The Goal of False Teachers
But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, (1:5–6)
Paul contrasts the goal of his instruction with that of the false teachers. He seeks to produce in the church that which God requires, love toward Him and those who are His. It is essential that believers “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37, 39). Love, indeed, is the mark of the Christian. Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John added, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7–8). Agapē (love) is the love of choice, of will. It involves self-denial and self-sacrifice to benefit others. This kind of love flows from three sources.
The concept of a pure heart is a rich Old Testament theme. The psalmist asks, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place?” (Ps. 24:3). He then answers his question, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Ps. 24:4). After his sin with Bathsheba, David cried out in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” Psalm 73:1 exclaims, “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart!” A heart washed by regeneration (Titus 3:5), an obedient heart (Rom. 6:17), is a pure heart.
A second prerequisite for love is a good conscience. Agathos (good) is that which is perfect, producing pleasure, satisfaction, and a sense of well-being. The conscience is the God-created self-judging faculty of man. It either affirms or accuses a person (Rom. 2:14–15). The mind knows the standard of right and wrong, and when that standard is violated, the conscience reacts to accuse, producing guilt, shame, doubt, fear, remorse, or despair (cf. Titus 1:15). Those with a pure heart (mind) will not be condemned by their conscience. To maintain a blameless conscience, one free of offense against either God or man, was Paul’s goal (Acts 24:16). Peace, confidence, joy, hope, courage, and contentment are the results of a conscience that is nonaccusing, and love will flow.
Finally, love comes from a sincere faith, one without any pretense. The hypocritical faith of the false teachers will not produce it. Real trust and love go together. As noted in chapter 1 of this volume, Timothy was marked by such a sincere faith (2 Tim. 1:5).
False teachers have dirty hearts, uncleansed by the gospel. They have guilty condemning consciences triggered by their impure hearts. Finally, they have hypocritical, false faith. That kind of life will never produce love for God. Therefore it is no surprise that Paul adds, straying from these things they have turned aside to fruitless discussion. Straying means “to miss the mark,” while turned aside means “to go off course.” The goal of the false teachers was not to create an environment of love, but to fulfill their egos (cf. 1:7), and to fill their pockets. Consequently, their teaching was nothing but fruitless discussion. It certainly could not produce love, which is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23).
5 “The goal of this command is love.” “Goal” (telos, GK 5465) indicates the dynamic character of Paul’s gospel (Ro 6:21–22; 10:4; 1 Pe 1:9; cf. Ignatius, Eph. 14:1: “the goal is love” [telos de agapē]). The Greek word for “command” in the present verse, parangelia (GK 4132), is the noun form of the verb used in v. 3 (cf. v. 18; 1 Th 4:2). The controversies spawned by the heretics also went counter to the dynamic of love, the basic conviction of the early church (cf. Ro 13:10). The triad “pure heart [cf. 2 Ti 2:22] and a good conscience [cf. 1 Ti 3:9] and a sincere faith [cf. 2 Ti 1:5]” stands in contrast with the disposition of the false teachers, whose motives are impure (6:9–10), whose consciences are defiled (1:19; 4:2), and whose faith has been shipwrecked (1:19). Only from these positive attributes can love flow.
“Faith” and “love” regularly appear together in the PE as the truly Christian virtues (1:14; 2:15; 4:12; 6:11; 2 Ti 1:13; 2:22; 3:10; Tit 2:2). The false teachers’ outcome is division, destruction, and doom. In effect, Paul reiterates convictions central to the teaching of the early Christians: that love is at the heart of God’s commands (Mt 22:37–40; Ro 13:8–10; Gal 5:14), that purity of heart is ultimately more important than external acts of obedience (Mt 5:8; Mk 7:15 par.; Ro 14:17; cf. 2 Ti 2:22; Pss 24:4; 51:10), and that sincerity of heart is essential for those who want to please God (Mk 7:6–7).
5 Beginning a new sentence that will carry on for three verses, Paul now presents Timothy’s task as a contrast (“but”; de) to the negative results produced by the speculation of the false teaching. This new thought is loosely linked with what has preceded, and will soon serve as another measurement of the opponents’ shortcomings. Paul’s aim is first to show that the task entrusted to Timothy, which is an extension of Paul’s own mission, does in fact promote God’s oikonomia.
He does this by focusing on the “goal” of the command to Timothy. Although there continues to be some debate about which “command” is in view,48 the context (1:3, 18) requires that the reference be to the charge given to Timothy, of which the task outlined in this section forms the core of his whole mission in Ephesus.
The goal itself is “love.” Properly understood, and seen in connection with the three qualifiers that follow, this statement acquires thematic importance within the framework of Christian existence Paul seeks to construct in these letters to Timothy and Titus. The term is agapē, which in Paul can serve as shorthand for the entire visible, outward life produced by genuine faith (e.g. Gal 5:7). The term is frequently found in connection with “faith” (as here), with the two concepts together comprising what might be thought of as the invisible (posture of belief in God/Christ) and visible (faith’s outworking in life) dimensions of Christian existence. In this construction, love is the concept that Paul uses to summarize the goal to be achieved by correct teaching and preaching. It stands for the active response to God’s grace, expressed in sacrificial action done in behalf of others. Thus what is noticeable from the outset is the concern for the observable and measurable dimension of Christian existence and its origin in the apostolic gospel. It is this interrelationship of message and agape-life that is in mind as Paul goes on to show that love is the end product of authentic conversion that renders the human interior faculties capable of producing the manner of living God intends.
