Cleaning the Cup Inside and Out

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy and the Ephesian church he reminds them of the reason why the church is to be the steward and protector of truth.

   As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. (1 Timothy 1:3-4 ESV)

This local congregation was becoming infected with “certain persons” who were threatening to sabotage this holy duty. Endless speculations are the weapons of both ancient and modern academia. By seeking to preserve and protect their own reputations they fail to be faithful to the stewardship given to them by God through faith.

The reason we are to fight so diligently to resist this temptation and preserve the truth and promote faithfulness is made clear in Paul’s next statement.

    The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5 ESV)

It is only through the church living out the true gospel that we can maintain pure hearts, good consciences, and a sincere faith as individual believers. And we seek these things because there is no other way to fulfill our highest calling, love. As Paul says elsewhere, “Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

There are two enemies or dangers to maintaining a pure heart. The first is the danger of pollution. Purity is destroyed when sin is excused, accommodated, ignored or embraced. A heart cannot remain pure with unconfessed sin swirling around the cup. The second danger is one of dilution. This is the other side of purity. We recognize more readily that water for example must be kept pure by guarding against contaminants. But we often overlook the kind of purity referred to when speaking of wine. It must not become too watered down and weak. Purity of heart is destroyed when our affections and attentions are watered down by endless distractions. A pure heart must be guarded against both pollution and dilution.

A good conscience, as I take it here, is one that walks faithfully in the light of the gospel. It is one that is regularly informed and corrected by the realities of the gospel of Christ Jesus in the world and in our lives. (see 1 Peter 3:21)

A sincere faith is one with a singular eye that is not drawn away to idolatrous pursuits, gross unbelief, or double-mindedness. John Calvin states that faith here is the mother of the first two. Everything starts with faith and ends with love. A sincere faith is a God-given faith to sinful hearts as opposed to a false faith which flows from the hearts of sinful men. (see Eph. 2:8-10)

All of this is accomplished by our gracious God in the hearts and minds of His individual children through the corporate life of the church. He works from the inside out and the outside in that love may abound like fresh water and strong wine.

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