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Pure Heart, Good Conscience, Sincere Faith

by Larry Miles

LarryMiles2015The Apostle Paul wrote these words: “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (ESV). In this paper, I will show how this verse was put into action in the rest of the epistle. I will break down the words and thoughts and show what Paul’s aim was in writing this verse and how Timothy was to put it into practice. To be a godly person or a godly church these three things are needed.

This verse, along with 1 Timothy 3:15 are key verses or what are called “purpose statements.” In 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul tells Timothy and us how we ought to “behave in the Church.” In the verse that has been assigned Paul gives a charge to Timothy. There are other charges given by Paul in this epistle.  Charge is a military term. A charge is backed up by authority. Here Paul, inspired of the Holy Spirit, gives apostolic instruction.  The word “charge” means to give strict orders from a superior officer. Timothy was to implement this charge in his manner of life and ministry.

When Paul uses the phrase “the aim of our charge,” his goal is apostolic instruction for Timothy. Paul tells Timothy the attitude he should have when teaching as well as the attitude he is to generate in those he teaches. We have a clear indication of the intended result of Paul’s teaching. I would like to define some of the terms in 1 Timothy 1:5.

Paul says that the aim is love.  Love is one of the important doctrines in the Word of God. In John 3:16, we see the love that God has for all mankind. In Eph. 5:25 we read of Christ’s love for the church. Every Christian is to have love in his or her hearts and minds. That love will dictate how they live out their faith. Paul had left Timothy in Ephesus and he knew that he would need instruction and encouragement in his ministry.

Paul writes that if Timothy had the kind of love that God desires it would translate into service and you would see what that love would produce. He   talks about “a pure heart,” “a good conscience,” and “a sincere faith.”   A person’s inner viewpoint must be shaped by God’s Word.

These traits or attributes manifest themselves in Timothy’s life will tell us how he accomplished in Ephesus what Paul had taught him. It tells us how he put these things into practice. It also tells us how the Apostle expected Timothy to perform his ministry.

Those who turned aside from the faith were evident in Ephesus and Paul knew that to combat error and uphold the true teachings of God, Timothy had to be grounded in the truth. However, no matter how filled with truth a message might be, it is of no value if the hearers will not accept it. Thus, the truth must be preached in a way that makes it clear that the preacher is admonishing them because he loves them. There is an old southern colloquialism, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Timothy was a young man, probably in his early thirties. Paul knew that some would not listen or heed Timothy’s message because of that youth.  Paul wrote in 1 Tim. 4:12: “Let no one despises your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conscience, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” This verse reinforces 1 Tim. 1:5.

The first thing that flows from love is “a pure heart.” Timothy must reflect that in his everyday life, both in the pulpit and elsewhere.  It must be clear that his motives are pure. This meant that his lifestyle and teaching must be above board.  Having a “pure heart” would enable Timothy to give his listeners in Ephesus an alternative to those who were not living a life that honored the Lord. It meant that he lead by example.  Pure living is “practicing what you preach.”  The sermon one lives will always speak louder than the one he preaches. If Timothy did not have a “pure heart,” those in Ephesus, in the congregation and outside would know that he was not really following the Lord and would see him as a hypocrite.

The next phrase in 1 Tim. 1:5 is “a good conscience.”  John MacArthur writes, “A pure conscience is essential not only for what it does for oneself, but for what it says to others. A sound conscience is the heart of a strong testimony for Christ. Paul frequently pointed to his conscience as a witness: “For our proud confidence is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world and especially toward you” (2 Corinthians 1:12). “We have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2).

Peter also wrote about the value of a pure conscience. “Keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:16).

A clear, potent conscience is a vital part of your spiritual growth and your witness to others. To work properly, it cannot be hindered or corrupted by unchecked sin and unaddressed guilt.”

The third phrase used in 1 Tim. 1:5 is “sincere faith.”  Timothy had to manifest this trait in his life at all times.  He could not pretend to be faithful; he had to live it daily.

Here in the Pastoral Epistles we have Paul’s teachings and instructions to those who are to be the leaders in the Lord’s Church. We find teachings and doctrines that Timothy must first of all believe and practice himself and secondly, teach to others.  He had a great privilege and a great responsibility.  By having the love of Christ in him and building upon the three things mentioned in 1 Tim. 1:5, Timothy could fulfill the will of Christ in his life.

Timothy would be able to teach on many different subjects and instruct many different types of leaders and workers in the congregation. The teachings in this epistle are pertinent to preachers, elders and deacons. It dealt with the work of ministry. As mentioned earlier, 1 Tim. 3:15 is one of the “purpose statements” in the book. It ties in with 1 Tim. 1:5.

Paul had instructed many things and Timothy was able to fulfill his ministry because he implemented in his life the things in 1 Tim. 1:5.  He was able to instruct people on how to live and why they needed to live godly lives in this present age. Because he was rooted in the faith, he could teach with confidence the truths of the Word of God to his listeners.  Because he was confident in his beliefs and practices, he could refute those who taught false doctrine.

Paul, writing in 1 Tim. 4:1ff taught that there were those present in Ephesus who would depart from the faith.  Timothy would need to be confident in his faith, knowing what he believed and why he believed.  He was told that he would be a good minister if he followed the Lord (1 Tim. 4:6). No matter how sound in the doctrine the Ephesian were, their orthodoxy would be of no value without love

(1 Cor. 13:1-3) As a result of having a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith, Timothy could be the right kind of example that was needed in Ephesus.  Also, Timothy could teach others to live for the Lord as he had.  Because he had a sincere faith, he was able to live out that faith.  Some examples of how he did this are found throughout the epistle.

One example of this lifestyle is found in his dedication to the importance of God’s Word, found in 1 Tim. 4:12.  Timothy knew he had been given a great privilege in teaching God’s Word, but he knew that privileges come with responsibilities.  He had to first of all, keep himself true.  We have the word “continue” in 1 Tim. 4:16. He was to take heed that he taught the Word of God in a way that would help, not only himself, but his hearers stay faithful.

Timothy knew that there were things in his life he could not allow to be there if he wanted to be faithful (1 Tim. 6:11). In 1 Tim. 4:12 he was told to fight the good fight of faith.  This I also reiterated in Paul’s second epistle to Timothy (2 Tim. 4:1ff). Timothy was to know the teachings of God so well that he could refute false teaching. This is something we also need also today.  Timothy knew what he believed and why. It was his own faith, not Paul’s.

Finally, an illustration of how Timothy’s faith was strong and how. Out of a spirit of love, he put it into practice by building upon the things mentioned in 1 Tim. 1:5.  Timothy believed the Word because he had found it faithful and true.  Kenneth Istre, writing in the May 1956 Word and Work (The Memorial Issue for Bro. R. H. Boll), wrote these words,   “Many times have I heard him say, ‘Remember, no truth is yours until you see it for yourself in God’s Word.’”

This attitude  permeated Timothy’s life as a result of the  words in 1 Tim. 1:5.  It is an attitude and lifestyle that  we need to imitate  because of  the love of God that is in our lives. We must live out our faith daily.

 

      Larry Miles is co-editor of Word and Work and attends Cherry St. Church of Christ in New Albany, IN

 




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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33