How is such love produced? Paul considers this source from the perspective of three interior features of genuine belief. The first perspective is the “pure heart” (2 Tim 2:22). This phrase depicts the inner dimension of Christian existence in its entirety. Within Paul’s anthropological teaching, and continuous with the biblical tradition and cultures that influenced him, the heart was regarded as the locus of the human personality and origin of the emotions and intentions. It is with the heart that people relate to God, and with the heart they may call upon the Lord (cf. 2 Tim 2:22) and express either worship, or resistance and rejection. In the latter case (sin, rebellion), the OT already expressed, in similar language, the notion that the heart needs to be cleansed for worship and to restore the relationship with God.54 The Jesus tradition affirmed this fundamental thought (Matt 5:8). In this particular setting, the thought is of an action (cleansing) that has already taken place, with the assumption being that God has acted to purify the inner person who has come to faith by the gospel (cf. Eph 5:26). The probable connection of the figure of “cleansing” to the rite of baptism may also suggest the backward look here to the event that marked the profession of faith. Love, the authentic outward expression of Christian faith, issues from the person whose emotional and volitional center has experienced cleansing by God.
The second term for the source of love, “good conscience,” overlaps to some degree with the first. The focus in “good conscience,” however, is on the organ of decision that facilitates the process by which a person may move from some norm (in this case that existing in the gospel, the faith, the sound teaching, etc.) to appropriate behavior. The qualification of conscience in these letters as either “good” (1:5, 19) or “clear” (3:9; 2 Tim 1:3) in the case of believers, and as “seared” (4:2) or “corrupted” (Titus 1:15) in the case of unbelievers, is a theological development from other Pauline use in which the term was employed as a neutral concept (see the Excursus below). That is, Paul regards the condition of the human conscience as ultimately affected positively by adherence to the apostolic gospel or rendered ineffective by rejection of it. And following from this, the false teachers’ rejection of the gospel makes moral goodness unattainable, while acceptance of the gospel opens up this possibility for authentic believers. “Good,” as in the case of “good deeds” (see on 2:10), in Paul’s vocabulary refers to an intrinsically positive benefit stemming from conversion. Consequently, Paul regards an effectively functioning conscience to be intrinsic to the process that is to lead from teaching to the goal of love.
The third and last aspect in this description of the source of love is “sincere faith.” Within this context (“in faith”; 1:4), “faith” again (1:2 note) describes Christian existence as a posture or state that consists of active believing in God and the apostolic gospel, rather than standing as a measurement of the purity of what one believes. The attached adjective, “sincere” (anhypokritos) stresses the integrity and authenticity (and complete lack of deception) of this commitment, primarily as seen in the response of lifestyle that accompanies belief. Its emphasis on authenticity is suggested by the use of the antonym “hypocrisy” (hypokrisis) to describe the deception of the false teaching (4:2).
These three Christian realities bring into alignment the faith relationship with God and the effects of that relationship in cleansing the inner person for perception of truth and the processing of it into appropriate action. The organization of ideas in the sentence suggests that Paul is exploring the source of Christian behavior; but at the center of the underlying components is faith in God as mediated through the gospel he preached.
1:5 / Having given the occasion for writing (v. 3), plus some reaction to what the erring elders are doing (v. 4), Paul now returns to his command that they stop (v. 3). The goal of this command, he says, is love. This is probably not a general statement about the gospel, in contrast to the errors; rather, Paul is specifically giving the reason for Timothy’s involvement, namely, to arouse the love which comes from a pure heart. The false teachers are involved in speculations (v. 4) and meaningless talk (v. 6) that are full of deception (4:1–2) and lead to quarrels and suspicions (6:4–5). The purpose of ordering them to stop is to bring the church back to the proper result of “God’s work, based on faith,” namely, their loving one another. (Note how often faith and love appear together in the pe as the truly Christian virtues: 1 Tim. 1:14; 2:15; 4:12; 6:11; 2 Tim. 1:13; 2:22; 3:10; Titus 2:2).
The Christian grace of love springs from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. These motivations to love stand in stark contrast to those of the false teachers, who are deceived and deceitful (4:1–2; 5:24; 2 Tim. 2:26; 3:13; cf. 1 Tim. 2:14; 5:15; 2 Tim. 3:5–7), have “seared” consciences (4:2), “and have shipwrecked their faith” (1:19).
