Friday, November 2, 2007

The Product of the Teaching Trifecta

The Product of the Teaching Trifecta

I’ve just been thinking over the last day about some scripture I read. The teacher and the student inside me are fighting to get out, so I think I’ll indulge them.

I was reading 1 Timothy last night. When reading Paul’s instructions regarding sound teaching (and especially rebuking those who teach false ideas), this verse took hold of my mind. The words are: “The goal of this command is love which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1:5). The punctuation really seems to matter, so I considered two ways to read it (there is no punctuation in Greek, so we have to make it up anyway):
1. The goal of this command is a)love which comes from a pure heart, b)a good conscience, and c)a sincere faith.
Or 2. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart [AND FROM] a good conscience [AND FROM] a sincere faith.
Reading #1 lends itself to an idea that love, conscience, and faith are all equal ends of teaching/rebuking, whereas Reading #2 creates the image of love being the final completion which stands upon the tripod-foundation of a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith, all three of which are equal legs that uphold love.
While they are remarkably similar readings (yet markedly different) and while I like the potential outcomes of Reading #1, I think common grammar leans toward Reading #2 especially with the three traits all having a parallel structure (adjective + noun); plus, I checked the Greek and due to the case of the words, I now have little doubt that Reading #2 is the correct version (if you must know the reasoning, all three traits are in the genitive case which makes them linked in a prepositional phrase to “from”, so it would be a fair translation to spell it out by saying “love comes from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from a sincere faith”.
So what?
Teaching/rebuking should produce sincere faith which leads toward love. Teaching/rebuking should produce a good conscience which leads toward love. Teaching/rebuking should produce a pure heart which leads toward love. Teaching/rebuking should equally address our faith, our heart, and our conscience, and these three legs should naturally extend into the fruit of love.
This is important for teachers and students alike. Teachers should consider what they are teaching based on these parameters. Students should consider what they are being taught and allow sound teaching to bear the fruit of a pure heart (cleansed by Christ through his word and deed); the fruit of a good conscience (both having been made righteous concerning our sins of omission and commission as well as doing the good God has set before them); and the fruit of a sincere faith (empowered by the Spirit to put our lives in God’s hands, trusting in his way and his truth and his life) all of which should ultimately produce expansive love in the life of the student.
The Greek tells us that love is the telos—the end, the completion, the perfection, the ultimate goal. Love is where all the teachings and even rebukings of Jesus will ultimately lead us—that we are loved and we are to love. To let ourselves be shaped by the teaching of Jesus will tap us into a life of incomprehensible love. Love that sacrifices. Love that remains vulnerable. Love that lets go. Love that forgives. Love that defends. Love that pursues. Love that endures. Love that changes this world. To pursue such a life of love, to submit ourselves with gratitude to the teaching & the way of Jesus Christ is to walk with God.