. As you know, when men quarrel and bicker it sounds more like jangle bells than jingle bells!

Paul had to write to Titus about the same problem:

“…there are many vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision…” (Titus 1:10).

What do you think those vain talkers of the circumcision were talking about? I’ll give you a hint. The Greek word for “vain talkers” is a form of the same word translated “vain jangling” in our text. Yes, that’s right, the vain talkers in Crete, where Titus was stationed, were talking about the same thing as the vain janglers in Ephesus, the law. The law was once pleasant jingling, but when it is levied on people who are not under the law it becomes vain jangling.

What do you say we all focus on the goal of the law rather than on the law itself? Jangle bells never sound good, but the pleasant jingle bells of love and grace are always in season!

To the Reader:

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