A pure heart reflects Paul’s biblical background (Pss. 24:4; 51:10; cf. Jesus’ beatitude, Matt. 5:8). The concept of a good conscience derives from his Hellenistic environment. The conscience is the capacity, or seat, of moral consciousness, common to all people (Rom. 2:15; 2 Cor. 4:2). In Paul’s earlier letters (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians only) the conscience arbitrates one’s own—and others’—actions (see esp. 1 Corinthians 8–10). But it is also clear that it can be informed, either by one’s pagan past or present existence in Christ. In the pe, the term conscience is often, as here, accompanied by a descriptive adjective (good, pure, seared), implying the seat of moral decision-making to have been “purified” by Christ or “seared” or “defiled” by Satan (see disc. on 1 Tim. 4:2 and Titus 1:15–16). It is clear from this context and from 1:19 that a pure heart and good conscience are synonymous ideas.
The qualification of faith as sincere is comparable to his qualifying love in the same way in Romans 12:9. In a sense, neither can be so qualified. Either you have faith, or love, or you do not. But the word faith has a broad usage in Paul, ranging from “trust in God” (most common), to a Christian virtue coming very close to the idea of “faithfulness” (e.g., 1 Thess. 3:6; 5:8, and frequently in the pe; see disc. on 1:2), to the content of Christian belief (e.g., Gal. 1:23; also frequently in the pe). Here sincere faith refers to the Christian virtue, meaning trust in God that is truly there, in contrast to the deceptive nature of the errorists’ “faith.”
The goal of the charge (1:5)
1:5. The goal of the command is love which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
‘The command’ here points back to verse 3. In other words, the reason why Paul has instructed Timothy to silence the false teachers is to promote love. For Paul, true love comes only from pure doctrine. Tolerance, our great postmodern virtue, promotes disunity and a lack of love. Paul makes clear, in fact, that false teaching leads to controversy and dissension. He indicates this not only in the Pastoral Epistles (6:4–5; Titus 3:9–10), but also in other letters where false teaching is prominent (cf. Gal. 5:13–15; 1 Cor. 1–4). Contrary to modern opinions, then, unity and love do not spring from tolerating divergent doctrines, but rather they spring precisely from opposing them and standing firm in the truth.
Love, Paul further states, comes from ‘a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith’. Purity of heart is an important biblical virtue. The person who is pure in heart is the one who may stand in God’s holy place (Ps. 24:4). The pure in heart will see God (Matt. 5:8). The pure in heart are those who have received the cleansing and forgiveness of God, and who are single-minded in their devotion to him. For Paul, the pure in heart are set in contrast to the false teachers, who are deceived and ensnared by Satan, as well as being deceivers themselves (4:1–2; 2 Tim 2:26; 3:13, ‘deceivers and deceived’).
The conscience is the arbiter of the rightness or wrongness of a person’s actions. The conscience evaluates and controls behaviour, but does not serve as an independent determiner of right or wrong actions. The conscience can be informed. As Marshall states, ‘Conscience does not so much prescribe conduct as evaluate conduct in accordance with given norms.’31 A ‘good conscience’ is one that has been transformed by God and is informed by the Word of God. It is closely connected to a pure heart. In the context of the Pastoral Epistles, a good conscience stands in contrast to the ‘seared’ (4:2) or ‘defiled’ (Titus 1:15) conscience of the false teachers. Thus Paul could not endorse Jiminy Cricket’s dictum, ‘Let the conscience be your guide.’ The conscience can be corrupted, leading to immorality and dissension. Only the good conscience leads to love and the building up of the body of Christ.
Finally, love springs from ‘a sincere faith’. In contrast to the false teachers who have made ruin of their faith (1:19), genuine faith produces not only love, but also a pure heart and a good conscience. As the entrance into, and foundation of, the Christian life, sincere faith is the root of all Christian virtues, including love. At the same time, for Paul the lack of love and other Christian virtues indicates the absence of genuine faith.
Ver. 5.—But for now, A.V. charge for commandment, A.V. love for charity, A.V. a good for of a good, and faith for of faith, A.V. But the end of the charge. Before proceeding with his sentence, in which he was about solemnly to commit the trust of the episcopate of the Church of Ephesus to Timothy, he breaks off abruptly to show the beneficent character of the charge, viz. the furtherance of that brotherly love and purity of heart and life which are the true fruit of the gospel dispensation, but which some, by their false doctrine, were so ruthlessly impeding. Each of these phrases, “a pure heart” and “a good conscience” and “faith unfeigned,” seems to rebuke by contrast the merely ceremonial cleanness and the defiled conscience and the merely nominal Christianity of these heretical Judaizers (comp. Titus 1:10–16).
5. The command or injunction (again a military term parangelia is used) could possibly indicate the Mosaic Law, in which case the implication would be that these false teachers had misconceived its true purpose; but it is more likely that the Christian’s moral obligations are in mind. By the goal of this command is meant its purpose (rsv has ‘the aim of our charge’). Certainly for the Christian the goal of all exhortations in practical affairs is love, which was in all probability conspicuously lacking in these speculative reasoners, whose main purpose was their own intellectual satisfaction.
The apostle then makes clear the source of this love. The preposition ek, which is translated from, forcibly draws attention to its origin in a threefold aspect.
- A pure heart. This is a fundamental requisite. Taken over from the Old Testament, the word heart stands for the totality of man’s moral affections, and without purity there, nobility of character is clearly impossible. Jesus reserved a special promise for the pure in heart (Matt. 5:8) and spoke of the pruning of the vine as an illustration of the cleansing of believers through the word (John 15:3).
