“Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.” 1 Timothy 1:5
During the day of Paul’s and Timothy’s friendship there were some odd teachings floating around, and people were getting off on all manner of empty and endless speculations about all kinds of musings that ultimately didn’t matter. (I know—how will you and I, in our modern age of social media, ever relate?) Paul instructed Timothy to go to these wayward teachers with the truth of the Gospel, but he included a simple point that’s lassoed itself around my attention in recent days: “Now the goal of our instruction is love…”
In other words Paul says to Timothy, when you’re out there correcting some harmful doctrine, make sure that the whole aim of your teaching is love.
There’s a lot of battling out there in the name of truth but I’m not sure how often love is the aim. Paul helps us measure this in three ways.
1. A Pure Heart
The first place from which loving instruction comes is a pure heart. Don’t just think of full-time ministry teachers here. Rather everyone who is a believer is called to impart the knowledge of God and His Word to others—and love must be the ultimate reason we do so. When it comes to communicating the Gospel we should often ask ourselves: is my heart pure or am I peddling truth for my own gain, wielding it to wound, or commandeering it to be right? Even when we have to speak a hard truth to someone, we should do so with a gentle spirit for the sake of restoration (Gal 6:1). A go-to passage for me in determining where my heart is in these areas, since it often deceives me, is Psalm 139:23-24.
“Search me, God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
2. A Good Conscience
When it comes to instructing others out of a pure conscience, accountability is essential. I thank God for my friends who’ve taken it upon themselves—sometimes eagerly I might add—to tell me me when they think I’m getting proud or petty or moving into dangerous territory in any area. The Holy Spirit also convicts me of sin when my frustrations are out of control or my desires and passions are focused in the wrong direction. Or when I’ve gone a couple sentences too far about whatever is making its juicy way through the rumor mill. I can tell you from experience that it’s just plain awful trying to teach the truths of Scripture in any capacity when you’re also trying to fend off a troubled conscience. I’ve found time and again confession and repentance to be the ultimate remedies for such unrest. If anything’s pricking at the soft skin of your conscience, confess it while that skin is still tender.
3. A Sincere faith
A sincere faith is a faith without hypocrisy. Or as the King James words it so beautifully, a faith unfeigned. When our actions match the faith we speak of, the people around us are drawn to what we have to say. When the faith we share publicly is actually the faith we live by privately, we earn their trust. Even on social media it’s wise to consider—does the world I paint online reflect the world I actually live in? There are times when we’re guilty of crafting an embellished online image of our faith when we’d do much better to pull up a chair along someone in real life and share where our faith is faltering. A sincere faith is not a perfect faith, but it’s an honest one.
As we head into this third week of the New Year, let’s ask ourselves if love for God and others is the ultimate goal of the truths we’re imparting. Then let’s measure that love through the sieve of a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. We can’t get to real love without them.