The word of the day is “purpose.” In our reading of 1 Timothy 1:1-7, St. Paul teaches the intent of his instruction about pastoral leadership in the Church. He states, “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith (vs. 5).
We speak of “commandments” to refer to the Ten Commandments or the entire Law of Moses. But in our reading, Paul speaks of “the commandment.” The word that Paul uses refers to the direction that a superior gives to his or her followers. This term expresses the reason for Paul’s epistle to Timothy. In tone and content, it instructs Timothy, the young Bishop of Ephesus, on the pastoral leadership and care of his flock (OSB “Introduction to 1 Timothy”).
The Purpose of the Directives
Paul begins with the “purpose” of his directives (vs. 5). The Greek word that he uses refers to the goal that he wants his teaching to accomplish (Strong’s #5056). Paul looks beyond the worldly pursuits of church organization. He is not concerned with the numbers of members, communicants, catechumens, confessions, programs, classes, buildings, etc. But he is concerned about the effectiveness of the pastoral leadership of the flock of Christ. That success is evaluated on whether the leaders save themselves and their hearers (1 Timothy 4:12-160).
Love From a Pure Heart
Thus, Paul sets out three goals for Bishop Timothy and the congregation’s leaders and ministers in Ephesus. His first goal is “love from a pure heart.” The word for “love” that Paul uses is agape, primarily the benevolence of God for human persons (Strong’s #26, 2). Secondarily, it is the love that believers share with others (1 John 4:19). There are several kinds of love but this kind is self-giving (John 15:13), the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10). However, Paul adds to this goal, the aim of “love from a pure heart.” As the center of their affections, will, and desires, the heart of those in church leadership should be clean and untainted. It should be whole-hearted and unmixed with selfish desires and self-serving motives. (Strong’s 2513, 124).
A Good Conscience
Paul’s second goal for church leaders is a “good conscience.” In the original Greek, the word for “conscience” has the root of self-knowledge (Strong’s #4893, 241). Our conscience is the witness that compares our conduct with our sense of right and wrong. But Paul adds the understanding of the aim of a “good” conscience.” Paul specifically charges Timothy to “wage the good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18). As he “fights the good fight of faith,” he should have faith and a good conscience” (1 Timothy 1:18-19). Deacons also must hold “the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience” (1 Timothy 3:9).
A “good conscience” comes from living “honorably” (Strong’s #4893, 241). In Ephesians, Paul echoes the thought that one should “walk circumspectly,” that is “carefully” (Strong’s #199, 12). A clean conscience that results from an honorable life is necessary lest some indecency disgrace the ministry and undermine the Gospel. For example, in 1 Peter, the Apostle teaches that all believers must be ready to witness to their hope. But to give their testimony to Christ, they must have a “good conscience.” Then, if their opponents should charge them with wrong, the accusation will come to nothing, and their accusers will be shamed (1 Peter 3:15-26).
A Sincere Faith
The last goal for pastoral leadership is “a sincere faith.” Faith is a gift of God. It is the strong conviction of belief. It is the certainty of the truth (Strong’s #4098, 202). But such confidence can slowly erode into secret uncertainty. Thus, St. Paul says that pastoral leaders must have a “sincere faith.” The Greek word that is translated as “sincere” refers to what is unfeigned or without hypocrisy (Strong’s #505, 31). Genuine conviction of proclamation produces conviction in the hearts and minds of those who hear it. Conversely, a ministry that is lukewarm will fail to inspire fervor in those who receive its care.
We have begun our study of 1 Timothy by focusing on Paul’s counsel to church leaders. However, we can still learn much as we overhear his words. We can not only appreciate the burdens and challenges of the priestly and pastoral ministry as we read Paul’s letter to Bishop Timothy. But we can apply his instruction to ourselves. All believers have a ministry in which they serve the Lord, care for others, witness to their faith, and teach the Church’s faith. So the recommendations of “love from a pure heart,” “ a good conscience,” and “a sincere faith” can be the foundation of our service to Christ as well.