The Harmony of Doctrine and Love

Journaling is good for you. I know it may not be for everyone, but for those of you who’ve made it a practice, I can hear your hearty amens! There is something about moving a pen and tapping a keyboard that guides our thinking, almost like training wheels. John Calvin, quoting Augustine, had that same experience:

I count myself to be among those who write as they learn and learn as they write. 

Journaling is especially helpful as part of Bible meditation, whether it means just copying a couple verses or turning a passage into a prayer. A little over seven years I started journaling through a wide-margin Bible I got for our children. I’m still chipping away at it, having just started through 1 Timothy. The thoughts I shared with them — which one day they’ll read — seemed too relevant not to share with you. It comes from verses 3–5: 

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, [4] nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. [5] The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

Here’s the breakdown of what’s happening: 


The Purpose is Sound Doctrine

First, doctrine matters — it really matters. That’s the reason Paul urged Timothy to stay at Ephesus. Certain persons in Ephesus were spreading whacky teachings — myths, genealogies, speculations. Timothy needed to be on standby to make sure that mess didn’t infiltrate the church. That was his purpose in Ephesus. “Charge these people not to teach the bad doctrine.” It’s was confrontational and complicated, a tall order for a young pastor, which is partly why so much of these letters to Timothy are so emboldening. 

The Goal is Love

Second, it’s all about love. The connection between verses 3 and 5 are gold. The charge is clear, we see in verse 3. But what is the aim of that charge? The aim of the charge [of ensuring sound doctrine] is love. Love. Plain as sight. And not just any love, but the most legit love we could imagine. Paul is talking about love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. 

Bringing It All Together

So here is where we see the profound reality of real love. Real love for others must consist in wanting others to rightly know God. Or put negatively, you don’t actually love someone if you ignore or perpetuate their wrong thinking about God. Real love, or “true virtue,” as Jonathan Edwards would say, means loving others so that they might know God’s love and love him. 

So far as the virtuous mind exercises true virtue in benevolence to created beings, it chiefly seeks the good of the creature, consisting in its knowledge or view of God’s glory and beauty, its union with God, and conformity to him, love to him, and joy in him. 
— Nature of True Virtue (1765)

We love others so that ultimately they will be happy in God, who is made known in the Scriptures and explained in sound doctrine. 

I want my children to know the harmony of doctrine and love, so I wrote this in their Bible. I want us all, as well, including myself, to grasp the harmony of doctrine and love, and live in it.

This is one reason we take teaching so seriously at Cities Church. For the sake of love.