Paul sets The Goal of Unselfish Love.
“Our teaching about this journey is intended to bring us to a single destination—a place where self-giving love reigns from a pure heart, a clean conscience, and a genuine faith.” 1 Timothy 1:5 TPT
This is Paul’s first letter to Timothy, his son in the faith, which is believed to have been written after Paul was released from prison in Rome. He had traveled to Ephesus, reuniting with Timothy and meeting the people of the church there. Paul then traveled to Macedonia but left Timothy in charge. Like the Corinthian church, the Ephesian church was struggling as false prophets had come and deceived the people.
“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.”
Paul has asked Timothy to stay and deal with those who were teaching false doctrines and gives this beautiful statement about love – agape love – which comes from a pure heart, good conscience and sincere faith.
The word for love used in verse 5 is ‘agape.’ This is God’s love.
Here is a deeper explanation of the meaning of agape:
“Love (26) (agape) is unconditional, sacrificial love and Biblically refers to a love that God is (1Jn 4:8,16), that God shows (Jn 3:16, 1Jn 4:9) and that God gives as a manifestation of His Spirit’s bearing fruit in the heart of a yielded saint (see note on fruit of the Spirit – Gal 5:22–note).
It is not surprising that Greek literature throws little light on its distinctive NT meaning. Biblical agape love is the love of choice, the love of serving with humility, the highest kind of love, the noblest kind of devotion, the love of the will (intentional, a conscious choice) and not motivated by superficial appearance, emotional attraction, or sentimental relationship. Agape is not based on pleasant emotions or good feelings that might result from a physical attraction or a familial bond. Agape chooses as an act of self-sacrifice to serve the recipient. From all of the descriptions of agape love, it is clear that true agape love is a sure mark of salvation.”
The Goal of Unselfish Love – Agape Love
Paul is setting a high standard as his goal for these people – and for us! For Paul there was only one destination – life filled to overflowing with agape love. As Paul proceeds in his letter, he is leaving Timothy with a huge task. Timothy is to bring these people back to the truth, remove the false leaders, and put new leaders in place in multiple cities! This was no small undertaking. Paul wants Timothy to restore the doctrine he, Paul, had originally shared with the church in Ephesus and showing the contrast between his doctrine and the deceptive doctrine being taught to the church n Ephesus.
Cambridge Dictionary defines doctrine as: a belief or set of beliefs, especially political or religious ones, that are taught and accepted by a particular group. Church denominations hold to varying doctrines regarding behavior, setting foundational standards for salvation and life as a Christian. Individuals also establish their personal doctrines or convictions and generally choose a church which comes closest to what they hold as true.
Some denominations believe that water baptism is only valid when the person is fully immersed in water. Others believe in sprinkling. One church may believe that the gifts spoken of at the beginning of Acts ended when the last Apostle died, while others believe they are meant for all time. Individuals may have a personal doctrine in regard to drinking alcohol different than their church does.
Many Doctrines on One Foundation
My point is not to tell you what to believe. Paul’s point was that there was only one doctrine which was correct – the one that leads us to living a self-giving love. I grew up with the Apostles Creed and it formed the foundation for my life and my conscience even before I accepted Christ as the Lord of my life. Here is a modernized version of it.
“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. The third day he arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, whence he shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy universal Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” The Apostles Creed
Most churches have something similar to this with additions for other aspects of daily and church life they hold to be correct.
What is Your Life Built On?
Whether we have ever really analyzed it or not, we each have a set of beliefs, doctrines, or convictions we live by. They may change and be adjusted over our lifetime, but some of them stay with us for good. I have areas of my life that have definitely changed as I grew in Christ, matured in knowledge, and in years. Some things have completely changed. Some have softened and some have become more deeply ingrained. But, for my entire life, they have been what the Holy Spirit and my conscience upheld and guided me by.
It is good for us to identify the things we hold as absolutes of our faith, separating them from the things which may be simply personal preferences. I love contemporary Christian music with drums, guitars, and loud music. As I child, we sang hymns. As an adult returning to church, it was contemporary Christian and I loved it from day one. I still love the old hymns, but when I want to really worship I go for Hillsong or Bethel or something similar. I don’t believe everyone has to listen to the same thing. It’s what ministers to me and helps me worship and my choice of churches is based partially on this. It is a preference. I could survive as a Christian if I didn’t have it. My absolutes, however, I must have. They are what shapes my life – the goal of unselfish love. My choice of music simply enhances my life.
Accepting Varied Convictions
I can’t tell you what your convictions should be. It is between you, the Holy Spirit, and God! I am not your judge or conscience. My belief system is firm enough that I can accept those who don’t agree with me without being angry or feeling that I have to change their minds. I may not agree, but I’m not living their life and won’t have to answer for their choices.
If someone is living a lifestyle I believe to be completely wrong, I can share my own convictions, but not my condemnation. That just gets in the way of the Holy Spirit’s conviction. Conviction is totally His job and He’s very good at it. He’s been doing it for thousands of years.
If asked, I can tell you what I believe to be true for me. You must decide on your own what is true for you. But, do you know what you believe? You probably know what you prefer but what about those deepest, most foundational beliefs?If someone is living a lifestyle I believe to be completely wrong, I can share my own convictions, but not my condemnation. That just gets in the way of the Holy Spirit's conviction. Conviction is totally His job and He's very good at… Click To Tweet
The Goal of Unselfish Love
Paul gave Timothy the job of bringing the Ephesian church back to one place – a place where self-giving love reigns from a pure heart, a clean conscience, and a genuine faith. All other doctrines should spring from that origin. Self-giving, unselfish love is the rock we build on. It is God – He is love. It is Jesus – He is self-giving love. There is no other basis from which to build a life as a Christian – a goal of unselfish love.
On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand – an old hymn which beautifully shows Christ as the rock:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
In Him, my righteousness, alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
What Are Your Foundational Beliefs?
Take some time to really identify what your foundational beliefs are. Not just your preferences, which can change easily, but those things upon which you stake your very life – what you would die for. At the end of Chapter 1, Paul says this:
“Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.” 1 Timothy 1:18-20
He speaks of those who have been shipwrecked in relationship to their faith. He then names two whom he ‘handed over to satan.’ I don’t know what that means. It is commonly believed that this meant putting them outside the church. Perhaps cutting off fellowship with them because they were speaking against God. It was a drastic measure. It is also a warning to us. Our faith can be shipwrecked. It can only happen with our knowledge and consent. We allow ourselves to be deceived. But, the point Paul is making is that we must guard ourselves by staying true to the one thing which matters most – living a life of unselfish love.
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**We use verses from different Bible translations.
To see more information about the copyright for each one, please visit our Scripture Citations.
Day 1 – 24 Day Challenge – Renewing Your Mind and Conscience
Day 2 – Living By the Golden Rule
Day 3 – Being Falsely Accused
Day 4 – A Personal Testimony of Salvation
Day 5 – Knowing Right From Wrong
Day 6 – What is the Power of the Holy Spirit?
Day 7 – Submitting to Authority
Day 8 – What is a Weak Conscience?
Day 9 – Living a Life Worthy of the Gospel
Day 10 – Speaking The Truth at All Times
Day 11 – Purity of Heart and Mind
Day 12 – 12 Steps to Overcoming Guilt and Shame
Day 13 – Living With Integrity