Morning Sermon: 1 Timothy 1:3-7: The Aim Of Our Charge Is Love

Old Testament Reading: Leviticus 9:9–18

“And the sons of Aaron presented the blood to him, and he dipped his finger in the blood and put it on the horns of the altar and poured out the blood at the base of the altar. But the fat and the kidneys and the long lobe of the liver from the sin offering he burned on the altar, as the LORD commanded Moses. The flesh and the skin he burned up with fire outside the camp. Then he killed the burnt offering, and Aaron’s sons handed him the blood, and he threw it against the sides of the altar. And they handed the burnt offering to him, piece by piece, and the head, and he burned them on the altar. And he washed the entrails and the legs and burned them with the burnt offering on the altar. Then he presented the people’s offering and took the goat of the sin offering that was for the people and killed it and offered it as a sin offering, like the first one. And he presented the burnt offering and offered it according to the rule. And he presented the grain offering, took a handful of it, and burned it on the altar, besides the burnt offering of the morning. Then he killed the ox and the ram, the sacrifice of peace offerings for the people. And Aaron’s sons handed him the blood, and he threw it against the sides of the altar.” (Leviticus 9:9–18, ESV)

New Testament Reading: 1 Timothy 1:3-7

“As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.” (1 Timothy 1:3–7, ESV)

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Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

Introduction

Brothers and sisters, I think we are in for a real treat with this study of Paul’s letter to Timothy. The closer I look at this epistle, the more excited I get about preaching through this book. I think it is going to be a very timely study for our congregation. 

As you know, in Sunday School we are addressing questions relating to our responsibilities in the civil realm as citizens of a kingdom (or nation) of this world. But as we consider Paul’s letter to Timothy our focus will be upon our life together within Christ’s church, which is the earthy manifestation of the kingdom of Christ — a kingdom not of this world — a kingdom inaugurated now which will be consummated at the end of time

Of course, life in these two kingdoms — the kingdoms (or nations) of the earth in which all Christians live, and the kingdom of heaven into which all who have faith in Christ have been called — does always overlap and interrelate. How could it not! We are sojourners now. We are called to live in this world but be not of this world. In fact, if we were to think carefully about the interrelationship between our life lived as a citizen of this nation and our life lived as a citizen of Christ’s kingdom, we would have to confess that they are very much interrelated. The two realities cannot be untangled. We live one life, but that one life is lived as citizens of two kingdoms. Or to put it another way, we live one life, but we live that one life in different realms or spheres — we live in families, in political communities, and in the church. And I hope that you would agree with me, friends. We are not to be three different people living three different lives in these three different spheres, or two different people living two different lives in these two kingdoms, but we are to be one and the same person. We are to be authentic and sincere. We are to be genuine and unhypocritical. We are not only to worship and serve Christ while in the church but in the home and common political realm too. 

These distinctions that I am making between the kingdoms of this world and the kingdom of Christ, or the three spheres of family, society, and church, are helpful distinctions. And they are certainly biblical distinctions. But they must not be misunderstood as if we are saying that these spheres and kingdoms are so distinct that they are unrelated. Indeed, they are intertwined significantly. Life in one realm will affect life in the other. The kingdom of Christ will impact the kingdoms of this world and vice versa. And from time to time you can really feel the tension, can’t you?

It seems to me that we have felt the tension of our dual citizenship a little bit more than we have been accustomed to as of late. We should not be surprised by this as if some strange thing were happening to us. Truth be told, throughout the history of the world God’s people have sometimes enjoyed peace and tranquility as they sojourned amongst the nations. For some Christians, the tension of their dual citizenship was hardly felt. Yes, they were tempted by the world as we all are. And yes, many in the world did consider their faith to be foolish, etc. But they lived at peace. For others, the tension was extreme. For Christ himself, the tension was extreme. His own kinsmen delivered him to the Romans to be crucified because, among other things, he claimed to be the King of a Kingdom. The apostles of Christ, and the early church along with them, felt the tension too. Many of them endured persecution of one kind or another. And so, though we pray for peace and hope for peace, the Church of Christ must be prepared to suffer in this world. This is why Christ warned his disciples, saying, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18, ESV).

