The Goal of Instruction

The apostle Paul warns his “true son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2), and the church about getting off track in their walk with God. There will be teachers of false doctrines (vss. 3,4), some will fall back under the law, which was made for the unrighteous (vss. 8-11), others will fall away from the faith paying attention to deceiving spirits (4:1), and the deceitfulness of riches (6:6-18). Timothy was exhorted to maintain sound doctrine, stay under authority, and develop Godly character. “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (vs. 5).

The goal of our instruction is not knowledge that makes one arrogant but love that edifies others (1 Cor. 8:1). Paul says “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:1-3). We have a tendency to extol the virtues of the theologian and the apologist, but Scripture teaches that, “he who wins souls is wise” (Prov. 11:30), and “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn. 13:35).

Jesus was asked by the religious leaders, “‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?’ Jesus, replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments’” (Matt. 22:36-40). Good instruction and sound doctrine should result in the children of God falling in love with God and one another.

It is easier to understand “agape” (love) when you realize that it can occur in Scripture as a noun and as a verb. When used as a noun, agape refers to the character of God. “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:16). “Love is patient, love is kind, etc.” (1 Cor. 13: 4f). The goal of Biblical instruction is to enable ourselves and others to progressively take on the character of God, which is love. There is one critical difference between agape (godly love) and phileo (brotherly love). The love of God is not dependent upon it’s object. God loves us not because we are lovable, but because God is love. It is his nature to love us. That is why the love of God is unconditional. Every child of God has been called to participate in the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4), and to become like Him. Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that” (Lu. 6:32,33).

When agape is used as a verb, it calls us out of the goodness of our new nature to give to others what they need. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 Jn. 3:16).

Dr. Neil

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