Author: Ron Graham
Verse by verse study of Paul's first letter to Timothy. In this lesson we further examine chapter 1 verses 5 and 8-11. We continue looking at God’s provisions for our minds through the perfect truth of the gospel of Christ.
The gospel is not "fruitless" like the speculations of false teachers. The gospel has a definite aim, and it hits its target. Paul outlines this goal as "love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a genuine faith" (1Timothy 1:5).
"Impurity" in the Bible is sin. Paul describes sin as "whatever is contrary to sound teaching" (1Timothy 1:10). A pure heart heart desires no sin and looks up to the perfect righteousness of Christ. The gospel's goal is to create such a heart in everyone.
A main point of Christianity is to provide us with a conscience made good by God. A good conscience, strictly speaking, is not just one that feels good. Paul knew that only too well. His conscience was clear when he persecuted the church and had Christians imprisoned and killed (Acts 26:9, 1Timothy 1:13). Paul lived his whole life with "a perfectly good conscience..." (Acts 23:1). He means of course that it was always perfectly good in his own eyes. He admits to Timothy, however, that his conscience had been confused and deceived by "ignorance and unbelief" (1Timothy 1:13).
Plenty of people have "good" consciences in that they think they are doing right and doing it very well. However the only basis for a truly good conscience, one that is perfectly good in God’s sight, is the gospel of Christ (1Peter 3:21-22). The gospel's goal is to enlighten the conscience so that it judges us as God judges us.
The sincere faith is literally a faith without hypocrisy (James 3:17). One mark of a false teacher is hypocrisy. The falseness of a false teacher is not just in his or her doctrine, but in the heart. A genuine person who is teaching error by mistake should not be treated as a false teacher, but simply as a genuine person teaching error by mistake. Such persons can be shown their mistakes, and will correct them, just as Apollos did (Acts 18:24-28). The gospel's goal is to add accuracy to sincerity, so that true doctrine comes from true hearts.
Paul makes a comment about the Law in which the false teachers seem to regard themselves as experts. Paul regards the Law as good when lawfully applied, but he makes the point that the law is not applicable those who follow the sound teaching of the gospel (which is a higher law) (1Timothy 1:8-11).
What is the sense in teaching a law to Christians if they already don't do the things that law prohibits and punishes? True Christians, by their own principles (those of the sound teaching of the gospel) don't kill their mothers, or practice immorality, or tell lies. So any law prohibiting such things was not made for them and is not applicable to them.
There is a corollary to this which Paul doesn't mention, but to which he alludes when he speaks of the "glorious gospel of our blessed God" (1Timothy 1:11). Does this gospel sound as though it needs improvement? It is glorious, and it comes from God. Regarding it as a law (Romans 8:2, Galatians 6:2) we would have to take the position that it cannot be improved, and therefore any change or addition would spoil it. By adding and imposing another law, the false teachers were in the business of ruining the gospel.
The gospel is perfect because it's the gospel of Christ. Christ furnishes us with all the principles necessary to live pleasing to God and to do so forever. We remember that Paul started his letter acknowledging "Christ Jesus who is our hope" (1Timothy 1:1)..