MAN seeks many things in life, but there are two possessions in particular for which he strives. Above all else he desires love and longs for happiness.
The passage now under consideration leads us first to the possession of love and concludes with the guide to happiness. In both cases the path leads by way of the evangel of the glory of God entrusted to the apostle Paul. For us there can be no other way to these goals than that of the faith given over by Paul. Some, it is true, have swerved and gone aside in other directions only to become lost in a maze of turnings which end ultimately far from the goal. But we are to keep our eyes settled upon that prize ahead, guided by the directings of grace and the firm declarations of the "sound teaching" (1 Tim.1:10).
Note in verse 5 that love is not the charge but is rather the consummation of the charge. The charge, as we have seen in our previous studies, is what God has given us "in faith" (verse 4), the evangel, the faithful saying that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (verse 15). Where that charge is kept, love results. Love is the accomplishment which is produced by God's good news. Hence, if we would know and possess love, we must hold fast the charge given to us; we must believe and guard the message of the faith. In this way love blossoms out of the "clean heart" which truly and purely accepts the Word of God. So also it is the fruit of the "good conscience" which sincerely and openly believes the truth. And finally it is the joyous product of the "unfeigned faith" which genuinely receives what God has said to us through His chosen servant (verse 12).
SWERVING FROM THE TRUTH
Our hearts, our consciences and our faith are to be directed by the evangel which Paul brought. Yet many have swerved from this (cf 6:21, 2 Tim.2:18). Often we have seen the tire marks on a highway where a car has swerved from its lane. Literally the word means to be out of the row (KEYWORD CONCORDANCE, p. 295). One does not have to depart very far from the designated path in order to swerve from the faith. If there is even the slightest suggestion in our minds that God somehow depends on us in order to fulfill His purpose there is a swerving from the truth. If there is even the smallest doubt cast upon the certainty of our position in Christ there is a swerving from the truth.
It is in turning from the message of grace to that of law where most believers have trouble. Even as a car swerving on the highway may cause an accident, so also when we swerve from the faith we may make a wreck of it (cf verse 19).
Those who turn aside to the teaching of the law are not aware of their own foolishness. Though the law is ideal it does not lead to salvation, for no one is able to fulfill it in all points (cf Gal.3:10). The very thing its teachers claim for it, the establishment of righteousness, is what it most clearly fails to do. In fact, in the end it turns against its champions and accuses them also for failing to meet its righteous standards.
Hence, in verses 9 and 10 Paul answers those who have swerved from grace to law by showing how the law itself opposes this departure from the established "row" of faith. The law, he says, reveals to the lawless that they are lawless, to the insubordinate that they are insubordinate, to the irreverent that they are irreverent. It uncovers the sinfulness of the sinner, the evil of the malign and profane and thrashers and homicides, paramours, sodomites, kidnappers, liars and perjurers. To all of this the teachers of the law would give assent. And yet, Paul declares, the law also denounces any kind of opposition to God's Word! Thus, in opposing sound teaching by supplanting the evangel with the law the false teachers were actually disobeying the law itself! Such a sin, he says, is comparable to all of those listed before.
HOLDING TO THE SOUND TEACHING
The message entrusted to Paul is the sound teaching for today. Its consummation in our lives is love. It procures and daily develops in us that very righteousness which the law set forth but could not produce. These are priceless qualities, but here in verse 11 we are led to even greater truths concerning this message from God.
First of all we learn that this sound teaching is the evangel of God. It is not merely a word; it is a joyous word, a welcome word, which appeals to, satisfies and delights the longings of our hearts.
Secondly, it is called the evangel of the glory of God. Indeed it unlocks the secrets of His counseled will and reveals His perfect plan to eyes of faith. To be sure, it does not glorify man, for it is the message of divine favor, but it brings glory where it must and ought to be -- to the "incorruptible, invisible, only and wise God" (verse 17).
It is the third fact given here concerning this message, however, which perhaps is most striking. The sound teaching entrusted to Paul is the evangel of the glory of the happy God. Above all else, this evangel which God committed to Paul and which Paul has now passed along to us, fills God with joyousness within.* (* cf definition for happy in our KEYWORD CONCORDANCE, page 139.) Elsewhere certain aspects of this message are presented as God's "delight" (Eph.1:5,9). No wonder. This sound teaching reveals a victorious Christ, a righteous and glorified God, saints blessed with every spiritual blessing among the celestials (Eph.1:3) and, in the end, a reconciled universe (Col.1:20).
What a precious charge this is! Do we stand by it in faith? Do we search out its treasures? Do we let its power produce in us the fruit of grace? We ought to if we want to enjoy the consummation of love and to share with God His delight. Happy believers (Rom.4:6) subjected to the happy God!