This morning I was blessed in my reading of 1 Timothy. I was quite refreshed to read Paul’s words to Timothy:
The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
When Scripture records for us Paul’s letter to this young pastor (the first generation of non-apostolic church leaders), and gives us the apostle’s commission for the ministry, I think it is wise (to say the least!) to heed his words.
Paul has told Timothy already that he is to stay at the church in Ephesus and minister there. And what is the aim of that ministry? Love. Paul does not need to go on any more about love… Timothy has been with Paul long enough to know what an essential role love plays in the thought of Paul, and the life of the church.
For example, 1 Corinthians 13, the passage everyone likes to cite about love, comes right in between chapters 12 and 14, which are all about church life. What is it that is to be the governing rule in the life of a church? Love.
Why love? Because love is the fulfilling of the law. Love for God, first and foremost, and then out of that love flows love for brothers and sisters in Christ, and then love for the rest of the world. This all, of course, comes as no real surprise to us.
What I did find interesting today, however, was to ask myself as I was reading, ‘How is it that Timothy is to fulfill his charge, so as to bring about love in the life of the local church where he ministers?’
The answer is not what we would expect.
Timothy is to fulfill his charge to stir his people up to love by protecting sound doctrine.
In our day, in our part of the world, you don’t hear that kind of thing very much. Either you get the loosey-goosey kind of theology where we’re told ‘doctrine divides’, so we shouldn’t think about it, or else you might get trendy ‘re-invent, re-think, revise’ camp that is more interested in asking questions and pointing out errors than getting answers.
This is not the logic of man, but the logic of God from his inspired word. The verses immediately preceding Paul’s statement quoted above insist that Timothy charge people not to teach false doctrines or to focus on side issues, but to stick to the gospel as it had been taught.
Throughout the rest of the book of 1 Timothy (and then again and again in 2 Timothy as well), Paul exhorts Timothy to protect doctrine, to guard the deposit, to rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine, to always preach, always teach the word, always protect the gospel that Paul had taught him.
Why? Why must he protect doctrine? The goal of all that he does is love in his people. There are no fewer than 3 major lessons I need to learn from that.
- I need to stand fast against all false doctrine.
- I need to make love the end goal of all ministry.
- If love is not the result of the doctrine, then either the teaching, the teacher, or those being taught are in the wrong, because the goal of gospel teaching is always love.
In contrast to whatever the pop church culture of our day tells us, it is correct doctrine that will unite God’s church, and correct doctrine that will stir Christ’s bride up to love in increasing measure. It is only in the true gospel that true love is shown, and only when the true gospel is preached with conviction, and believed on with resolution will men come to love God and love one another from a pure heart.