Earlier this morning in our elder Bible study we studied 1 Timothy 1:3-7, and in verse 5 Paul tells Timothy, who is in Ephesus when Paul writes to him, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” In his NICNT commentary on 1 Timothy, Philip Towner describes this love as “the authentic outward expression of Christian faith” and a few pages later as “visible Christian living.”
To state verse 5 another way, the goal of the commands or instruction, which is embodied in the New Testament and which comes from God through Christ to the apostles and finally to the church, is love, which is our Christian faith and beliefs lived out in daily life.
After that Bible study I was reading through Ephesians and I started noticing that Paul mentions “love” a number of times, referring to God’s love for us, our love for God, and as an expression of 1 Timothy 1:5, our love for each other. Here’s a sampling:
- “In love he [God] predestined us to adoption” (1:4-5)
- “because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints” (1:15)
- “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us” (2:4)
- “that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength . . . to know the love of Christ” (3:17, 19)
- “bearing with one another in love” (4:2)
- “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up into . . . Christ . . . [who] makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (4:15-16)
- “And walk in love, as Christ loved us” (5:2)
- “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (5:25)
- “Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible” (6:24)
Notice especially what Paul says about our love for each other, which again Philip Towner describes as “visible Christian living.” This love is “toward all the saints,” not just the saints (believers in Christ) whom we get along with or have common interests with.
This love bears “with one another,” which calls for patience (see 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is patient”) as we tolerate and accommodate other believers’ differences and quirks, and they do the same for us.
“Speaking the truth” to each other is essential for growth of the body, which is the church, but Paul says it must be done “in love.” I recall a Bible college chapel service where the speaker said, “Truth without love is brutality. Love without truth is hypocrisy.” This involves thinking before we speak, and evaluating our motives behind what is about to come out of our mouths.
Paul writes that we must “walk in love, as Christ loved us.” “Walk” in this case is a metaphor for how we live day by day. So we are to live our lives in love for each other, just “as Christ loved us.” How did Christ love us? Sacrificially, putting others before himself, meeting others’ needs, and speaking the truth to them.
We husbands are to love our wives, again, just “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her [the church].” A few verses later Paul writes that Christ “nourishes and cherishes” the church. Husband, how are you doing with that charge? Are you nourishing and cherishing your wife?
If Towner is right, and I think he is, that “love” is “visible Christian living,” then Ephesians 4-6 give us a broad yet detailed look at what true Christian love looks like in our marriages, families, workplaces, church, and the world in general.