The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5)
If we aren’t careful it is easy to focus just on the things Paul is correcting and forget why. Paul isn’t out to destroy false teachers. Instead, he is trying to bring them back to the core message of Christ, which is love.
Love was the message of Jesus, and it resonated through the writings of the apostle Paul. Some people portray Paul as a hard man, full of rebuke and rebuttal. It is true we have large portions of scripture that are filled with strong words.
But this is because it was a constant struggle to maintain the purity of the gospel. And what was this purity?
A pure heart…Our hearts are sprinkled clean with the blood of Jesus.
A good conscience…Our conscience is clear because we are no longer condemned.
A sincere faith…We put our trust in Jesus, and Him alone.
If we take a little time to think about these three components, we will realize why the legalism Timothy faced in Ephesus was so destructive. When people put their faith in human achievement or good works, something happens to their approach to life. All of a sudden they become obsessed with rules and inflated by their ability to keep them. Then they begin to judge those who don’t.
The interesting (and almost amusing) thing about this legalistic spirit is how inconsistent it can become to those looking in from the outside. This is why Jesus used comical metaphors to describe the actions of the Pharisees in Matthew 23.
“You blind guides! You strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!”
“You are like tombs! Outside you are whitewashed, but inside you are full of dead bones!”
“You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and self-indulgence!”
I am not saying we shouldn’t correct and rebuke. Certainly the apostle Paul spent a lot of energy doing so. But when we start trying to earn our own way into heaven, things get weird…funny even…
And I for one don’t want to be the town joke.
Dear God, help me be honest with myself. In Jesus’ name, Amen.