“But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).
The apostle Paul writes the fledgling minister, Timothy. He has several concerns as this young minister labors in Ephesus. He’s concerned that there are some who are interested in speculative matters, perhaps speculative matters that have to do with theology. He’s concerned about individuals who are deeply interested in teaching the law of God. However, they do not understand the real reasons for the law. Paul therefore urges Timothy not to engage in speculative matters. He admonishes Timothy to warn others not to use God’s law unlawfully. On the other hand, Paul contends, “The goal of our instruction is love out of a pure heart and a clear conscience and a sincere faith.”
As we pointedly apply this teaching to the seminary faculty, where does it lead us? Here is my conviction derived from this text. At Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary we can trust God to utilize our instruction to build up our students in love. This is the direction our text leads us in the context we find ourselves this evening.
Notice the apostle Paul tells us very directly, “The goal of our instruction is love.” By divine inspiration he is telling us we have something to teach. If we understand this properly, we understand God gives us that which we teach. He gives us our instruction. The word actually could be translated command. In the New American Standard version verse 18 says, “this command I entrust to you.” We have a command. We have instruction.
Paul is talking about these commands and instructions throughout 1 Timothy. All you have to do is briefly look through its pages. Chapter 2:1. “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgiving, be made on behalf of all men.” Chapter 3:1, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the officer of overseer…” In chapter 4 Paul warns of apostasy. “Prescribe and teach these things,” says Paul in verse 11. Paul gives instruction to individuals of different standing within in the church in chapter 5. For example, “Do not sharply rebuke an older man but rather appeal to him as a father.”
To properly understand these instructions, we study Greek and Hebrew. We study Biblical theology. We study Systematic theology. We study Historical theology and church history to understand how the Bible has been interpreted in the past. We study and teach the principles of Biblical interpretation. All of these facets of study center on the instruction that comes from the Bible. In this sense, God guides everything we do. He outlines our instruction.
Giving instruction, however, is not our ultimate goal. “But the goal of our instruction is love.” It is quite important for us to understand instruction is not an end in itself. Instruction itself has a goal. Whether we are in the classroom or in the pulpit, our instruction is not the end God has view. If my instruction is an end in itself, when I argue my case, it is easy for me to become argumentative. If my instruction is an end in itself, when I contend for the truth, it is easy for me to be contentious. Instruction, however, is not and end in itself. “The goal of our instruction is love.
In football, the game is not an end in itself. Just going out on the field and playing, is not sufficient. You’ve got to get that ball over the goal line more times than your opponent. A losing coach will lose his job. It’s serious business. In basketball, it’s the same. A team must get more balls through the hoop, through the goal. We must always understand instruction is not an end in itself. It has a goal. Paul tells us the goal. “The goal of our instruction is love.
The Goal Defined, Described, and Exemplified
Scripture defines, describes, and exemplifies this goal of love. To define love, look at 1 John 5:3. “For this is the love of God that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome.” Here is a very simple definition. Outwardly, love is keeping God’s commandments. If you love God, you do not take His name in vain and use it loosely. If you love your neighbor, you do not lie to your neighbor. You do not steal from your neighbor. You do not covet your neighbor’s possessions. You do not commit adultery with your neighbor’s wife. This definition of love is very simple, very concrete and very clear. Our Lord Jesus Christ exemplified this definition. He kept the law perfectly. He lived the life of love.
This is not enough. Scripture also describes love for us in a very familiar passage. Let’s begin with 1 Corinthians 13:4. “Love is patient.” This is a description. The subject is love. We have a linking verb. The predicate adjective describes the subject. “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” We must present the truth. It is required of us. But we must speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We must do so patiently. We must do so kindly. We must do so gently because the goal of our instruction is love.
There’s a third aspect of love that is quite important. I’ve already alluded to the fact that our Lord Jesus exemplifies this love. Philippians 2:5 speaks of this example. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” The text goes on to speak about Christ going to the cross and being obedient to the point of death. Have this attitude.
My oldest daughter is a vice-principal in a high school. She knows first hand about the attitude of many teenagers. Attitude can be a problem. However, attitude that is in line with God and with Jesus Christ is a great blessing. This is the attitude of love. I’m quite taken by a very short arresting statement of W. G. T. Shedd. “Love is inclination.” He’s talking about the inclination of the heart, the attitude of the heart. It’s the attitude of heart disposed towards God. It embraces God and loves Jesus Christ. When we love the Lord our God, we have an attitude, a disposition of heart, disposed positively toward God. This is the love of God. The attitude, the inclination, is love. This is what Philippians is saying about Jesus Christ. Have this attitude, this love, in your heart, which is also in Christ Jesus.
When you have this attitude you embrace the commandments of God. You walk in these commandments as described in 1 Corinthians 13 with kindness, patience, and forbearance. Your life displays the love of God inwardly and outwardly. This is what Paul is speaking of in our text. “The goal of our instruction is love.”
The Heart of the Goal
Paul now expands the idea of love. The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Here we see the beginning of our confidence. We can be confident dear colleagues that God produces love in the hearts of our students by working love in their hearts defined, described, and exemplified in Scripture. But it does not stop here. We can be confident God will work love in their hearts by producing and creating good consciences, pure hearts, and sincere faith.
What is the pure heart? It is a heart cleansed by God. The heart is the center and core of the inner person including the thinking, the feeling, and the volition. When God operates on the heart He changes thinking. When God operates on the heart He bridles emotions. When God operates on the heart he alters the will. He changes our inclinations. He gives us a proper attitude. He changes our disposition. He produces love. The goal of our instruction is love out of a pure heart. God is pleased to use the instruction to bring about this love by renewing hearts.
In addition, God is pleased to use our instruction to bring about this love by producing and creating good consciences. The conscience is nothing less than knowledge alongside the activities in which we engage. Listen to the word, con-science. Science means knowledge. You’ve also heard of chili con-carne, chili with meat. Conscience refers to knowledge standing along with an activity.
When we do something, our consciences speak. If we do something bad conscience feels bad; we feel guilty. When we do something good, conscience responds accordingly. The word good simply means, Godlike. Our consciences ought to be God-like. That is, they ought to say, “yes,” when God says, “yes,” “no,” when God says, “no.” Through faith Jesus Christ, our consciences are cleansed. Through instruction in the word, our consciences are trained so that they do say “yes” when God says “yes.” The goal of our instruction is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience.
Paul adds sincere faith, an un-hypocritical faith. This is a faith that says, “Yes, I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. I trust Him as the One Who died on Calvary’s cross to pay the penalty due to me for my sins. I am free from the guilt of sin because of the work of Jesus Christ. This is un-hypocritical faith because of the life standing behind it. With a good conscience and a heart directed towards God, there is loving obedience to God’s commandments. “The goal of our instruction is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
At Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary we can trust God to utilize our instruction to build up our students in love. It is my hope and prayer God will do just this. This is where the text leads us. “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” This goal is God’s plan. This is God’s goal. This goal is our goal too.