- A good conscience. The Greek word for conscience (syneidēsis) indicates literally ‘joint knowledge’, and came to be used of the facility to distinguish between right and wrong. The right operation of this facility was given special prominence in Paul’s theology. By way of contrast, Timothy is later reminded that apostasizers are those whose consciences are branded (1 Tim. 4:2). This conscience-concept was well known in Hellenistic culture, but acquired under Christian usage a broader application (cf. Simpson).
- A sincere faith. Faith which is merely a pretence without solid foundation may well have been evident in the false teachers. What was important was the genuineness of what was professed.
This triad of sources for love has caused some scholars to question the authenticity of the passage, on the grounds that for Paul faith was sufficient of itself. While it may be true that no exact parallel to this use of faith is extant in Paul’s writings, there is no reason to doubt that Paul would have endorsed the statement that love proceeds from faith. In his great hymn of love, he links love with faith and hope, although subordinating the latter two to the former (1 Cor. 13:13). In any case, his use of faith there is closely allied to the use here.
1:5 The purpose of my instruction. The need is for Timothy (lit.) to command (not just “instruct”) the cessation of false teaching. For the military overtones of parangelia [3852, 4132], see the commentary below.
that all believers would be filled with love. Lit., “the goal [of discipline] is love.” Paul’s point is less that all believers be filled with love and more that the discipliner be motivated by love and not punishment. Paul was reminding Timothy that the ultimate goal (to telos [5056, 5465]) is love of the wayward. Discipline is the means to this end and not the end itself.
pure heart. Ceremonial purity was required of those who ministered at the altar. Here the requirement for the one doing the disciplining is purity of heart. Cf. 1 Tim 3:9, where it is purity of conscience that is required of a deacon.
clear conscience. Lit., “good” conscience (suneidēseōs agathēs [4893/18, 5287/19]). The Greek word suneidēsis appears only twice in the Greek OT (Wis 17:10; Eccl 10:20), not at all in the Gospels, and 30 times in the rest of the NT. A “good” or healthy conscience is what guides believers to make the right decisions.
genuine faith. Lit., “a faith free of hypocrisy” (an + hupokritos [56, 57]).
1:5 “love from a pure heart” The goal of Paul’s charge to believers had a three-fold component.
- love from a pure heart
- love from a good conscience
- love from a sincere faith.
In Hebrew “heart” was used for the seat of the intellect, emotions, and will (cf. Deut. 6:5–6).
© “a good conscience” There is not an OT counterpart to the Greek term “conscience” unless the Hebrew term “breast” implies a knowledge of self and its motives. Originally the Greek term referred to consciousness related to the five senses. It came to be used of the inner senses (cf. Rom. 2:15). Paul uses this term twice in his trials in Acts (cf. 23:1 and 24:16). It refers to his sense that he had not knowingly violated any expected duties toward God (cf. 1 Cor. 4:4).
Conscience is a developing understanding of believers’ motives and actions based on (1) a biblical world-view; (2) an indwelling Spirit; (3) a knowledge of the word of God. It is made possible by the personal reception of the gospel.
Paul uses this term twice in chapter 1, once in relation to his own developed sense of the will of God (cf. 1:5) and once in relation to the willful rejection of the false teachers (cf. Titus 1:15), including Hymenaeus and Alexander (cf. 1:19). These false teachers have had their consciences seared (cf. 4:2).
© “a sincere faith” Paul uses this adjective three times to describe (1) faith (cf. 1 Tim. 1:5; 2 Tim. 1:5); and (2) love (cf. 2 Cor. 6:6 and also 1 Pet. 1:22). It has the connotation of genuine, real, or sincere which is opposite of “counterfeit” which describes the false teachers (cf. vv. 19–20).
5. Now such a divinely ordained stewardship, a stewardship that originates in God and is, accordingly, required by him, centers in the active exercise of faith, whose fruits it seeks to multiply. Hence, its goal is love rather than a vain show of speculative learning. So Paul continues: whereas the purpose of the charge is love. Timothy had been urged to deliver a charge to the church at Ephesus, to pass along a message which had special reference to “certain individuals” (see on verse 3). This charge, we may be sure, was not strictly limited to negative injunctions, such as, “Do not teach that which differs from the sound gospel, and do not waste your time on genealogical fables and fancies.” The negative naturally implied the positive: “Do bear witness to the sound gospel, and do exercise living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, a faith which operates by means of love.” Thus viewed, this charge is in reality the sum and substance of all Christian admonition, specifically of all admonitory preaching. Love is the fulfilment of the law (both tables, Mark 12:30, 31) as well as the essence of the gospel. Hence, what is stated in the present passage is in exact harmony with that other great saying of Paul, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any validity, but faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6). Note also the emphasis on love in such other passages in 1 Timothy as 1:14; 2:15; 4:12; 6:11.
This love may be described as a personal delight in God, a grateful outgoing of the entire personality to him, a deep yearning for the prosperity of his redeemed, and an earnest desire for the temporal and eternal welfare of his creatures. Far better, however, is Paul’s own description of its meaning in 1 Cor. 13.
