Paul instructed Timothy to rebuke those who taught the law and accounts of the Old Testament as being commands and illustrations that teach us how we can earn God’s favor. This was the key teaching of the religious leaders in Christ’s day as well as the leaders of the Synagogues in Paul’s day. I think it’s the key teaching as well today from the pulpits of our religious leaders.  But Paul insisted that Timothy focus on the Gospel and insisted that it remain the key message to the people in Ephesus. Focusing on the law, the prophets, and the writings of the Old Testament with no mention of their fulfillment by the savior of the world, the Messiah, was to open the door to speculation rather than accepting the overall message of God’s revelation of His love for us all and the demonstration of that love in Christ. Paul gives Timothy some insights into the ministry in 1 Timothy 1:5-7. He tells him, “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.”

This passage begins with an interesting triad. It talks about a love that proceeds from a “pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.” Collins says, “This triad is unique in the New Testament. It consists of an element of Semitic anthropology, an element of moral philosophy, and an element of Christian faith. The interpretive phrases come from the religious environment in which the document is to be situated, the first from traditional Judaism, and the latter from the author’s Christian heritage.”[1] Paul is most likely describing the kind of love he wants Timothy to hold for his parishioners. Paul charged his disciples to “preach the word.” Most people interpret that as meaning to teach the whole Bible. I’m not sure that’s what is meant. The “word” as we know is Jesus himself. The clearest and dearest expression of God’s love for the world. Paul’s charge is to preach the gospel, not the law. How do you preach the gospel with a “pure” heart? I would argue that it means from the position of having received God’s forgiveness through faith in Jesus. Even the Old Testament teaches us that our unredeemed hearts are wicked. When one preaches the gospel of God’s love as seen in Jesus from the point of having received it, one can do so with a clear conscience. It’s not being proclaimed for profit or to manipulate but to communicate the message of God’s love freely to everyone. Paul often explains that the sincerity of his missionary efforts can be seen in the fact that he’s not asking anyone for anything. He proclaims the message with a pure heart and a clear conscience that comes from sincere faith.

There are still those who want people to focus their attention on the law because that’s what they know, and that’s what they want others to value because it puts them in the “seat of Moses” in the gatherings of the people. Those who teach salvation by works have wandered away from the basic truth of the Gospel. Paul told the Romans, “No one can be saved by the works of the law.” This is the same message he wanted Timothy to preach. The law can save no one, but Jesus can save everyone who will turn from vain discussions of the law and trust Him for their eternal life. One web blogger concludes, “We can only be declared righteous “by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 8:28), and that faith must rest in the only Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). To continue to attempt to earn a place in heaven through the works of the law is to ignore the sacrifice of Christ: ‘If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!’ (Galatians 2:21).”[2]

[1] Collins, Raymond F. 2012. 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: A Commentary. Edited by C. Clifton Black, M. Eugene Boring, and John T. Carroll. The New Testament Library. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

[2] What are the works of the law (Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16)? |