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. (1 Timothy 1:3-7) (NIV).
After acknowledging Timothy as his “true son in the faith” (v.2), Paul instructed him as a father would a son. Apparently, certain individuals who fancied themselves armchair theologians, and claimed to have special knowledge and insights, were introducing false doctrines to the Ephesian Church. These self-identified “teachers” had become distracted by meaningless arguments and pointless speculations that were creating controversies, corrupting the Ephesian Church, and compromising the message of the Gospel. So, Paul encouraged Timothy to stand against these false teachers by reminding the Ephesians that God’s work is “by faith” and that the “goal” of their message was love, a love that flowed from three specific attributes:
- a “pure heart” – a heart that was free of corrupt desires and selfish motivations;
- a “good conscience” – a conscience that was able to distinguish between what was moral and immoral, and that would choose the former over the latter; and
- a “sincere faith” – a faith that was true and genuine.
I love how beautifully Paul simplified and synthesized what it means to be a “true” son or daughter of God. It means that we work for God by faith alone, and that the “goal” of the Gospel is simply to love others with a love that is selfless, that chooses good over evil, and that is rooted in our genuine faith in Jesus.
Without faith, we labor in vain, our love is vain, and it is impossible to please God. (Cf. Hebrews 11:6).
Believe and love, and you will be a “true” son or daughter of God.