“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. 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. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.”
Paul left Timothy in Ephesus when he went to Macedonia because there were men in Ephesus who were teaching the wrong things. Timothy wanted to go to Macedonia with Paul, but Paul urged him to stay ~ not an order ~ so that he could “command” the men to teach the right thing. That word “command” is an obvious hand-over of authority over the church to Timothy. Later in the passage we see the phrase “the goal of this command.” When someone gives you an order, there is a purpose behind it, whether you see it or not.
Perhaps the men read it wrong in the history books. Whatever the reason, they lacked truth, which causes disruption in the church. They believed that all the truth about Christianity was in the stories and myths they heard (and the “endless genealogies” ~ the Jews kept complete records of where everyone came from), when really the truth is right in front of us.
God’s work, following Him, is a matter of trust. Faith is central to doing His will. Let’s break down the next part, though: “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Jesus is love. The goal of the command is to be like Jesus.
Let’s have a double take at that heart part. What does it mean to have a pure heart? Well, a pure heart has no sin. It forgives others and is graceful; your spirit is “undefiled,” as it were. But how has it been purified? By faith. A pure heart and a sincere faith are directly linked. In order to love like Jesus does, our hearts must be cleansed of sinful love. He is the definition of love. His love is perfect and genuine. Therefore, our faith must be the same, because faith is love without dissimulation.
A good conscience is wise, knowing right from wrong, and a sincere faith entitles that your faith is in God. That’s the only truly sincere faith a person can have, being fully dependent on God. And so the goal of God’s law, ultimately, is to make us love God and one another. The good conscience is also linked to sincere faith because a good conscience comes from a real belief of the truth of the Word of God, and we must exercise our faith to get and to keep a good conscience. Therefore, having a pure heart gives us a sincere faith, and exercising that sincere faith results in a good conscience. It’s all a big triangle of awesome God stuff.
But then we’re given the depressing news that some have wandered away. They did so because they didn’t understand. You see, when people swerve from the law of love, they turn to vanity. If you don’t have a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith, you will wander from the law of love. They want to teach the right thing, but they don’t know love. They don’t know how to be like Jesus, so they don’t know how to teach people to be like Jesus. See, you have to truly understand what Jesus is like before you can teach others the truth about His love.
Sometimes if you try too hard to teach what is right, you’ll forget to match the things you hear to the Bible’s truth, and that can cause you to end up teaching the wrong things. These people were listening to others teach the wrong things, and then went and tried to teach that, and eventually a whole lot of people were messed up.