Today’s devotional reading is 1 Timothy 1.
When we read Acts 19, way back on May 24, I noted that Ephesus was an important place in the story of the New Testament. Paul spent two years there on his third missionary journey. Then, toward the end of that journey (Acts 20), he stopped nearby and called the elders of the Ephesian church so that he could speak with them and pray with them. Of course, he also wrote the New Testament book we call “Ephesians” to that church as well.
Things were not well in the church at Ephesus when Paul wrote this letter we call 1 Timothy. Paul had been released from the house arrest we read about in Acts 28 and was out planting churches again when he heard reports of false doctrine in the church at Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3). He sent Timothy there to “command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer.” In verse 5, he said, “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” These verses indicate how important good doctrine–pure doctrine–is to the health of the church. Good doctrine creates “a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” which produces love in God’s people which makes the church a loving, Christ-like place. Bad doctrine, then, corrupts one’s faith and one’s “good conscience” (v. 19) which inevitably leads to problems in the church–both problems between people and moral problems within people.
Doctrine is not a popular subject in the church. Instead, churches today run on emotionalism, entertainment, and self-help. Emotions have an important place and making disciples involves helping believers deal with their problems but if that plus entertaining services is what a church is about, that church will not be able to withstand the winds of false doctrine. False doctrine hollows out a church, corrupting the pure hearts, good consciences, and sincere faith (v. 5) God called us to have as followers of Christ. So, never denigrate doctrine or underestimate its importance in your life or in the church. Instead, learn the great doctrines of our faith and let them purify your heart and strengthen your conscience. Then, as we learn and grow together in the truth, we will become a loving place.