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By David Sincerbox

1 Timothy 1

Today’s New Testament Lenten reading is taken from Paul’s letter to his young pupil, Timothy, in 1st Timothy 1. The epistle to Timothy is in a collection of three letters of Paul known as the Pastoral Epistles, two that were written to Timothy and one to Titus. They are called “pastoral” because Paul is giving ministerial advice to these two men.

Paul is now at the end of his ministry and is turning his ministerial responsibilities over to these two younger men. Paul has left Timothy in Ephesus and now instructing him on how to address some of the heresies creeping into that church.

Paul had known Timothy for some time, having met the son of a Jewish mother who became a believer and of a Greek father on his second missionary tour. Timothy became Paul’s companion from then on. We can see the warmth that Paul felt towards Timothy in this letter’s salutation when Paul calls him, “my true child in the faith” (verse 2).

Paul then describes the false teachers that Timothy will have to deal with who are trying to undermine the gospel at Ephesus. Paul thus tells Timothy what the charge of our faith is: “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5, English Standard Version). The Greek word that Paul uses for “aim” is often used as “end” in other contexts, such as the end of time, or the end of a journey. But it can also mean, “result,” or “goal,” or “outcome.” The result of our “charge,” or our instruction, should be love, agapē, which is a God-given love “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). It is a self-sacrificial love that imitates the love of Jesus in which he gave up his exalted position in heaven because he saw our desperate need for salvation (Philippians 2:5-11). Agapē is a love that thus seeks the highest good for the beloved.

This love is to come from a pure heart, a clean heart, and a heart that is not tainted by ulterior motives or control issues. Confession and repentance are essential to agapē. Both allow God to purify our consciences and, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to enable agapē to result from a “sincere faith.” This faith is an unhypocritical faith. The Greek word for “hypocrite” was that used for an actor, one who wears a false face and plays a role.

Paul then reminds Timothy of his own biography, how he persecuted the church before Jesus confronted him on the road to Damascus. He then declares the purpose of what we are to be about in verse 15: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” All of us who are now in Christ were sinners in desperate need of salvation. Our lives should now be about declaring this message of salvation to others who are in need. We should also be discipling those who are now saved. Mission and service should now be the “aim of our charge,” one that issues from “a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

May we, during this Lenten Season, assume this charge willingly and with joy.