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The Goal of Christian Ministry

Series: 1 Timothy

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on Jun 20, 2004

1 Timothy 1:3-5

The Lord's Day Morning
June 20, 2004

I Timothy 1:3-5
“The Goal of Christian Ministry”

Turn with me to I Timothy, chapter one, and the third verse.

I Timothy is a book about the church. If we ask the question “What is the Church supposed to be like?” this is one of the best books in the Bible to go to, to find the answer. Of course, its companion letters in the Pastoral Epistles, II Timothy and Titus, all address very specifically the questions of, “What the local church ought to look like?” “What should the local church be doing?” “What should be the priorities of the local church?” “How should the local church be ordered and administered?” “How should the local church focus its resources?” and “How should we relate to one another, in the life of the local congregation?”

You see, in these three relatively short letters, I and II Timothy and Titus, we find both a description and a prescription for church and ministry in a local Christian congregation. That is, we find not only a description of what life would have been like in a local Christian church some thirty years after Jesus Christ ministered and died, was raised from the dead and ascended upon high in the first century—what a glorious privilege to have a peek at how early Christians live— we not only see a description of a local congregation just a few years after Jesus, but we also have here instructions for a local congregation just a few years after Jesus lived. In other words, we see here Paul's mandates, his directives, his instructions for how these Christians were to live and serve God together.

Now, not only do we find here instructions for how they were to serve God together, we find here instructions for how we are to live and serve God together, because Paul is not simply writing these words to one particular local church, but he's writing these words to one particular local church knowing that God intends them for every local church. So when you ask questions such as “What should the church be like?” there's not a better place to begin in your Bibles than

I and II Timothy and Titus, although all of the Scripture speaks to what the church ought to be like, especially these letters show us the Apostle Paul's teaching about life in the local congregation.

Now we commented last week that as we look around us in America today, we see three basic models of how “church” is being done, how to be the church in the world. We said last week that there is what we might call a Liberal Model of how to be the church. This model of church life says, look, if you want to be successful, if you want to be effective reaching out for Christianity in this world, you've got to change the Gospel message. The message needs to be updated. The message doesn't connect with this generation. It doesn't answer their needs. In some parts, it's offensive to them, and they have ceased to believe other parts of it. Therefore, if we're going to be successful in reaching out and impacting and influencing the culture, the message is going to need to be changed. And there are churches all over this city and state and nation that have done just that. They've changed the message. They've done it, perhaps, with good intentions: they wanted to reach out, and they didn't think this message would work. And so the message has been updated. And that's the Liberal Model of how you do “church.”

Now Evangelicals have always rejected that. We've rightly seen that the message is God's. Who are we to change the message? He wrote it! And we've also seen that the message still works, it answers man's deepest needs. It glorifies God. It brings sinners to the Savior, and it sets them on the path of eternal life. And so Evangelicals have always said, we're not changing the message. We’re not going to monkey with the message.

But many Evangelicals have said, ‘the message is not the problem, our methods are. And if we could just change our methods and use new, better, more creative methods, then the old message would be more effective in this world.’ And that's the second model. We said it's a Modern Evangelical model of how to do “church.” We won't change the message, but we’ll update the methods. And if we get the right methods, the message will work better. You see, behind that model is the assumption that God gives us the message and leaves the methods up to us.

But the third model, the Biblical Model that we see today—and we see, again, this model in many parts of the world—in fact, in every part of the world... It is the third model that I'm interested in, because it's the model of the Pastoral Epistles. That model says that both the message and the method for building the church come from God. He's not given us a message and then left us on our own to figure out how to do life together as Christians. No, He has given us a message and a method.

Paul and the Gospel say that the message works. The message doesn't need to be updated. It needs to be clearly repeated every generation, because it is eternally true. And so the message stays the same. But furthermore, the biblical model says the Gospel works, the message works, and God has told us how we are to do it–how we are to share it, how we are to live it together in the life of the local congregation.

So God has given us both the message and the method, and we see this beautifully in Paul's letter. In fact, last week when we looked at Paul's greetings we learned things about how to live together and minister together as Christians, even looking at his greetings to Timothy.

We noticed that ministry in a local church should be God-appointed. Paul ministered in the consciousness that he had been appointed to that ministry by the commandment of God and by Jesus Christ. He never could forget that encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road. He was on the way to Damascus to kill Christians! And Jesus came and not only converted him, but made him a preacher of the Gospel. Now, you never had to convince Paul that he was in the ministry because God put him there! He knew it! It tingled in every aspect of the nerves of his body and down to the very core of his being. He knew he was appointed by God. He was in the ministry because God had appointed him to be there.

And Paul's God-consciousness is a second aspect that we see in his greeting to Timothy. He's serving in the ministry according to the commandment of whom? God our Savior, and of Jesus Christ, our hope and our Lord. Paul is conscious of who God is. He's our Savior, He's our Lord, He's our hope. And the reality of who God is empowers Paul's ministry.

But we also see in that greeting the encouragement that Paul gives to Timothy, and interestingly, even the encouragement is God-conscious. He encourages Timothy first of all, by pointing him to who God is: our Savior, our Lord, our hope. But also by pointing us to what God does. You’ll perhaps look at verse two where he says to Timothy, grace, mercy and peace. So, not only who God is–Savior, Lord and hope–but also what God does that encourages us. Grace, mercy and peace that He gives us. And out of that he encourages Timothy in the ministry. So even reading his encouraging words of greetings to Timothy reminded us what we ought to be doing in the church. Ministry in the church is according to God's appointment. Ministry in the church is always conscious of who God is. Ministry in the church is always trying to encourage one another by pointing us to who God is and what He has done for us. So even in the greetings we learn something about how life ought to be in the local church.

Well, if that's the way in the greetings, how much more in the stuff, in the substance of the letter? Well, you’ll get to find out today as we turn to I Timothy 1:3/ Before we do, let's look to God in prayer and ask for His blessing on the reading and hearing of His word.

Lord God, You have given us Your truth and revealed Yourself to us in order that we might be conformed to the image of Your Son. Grant, then, as we hear Your word read and preached, Your Spirit will form and mold our hearts in the very inner man, by the word and to the word. We ask this in Jesus' name, Amen.

This is the word of God:

“As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus in order that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God, which is by faith. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

Amen. Thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired and inerrant word. May He write its eternal truth upon our hearts.

If you had four pages to write a young preacher to give him a theology of ministry that would last a lifetime and impact literally millions, where would you start? What would be the first thing that you would say to him? I’ll bet you it wouldn't be what Paul said to Timothy. Now, I can see you starting off by saying, “Now Timothy, love your people. Love them like they’re your own, love them with all your heart.” That would be good counsel. That would be biblical counsel. Paul's going to give that counsel to Timothy elsewhere, but that's not how he starts.

You could say, “Timothy, whatever else you do, pray for your people. Love them so much that you’re praying for them constantly. Lift them up before the throne of God in prayer. Realize that your intercession for them will be crucial in their growth in grace” That would be good counsel for you to give a young minister. It would be biblical counsel. Paul's going to give that counsel to Timothy later on, but that's not how he starts.

I. We must actively check false teaching as a regular part of our ministry.
Paul starts in such a surprising way, doesn't he? He says something that you and I never would have started with! We might have put it in somewhere down the line, but we wouldn't have started there. Just shows you how important the truth is to Paul that he starts where he starts.

I want you to see in these three verses a negative exhortation and a positive exhortation. