The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.1 Timothy 1:5
Most followers of Jesus are concerned to have sound doctrine or teaching. Doctrine is not something to argue over, it is something to bask in. When we allow ourselves to bask in sound teaching from Scripture it makes us look more like Jesus. It fills us with joy.
For too many believers, the teaching they adhere to is something to impose on all other believers and if they don’t immediately acquiesce, it is a cause for a doctrinal fight. That is not what the Scripture teaches us is the objective of sound teaching. In fact, I believe James addresses this bad attitude in his letter.
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.James 3:13-18
We can have disagreements about what the Bible teaches, but those disagreements do not have to degenerate into what James describes as being earthly, unspiritual, demonic. I truly appreciate the conversations that I have on occasion with brothers who see things differently than I do. The key is that they are honest discussions with respect for one another and the work of the Holy Spirit to be the ultimate teacher.
Paul tells Timothy that the aim of his charge to correct bad teaching in Ephesus is love. Wow! Correcting someone’s doctrine is intended to produce love. I love this verse. Paul adds three modifiers to this objective of love. It is to flow from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere or genuine faith.
How do I define these modifiers? What does it mean to have a pure heart? When we understand that Scripture is clear that we all have to deal with sin on a regular basis, how can we have a pure heart? I believe that at least one aspect of this is found in Psalm 86:11.
Teach me your way, O Lord,Psalm 86:11
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
That last phrase, unite my heart, is translated in the NIV as, “give me an undivided heart.” This speaks of a heart that has no fear of anyone but God. We are so prone to the fear of man, but a heart that fears man and his approval is a heart that is not pure and undivided. This is why Psalm 86:11 has become a regular prayer for me, I want to have no idols in my heart. I want to only fear God and no one else. I believe that is at least a major component of what it means to have a pure heart.
What about a good conscience? Our conscience is not infallible. We must train our conscience by the word of God. Our conscience is our internal barometer to tell us what is right and what is wrong morally. Should I do something or should I not do that thing? If I do something that my conscience has told me I should not do, then I have violated my conscience. I no longer have a “good conscience.”
To restore myself to a good conscience, I must first acknowledge that I have violated my conscience and done what I believe I should not have done. I must confess to God my sin of violating my conscience. I may also need to ask forgiveness from someone whom I have harmed in some way. We have to “come clean” about our conduct and then a good conscience can be restored.
A good conscience then is one that does not harbor sin.
A sincere or genuine faith is more difficult to define. Obviously, it refers to faith that is real and not a mere intellectual assent to some fact, even gospel facts. Devils know the truth of the gospel, but they do not trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Genuine faith relies on God’s word to be true and trustworthy. It does not rely on any human efforts to please God. It relies wholly on the finished work of Christ.
So, the aim or objective of good teaching is love that flows from a pure heart that has no idols, a good conscience that does not harbor sin, and genuine faith that truly trusts in the finished work of Christ alone for salvation.
The question of the day is, “Do I love this way?”