1 Timothy 1:1-5 Knowledge cannot change the world, but love from a pure heart can

1 Timothy 1:1-5

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope,
2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, 4 nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. 5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

Background

The apostle Paul writes privately to Timothy to give him the guidance he needs as superintendent of churches. This letter is most likely written towards the end of Paul’s ministry, 62–67 CE. He begins by charging Timothy to stem the tide of strange doctrines and speculations by unscrupulous men. For the study of Christian doctrine is purposed to encourage love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. In today’s devotion, we learn that the sole purpose of the word is to help believers understand God’s will and to become more like Him. Even then, knowledge cannot change the world, but love from a pure heart can.

Observation

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Although v.1-2 are seen by many as a salutation and mere pleasantries, Paul nonetheless makes clear that this letter is written by revelation and as a command from Christ Jesus. He readily expresses his deep regard to Timothy who is his genuine child in the faith; one in whom Paul places profound trust. Paul begins with a written impartation of spiritual gifts that must accompany his beloved son: grace to pull through the challenges that are facing him as superintendent of the churches; mercy to shepherd with compassion; and peace, divine favour to prosper his work. 

So that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines.

Paul charges Timothy with the task to safeguard the churches from unscrupulous men who confuse the people with strange doctrines. Such men seek to capture the attention of the people with myths and endless genealogies. These are assertions and stories that are not based on facts, but are fictitious, intended to draw attention towards themselves. These in turn give rise to a flood of speculations that avert the people’s focus from doing the work of God and living a life of faith: furthering the administration of God which is by faith. Speculations are intriguing teachings that has little value towards sanctifying a person towards godliness.

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

Paul hits home the overriding purpose of christian teachings: to promote love towards God and towards others. And love in order to be effective must stem from three virtues:

a.  Pure heart: Free from corrupt desires, hidden motives and guile. It also describes one who is transparent with his weaknesses, being sincere in all his relationships. One who has a pure heart meant no harm, while always seeking the good in others.

b.  Good conscience: Moral consciousness, being able to distinguish right and wrong. One with a good conscience will not easily be taken by deceptive and insidious arguments.

c.  Sincere faith: Obeying God’s instructions with a pure motive, and without pretense. One with sincere faith can be counted on to remain faithful to the end.

In a nutshell, christian teachings must help believers grow in the virtue of love founded on purity, wisdom to discern and perseverance to do the will of God. In doing so, love becomes effective and empowering in the task of rescuing the world from sin and death.

Truth

The sole purpose of Christian doctrine is to help us understand God’s will and to become more like Him.

The purpose of Christian doctrine has been misconstrued by various church circles. Many think that by understanding the doctrines therein will automatically make one more Christian before God. However, I have observed that even churchgoers who are supposedly well versed in the bible, having “grown up” in christian families regressed into the comfort zone of self-serving Christianity. Some church cultures relegated the commission of Christ to saving of souls from hell as opposed to sanctifying them in the likeness of God. Some even threat the bible as an academic/philosophical subject to be used as material for debate and their intellectual pursuits. I am also not wrong to say that (in this day and age) most read the bible for the purpose of fulfilling their selfish needs and wants.

The bible, for all that its worth is purposed to help man know God, to understand the truth and to live abundantly. Much effort invested into the study of the culture of ancient Israel, the biblical backgrounds and languages both in the Old and New testaments is vain if it does not yield a more profound understanding of God and His ways. Therefore, ministers and believers alike must be motivated by the desire to know God through the bible and to be like Him. Unless the motivation of bible study is set right, the bible remains dry and uninspiring. Unless there is desire to love Him and to love others, the Spirit cannot imbue His treasury of wisdom and gifts into our soul.

Knowledge cannot change the world, but perfect love from a pure heart can.

Paul says, “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.” (1 Corinthians 8:1). Knowledge unaccompanied by the transforming power of God’s perfect love is powerless. The apostle John rightly says, “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19). It is true that no one possesses the ability to love unless he first experiences the love of another. It follows that one cannot give that which he has not received. However, the meaning of love is in many situations misunderstood as being perpetually affable and long-suffering even in the face of repeated wrongdoing. Love is not just being patient and long-suffering towards our adversaries, it carries divine qualities and empowerment to deliver and to save our neighbour. In short, one cannot grow in the virtue of love by just receiving love from God and from others. Love must grow through the process of discipleship, aided by the Spirit and God’s discipline.

Perfect love comprises purity (pure heart), wisdom (good conscience) and perseverance (sincere faith). Purity is to relationships as wisdom is to complex situations. Purity is being free from corrupt desires and ulterior motives towards another except to be a blessing. Wisdom, on the other hand answers the question: what can I do, or what approach must I take to edify myself and the community? Wisdom provides clarity in any given situation as to what the will of God is. Sincere faith, as in perseverance in doing God’s will is revealed in Jesus’ unwavering commitment to suffer for the sins of the world. Without perseverance in sincere faith, no matter how sincere one’s love may be, it remains powerless to lift the world out of sin and death.

Application

Does the meditation of the word frequently yield timely insights, strength, and hope for a brighter future? If the word appears dry and tasteless, it may be time to refocus your heart away from the cares of the world, and back to God. The bible is the bridge to the throne of grace, and the seed of God’s kingdom. Before we read the word, we must put aside the cares of life and not to let them intrude into this sacred moment. As we read the words, our hearts are open to commune with Him, to know the things that weigh on His heart. In doing so, He releases revelations and wisdom into our minds to navigate the complex currents of life.

Do you feel that despite your good intentions, you remain a victim of uncaring people who take your kindness for granted? No doubt that you did not allow bitterness to enter your soul, but your “love” remains defenceless against the real world. Perhaps, it is time to stop blaming others or God for that matter. But to start growing in purity, wisdom and perseverance.

Dear Lord, I desire to grow in perfect love, in wisdom, purity and in sincere faith. In any situation, I endeavour to be filled with your Spirit and to exhibit perfect love. As I meditate on your word, reveal to me your truth and the things that weigh on your heart. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 


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