In the opening words of Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he reminds his young colleague of the aim or telos of the apostles’ teaching: love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (1 Tim. 1:5 NET). The false teachers in Ephesus neither taught nor practiced these things. But Paul reminded Timothy of the true Christian way, the way of following Christ. I appreciate how Steve Baugh commented on 1 Timothy 1:5:
“When Paul says, ‘the goal of this command is love’ (1 Tim 1:5), he is pointing to the instructions that Timothy is to command the opponents (cf. 2 Tim. 2:25-26). One can also more generally see that the outcome of all Christian instruction is love, which itself flows out of the great, spiritual benefits of the work of Christ: ‘a pure heart,’ which is a central requirement for seeing God (Matt. 5:8; cf. Ps. 24:4; 51:10; 2 Tim. 2:22); ‘a good conscience,’ which was brought into effect once and for all by the high priestly sacrifice of Christ (Heb. 9:14; 10:22; cf. 1 Tim. 1:19; 3:4, 4:2); and ‘a sincere faith,’ which is a faith ‘without hypocrisy’ (contrast 1 Tim. 4:2). This lovely fruit of good teaching stands in stark contrast to the wrangling and division caused by the heretical teachers.”
That’s really an excellent summary of what Paul was saying to Timothy. It also struck me that this is what Jesus was talking about when he said “you will recognize them [false prophets] by their fruit” (Mt. 7:20 NET). False teachers or false prophets neither teach true Christian love nor do they practice it. In fact, false teachers do not unify the church or build up God’s people in love and Christian harmony. Instead, they cause division, rivalry, conflict, quarreling, and fights (1 Tim. 6:4-5, 2 Tim. 2:14-8; Titus 3:9-11, etc.). False teachers are toxins in a local church.
Much more could be said, of course, but this topic does lead me to pray that my Christian life and pastoral ministry would not cause strife, conflict, or quarreling, but promote love, sincere faith, and Christian unity. Based on this, I think we can say that one desire the Christian pastor should have is to see “the lovely fruit of good teaching” in the context of his own ministry.
The above quote is found on page 449 of Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary – volume three.
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015