A sermon by Dr Donald T. Williams - donaldtwilliams.com
Presented at Trinity Fellowhip on 9/10/2000
We have seen Paul's concern in the Pastoral Epistles that the purity of the Gospel be preserved in the Church after his own demise. His solution is that Timothy commit what he has received from Paul to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2). This is still God's blueprint for ministry. You are my Timothies, so wht Paul here requires of my teaching applies to all of us as we prepare to disciple the larger congregation we hope God will send us.
Paul begins by defining the nature of the teaching Timothy is to do in the Church. Negatively, we saw last week that false teachingcontradicts previously established revelation is marked by a preverted use of the intellect, either anti- or pseudo-intellectualism comes from a willful ignorance, an unteachable spirit tends toward a dogmatism that is unbalanced and unjustified. But it is not enough for us merely to avoid these evils. Our style of discipling must positively embody the orientation described in vs. 5: "The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith."
In English translations it is not clear whether the goal is (1) love from a pure heart, (2) a good conscince, and (3) sincere faith, or LOVE, which is from (1) a pure heart, (2) a good conscience, and (3) sincere faith. In Greek it is clear that it is the second of those renderings that is correct. This is important. The emphasis is on LOVE--specifically the kind of love produced by the other three things, not just warm, mushy feelings. If I want to increase egg production, I do not focus on eggs; I take care of my chickens. If I want better milk, I must take better care of my cows. So if I want my teaching to produce love, it must focus on developing pure hearts, good consciences, and sincere faith. Therefore we must answer three questions: What are these three things? How does sound teaching promote them? How does love flow from them?THE PURE HEART.
The same phrase is used in Mat. 5:8 as a qualification for seeing God. The heart in Scripture is not, as in English, the emotions, but the center of the personality, the unity from which flows intellect, emotion, and will. "Pure" is literally "purged" (katharos, from which we get katharsis). It means a heart that is clean, totally purified, with not the least taint of lust, greed, envy, spite, covetousness, pride, or self will. Such a heart is not in our possession; we utterly lack the power to manufacture it; yet without it we cannot see God. Therefore the only kind of eaching which can produce pure hearts is teaching which focuses on the Gospel, on the Cross of Christ. The blood of Christ is the only thing that can take away sin. We do not have pure hearts, but he does. Through faith in His work we receive Justification, in which God counts Christ's purity as if it were ours, so that He can forgive us and restore His relationship to us; then Sanctification is the lifelong process of becoming in actuality what God has already declared us to be and accepted us as being in Justification. We might say that in Justification Christ's purity of heart is counted as ours; in Sanctification it comes to function as ours. Only thus, only through Christ's righteousness and not our own, can we possess the purity which allows us to be restored to relationship with God.
All other methods of acquiring a pure heart either fail miserably or succeed only in producing an artificial counterfeit. Therefore our teaching must bring all of life to the foot of the Cross. Teaching which does not search the heart in these terms is fruitless, leading either to a False Gospel or to Dead Orthodoxy.A GOOD CONSCIENCE.
See Rom. 2:15 for a good definition. This is the subjective realization of justification, the peace with God that allows us to live boldly in the light of Rom. 8:1--There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. How are people whose hearts are impure to have good consciences without being self deceived? Only by a clear understanding of the Gospel. We must therefore avoid the temptation to create the illusion of a good conscience either by sweeping the issue of the pure heart under the rug or by providing band-aid solutions (liberalism, cheap grace). We must also avoid making a good conscience impossible by legalism, burdening the conscience with scruples beyond God's commandments and sneaking works back into salvation by implying subtly that, while justification might be by grace alone through faith alone, God still won't really like us unless we perform up to His perfect standards (or the arbitrary ones of our fellow Believers). In other words, we must not fail to teach the importance of a holy life; but we must equally not set up this standard without an equal emphasis--even a greater empasis--on the all sufficiency of God's provision in Christ to meet it. As long as a good conscience is based on our righteousness rather than Christ's, it is impossible. But in Him there is rightly and truly no condemnation.A SINCERE FAITH.
"Sincere" is anupocritou, literally "not hypocritical," i.e., genuine, unfeigned, real--a faith which does not have to pretend. This is what too many people miss in the typical Evangelical church today. When we unthinkingly go through the motions of traditional Christianity, we are not trusting Jesus; we are rather acting out a role, a set of culturally prescribed expectations to which we try to conform. This is pretending, not believing; it is not the sincere faith Paul is describing. Therefore our teaching must be focused on spiritual reality. Do we have a faith that does not have to pretend? Do we know what we believe? Do we know why we believe? If we are afraid of questions our faith is not real. Most importantly, do we know Whom we have believed, and are we persuaded that He is able to keep that which we've committed unto Him against that day? These are the questions we must constantly raise, and we must not be satisfied until we have answered them so solidly that we do not have to pretend any more. This will be a continual process until the Lord returns. But preaching or discipleship that aims at anything less than this is false teaching, even if it is technically correct. It is mere speculation, fruitless and actually deadening in its results.The goal of our instruction is LOVE.
Why does love flow from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith--and only from these things? Because they are simply a description of what it is to have a real, free, confidant, and unimpeded relationship with God through Christ. His love will be in our hearts to the extent that He is there. And He will dwell there to the extent that sincere faith has appropriated forgiveness and a pure heart, to the extent that confidence in His work, not ours, has given us freedom (the good conscience) to enjoy the loving relationship with Him that He desires for us and purchased for us on the Tree.
When you really come to grips with the fact that you--an inexcusable rebel, a vile sinner before a holy and righteous God--that you, who truly deserve eternal punishment, to the extent that Justice itself would come unravelled if your sins were to escape punishment--that you, who are utterly undeserving of the least consideration from Him, have as a free gift, provided completely by Him and paid for by the blood of His only begotten and infintely beloved Son--that you, on such terms, have a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith--when you come to grips with these truths you will overflow with a love for God that knows no bounds because it is a love from God. There no other way you will ever come to love God as He deserves except by this route. And that is why the goal of our instruction is Love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
In this day of the proliferation of media and theologies, it is more necessary than ever that we test the spirits. It is your responsibility before God to evaluate the teachng which asks for your attention--on the radio, on TV, in books, in the classroom, from this pulpit--according to these criteria. It is your responsibility to examine your own teaching as you disciple others by the same criteria. Only so can we at Trinity Fellowship become the ministry God wants us to be and which our world so desperately needs. May God help us not to be found wanting as both learners and teachers of His holy, inerrant, and powerful Word. Amen.
Here endeth the lesson. Dr. Donald T. Williams