The church in Ephesus was a spiritual warzone.
On one side you had leaders in the church who were teaching false beliefs and devoting themselves to things that were causing the church to “swerve” and “wander” (v6 ESV) away from the Gospel. These teachers influenced members of the church, who started fighting for the wrong side and corrupting many churches practices that needed to be put right.
And on the other side, you had Paul and a young man called Timothy, someone who’s passion and leadership had been recognized, yet someone who was barely an adult and was new to church leadership.
War is not the time to mince words. Therefore Paul uses military language in verse 3 & 5 when he ‘charges’ or ‘commands’ Timothy to oppose the false teachers and to demonstrate true Christian living in light of the Gospel. Paul’s apostolic and fatherly leadership equipped Timothy to bring spiritual clarity to a confused and conflicted church. Who will the people of Ephesus listen to?
We have a similar struggle today, don’t we? Who should we be listening to? There are too many people who claim to have truth and clarity, and it can all get confusing. How should we live and what should we believe?
Well, Paul gives Timothy, and us, a way of identifying unhealthy beliefs (v10 “sound doctrine”) by calling us to remember the Old Testament law, and by highlighting the folly of these false teachers (v7).
Paul also gives us a way of identifying Gospel leadership and Gospel teaching. In verse 5 it says, “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” In a passage focused on false teaching, this verse this the bright shining light in the middle. This verse is also the benchmark for all Christian living throughout the book, and indeed in our lives. The goal of all of our lives is love, because it was love that saved us.
SOME QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
- Is this true of you? Would others say this is true of you?
- How is your journey towards being transformed by the gospel, so that you have a ‘pure heart, good conscience & sincere faith’?
- Has this been your experience of church leaders – every act and thought of leadership permeated with the love of God?
You cannot lead well if you do not first believe live out the Gospel. Without gospel transformation your leadership will cause people to ‘swerve’ and ‘wander’ from God; because you have swerved and wandered yourself. But with gospel transformation, characterized in verse 5, everything you do can be summarized as love, and everything you do will lead people to the God who is love.
By Tom Moffat