By Pastor Glenn Pease
Someone has said, "You can never win in the game of life if you don't know where the goal posts are." You can't win in any game if you don't have a goal. Great men in every walk of life have been those with a goal, and a determination to reach it. It is difficult to be determined if you are not certain where you are going, and so the end must come before the means. The goal must be established, and then comes the best means for reaching that end. I remember a successful businessman who spoke to the students at Bethel one day, and he said that the very first rule in being successful is to set a goal and then strive to reach it. Studies show that the one thing they all had in common as America's most successful men was the ability to set a goal and pursue it. This principle applies to the spiritual realm as well.
Mathew Henry, the well-known Bible commentator, was not successful in producing the works he did because he was uniquely gifted. It was because he was a man who set goals and persisted in using every means necessary to reach them. He set out in 1692 to deliver a series of lectures on the questions on the Bible. He began with God's question to Adam, "Where art thou?" Twenty years later he finished the series on the last question in Revelation. When he set a goal he persisted to the end.
Paul wanted Timothy to be this kind of a pastor, and he wanted the leaders and teachers of Ephesus to be like this as well. Therefore, he writes to Timothy and tells him to put an end to the nonsense of Christians getting all wrapped up in fables and genealogies. He urges them to make love the primary goal of their ministry. He then gives the three means necessary to arrive at this goal. They are a pure heart, a good conscience, and a genuine faith. Verse 5 in the RSV reads, "Whereas the aim of our charge is love..." Phillips has it, "The ultimate aim of the Christian ministry, after all, is to produce the love which springs from a pure heart, a good conscience and a genuine faith."
Paul is giving a standard by which we can measure the success of our ministry. Whatever else we have done, if we have not aided men to move closer to the goal we have failed. The end is love, and if teaching and preaching does not make Christians more loving it is an ineffective means, for it is not doing what God intended it to do. If all the lessons and sermons you hear, and all the books and papers you read do not increase your love, then they are all for nothing, for that which does not move toward the primary goal is of no true Christian value. If your Bible knowledge only makes you clever in winning arguments, but does not increase your ability to love the unlovable, you are making no progress at all. The end is love says Paul. The goal of the Christian life is to be a channel through which the love of God can flow.
Paul took very seriously the exalting of love to the supreme place in the Christian life. In all of his letters it is the supreme goal, for to be filled with agape love is to be filled with Christ. To love and to be Christ like are synonymous. In Gal. 5:14 Paul writes, "The whole law is fulfilled in one word, you shall love your neighbor as yourself." The Old Testament is not to be used as a source of material for speculation, but as a source of material to be fulfilled by love. Alexander Maclaren, the famous English Baptist preacher, wrote, "The Apostle here lays down the broad principle that God has spoken, not in order to make acute theologians, or to provide material for controversy, but in order to help us love."
The number of persons won to Christ by argument and condemnation is from small to non-existent, but the number one through love is legion. No wonder Paul said that knowledge, eloquence and sacrifice are nothing without love. None of these things can open a man's heart to Christ. Love alone is the key to the human heart, and so it is the goal of the church's ministry in the lives of its members. Our lack is not power, but love. Paul said you can have all kinds of power and still be nothing without love. Love is the key factor in every situation.
Paul was the greatest theologian of all time, but his goal was not to be a great theologian, but rather, to be a channel of God's love. He wrote to the Corinthians that the love of Christ constrains us. That was the power that drove Paul on and on with the Gospel. It was not some craving for controversy, or desire for adventure, but it was for the end of love that he was motivated. He then gives 3 means by which we are to reach that end of love. If we develop these three things we will be progressing toward the goal of love. Not any love will do, for it must be a love, which issues from these three things.
1. A PURE HEART.
Just as a pure fountain sends forth refreshing water to the thirsty, so the pure in heart bring the refreshing attitude of love into a world of hostility. Jesus said that the pure in heart shall see God, and it follows that the pure heart which sees God will also see the need of men to see God, and so long to express the love of God in Christ that they may have the opportunity to do so. The more I read about love in the New Testament the more I realize how little Christians have moved toward this primary goal. Can it be because we are really not pure in heart? Have we neglected the means to the end to the point that we do not even recognize the nature of the kind of love that is to possess us and constrain us as it did Paul?
The impure heart harbors lust and not love. It is a form of love, which is selfish desire. Have we allowed agape love, which is the selfless love of Christ, to be lost and replaced with the natural eros love of desire? I think it is so, and so we cannot begin to reach Christian maturity until we become pure in heart. We need to be sanctified, and to learn those truths of God's Word that purify our attitudes and actions. We need to escape the pull of the world in all realms, and purify our hearts if we expect to reach the end of love, which is our goal. A church which is not succeeding to aid its people in attaining purity of heart is a church in danger of having a meaningless ministry of no use to the cause of Christ.
2. A GOOD CONSCIENCE.
A bad conscience is the force behind much of Christian un-loveliness. The Christian who condemns rather than loves is often filled with guilt feelings. His conscience is bothered by his own sin and failure to be what he knows God wants him to be. And so rather than repent and receive forgiveness he lashes out in anger to punish others who are more guilty than he, and he seeks in this way to satisfy his own conscience. It is all futile however, and it only leads to frustration and greater guilt.
If the Christian is ever going to love others as he ought, he has got to love himself as he ought. He can never do this if he has a conscience, which is always condemning him. A Christian that dislikes and condemns himself cannot really love anybody. Therefore, a good conscience is essential in the Christian life. A good conscience is one that allows a Christian the freedom to love himself, and to love his neighbor as himself. This means that the doctrine of forgiveness of sin needs to be taught until all Christians understand fully the ministry of Christ's present intercession on their behalf.
Confession of sin, which played such a major role in the New Testament must be understood by Christians today. The Christian who does not know how to deal with his sin and his bad conscience is greatly handicapped, and he is unable to move along the path to the goal of love. A Christian who is always looking for scapegoats, and always complaining and griping is a Christian with a bad conscience, and he becomes a very poor channel for the love of Christ to be expressed to others. Any ministry that aids believers in maintaining a clear conscience is a ministry that is fruitful for Christ.
3. A GENUINE OR SINCERE FAITH.
That is a faith that is not hypocritical. It is not simply a mask over the real person. There is a certain insincere kind of faith, which oozes piety all over on the surface, but it is only a shallow cover up over an impure heart and a bad conscience. Christians must be aware of the danger of a false faith, which is a faith built up around words they have learned, but which has no basis in experience. A sincere and honest faith will be practical and down to earth. Those who wonder off into myths, and who take adventures into the unknown seek to give the impression that this is a demonstration of real faith, but it is not so. Fantasy is not faith. A sincere faith brings forth love and a devotion to people, and not a devotion to fables and systems.
Any teaching that helps a believer to shed his mask and to live as he really is before God and man in simple trust is a kind of teaching that will be blest, for genuine faith will lead to the end of love. The implication of this advice to Timothy is that if a Christian lacks love the reason is because of a defect in one of these 3 areas-his heart, his conscience, or his faith.
In verse 6 Paul says that those teachers who have wondered away from these 3 things, and who have lost their sense of direction and goal, have ended up with an emphasis on what is vain. Whenever Christians get into foolish discussions it is because they have lost sight of their goal. The goal is love, and the means to that end are a pure heart, a good conscience and genuine faith. We have a clear goal and a clear revelation as to how to reach it. Our perpetual duty as Christians is to keep this ever before us, for all of our teaching, preaching and discussion is of no ultimate value unless it moves us to reach the end, which is love.