Now not everything that is called love is really love. Hence, the apostle specifies that he is thinking of love which springs from a pure heart, and a conscience good, and a faith without hypocrisy.
When a sinner is drawn to Christ, the heart is first of all regenerated. The result is that the man’s conscience begins to plague him in such a manner that, having come under conviction, he is happy to embrace the Redeemer by means of a conscious, living faith. Hence, the sequence heart, conscience, faith is entirely natural. Moreover, it is clearly evident why the apostle states that these three—and in that order—give rise to love. When the God of love (love is his very name, 1 John 4:8) implants his own new life in man’s heart, the latter naturally becomes a loving heart. A conscience cleared of guilt and made obedient to God’s law will begin to approve only such thoughts, words, and deeds, past or contemplated, which are in harmony with the one, summarizing aim of that law, namely, love. And genuine faith, which embraces Christ and all his benefits, will result in genuine love for the Benefactor and for all those who are embraced in his love.—Hence, Paul speaks of “love from (or “out of”) a pure heart, and a conscience good, and a faith without hypocrisy.”
The heart is the fulcrum of feeling and faith as well as the mainspring of words and actions (Rom. 10:10; cf. Matt. 12:34; 15:19; 22:37; and see N.T.C. on John 14:1). It is the core and center of man’s being, man’s inmost self. “Out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). “Man looks on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). Now the purpose of the gospel-charge is love out of a pure heart. The heart is pure when it experiences the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit (Ps. 51:10, 11). When this happens, fervent love begins to rise to the surface (1 Peter 1:22).
Conscience is man’s moral intuition, his moral self in the act of passing judgment upon his own state, emotions, and thoughts, also upon his own words and actions whether these be viewed as past, present, or future. It is both positive and negative. It both approves and condemns (Rom. 2:14, 15).
The word used in the original and in (closely or remotely) related languages has the same meaning when analyzed etymologically. It means knowledge along with, joint-knowledge, or co-knowledge: Greek συνείδησις, Latin con-scientia, English (from Latin) con-science, Swedish sam-vete, Danish Sam-vittighed. But how must this co-knowledge be interpreted? Some say, “It is man’s knowledge along with God’s knowledge, man’s own inner voice in the act of repeating God’s voice, his own judgment endorsing God’s judgment, his own spirit bearing witness with God’s spirit.” Others reason somewhat as follows, “It is man’s moral self echoing his cognitive self.”
This difference of opinion is not very important, just so it is borne in mind that whatever be the true story of the manner in which the term originated, its meaning, according to Scripture, is by no means obscure. The fact that “con-science is the response of man’s moral consciousness to the divine revelation concerning himself, his attitudes, and his activities” cannot be doubted (see Rom. 2:14, 15).
It is in the believer that conscience attains its highest goal. For the regenerated individual God’s will, as expressed in his Word, becomes “the Lord of conscience, its Guide and Director” (1 Peter 2:19). The “conscience good” of which the apostle speaks here in 1 Tim. 1:5 is more than merely a “clear conscience.” Rather, it is the conscience which:
- is guided by God’s special revelation as its norm;
- pronounces judgments that are accepted, and issues directives that are obeyed;
- produces “godly sorrow which works repentance unto salvation” (2 Cor. 7:10), a salvation by means of which “the love of God is spread abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5). And God’s love evokes the response of love.
The positive aspect of a really “good” conscience is faith, for a good conscience not only abhors the wrong but embraces the right. Such faith is true and genuine. It is not mere play-acting, “a vile conceit in pompous words expressed,” a mere mask, like the one which an actor puts on and under which he hides his real self. Was Paul contrasting living faith with the “faith”(?) of the ring-leaders among the errorists? However that may be, the faith which he has in mind is “a true knowledge of God and of his promises revealed to us in the gospel, and a hearty confidence that all my sins are forgiven me for Christ’s sake” (Compendium to the Heidelberg Catechism, answer 19). Such faith results in love.
The substance, accordingly, of verse 5 is this: the essence of the charge given to you, Timothy, which you by public preaching and private admonition must convey to the Ephesians is, “Pray and strive daily to obtain a pure heart, a conscience good, and a faith without hypocrisy, in order that these three, working together in organic co-operation, may produce that most precious of all jewels, love.”
The true goal (1:5)
1:5. Paul came right to the point. The reason he wanted Timothy to stop these people from continuing in their false beliefs and to prevent them from spreading destructive ideas was love. The issue of false teachings is not purely doctrinal. It concerns conduct as well.
Instead of controversy, our lives should be marked by love—first for God, then for others.
Many people in the world think of God only in negative terms. They blame him for everything from hurricanes to famine, from economic collapse to car wrecks. This verse jumps out as a correction to such people. God wants the world to operate in a different way. His goal for us is love.
God’s definition of love is not sentimental. It is a love that is trustworthy and active. It springs from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
A pure heart refers to wholeness within the inner, spiritual dimension of a person. The heart is considered the control center of thoughts, motives, and spiritual life. The pure heart is cleansed from sin in these areas. Therefore, love which springs from a pure heart is sacrificial (1 Cor. 13), free of selfish motives, godly, honorable.
