By Travis Bookout
When Paul was leaving for Macedonia, he urged a young evangelist named Timothy to “remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor pay attention to myths or endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculations rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith” (1 Timothy 1:3, 4, NASB). These false teachers who are in Ephesus are not teaching sound doctrine (1 Timothy 1:10); they are teaching strange doctrines, myths, and genealogies. All that their teaching is producing is speculations and “fruitless discussion” (1 Timothy 1:6, NASB). The problem is that they are “wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions” (1 Timothy 1:7, NASB). Their goal is not right. Their goal is to teach the law and be well thought of without ever striving to understand the law. That is not the goal of faithful preachers and teachers. Paul tells Timothy what the goal of faithful ministers should be. “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5, NASB).
“Love from a pure heart.” This is very different than a lot of “love” that is seen today. This is a love that does not seek its own. It is not a love from a greedy heart. Many times people will do kind gestures for others simply to get a reward or repayment. However, this is not the type of love that Paul strives to produce in people. Jesus taught that one should not just invite your family, friends, and the rich over to your house because they will repay you. Rather you should invite the poor, homeless, and the sick over to your house because they cannot repay you (Luke 14:12-14). This would be a demonstration of love from a pure heart. This is also not a love that pursues money, for later on in this epistle Paul warns Timothy that “the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10). Love from a pure heart is the love that Paul speaks about in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. A love that “does not seek its own” and “does not take into account a wrong suffered” (1 Corinthians 13:5). This is a love full of good deeds and a proper pursuit; it is unselfish and it is forgiving.
“Good conscience.” It is extremely important to make sure that you have a good conscience. This means doing what you know to be right rather than what you know to be wrong. This “good conscience” is the goal of Paul’s instruction, and also something that Paul wants to see in Timothy. “This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience…” (1 Timothy 1:18, 19, NASB). Those who are going to be deacons, or servants, of the church also need to strive for this good conscience. “Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience” (1 Timothy 3:8, 9, NASB). God wants those in His church to do what they know to be right. However, that is only half the battle. It is also imperative that what we know to be right is the same as what God says is right. In a prophecy in 1 Timothy a warning is made about men in the future who would fall away and listen to doctrines of demons. The text says “by means of hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron” (1 Timothy 4:2). These men seared their conscience so that it no longer bothered them to do what was wrong. We must be diligent to first, align our conscience with what God desires for us, and after that we can “let our conscience be our guide.”
“Sincere Faith.” This is a faith that is true 100% of the time. Even in the dark, when no one can see us, we are the same Christians that we claim to be in front of everyone else. We are the same when we are alone as we are when we are with a group of Christians. We are the same on Saturday night as we are on Sunday morning. We are completely devout Christians through and through. No matter what friends we have around, who can see us, what we can get away with, we will do what is right. This type of faith does not leave when things get difficult. Many warnings are given in 1 Timothy about those who leave the faith. “Some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 1:19, 20, NASB). Hymenaeus and Alexander are two individuals who clearly had an insincere faith. The prophecy about those who will teach doctrines of demons mentions, “Some will fall away from the faith” (1 Timothy 4:1). Paul says that those who love money and pursue it rather than God have “wandered away from the faith” (1 Timothy 6:10). This is not to say that these men never had a sincere faith, but when Hymenaeus and Alexander made shipwreck of the faith, it was no longer sincere. When the false teachers began to “forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods” (1 Timothy 4:3), their faith was not sincere. And when men began to love money more than God their faith was not sincere, and it resulted in their condemnation. A sincere faith does not leave and is not hypocritical.
Again, “the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5, NASB). Christians should strive to attain this goal both in how they instruct and encourage others to live, and in how we all live. To love with no selfish attachments, to train our consciences to follow God and never back away from Him, to have a faith that is so sincere and true that it will remain no matter what adversities arise––these things make for a powerful Christian. By reaching these goals, you can become a powerful Christian.