Not Three Things But One

Image Credit Alexey SergeevThe NASB translation of 1 Timothy 1:5 runs as follows: But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Many times in my life I’ve read this verse, and on each occasion I’ve thought that it referred to three different things as the fulfillment of Paul’s instruction: first, love from a pure heart; second, a good conscience; and third, a sincere faith. But today when I read the verse in Greek I realized that these are not three things, but one.

First, the opening words read, “Now, the completion of the commandment…” The idea of completion (telos) reminds us of the perfection of the law of which Jesus spoke. The fulfillment–the apex–of the law of God is to love one another (John 13:35). And this makes good sense here, because Paul finishes the sentence by saying, “Now, the completion/perfection of the commandment is love.” That’s the one thing; it is the only thing. There are not three things that complete the commandment, there is one thing that completes the commandment–but it does this in three ways. It is love that is “from a pure heart,” and love that is from “a good conscience,” and love that is from a “faith without hypocrisy.” The three factors listed in 1 Timothy 1:5 tell us about the nature of this one, perfect love that is the fulfillment of all commands for the Christian.

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