I don’t know what the future holds for Christians living in this country. Will this nation continue down the path that the founding fathers set before it? One that seeks to honor all men as men made in the image of God? One that gives men the freedom to practice their religion without disturbance from governmental powers?  Will this nation continue to pursue the ideal that men and women be honored as such no matter their race or creed? Never has this nation lived perfectly according to this ideal. Indeed, at times it has fallen far short of it. But this ideal is embedded at the very heart of our Republic. Remember the preamble to the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. This idea has produced the freest society in the history of the world. Christians, along with those of other religious convictions, have (generally speaking) been left free to worship as they please. And as a result, Christians living in this nation have felt relatively little tension as it pertains to their dual citizenship. Will our nation continue to pursue this ideal? Or will we go in the direction that some within our society are trying to take it, constantly drawing attention to our differences, rather than to what unites us, and allowing those who are strong to silence and oppress those with whom they disagree? Only God knows what the future holds. I’m praying that our liberties will be preserved and even enlarged. I also intend to engage politically — to vote for liberty and to seek to persuade others to do the same. 

But what if it is the will of the Lord to judge this nation by giving her over to her sin, and by allowing unjust rulers to ruler over us — men and women who govern with pride in their hearts and give no consideration to God or to his moral law revealed in creation and in the Holy Scriptures? What then?

Well, then the church in this land will need to learn how to live with the tension that many of our brothers and sisters in Christ live with throughout the world today. They are exiles and sojourners, and so are we. But they know it and feel it in ways that we who have lived within this free society have not. The same can be said about many of the Christians who have gone before us. They too lived as exiles and sojourners, as do we. But many of them knew it and felt it in a way that most of us have not. Christ lived with this tension. Paul the Apostle lived with it. And so did Timothy, his true child in the faith. These lived in an earthly kingdom that had very little toleration for the Kingdom of God and its claims.    

This is starting to feel like a real downer of a message, isn’t it? But really, it is not intended to be. In fact, I’m very hopeful concerning the future. I choose to be optimistic concerning the direction of our country — I pray that the Lord would have mercy , and much more importantly, my hope is in Christ. My hope is not in this country, our founding documents, a political party, or a presidential candidate. My hope is in Christ and in his kingdom. That is where my hope lies, and that is where my peace is found. I hope the same is true for you!  Furthermore, I am confident that Christ’s church is well equipped to thrive in societies that are free and open, and also in societies that are oppressive and closed. 

But if the church is to thrive in either of these types of societies, she must understand what she is and what she is called to do. Truth be told, there are many dangers for the church living in the midst of free societies. How easy it is for the church to grow complacent, to lose sight of her mission, and to forget how very distinct she is from the world.But the pressures that come upon the church living in an oppressive society are different. The church is pushed to the fringes of society, her members are often deprived of worldly comforts, and sometimes they are persecuted severely. In societies such as this Christians will be tempted to abandon the everlasting glories of the Kingdom of Christ so that they might enjoy the fleeting pleasures of this world. In both scenarios, the church had better know what she is and what she is called to be, if she is to remain faithful. Paul’s first letter to Timothy is going to help us, I think.

Here in verses 3 through 7 we immediately  begin to learn about what the church is and what she is called do. Two things are to be recognized. One, the church is a society born of the truth and called to defend and promote the truth. And two, the church is a society of love.

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The Church Is A Family Of Truth

First of all, let us recognize that the church is a family of truth. She is a family born of the truth. She is to preserve the truth. And she is to promote the truth within the world. 

Notice what Paul commanded Timothy to do. Verse 3: “As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus [that is, in the church at Ephesus] so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies…” (1 Timothy 1:3–4, ESV).

Timothy, remember, was a co-worker of Paul’s. He helped him plant many churches. And he served as Paul’s representative to churches that were in need that Paul was unable to visit (for whatever reason). Timothy functioned like a Pastor in these churches, but temporarily. His job, among other things, was to appoint elders (or Pastors) to continue the work after he left. 2 Timothy 2 speaks to this transition that was to take place between Timothy and those who would continue his work. There we find the words of Paul, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:1–2, ESV). So the work that Paul gave to Timothy to do would be entrusted to others, specifically elders, who were considered faithful. 

What did Paul command Timothy to do? And by way of extension, what do the scriptures call Pastors to do within Christ’s church to this present day?

