1 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.
The “pastoral epistles” – 1,2 Timothy and Titus, are the most common references for how to conduct “church business” in regards to order. If you have ever attended more than one church, you will notice that everyone conducts business a little differently. I quite convinced it is because of various interpretations and applications of these specific letters from the Apostle Paul. I’d like to point out that this letter was written somewhere in the first century to a leader at a specific church in a specific region of the world. This is not to challenge anyone’s application of this text, but rather to help us understand better the context of Paul’s letter. It is something we must keep in mind as we read Paul’s directions to young Timothy.
I find that last few verses here the most important. We gain who the author is, who the recipient is, as well as their contexts in the greeting of the letter. Next, Paul let’s us know why Timothy is to remain at Ephesus…a clue into the theme of the letter. I’d particularly like to draw your attention to verse 5, where the goal of Paul (and subsequently Timothy) is instruction of love that comes from a pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith. This is the “cypher” through which we must read this letter. If we don’t, then we are instead reading it through something by which the message herein was not intended.
What does it mean to have a pure heart? In Mathew 5, Jesus’ infamous sermon on the mount gives us inclination of the importance of a pure heart, “8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” In the book of Hebrews, the author indicates what a pure and sincere heart is, “22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Quite a few psalms make reference to purity of heart. I believe what Paul is talking about here is true love, Godly love. We see this in 1 John 4:7-14.
Paul used this word a lot. The Greek term used here is suneidesis, which is further defined as, “the soul as distinguishing between what is morally good and bad, prompting to do the former and shun the latter, commending one, condemning the other”. Our conscience is our cognitive acknowledgement of truthfulness; we decide to do what we believe is right to the best of our ability. Is this always what is right? I’d venture to say no because 1) everyone has their own perspective and 2) only the bearer of said conscience will truly know the motives behind their actions.
This is to distinguish between a disguised and manipulative faith. You know, the one who goes to church to “fit in”, not because they truly want to work on their relationship with God. In my previous posts I discussed faith being equivalent with trust. An insincere faith is faith that has a backup plan or is skeptical of fully trusting.
Without these three elements, we cannot properly protect the body of Christ from the previously mentioned dangers: strange doctrines, myths, endless genealogies, and mere speculation. Paul here is telling Timothy that if we fully trust God, love with all our hearts, and do our best not to deceive others, that we will be able to completely enhance the Kingdom of God. This not only tells us how to and how not to do it, but also that these elements exist and we must be wary of the instruction we are receiving. I feel it is prudent to reemphasize what I said about a good conscience. Not all people who lead others astray do so purposely. This is why the other two elements must also be in place, to keep our conscience in check. It is important that we understand how to achieve purity of heart and sincere faith if we are to be instructing others about the administration of God, as Paul describes it. What is the administration of God, anyway? It is the building of the Kingdom of God by edifying its current members and increasing in number.
Simply put, Paul’s point here in the opening of his letter to Timothy is that we must constantly work on increasing and strengthening our relationship with God in order to positively affect the Kingdom of God. Some may say, since this is considered a “pastoral epistle” that it doesn’t apply to them, however this applies to all who profess to believe in the one true God. Whether we are teaching, learning, or acting, these things are necessary to be witness to the salvation of God and His love for us. Are you positively contributing to the Kingdom of God today?