“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. Some have an interest in speculative matters, which have to do with theology. Others are deeply interested in teaching the law of God, but 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. 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 within the church, where does it lead us? Here is my conviction. You can trust God to utilize our instruction within the church to build up men, women, young people, and children in love. The text leads us in this direction. The church’s classic marks are the faithful preaching of the gospel, the right administration of the sacraments, and the exercise of church discipline. In each of these marks, the goal is love.
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 truth correctly, we know God gives us that which we teach. He gives us our instruction. The word actually can be translated as 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 thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men.” Chapter 3:2, “An overseer, then, must be above reproach.” Verse 8, “Deacons likewise must be men of dignity.” In chapter 4, Paul warns against apostasy. “Prescribe and teach these things,” says Paul in verse 11. Paul instructs individuals of different standing within the church in chapter 5. For example, in verse 1, “Do not sharply rebuke an older man but rather appeal to him as a father.”
As pastors, elders, and Bible teachers, we study Greek and Hebrew to correctly understand these instructions. We study Biblical theology. We study Systematic theology. We study Historical theology and church history to know how those in past times interpreted the Bible. We research and teach the principles of Biblical interpretation. All of these facets of study concentrate on 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.” We need to understand instruction is not an end in itself. The instruction itself has a purpose. Whether we are in the classroom or the pulpit, our instruction is not the end God has in view. If my instruction is an end in itself, it is easy for me to become argumentative when I argue my case. If my instruction is an end in itself, it is easy for me to be contentious when I contend for the truth. Instruction, however, is not an 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 or 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.”
Again, the church’s classic marks are to faithfully preach the gospel, correctly administer the sacraments, and properly exercise church discipline. In the preaching of the gospel, “God demonstrates His love toward us” (Romans 5:8). At the same time, Baptism portrays that “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). The Lord’s Supper pictures God’s demonstration of love in that “Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). And Jesus Christ says, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline” (Revelation 3:19). On the preacher’s side, your goal is to form love in the lives of those you teach and counsel, and discipline. On the listener’s side, trust Christ to use the teaching you hear to form God’s love within you.