A good conscience had a slightly different meaning for the Ephesians than it does today in Western societies. For first-century people, conscience dealt with a person’s conduct within the chosen group. A good conscience meant living according to the standards and practices which the group (in this case the church) deemed proper and acceptable. It meant living without shame among one’s peers or companions. We view the conscience as if it is concerned with right and wrong on an individual basis. We would do well to recapture the ancient meaning and sense of accountability.
Sincere faith assures correct behavior because it comes from the revelation of God. The Word of God provides the directives for Christian conduct and belief.
Paul’s desire for the church was to produce people who embraced correct doctrine as formed through the Old Testament, the prophets, Christ and the apostles; people whom Christ had cleansed from sin and who were living in that forgiveness through the continual purifying of their heart. Paul’s vision was that followers of Christ would form a community of sound conduct that kept its members accountable in their behavior and life. He hoped the end result would be a distinctive people known for their love.
Ver. 5. The end of the commandment. It is a question, whether reference is made to the command given by Paul, in ver. 3, to Timothy, or, in a wider sense, to the Divine commandment in general, which Timothy is to impress upon his hearers. The latter is the more probable, since the Apostle begins forthwith to oppose a false view of the Mosaic law. “Παραγγελία, practical teaching as the chief element of the διδασκαλία ὑγιαίνουσα; a contract to the μῦθοι;” De Wette.—End; Luther: The sum, as this word designates that to which we are chiefly to look, and toward which we are to strive. “The ultimate aim of all the admonitions of the Christian preacher should be practical—to call out a true love;” Olshausen. Even to Timothy, Paul writes very little of the mysteries of Christianity, that, by his example, he may yet more put to shame this germinal Gnosticism.—Charity out of a pure heart, &c. Love, “the bond of all Christian virtues,” the fruit of the tree, whose root, faith, is presupposed as already existing, and commended at the close of the exhortation. This love can only spring out of a pure heart, cleansed from all selfishness and evil desires; out of a good conscience, which, being free from the guilt of sin, and reconciled with God, can then first love in truth; and from an unfeigned faith.—Unfeigned, ἀνυπόκριτος; that is, no empty thought or fancy, but a spiritual light and spiritual life not consisting in words, but in a living assurance of the heart, and proving its life in its fruits. Without real faith there is no good-conscience; without a reconciliation of the conscience there is no pure heart; without a pure heart there is no true Christian love conceivable. Thus all are blended in the closest union. [Alford: “It is faith—not the pretence of faith, the mere Scheinglaube of the hypocrite. Wiesinger well remarks, that we see that the general character of these false teachers, as of those against whom Titus is warned, was not so much error in doctrine, as leading men astray from the earnestness of the loving Christian life to useless and vain questionings, ministering only strife.”]
5 τὸ δὲ τέλος τῆς παραγγελίας ἐστὶν ἀγάπη ἐκ καθαρᾶς καρδίας καὶ συνειδήσεως ἀγαθῆς καὶ πίστεως ἀνυποκρίτου, “But the goal of this command is love from a clean heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” The opponents’ preaching resulted in speculation. The goal of Paul’s command that they stop their false preaching is love, thus repeating a basic conviction of the early church that the greatest command, in that it sums up all the other commands, is the command to love (Matt 22:34–40; Rom 13:8–10; Gal 5:14) and that love is more significant than ritual observance such as law keeping (cf. vv 8–11). Paul then gives the threefold source of this love: it comes from a clean heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. In Ephesus, as in Corinth, the heresy manifests itself in the absence of love, the Christian virtue fundamental to spiritual well-being. Paul may also be directing a slight warning to Timothy in this verse. His attitude must also be one of love. It will be difficult to confront and correct the opponents, and especially difficult to do so with the attitude of love, but do so he must. If this is the case, it is the first mention of an important theme in the PE: Timothy must beware of the same traps into which the opponents have fallen and must be sure always to maintain the correct attitude (cf. 1 Tim 4:16).
δέ should be given its full adversative force of “but,” differentiating the results of the heresy (vv 3b–4) from the results of Paul’s command (v 5). τέλος indicates the “goal” of Paul’s gospel (cf. Rom 6:21–22; 10:4; cf. Matt 26:58; Heb 6:8; Jas 5:11; 1 Pet 1:9). The article τῆς, “this,” is anaphoric, referring to the command (παραγγείλῃς) in v 3. The rsv translates the article with “our,” joining Paul’s and Timothy’s ministries. παραγγελίας, “command,” is the cognate noun of the verb παραγγέλλειν, “to command,” in v 3, carrying the same nuance of authority. This command encompasses not only the negative aspect of prohibiting the false teaching (v 3) but also the positive aspect of true stewardship (v 4b). This idea of a command is repeated in 1:18 (cf. 2:1). Some argue that the command is the OT law, in which case Paul is saying that the OT law, properly understood and applied, results in love, not in speculation, perhaps looking forward to the discussion of law in vv 8–11; but the article τῆς, “this,” appears to look back to the command in v 3. If Paul is thinking of love not just as a quality missing from the opponents but as the goal of Christianity, i.e., the greatest command, then Paul may be including the specific command in v 3 with all the commands related to being a good steward, perhaps even God’s command that he be an apostle (v 1).