The first thing mentioned in this epistle is the proclamation and preservation of the truth. Timothy was to “charge” or we might say, order or command “certain persons not to teach and different doctrine.” 

The implication, of course, is that there were some within the church of Ephesus doing this very thing. Now, this should not surprise us. Pick up and read any book in the New Testament and you will discern that false teaching was a constant threat to the early church. Christ himself struggled with false teachers. And the apostle of Christ also fought against them constantly. In fact, take up and read the Old Testament scriptures too and you will see that false teaching has always been a threat to the people of God. And do not be surprised, brothers and sisters, when false teaching is something that we must contend with too.

Timothy, “charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.” Think about that statement. That little statement says a lot. 

“Different doctrine”? Doctrine simply means teaching, by the way. Command that people not teach anything other than what has already been taught. No different teaching is to be allowed in Christ’s church, is the command. And the question that we must ask is, different from what? The answer to that question is rather obvious. No teaching is to be permitted in Christ’s church that differs from Paul’s teaching. And if we were to press the matter further we could say, no teaching is to be permitted that differs from the teaching of all the apostles, for they were unified in their doctrine (see Galatians 2, for example). And to push it a step further we could say that no teaching is to be permitted that is different from the teaching of Christ himself. The apostles, after all, were committed to further, not their doctrine, but the doctrine of Christ (see Luke 24 and Matthew 28, for example). And even Christ himself did not teach doctrine that was brand new and never before heard, but as the fulfillment of the law, the prophets, and the Psalms.

When Paul wrote to Timothy, saying, “charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine”, not only does he mean, do not allow any teaching that differs from mine, but also, do not allow any teaching that differs from the teaching of Holy Scripture — the law, the Psalms, and the prophets, of Christ as the fulfilment of these, and of his apostles, sent out into the world as his special representatives to make disciples, to baptize, and to teach observance of all that Christ has commanded.

Brethren, please understand this. The church of the living God is born by the truth of God’s word, she grows by this truth, she is held together by this truth, and she is therefore called to preserve and promote it. Paul will say this very thing a little later in his letter to Timothy: “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:14–15, ESV).

Sound doctrine is vital to the church for many reasons. As I have just said, the church is born of the truth and she grows in her purity and maturity by the truth. But the truth of God’s word does also preserve the  unity and peace of the church. 

Verse 4 hints at this. Here Paul continues forbidding that any different doctrine be taught by forbidding the promotion of “myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith” (1 Timothy 1:4, ESV). Don’t allow anyone to teach different doctrine, and specifically, do not allow them to promote “myths and endless genealogies…”

What were these “myths and endless genealogies” that were being promoted amongst the Ephesians? 

Let me begin by simply defining the terms. “Myths” are legends, made up stories, fables and tales. And you know what “genealogies” are. A genealogy is a list of descent traced from an ancestor. Now, certainly there is nothing wrong with reading a fairytale to your children at bed. And certainly there is nothing wrong with researching your ancestry, or the ancestry of others. Clearly, these false teachers, whoever they were, were promoting “myths” and “genealogies” as if they were somehow central to the Christain faith and vital to the life of the church. Stated differently, instead of preaching and teaching the good news of Jesus Christ, they were devoted to speculations regarding mythical tales and genealogical records.

Students of the Bible and of history have wondered who exactly these false teachers were. Some believe that this teaching was an early form of gnosticism. Gnostics claimed to have special knowledge and insight. Their teaching would come to prominence in the second century AD, and the church in that age certainly had to contend with them. Others believe that these false teachers were of a Jewish background. And this seems more likely to me. You will notice that in verse 7 it is said of these teachers that they desire “to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions” (1 Timothy 1:7, ESV). The law that Paul refers to here is certainly the law of Moses. This will be proven next week. And so these teachers, whoever they were, and whatever their school of thought was, claimed to be experts in the law of Moses. They confidently asserted that they knew how to properly interpret Moses. But at the heart of their doctrine were “myths” — these were probably extra-biblical legends regarding the life of the Patriarchs — and “genealogies” — speculations drawn from the genealogical record of the law of Moses. And notice that these false teachers were bold. They made confident assertions regarding their claims. They were probably even eloquent and filled with charisma, as false teachers often are. But Paul urged Timothy to warn them against teaching this “different doctrine”.

