In April, we started walking through 1 Timothy with our leadership team at Grace. We will walk through 2 Timothy and Titus as part of this exercise. I wanted to share our thoughts with you. For those who are not pastors or deacons, but who lead in some capacity in any arena of life, these books are a tremendous resource in Scripture. I encourage all of our leadership at Grace to take advantage of these notes geared specifically toward leadership or roles with much responsibility.
1 Timothy 1
In verse 5, we read about the goal that Paul envisions as he thinks about his instruction and that of Timothy. We remember the previous verses. Paul writes according to the command (or instruction) of God. He is instructing Timothy to also instruct others. The content is that which is not contrary to sound doctrine. The goal of teaching is love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a sincere faith.
For the pastor (elder) or teacher, then, this means something very significant. If our preaching or teaching does not encourage love from a pure heart, it does not matter how profound or theologically accurate we are. It is why we make good application while we teach. It is why we pray for those who will hear or read. It is why we strive to model love in our own lives. There is a goal and that goal is not that people would simply gain knowledge. It is that, through the instruction of God, people would be given a pure heart by God, and grow in the love that they have for God and for people. If this is not our goal every time we open our mouths to preach or to speak, we do so in vain.
For the lay leader or the leader who does so in a non-teaching capacity, whatever you do to fill the role that God has called you to must have as its goal love that comes from a pure heart. If you run church media, is it to promote a church, person, or to earn a few dollars? Or, is your goal love that comes from a pure heart? If you deacon (serve), is your goal love that comes from a pure heart? If you cook or clean, is your goal love that comes from a pure heart? The goal is never that we would grow in number or become more recognized or become more influential. The goal is simply love from a pure heart. If we are multiplying, planting churches, advancing our ministry, or doing any type of promotion, as we must in order to fulfill the Great Commission, we must question our motives. If our goal is anything other than love that comes from a pure heart, we need to stop, seek after Christ, be molded, and then proceed with caution because of our obsequious devotion to our own depravity.
Even in Paul’s day, some have departed from these (sound doctrine and a right goal). They turned to fruitless discussion. There is a similar pattern in our own day and in many worldly organizations that refer to themselves as ‘churches.’ It is not God’s desire or intention that there be any part of His body, His church, not bearing fruit (which is love that comes from a pure heart). All discussion we have, then, especially in our instruction must bear fruit. If it is unprofitable (not producing love that comes from a pure heart), it has no place in the local church. Furthermore if there is a ministry or a position or anything else that does not serve this goal, it should be done away with. If in my leading, I am not encouraging love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a sincere faith, then I am not accomplishing what God is accomplishing. Furthermore, I reveal something about my own faith- namely that I don’t really care about the things that God cares about.
There are many people who want to be teachers, more broadly leaders in any capacity, without understanding what they are saying or insisting on. Paul writes this because many people try to lead or teach without promoting love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, or a sincere faith. Instead they teach or produce or share content with the goal of self-promotion, of commanding other’s lives, or of condemning others based on outward action; but these are not the goal of God’s instruction and have never been. The Law is a mirror, not a checklist. We must, then, understand the goal and lead with that goal in mind.
Paul wrote that the Law is good if it is used legitimately. It is not meant for a righteous person, but for the lawless. This gives us great insight into the leadership roles of the church in our day. Leadership roles exist for the goal of love that comes from a pure heart and are beneficial to sinners, not to righteous people. By righteous, I believe Paul is referring to those who are self-righteous and who believe they have everything together and live as if they are without sin. It is the leader’s (specifically the teacher’s) responsibility to use the Law rightly, that even the worst sinners would benefit from what is being said. There is no room for condemnation. The local church is here for the benefit of sinners. Those who are self-righteous will be utterly disappointed and unfulfilled in the midst of the church (and everywhere else).
What does this mean on an eternal scale? Leadership is, again, an act of humble service. God brings people from sin, gives them a pure heart, gives them a place of service in His kingdom. If we expect our leaders to be without sin in our current context, our priorities have been poorly misplaced. This is going to indicate something very significant when we observe the qualification or elders and deacons. It is safe to say that those who are currently willingly living in sin have not a pure heart, a clear conscience, or a sincere faith and have not the character produced in them by God to serve God in what we would refer to as a leadership role. They are not unqualified because of their sin, for that would disqualify everyone. They are unqualified because God has not given them love from a pure heart, which is necessary to serve well in any capacity.