The concept of love runs throughout Scripture. God’s love is the basis of redemption (John 3:16) and of a person’s own love for both God and for others. The beauty of the word ἀγάπη, “love,” has often been pointed out. As defined in Scripture, this love offers itself freely to someone who does not deserve it; this love does not seek to possess the beloved. There is little evidence for its secular use before the LXX, and whatever meaning it may have had is enhanced by Christian usage. It is a word that can be defined only within the context of biblical theology (cf. χάρις, “grace,” in the Comment on 1 Tim 1:2). ἀγάπη stands in stark contrast to ἔρως, which designates the physical “love” that is merited and seeks to possess; it is the customary word for sexual passion (LSJ, 695). The other two words for “love” are φιλία, “friendship,” and στοργή, “affection,” between parents and children, the latter not occurring in the NT (cf. the negative adjective ἄστοργος, “unloving,” in 2 Tim 3:3 and Rom 1:31).
In the PE, every time the word love occurs it is paired with faith, except in 2 Tim 1:7, often within a list of virtues. It characterizes Paul’s life (2 Tim 3:10) as it should the lives of Timothy (1 Tim 4:12; 6:11; 2 Tim 2:22) and older men (Titus 2:2). It comes from God (2 Tim 1:7) and is the goal of Paul’s gospel (1 Tim 1:5). The faith and love that are in Christ Jesus have overflowed to accomplish Paul’s salvation (1 Tim 1:14), and love provides the guideline by which Timothy is to follow Paul’s teaching (2 Tim 1:13). It is part of the salvation process (1 Tim 2:15). It is a key word in the PE, probably necessitated by a lack of love in the Ephesian church (cf. Gen 20:5–6; Job 11:13; Pss 24:4; 51:10; Matt 5:8; cf. cognate ἀγαπᾶν, “to love,” in 2 Tim 4:8, 10; ἀγαπητός, “beloved,” in 1 Tim 6:2 and 2 Tim 1:2). On love, see V. P. Furnish, The Love Command in the New Testament (London: SCM Press, 1973); A. Nygren, Agape and Eros, tr. P. S. Watson (New York: Harper and Row, 1969); J. Piper, Love Your Enemies, SNTSMS 38 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1979); C. Spicq, Agape in the New Testament, tr. M. A. McNamara and M. H. Richter (St. Louis: Herder, 1963); B. B. Warfield, “The Terminology of Love in the New Testament,” PTR 16 (1918) 1–45, 153–203; articles and bibliography in C. Brown, W. Günther, and H.-G. Link, NIDNTT 2:538–51; G. Quell and E. Stauffer, TDNT 1:21–55.
Following ἁγάπη, “love,” is a triad describing the source (ἐκ, “from”) of that love. The reigning idea is sincerity. Love comes from a heart cleansed of sin, a conscience clear of guilt, and a faith devoid of hypocrisy. This trilogy is not exhaustive, nor does it claim to be. It is not an attempt to describe fully the gospel or the concept of love. It is rather three concepts particularly appropriate to the Ephesian situation since the opponents were depraved in mind (1 Tim 6:5) with seared consciences (1 Tim 4:2) and corrupt faith (2 Tim 3:8). This connection to the opponents was recognized in the last century (cf. Ellicott, 8). It is not mere “moralism taking the place of theology” (Hanson,  57) but deep truths made practical and relevant in the historical situation.
(1) Love comes from a heart cleansed of sin, the heart being the “hidden person” (1 Pet 3:4). This stands in contrast to the opponents who are liars (1 Tim 4:2), persisting in sin (1 Tim 5:20), depraved of mind (1 Tim 6:5), and bereft of the truth (1 Tim 6:5). καθαρᾶς, “clean,” carries with it the OT concept of ceremonial cleansing in preparation for God’s service. Paul elsewhere speaks of a cleansed heart (2 Tim 2:22), a clear conscience (1 Tim 3:9; 2 Tim 1:3), and a cleansed people (Titus 1:15). Because Israelite thought did not divide the person into material and immaterial, it associated different functions with specific bodily organs. The heart was the chief organ, the unifying organ, the source of a person’s intellectual, emotional, and spiritual powers, the contact between the person and God (J. Behm, TDNT 3:605–14; R. C. Denton, IDB 2:549–50).
(2) The love produced by Paul’s gospel comes from a conscience clear of guilt. (On the translation of ἀγαθός as “clear,” see Comment on 1 Tim 2:10.) συνείδησις, “conscience,” is another significant Pauline term. It is that innate and universal (Rom 2:14–15) knowledge that condemns wrong and commends right. It is the inner awareness of the moral quality of one’s actions. It is a compound of σύν, “together,” and εἰδέναι, “to know”; the Latin is the same construction (con plus scio) from which we get the word conscience. Initially it meant “to know together,” corporate, universal knowledge (cf. B. F. Harris, “ΣΥΝΕΙΔΗΣΙΣ [Conscience] in the Pauline Writings,” WTJ 24  174–77).
