The word of the day is “love.” In our reading of 1 Timothy 1:1-7, Paul instructs Timothy, the young Bishop of Ephesus, on the pastoral leadership and care of his flock (OSB “Introduction to 1 Timothy”). He states the purpose that he wants his teaching to accomplish (Strong’s #5056). Thus he writes, “Now the purpose of the commandment [my instruction] is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith” (OSB vs. 5). Though directed at church leadership, we can apply this same counsel to our calling of ministry in our own relationships.
The Purpose of the Directives
Paul begins with the “purpose” of the directives of his letter (vs. 5). Note his concern. He doesn’t mention the worldly aspects of church organization. He is not worried about the statistics of members, communicants, catechumens, confessions, programs, classes, buildings, etc. But he is concerned about the fruitfulness of the pastoral leadership of the flock of Christ. Whether the leaders save themselves and their hearers (1 Timothy 4:12-16) is the measure of their effectiveness.
To foster the salvation of his flock, Paul says that love is most necessary. The word for “love” that Paul uses is agape and is 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 there is no higher type (John 15:13), for it is the total giving of oneself. Hence it is the fulfillment of the Law of God.
Love From a Pure Heart
However, the love that Paul recommends for church leadership has three qualities. The first is “love from a pure heart.” The heart is the center of the affections, will, and desires. Thus, the aspirations of those in church leadership should be clean and untainted. Their love for the members of their flock should be whole-hearted and unmixed with selfish desires and self-serving motives (Strong’s 2513, 124). It should truly be self-giving.
Love From a Good Conscience
The second quality that the love a church leader should have is love “from a good conscience.” In the original Greek, the word for “conscience” has the root of self-knowledge (Strong’s #4893, 241). The conscience is the witness that compares one’s conduct with the sense of right and wrong. Paul instructs that church leaders have a “good conscience” that does not harbor feelings of guilt or offense against God.
A “good conscience” comes from living “honorably” (Strong’s #4893, 241). 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).
Love From a Sincere Faith
The last goal for pastoral leadership is “sincere faith.” Faith is a gift of God. It is the strong conviction of belief, the certainty of the truth (Strong’s #4098, 202). But over time, the confidence of belief can become mixed with uncertainty. Thus, St. Paul says that pastoral leaders must have “sincere faith.” The Greek word that is translated as “sincere” refers to what is genuine and without hypocrisy (Strong’s #505, 31). Preaching and church leadership that is tentative and hesitant will fail to inspire fervor in those who hear it. Conversely, bold proclamation and governance produce conviction in the hearts and minds of those who hear it and follow it.
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 instruction. Though Paul addresses his counsel to his spiritual child (vs. 2) and overseer of the church in Ephesus, we can apply his teaching 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” should guide our service to Christ as well.