Monday, June 14, 2010

Promoting the Goal of the Gospel

I would make a terrible salesman.

It’s just not in me.  Several dear friends are involved in sales and understand how to do it in a winsome manner that benefits both buyer and seller.  But I would feel like I might offend someone and never make a sale.

salesmanUnlike the friends I described, most of us can probably remember a time when an acquaintance or even a stranger came to us saying they wanted to share something with us, and it turned out to be a sales pitch.  Or even if it’s not a sell they’re pushing, what they needed to discuss in some way ultimately benefitted them, not us.  Many of these episodes are intentionally deceptive, which makes us skeptical of all kinds of things that we are told are for our good.  A pushy and selfish promoter comes off as annoying instead of being winsome and attractive.

Sadly, there are those who try to sell or promote the gospel for the sake of their own dishonest gain.  In this series on 1 Timothy, in the previous post we looked at what it means for us to protect the integrity of the gospel of Christ from outside attacks, and today we see that we are to promote the goal of the gospel, which is love.  Here is the outline so far:

1. We are to protect the integrity of the gospel of Christ.
    (1 Timothy 1.3-4)

2. We are to promote the goal of the gospel of Christ.
     (1 Timothy 1.5-7)

In Paul and Timothy’s day, as in ours, there were people who subverted the gospel for the sake of their own sordid gain.  These people misuse the gospel and its blessings for all sorts of self-centered reasons, among them:

  • Money.  Since the first century A.D., people have been trying to make money off of the gospel (see 2 Corinthians 2.17).
  • Attention.  Some people appear to use the gospel simply in an effort to look good or smart—people whose primary goal is to gain recognition, rather than advancing the cause of Christ (see Acts 8.9-13, 18-21).
  • Power.  Others may enjoy the semblance of authority that being a so-called teacher of the gospel gives them, instead of looking out for the interests of those who desperately need the grace of Christ (see 1 Peter 5.3).
  • Sin.  None of the above—neither money, nor attention, nor power—are sins in themselves, but when improperly obtained or expended, can lead to sin.  In this way, some fall into corrupting the gospel simply because doing so will benefit their sinful lifestyle.  If they can redefine the gospel, they can reinterpret Scripture, and thus reinvent God in their own image (see Romans 5.20—6.4; Titus 1.10-11).

The goal of the command not to teach false doctrines (1 Timothy 1.3) is the same essential goal of the glorious gospel (v. 11).  The section that’s in the middle ties together these ideas, and clarifies the goal of the message:

But the goal of our instruction [or, command; see v. 3] is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.  For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions (1 Timothy 1.5-7, NASB).

As we see above, the goal of the command not to teach strange doctrines was ultimately love: love from a pure heart, love from a good conscience, love from a sincere faith (v. 5).  Some folks may want to be teachers of God’s word for their own benefit, and not for the purpose or goal that God gives us.  These people often don’t even know what they’re talking about, or how to live it, and their talk is meaningless (vv. 6-7).

To the contrary, Paul’s—and then Timothy’s—command to rid the fake gospel-promoters of false teaching is not so that he could gain money, attention or power.  It was for love.  We said in the previous posts that if a command is motivated by love, issued in love, and if the goal or end of it is love, then such a command is wonderful.  Here Paul could not be more plain.  The goal is love.  Love from God to us, and then through us to those who don’t yet know Him.

God’s love is available to those who call upon Him.  The purpose of the gospel, and of protecting it from false doctrine, is love.  Have you experienced His love through the gospel?

[This is part 3 of 5 in a miniseries titled, A Loving Command.  The larger series on 1 Timothy is called The Community of Truth.]