The term συνείδησις, “conscience,” is not found in the OT, although its function is performed by the heart (לב lēb; 2 Sam 24:10; Job 27:6; Pss 32:1–5; 51:1–9). Other than the above-mentioned references, συνείδησις is found in the NT fourteen times (Rom 13:5; 2 Cor 1:12; 4:2; 5:11; cf. Acts 23:1; 24:16 [both contained in speeches of Paul]; Heb 9:9, 14; 10:2, 22; 13:18; 1 Pet 2:19; 3:16, 21). A. M. Rehwinkel (EDT, 267) summarizes its threefold function in Scripture: (a) to urge right and hinder wrong; (b) to pass judgment on a decision or action; (c) to produce guilt or commendation in the heart. In the PE it occurs six times, in both positive and negative senses. An ἀγαθός, “clear,” conscience is a source of love (1 Tim 1:5). Timothy is to hold on to an ἀγαθός, “clear,” conscience (1 Tim 1:19) just as Paul has a καθαρός, “cleansed,” conscience (2 Tim 1:3). Deacons must hold to the mystery of the faith with a καθαρός, “cleansed,” conscience (1 Tim 3:9). The opponents have rejected (ἀπωθεῖν; 1 Tim 1:19), seared (καυστηριάζειν; 1 Tim 4:2a), and defiled (μιαίνειν; Titus 1:15) their own consciences. Conscience is present in Paul’s life (Rom 9:1; cf. 1 Cor 4:4 [σύνοιδα]) as well as in Christians’ (1 Cor 8:1–13; 10:23–11:1) and Gentiles’ (Rom 2:15) lives. It is, however, not the ultimate judge of right and wrong but serves only as a guide (1 Cor 4:4) since it can be seared by sin (1 Tim 4:2; 2 Tim 3:8; Titus 1:15; Rom 14:20; 1 Cor 8:7–12). See, for example, B. J. Harris’s critique (WTJ 24  173–86) of H. Rashdall, who elevates conscience to the point of saying “no one really makes his submission even to the teaching of our Lord absolute and unlimited, except in so far as the ethical injunctions of that authority commend themselves to his conscience” (Conscience and Christ [New York: Scribner’s, 1916] 33; cf. H. Osborne, “ΣΥΝΕΙΔΗΣΙΣ,” JTS o.s. 32  167–79). “Rejected,” “seared,” and “defiled,” although somewhat synonymous, show a slight progression from the voluntary decision to ignore the truth (“rejected”) to the consequence of that act (“seared,” “defiled”). C. A. Pierce argues that conscience is not a technical Stoic term but a common word in the Koine used only to evaluate past actions (Conscience in the New Testament [London: SCM Press, 1955]), an interpretation corrected by M. E. Thrall to include present and future actions (“The Pauline Use of Συνείδησις,” NTS 14 [1967–68] 118–25). For further study of conscience, see especially B. J. Harris, WTJ 24 (1962) 173–86; C. Maurer, TDNT 6:898–919; also Ladd, Theology, 477–78; Guthrie, New Testament Theology, 170–71; Ridderbos, Theology, 288–93; H. C. Hahn and C. Brown, NIDNTT 1:348–53 (see bibliography); A. M. Rehwinkel, The Voice of Conscience (St. Louis: Concordia, 1956); id., EDT, 267–68; O. Hallesby, Conscience (London: InterVarsity Press, 1950); C. Spicq, “La conscience dans le Nouveau Testament,” RB 47 (1938) 50–80; bibliography in TLNT 3:335–36; J. Stelzenberger, Syneidēsis im Neuen Testament (Paderborn: Schöningh, 1961).
(3) In the third part of the triad Paul tells Timothy that love should issue from a sincere, genuine, unhypocritical faith. The opponents have destroyed their consciences and are so hypocritical that they teach for the insincere motive of making money (1 Tim 6:5, 10). This helps us see that the opponents were not sincere but were knowingly and purposefully deceiving the church. ἀνυποκρίτου, “sincere,” is a compound of an alpha privative, meaning “not” (cf. 1 Tim 1:9), and ὑπόκρισις, “hypocrisy,” hence “without hypocrisy.” Elsewhere it is connected with faith (2 Tim 1:5) and love (Rom 12:9; 2 Cor 6:6; cf. 1 Pet 1:22; it modifies wisdom in Jas 3:17). πίστεως, “faith,” here is the usual Pauline use, meaning “trust” (cf. Introduction, “Themes in the PE”). Love proceeds from a trusting faith that is sincere. Some writers object that this could hardly be Pauline since an insincere faith is no faith at all (see similar discussion in Comment on 2 Tim 1:5). The same objection, however, could be raised with the phrases “sincere love” (Rom 12:9; 2 Cor 6:6), “counterfeit faith” (2 Tim 3:8), or “a different gospel” (Gal 1:6). ἀνυποκρίτου, “sincere,” highlights a characteristic already present in faith. Deception of oneself and others is always possible (Kelly, 46; Fee, 8). By saying “sincere faith” Paul is contrasting himself with the opponents who have seared their consciences and are deceiving themselves and others.
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