“The end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart, and a good conscience and an undissembled faith.” — 1 Timothy 1:5.
WE HAVE in the above text the summing up of the Divine Law in the word “commandment.” As a matter of fact, there are various commandments, all of which were in a general way represented in the Decalogue. Our Lord divided these commandments into two parts, declaring that these two parts were a synoptical statement of the entire Law of God. A law is a commandment, imposed by rightful authority—a rule of conduct which we are bound to obey. The children of Israel did not appreciate the commandments given in the Law. To them it consisted of merely so many statements of what they should do and what they should not do—no more. They did not get the proper scope of the matter. Even the Christian Church has largely failed to get a comprehensive view of the Divine Law.
We are not to think of the Law as imperfect, for God, being perfect, could not give an imperfect law. God’s Law, or commandment, then, is perfect. Speaking of the Law the Apostle Paul writes, “The Law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just and good.” (Romans 7:12.) The reason why the Israelites could not keep the Law was not that the Law was imperfect, but that they were sold under sin, as the Apostle declares. (V. 14.) We recognize the Law as being the standard of perfection. Our Lord, when He came, “magnified the Law and made it honorable.” He showed how grand and far-reaching the Law is when fully comprehended.
It is impossible for any of the fallen race to live up to the requirements of God’s perfect Law, because of the imperfections and weaknesses of the flesh. In the case of the Church, this impossibility is removed by Christ. “The righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in us,” because God has made this arrangement for us, that the merit of Christ shall cover our imperfections and shortcomings. This enables us to live in full harmony with this Law; for we can keep it in spirit, though not fully in letter, and the blood of Jesus makes up for all the rest—our unwilling imperfections.
PURE, UNSELFISH LOVE
The Apostle speaks here of “the end of the commandment.” The expression seems somewhat obscure. The thought seems to be this: the ultimate purpose of the Law, that which it is designed to produce, is love—to bring us to the place where we shall be in full harmony with the One who made the Law, and who is Himself the embodiment of Love. This will be the final result of God’s Law to all who receive it. He wishes that those who are perfect shall remain perfect, and that those who are imperfect shall see the proper standard for all Jehovah’s creatures to be a just standard, a loving standard; that God is to be obeyed, not from compulsion, but from love for Him and for the principles of righteousness. It is His ultimate purpose that all His intelligent creatures who will be granted eternal life must be perfect, in full harmony with their Creator.
The Apostle proceeds to point out that this love required by God’s Law must be of a certain quality. We can understand the love of a parent for a child, the love of a person for an animal—quite proper if not carried to an extreme. There might be more or less selfishness in such love. A person might love a dog because it was his dog, or love his child because it was his child. This love, therefore, would have a selfish feature and would not be the disinterested kind, the benevolent kind, not the highest form of love. The love that would fulfil all the requirements of God’s Law would be “love out of a pure heart.”
Love can be entertained in a heart not altogether pure. There can be a mixture of love and selfishness, and this is very generally the case with fallen humanity. Even as Christians our love may be only partly pure at first, but gradually the spirit of the commandment, received into our heart, should purge out the selfishness. Godlike love would mean love for God’s Truth, love for His holy Law, love for His creatures. It is an unselfish love, as is the love of God. God has nothing to gain by all He is doing for the Church or purposes to do for the world. He does it out of a pure heart, out of a good, benevolent, loving heart—not to see what He can get out of it.
A pure heart is one which has no selfishness in its motives; it has a desire to do good to all, to do evil to none, to see others blessed as well as itself; to love and serve God perfectly, with all its powers. Our Lord commended this condition of heart, saying, “Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God.” It is very evident, then, that such a pure-hearted person is not merely one who starts out in the Christian life with a good intention. All who start in the Christian life do so with a good intention; but they must be instructed and educated. They must develop to perfection this purity of heart. Hence the experiences of the Christian are for the very purpose of bringing his heart into this condition of pure, unselfish love.
At the beginning of the Christian way our hearts are pure in the sense of being sincere, truthful. We mean what we say, what we profess. We are not merely drawing near to God with our lips and not with our hearts. But love out of a pure heart, this purity of love referred to in our text, is attained by the putting off more and more of the things of selfishness and the putting on more fully of the Lord’s Spirit. The Apostle is addressing these words to Christians, implying that they have some of these things to put off after they have become Christians. “Put off all these—anger, malice, envy, hatred, strife,” works of the flesh and of the Devil. These things more or less attach to you. And put on all these—meekness, self-control, patience, faith, long-suffering, gentleness, brotherly-kindness, love. As we do these things, our hearts will be in the attitude the Apostle mentions. We shall have attained that which God purposes, designs; namely, “love out of a pure heart.”
