Missing the Point

"But you're missing the point!"

Missing the Point

. . . which can be frustrating in an argument or debate, when it is either a deliberate use of one of Aristotle’s thirteen fallacies of logic and argument[1], or just a lack of understanding.

Frustrating, but usually of little consequence.

When the Apostle Paul employed a similar phrase in his first letter to Timothy, he was not thinking of an inconsequential debate; he had something quite different in mind.

“The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. But some people have missed this whole point”
(1 Timothy 1:5-6 NLT).

As he travelled to Macedonia, Paul had left Timothy in Ephesus with instructions. He was concerned that other people were going to bring different teaching to the church at Ephesus. Timothy was tasked with stopping those teachers that would create meaningless disputes and focus on “fables and endless genealogies” (1 Tim 1:4).

Such teaching and disputes missed the point.

Instead of division and conflict among the Christians, Paul’s purpose in bringing the gospel to Ephesus was that all believers would be filled with:

  • Love from a pure heart
  • Love from a clear conscience
  • Love from genuine faith

He was not aiming low. The idea that gaining converts to Christ was the target of the gospel was far from Paul’s thoughts; he aimed higher. He was looking to make disciples, not converts.

When reading the New Testament, it does not take long to discover that Paul had spiritual ambitions for all the Christians. His prayers in his epistles express his desire for spiritual growth for them all. The thought of the church at Ephesus being stunted in growth due to unnecessary bickering and hostility was the motive behind the charge to Timothy.

His goal was that they would be filled with love.

The teaching that Paul feared would certainly not produce love in the believers. In fact, the opposite would happen. As they argued about genealogies and meaningless disputes about the Old Testament law of God, they would lose perspective and the main thing would no longer be the main thing – they would lose sight of love.

There are three Greek words that are commonly translated “love”:-

  • Eros - romantic love;
  • Phileo - brotherly love;
  • Agape - unconditional love.

“Agape is the love of choice, of will. It involves self-denial and self-sacrifice to benefit others.”[2] Believers being filled with this type of love is the goal of Paul’s instruction, as it was for the Lord Jesus[3] and the Apostle John[4]. Just imagine a church full of Christians who love God more than themselves, who love each other more than their pride, and who love their neighbour as themselves.

This love is not natural and comes only from a person who, having come to the Lord Jesus in repentance and faith, is indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

“But when the kindness and the love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour”
(Titus 3:4-6).

Paul’s goal was that the believers would be filled with love which would come from their heart, conscience, and faith.

Pure Heart

Love from a pure heart is love that is free from hidden impure motives. 

Good Conscience

Love from a good conscience is love that practises righteous, Christ-like living. 

Sincere Faith

Love from a sincere faith is love that is not hypocritical.

Are we filled with love from a heart that is pure, a conscience that is good, and faith that is sincere?

If not, we are missing the point.

[1] 13 Logical Fallacies from Aristotle’s ‘Sophistical Refutations’ (thecollector.com)

[2] MacArthur, John, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Timothy, Moody Press, Chicago, Ill, 1995, p.18.

[3] John 13:35.

[4] 1 John 4:7-8.