An Analysis of 
Agape Love

Part 2 - The Roots of Christian Love

1Timothy 1:
1  Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,
2  To Timothy my true son in the faith:
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3  As I urged you when I went into Macedonia,
stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men These promote controversies rather than God's work— which is by faith.
The goal of this command is love, which comes from
  • a pure heart and
  • a good conscience and
  • a sincere faith.
  • 6  Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk.
    7  They want to be teachers of the law,
    but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
     

    This section in 1Timothy provides keen insight into Paul's perspective on the developing of a mature love in the Christian community. In 1st Corinthians we can see some of the evidences of immaturity such as Christians caught up in worldly wisdom and pride, judging in areas they shouldn't and not judging in areas where they should, which is indicative of an unhealthy conscience; and a selfish focus on their own personal rights and freedoms and their own giftedness rather than focussing on the responsibilities these incur. Even the apostles earlier revealed their immaturity with a "what can I get out of it" and a "I'm greater than you" attitude. Luke 9:46  "An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest." But mature love has no such attitudes. It is not self-seeking and does not boast. And it is because of pride that people easily feel offended and quickly react with hostility, whereas there is not such reaction among those with love.

    Here in 1Timothy Paul speaks of the roots of Christian love, which are a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. And Paul contrasts love with false teachings or the obsessing over meaningless talk and legalistic matters. Proverbs 18:2 "A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions." There are many who seek to be teachers not to help people to understand, but just so that they may be reckoned wise. They express their opinions not in order to feed the sheep but just to be honored as shepherds. Trying to teach without being motivated by love inevitably leads to false doctrine and meaningless talk. To exalt one's own opinion over others one must first have opinions which are unique and thus one must deviate from standard Biblical truths. Indeed it seems that much of true Biblical teaching focusses back on the basic simple truths from which Christians easily deviate as Paul warned, "I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough." 2Cor 11:3,4 Christian's get tired of eating manna and crave the old Egyptian diet, if you get my gist.

    Love applies the scripture to real life, but false teachers may focus on issues of non-application oriented arm chair theology or legalistic rituals. Such attitudes we've seen in the case of the religious leaders who had Christ crucified. Yet such attitudes have not been uncommon in the Christian community throughout the ages. But how do we develop God's love in us? Here Paul reveals where this mature love comes from.

    A pure heart
    This speaks of pure desires and intentions or motivations. But these require a good conscience as how can one evaluate whether their desires and motivations are pure if the conscience is insensitive to distinguishing right and wrong, good and best. Thus a healthy conscience is prerequisite to achieving a pure heart. And this correlation can also be noted in Hebrews 10:22 quoted at the bottom.

    A Good Conscience is a not a conscience that always feel good, but rather a healthy conscience - one which rightly distinguishes between right and wrong, good and best.  A person guided by his conscience is one who orders his life to minimize his feeling of guilt. But let me be clear that he does not try to get rid of his feeling of guilt by destroying his conscience. For that is commonly how the world with its popular psychology tries to get rid of guilt. Rather than change their lifestyle or deal with the fact they are guilty, they will simply try to change their feelings so as to not feel guilty. But in doing so they destroy their conscience and become further insensitive to sin. Paul describes similar effects in Romans chapter 1

    "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.  Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.  They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator— who is forever praised. Amen.  Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.  Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done." Romans 1:21-28
    When we refuse to do or believe what we know is right we become increasingly corrupted. But the fact that "God gave them over" implies that God helps us to maintain a good conscience but then releases his hand when we reject him. Thus to develop a good conscience we need God's help in both restoring what was broken and also maintaining it.

    One of the ways in which the health of one's conscience is revealed is through Bible study. For the interpretation and application of the Bible is not simply an exercise of the mind. It is often an exercise of the conscience. Many times when I have heard some interpretation or application it appears to me that the person is simply trying to get around what is written. And yet the person themselves may be sincere. Walking in accordance with one's sincerity is not the same as walking in accordance with a healthy conscience. For if one's conscience is corrupted at points, then at those points one might sincerely think or do things wrong and yet feel right about it. For example I'm sure there are homosexual "Christians" who feel no guilt about their homosexuality and who feel quite capable of getting around those verses that appear to speak negatively of homosexuality. Such people God has given over to shameful lusts and a depraved mind. They have an unhealthy conscience though they may be sincere.

    A Sincere Faith
    One may have a sincere faith, but be sincerely wrong if one's faith is in the wrong thing. Nonetheless sincerity needs to be characteristic of a Christian's faith. For insincere faith is not really faith. Sincerity of faith is revealed by the degree of consistency between one's faith and one's thoughts or deeds. Hypocrisy is the opposite of sincerity. Peter also speaks of a sincere love which results from obedience. 1 Peter 1:22  Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. And Paul writes, "Love must be sincere."Romans 12:9

    Summary

    It is interesting to note that these three aspects - a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith are alluded to also in the following verse: Hebrews 10:22  "let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." Thus such characteristics not only involved our relationships with others, but also the degree of our intimacy with God.

    In one of his letters, the apostle Peter also advises Christians as to how we may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires, by adding on to our faith in Christ these virtues:
     

    2Peter 1:5-7 Virtues
    Paraphrase
    goodness Having believed, make up your mind to develop and apply Christian virtues.
    knowledge But do so based on proper information.
    self-control And having inferred applications from the Bible, control yourself to go out and actually do them.
    perseverance And don't do them just once, but develop applications that will become part of your lifestyle. 
    godliness And having attained such, never forget that God is the source of your life and that your behavior, no matter how virtuous, is ungodly unless God is central to it.
    brotherly kindness And now you are ready to help other Christians come to the point where you are.
    love And add to your discipleship ministry a genuine concern for the real needs of others in general.

    Love is not developed isolated from other virtues, but is a product of such attributes. And besides the issue of the maturing of love, the fact of love in us itself is really a response to God's love. 1 John 4:19  "We love because he first loved us." And this fact also alludes to one other aspect of our love. What determines the intensity of our love for God? In his parable of the Creditor and Two Debtors Jesus illustrated that the degree of love was proportional to the degree of forgiveness. This he spoke to Simon the Pharisee who invited him to dinner in Luke 7 in which also an uninvited sinful woman came to be forgiven of her sins. But more to the point is that the degree of love is not so much proportional to the degree of forgiveness, but to the degree of the realization of forgiveness. For the woman may not have been a worse sinner in God's eyes than the Pharisee, but rather that their perception of their sin was different. The bottom line is that intensity of one's love is often a function of one's humility. Many who start of the Christian life are characteristically intense in their love. But such love can grow cold with pride as one becomes more "established", seeking recognition or an institutional title, or just through pressures to conform to the social status which drives much of the secular society away from God.


    The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Feb 10,2009