First Things First

1 Timothy 1:5

Holiness was a passion with Paul. Reading what he wrote about it in epistle after epistle, it is impossible to miss the note of intensity. Addressing Timothy, the apostle impressed upon the young pastor that he ought to enjoy the blessing himself, and lead the Ephesian believers to the life of holiness: “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).

Paul challenged Timothy to lead the Church toward God’s ideal. That ideal is love. It is powerful, making an immensely effective impact because it is the essence of holiness.

The divine love for the world—so immense, so unconditional, continuing to pour out its undeserved care even when rejected and answered by human hate—is to be reflected, and in some measure to be repeated, in Christian people.

Love like that glows through an evangelist of whom Billy Graham tells. At a university he had tried to reach the students with the gospel, but their reaction was hostile. One girl told him she didn’t believe the things he had said. So the evangelist asked if he could pray with her. She replied, “Nobody ever prayed for me before, I guess it won’t do any harm.” He prayed, while she sat with her eyes open. But then she noticed something that amazed her. His tears were flowing as he prayed. She began to cry, too. “No one in my entire life has shed a tear for me,” she sobbed, and then that young woman accepted Christ.

Anyone who imagines that sanctification sets you apart from sinners, aloof in your isolation, needs to take another look at the loving, approachable, healing Son of God. There is holiness incarnate.

To make His people caring and compassionate, resolutely willing to be Christlike in all their relationships, is the end toward which God’s Spirit is always working. Only when a person lives lovingly does he or she demonstrate genuine Christianity.

Love and holiness, standing together in our text, are inseparable. Love, purity, a good conscience, sincere faith. Simple qualities all, but utterly indispensable components of the character of any who would serve in Christ’s name. These are the elements of holiness, and that is surely first among first things.

Edward Read, Timothy, My Son

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