Now some might be wondering, who’s to say that Paul and Timothy were right in their handling of the Old Testament and that these people were wrong? I suppose that is a valid question. In fact, the same question is asked regarding the differences of opinion that arise within Christ’s church to this present day. How do we know whose interpretation of scripture is correct?

To answer that question thoroughly would take some time, but for now let me simply say this. The Holy Scriptures are not merely a collection of individual and unrelated books written by many human authors over a long period of time. Rather, the scriptures claim to have one author, namly God himself, who inspired these human authors to write what they wrote. And one of the evidences for God being the author of scripture is the way in which all of these individual books tell one unified story. That story can be summarized in different ways. It is the story of our creation, man’s fall into sin, redemption in Jesus the Christ, and the consummation of all things at the end of time when all in Christ are brought to glory. Or we might tell the story in terms of promise and fulfilment. Or we might tell it terms of the advancement of God’s kingdom on earth — his kingdom was offered but rejected, promised to Adam, prefigured in Israel, inaugurated at Christ’s resurrection and will be consummated at the end of time. No matter how you tell the story, the covenants that God transacted with man are of central importance. Furthermore, as we read through the pages of Holy Scripture we recognize that they present not only the words of scripture themselves, but also a method of interpretation. David looked back upon the law of Moses, for example, and interpreted them in a particular way. And the prophets looked back upon David and Moses and interpreted them in a particular way. And Christ himself looked back upon the law, the Psalms and the prophets and interpreted them in a particular way — he saw himself as the fulfilment (see Luke 24!). And this method of interpretation was passed along to his apostles. And his apostles, having written scriptures themselves, passed along the scriptures of the Old Testament and then New to the next generation of pastors and teachers along with this method of interpretation embedded within. 

Perhaps you have noticed that false teachers quote scripture a lot. They make confident ascension, one of the common ones being, we are biblical! Well, how do we know? After all, they claim to believe the Bible and are quoting from it to support their teaching! One thing we must learn to do is to ask the question: are they handling the scriptures in the way that the psalmists, the prophets, Christ and his apostles handled it. Are they telling the same story, or some other. Are they preaching Christ as the fulfillment of the law, Psalms and prophets? Are they showing him to be the anti-type to all of the types found in the Old Testament? Are they telling of the arrival of his kingdom? Are they preaching the glories of the gospel, the marvelous truth that the Redeemer has come, and that salvation is found in him? Or are they distracted with some other empty message which leads only to empty speculations and division?

There is nothing new under the sun, friends. How easy it is for the church today to get off  track and to devote themselves to endless speculations about things other than Christ and his kingdom as revealed in the pages of Holy Scripture. 

This little phrase “charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine”, brought to mind the end of our time at the church that many of us were driven out of over 9 years ago now. One of the refrains that I heard over and over again was “doctrine divides by Jesus unites.” Perhaps some of you remember that refrain. The meaning is that when doctrine is taught within the church it brings division to the church, but if we would only focus on Jesus then we would remain united. I thought that was a ridiculous statement 9 years ago, and even more so today! In fact, we have found the opposite to be true. Having a robust confession of faith and teaching biblical doctrine has preserved and strengthened our unity. And this also is the clear teaching of scripture. God’s truth does not divide, it unifies his church. Speculation over things not revealed in scripture will divide, but doctrine unites! The church is born out of truth, she is sanctified by truth, and she is also unified in the truth.

Notice what Paul says regarding the fruit of this false teaching which promoted “myths” and never ending discussions about “genealogies”. These “promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith” (1 Timothy 1:4, ESV). 

To speculate is to form a theory without firm evidence. These “myths” and “genealogies” could not provide a firm foundation for the people of God to build their faith upon, for they were empty stories and a misuse of the genealogies found within the law of Moses. These myths and genealogies produced nothing but empty and never ending speculation within the congregation — “vain discussion[s]”, as they are called in verse 6 —  rather than what the truth of the gospel is to produce, namly “stewardship from God that is by faith.”