DEFINITION OF “GOOD CONSCIENCE”
The Apostle proceeds to say, “and a good conscience.” Conscience seems to be that moral quality of the mind which admonishes in regard to right and wrong. Some persons have a keen conscience and can quickly discern as to what is right and what is wrong. Others have a very dull conscience and find it difficult to determine between right and wrong, or else are measurably indifferent as to the moral quality of their course. While God created man with a good conscience, ability to determine accurately what is right and what is wrong, sin has depraved this conscience. Hence it is the duty of every Christian to get his conscience made right, to educate his conscience to discern correctly. God lays down the principles of righteousness in His Word. It is through the Law of God that the Christian is able to discern these principles, to see what is right or wrong in principle.
The Golden Rule admonishes us, Do unto your neighbor as you would have him do unto you under similar circumstances. Consider what you would like to have your neighbor do unto you under certain circumstances and conditions, and thus help conscience to see what is the right thing to do. There are many things which are morally wrong, which are forbidden in the Law of God. These would be more readily discerned by the conscience, as there could be but one course of action possible in harmony with the expressed will of God on the matter. But there are other things which require a conscience trained to fine discernment. The Golden Rule is especially helpful here. As the principles of righteousness become firmly established in our characters, there is little difficulty in discerning the course of duty and of love.
One whose conscience has not been properly trained by the Word of God might be entirely honest and yet be pursuing a wrong course. A man might follow a certain course for years; he might have been doing so with all good conscience, that is, in all sincerity. Perhaps long after he has become a Christian he would come to see that something he had been practising was not wise or proper. He would say, “I see now that I have been taking a wrong view of this matter. Hereafter I shall be better able to see my proper course under such circumstances. I realize that the principle of justice needs to be thoroughly ingrained in my being in order that I may be more pleasing to God. Christian love goes beyond justice, but justice must come first.” A properly developed Christian has a properly educated conscience.
A “good conscience,” as used in our text, is a rightly educated conscience. It is not one which is always accusing its owner, making him feel that he is always doing wrong. There are morbid consciences which are constantly accusing, not able to get a proper balance. A truly good conscience is one which is well balanced. One may have a scale, for instance, that is perverted either one way or the other. A scale which is rightly adjusted will stand level. It is reliable. And so with a good conscience—it is one which can determine the slightest deviation from God’s Law.
HONESTY RESPECTING FAITH ESSENTIAL
Lastly, St. Paul adds, “and an undissembled faith.” An undissembled faith is a faith that is properly represented to others. It is not deceitful. To dissemble is to misrepresent. We are to have a faith which is not misrepresented, which is undissembled, as the Apostle says. We as Christians have a certain standard set before us in the Lord’s Word. We are to go beyond the Law. We are under a still higher Law—the Law of sacrificial Love. Our faith takes hold of things not seen as yet, that portion of the Lord’s arrangement for us which goes beyond what is now visible to us with the natural eye. Whatever the Lord has revealed to us that our faith has been able to accept as His will, must be held honestly and loyally. We must be honest with respect to our faith and in respect to our life.
There are many who may have a good conception of justice and who may be fine people in many ways, and yet they might dissemble as regards their faith. They might think more or less that the end justifies the means, and that they might profess something in regard to their faith which would be for the good of someone else, even though it would not be true. There are people all over the world who thus dissemble in respect to their faith. They misrepresent their faith. They do not believe what they are teaching or what they profess to believe.
Many are teaching eternal torment. If you ask them as to their belief on this subject, they will say, “I do not believe that doctrine, but it seems necessary to preach it.” Others are teaching Higher Criticism, Evolution, New Thought, etc.,—deceiving and being deceived—yet still claiming to be Christians. All such people are in a wrong condition. Unless they speedily correct this they will not be fit for the Kingdom; for the purpose of the Law, Love, is to be fulfilled in those who will be accepted for that high and honorable station. This love requires, first of all, supreme loyalty to God, which means loyalty to His Word. What is the use of having an end of the Law, an ultimate object of the Law, if that end, that object, is never to be attained? Christ met this end, or object, of the Law. The righteousness of the Law was fulfilled in Him actually. The true Church now reach this in spirit. That is to say, their hearts, their minds, are in harmony with this Law; and they are striving day by day to more and more bring their lives—their words, thoughts and actions—into full accord with this perfect Law of Love.
THE LAW OF THE NEW CREATION
The Scriptures everywhere represent that in God’s estimation love is the principal thing. Neither justice nor other qualities, other virtues, are ignored; but this quality is placed at the very top of the list of Christian graces. From the list which the Apostle Paul gives of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, we see that at the head he places love, then come joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-restraint. (Galatians 5:22, 23.) The Apostle Peter gives the list of fruits of the Spirit as cumulative—as a process of addition, leading up to the sum of all the graces. He begins with faith, the foundation. Then are to be diligently added, fortitude, knowledge, self-restraint, patience, brotherly love, then the broad love which includes all the world, even our enemies.
