Summary: How do you build love from pure hearts with good consciences and sincere faith? We find just how NOT to do this in Paul’s letters to Timothy, then we see just how to.
The Gospel Goal is Love
1 Timothy 1:3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus, in order that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines,
4 nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.
5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion,
7 wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.
8 But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully,
9 realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous man, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers
10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching,
11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.
It was any preacher’s nightmare! Lacking faithful leadership, false and divisive teachings were flying everywhere, taught by know it alls who knew nothing at all except how to take the Bible and stir up trouble. Men’s prayer meetings looked more like fist-fights among the men than peaceful experiences in God’s presence. And here’s Timothy, a youthful easy target, who is told to get in there and fix it! This is Ephesus, Timothy’s church assignment. And from the looks of things, Timothy wants out, but his mentor and Father in the faith says, “I urge you, Timothy, stay the course and do the work of God!” Then Timothy receives this letter filled with clear warnings, instructions, and encouragements with all the authority of God’s holy apostleship and the power of Paul’s personal relationship to this church.
What do we know about this church in Ephesus?
Paul went there with a new haircut back in Acts 18:18-21. He was there briefly, but left Aquilla and Priscilla there. After Paul was gone, Apollos did a campaign there preaching Jesus, but he only knew the baptism of John until Aquilla and Priscilla taught him better. Paul came back to Ephesus in Acts 19 and had a very successful two year campaign. It was too successful for some of the silver smiths in town. People were turning away from the goddess Artemis or Dianna, and quit buying her silver images. Lead by Demetrius, a silver smith, a riot broke out against Paul and his teaching and Paul ended up leaving town. Later in Acts 20 we have a long farewell meeting between Paul and the elders of the Ephesian church.
Paul said to the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20: 28 "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.
A few years have passed and Paul’s prophecy of problems in this church has come true. And how does God handle it? God takes this young man, Timothy, and two little letters from Paul, and empowers these tools for the formidable task of straightening out the problems and rounding up the strays and setting up the proper leadership and restoring the proper worship and separating from the sources of division and doctrinal heresy so that the church at Ephesus could return to the path of faithfulness. 1 and 2 Timothy are the medicine and Timothy is the administrator of it. The church is the recipient of God’s treatment for spiritual sickness.
Isn’t it encouraging to know that God can use what appears to be a weak person to work mighty wonders and blessings for his people? By all appearances Timothy was just a youth who got sick with stomach problems a lot. But in truth, this young man had God within and great relations with Godly leadership without. Timothy may have been physically weak, but morally he had the fiber of faithfulness few have ever found. Listen to Paul’s assessment of Timothy to the Philippians: 2:19 But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. 20 For I have no one else of like spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know of his proven worth that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.