A steward is a household manager. He is a servant in his masters’ home whose responsibility it is to set the household in order and to keep it that way. Timothy, and all other ministers of the gospel, are to view themselves as stewards. Their job is to establish and maintain order in the church which is “the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15, ESV). This, by the way, is why one of the qualifications for an elder is that “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Timothy 3:4–5, ESV). A pastor is called to manage God’s household and to establish and maintain good order there. And what will produce good order? Truth will. Sound doctrine will. Faith in God and in his word will.  

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The Church Is A Family Of Love

The church is a family of truth. Secondly, lastly, and rather briefly, the church is a family of love.

This is what Paul says in verse 5: “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5, ESV). Paul’s charge — that is the charge that no different doctrine be taught, but only the true doctrine of Christ which he had first preached to the Epheians — has this as it aim, its goal, or objective: love.

This is a beautiful and very succinct way to state the object of the minister of the gospel: love is the goal. And what is love? To say that “love is love” is to say nothing at all. Instead, we must confess that God is love. And if someone is to love truly, first they must love God supremely, and the Christ that he has sent. Only then will they be able to love their neighbor to the utmost. But what does it look like to love God and man? To love God with all the heart, soul, mind and strength and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is to keep God’s commandments. This is Paul’s aim: love. This is what he desires to produce within the Christian congregation, not idle speculation and vain discussion, but love. Love for God, and love for one another.

I do not mind devoting less time to this point today, for really we will pick up here in the next passage where Paul defends the goodness of the law, provided that one uses it lawfully. There in verses 8-11 we will be given an overview of God’s law as summarized in the ten commandments. And do not forget what Christ said when he was asked to identify the most important law. He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37–39, ESV).

This is Paul’s objective, to produce love for God and love for one another within the Christain congregation. This is another way of saying that obedience to God’s moral law, righteousness and holiness is his aim. If we are God’s children redeemed by the blood of the lamb and adopted as sons, then it follows that we should be holy. This is what Peter says: “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15–16, ESV). And this is the apostles aim. When he forbids false doctrine, and commands that true doctrine be preached, his aim is love. Love for God and man, which is also conformity to God’s law from the heart. 

You can probably hear the echo of Christ’s words, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”, in Paul’s words, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith”. Paul’s aim is not to produce a superficial love, or the appearance of love within the church, but true love, mature love, love that issues from a heart made pure. 

First of all, Paul teaches that for love to be true it must issue from a pure heart. The heart is the center of man’s being. It is the true person. And if the heart is impure, our love will be impure, tainted with selfish ambition, pride, greed, and all manner of pollution. Do you wish to love God truly? Do you wish to love your neighbor as yourself? Then your heart must be pure. It must be made pure by the blood of the Lamb and the regeneration of the Spirit, but it must also be keep pure. If you allow bitterness or unforgiveness to reside in your heart it will pollute your love. If you are jealous, it will pollute your love. If your heart has been overrun with the anxieties of life, your love will be stifled. Paul’s aim is love that issues from a pure heart within the congregation.

Secondly, true love must issue from a good conscience. The conscience is that part of man that ios able to discern between right and wrong. Our conscience condemns us when we do wrong, and commends us when we do right. The conscience of sinful man is not good, but is seared because of sin — twisted out of shape so that we often call evil “good”, and good “evil”. If we are to love God and man truly, then our conscience must be good. We have a conscience because we are made in the image of God. Our conscience is corrupt because of the sin of Adam, but it is renewed in Christ. Friends, if your conscience is to be good then you must be renewed in Christ by his word and Spirit. And even those in Christ must keep the conscience pure by doing that which is good, and turning from that which is evil. Paul’s aim is love that issues from a good conscience within the Christian congregation. 

Three, true love must issue from a sincere faith. It is only through faith in Christ that our hearts can be pure and our consciences good. And it is only through faith in Christ that we can love, worship, and serve God in a way that is pleasing to God. Apart from faith in Christ we stand guilty before him. If we are to love the brethren then we must have sincere faith — faith that is genuine and lacking in pretence — for it is our faith in Christ that binds us together. By faith we are together united to Christ. By faith we are together adopted into God’s family. By faith we have together been set apart in this world to worship and serve Father. Paul’s aim is to make our faith strong and sincere, so that we might love God truly, and be bound together in love.

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Closing Prayer

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"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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