We are to remember, however, that love is not something which is instantly developed. It grows. Therefore those who have some love today, something of this Holy Spirit, may have more of it tomorrow, still more of it in a year; for it is a matter of development. Since God Himself is love, the implanting of the Divine likeness in humanity six thousand years ago when Father Adam was created signifies that God gave man the quality of love. Even in man’s fallen condition we see this manifested more or less on every hand—natural love. This in many cases has become considerably perverted into self-love. But there are some very noble people who have a considerable degree of love naturally, who have much of original Godlikeness still remaining. They have much less to overcome in this direction than those who are more selfish. All the elements of sin seem to be more or less connected with selfishness—thus warring against the best interests of the individual.
The love which the Bible commends to us as New Creatures is the love which had its start in our spirit-begetting. Whoever has been begotten of the Spirit of God has some of this pure, unselfish love of which St. Paul speaks. In proportion as one grows as a New Creature, he grows in love—so that he may gradually be filled, his capacity for love increasing in proportion to his growth. At the beginning of our Christian experience, we merely have a beginning of love, as it were. This is to spread and fill our whole system. This love of God will make us more loving, kind, gentle, toward our friends, toward everybody, even toward animals.
But the Scriptures draw attention to the fact that as the love of God develops in us it will have a special interest in the brethren—those who have received the same Spirit. Therefore, wherever the Spirit of God is it will have a sympathetic flow toward others of the same spirit. Whoever has the Spirit of God at all will be sure to love his brethren, because he will see the mind of God in them; and this love will increase as he develops and as he sees development in the brethren.
All the brethren in Christ, however, have imperfect bodies, and therefore can give but imperfect expression to the spirit of love. And since the brethren are brought closer together through their common hopes and ambitions, they are likely to become more of a trial to each other than are the world. They are tempted sometimes to say to a brother or a sister, “Well, you do not show much of the spirit of love!” Thus the spirit of criticism is aroused, and love is put to the test. In proportion as we grow in love, this spirit of love will be ours and we shall take a kindlier view of the frailties of the brethren. Our daily experiences should teach us more and more of our own shortcomings. The discovery of our own faults and the battling with them should humble us. Whoever realizes his own shortcomings should extend the feeling of sympathy toward his fellow pilgrims in the Heavenly way, who are fighting similar battles. Unless we do so we shall not be pleasing to our God.
The fact that the brethren have this Spirit of God and are seeking to develop love, however much they may come short of their own ideals and of our ideals for them, demands that we love them. Our sympathy for them must broaden and deepen so that if we see them overtaken in a fault we shall seek to restore them in love, remembering ourselves, lest we also be tempted. As to the depth of love we should manifest, it is clearly laid down in the Scriptures. We should love the brethren as Christ loved us. This is very broad. Christ loved us to the extent that He was willing to lay down His life for us. We should be full of love, sympathy, for our brethren in Christ, desiring to be helpful to them. Whatever we do for them is a manifestation of our love for the Lord.
The Lord has arranged that our love for the brethren and our laying down our lives for them and in their defense is all done to Him; and He so esteems it. If the time should come when it would be necessary, there should be a readiness to lay down our lives for them. But more particularly, we are to lay these down inch by inch in their service, whether it be by cleaning off the snow from the pavement, or caring for them when they are ill, or cooking the dinner or the breakfast, or mailing papers to them to encourage them in the good way—no matter what the service. All these ways and many others are ministries to those who are the Lord’s—laying down our lives for them. We rejoice to have such privileges, such opportunities—using our time and strength as the Lord in His providence shall indicate, realizing that the only use we have for our present life is to lay it down in the service of the Lord’s brethren and ours, and to do good to any as we have opportunity, giving the brethren the preference.
We may never attain to the place, while we are in the flesh, where we shall say no word, do no act, to hurt a brother. We all have imperfections that we are striving against. But “The Lord looketh upon the heart,” and not at the imperfect execution. If He sees the earnest endeavor to do His will, He will cover the deficiencies and imperfections with the merit of our Savior. If we make a mistake, we are to be glad to rectify it and to make proper apologies and reparation—assuring the brother that we did not mean to hurt his feelings. Or, if under temptation we felt less concern than we should about wounding him, we should ask pardon, confessing our sorrow, and then confess our fault at the Throne of Grace, asking forgiveness in Jesus’ name.
If, then, we hope to be of those who will be granted a place with Christ in His Throne, let us see to it that by His grace we attain the end of the commandment, the end of the Law, as given to the New Creation. Let it be “love out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and an undissembled faith”—a love which inspires to the willing, joyful sacrifice of every earthly hope and ambition, and which gladly lays down even life itself for the brethren, that we may be accounted worthy of the heavenly inheritance awaiting the “more than conquerors.”—Romans 8:37.
“Love is the filling from one’s own
Love is a daily laying down
And taking up;
A choosing of the stony path
Through each new day
That other feet may tread with ease
A smoother way.
Love is not blind, but looks abroad
Through other eyes;
And asks not, “Must I give?” but, “May
Love hides its grief, that other hearts
And lips may sing;
And burdened, walks, that other lives
May, buoyant, wing.
Brother, hast thou a love like this
Within thy soul?
‘Twill change thy name to saint when thou
Dost reach this goal.”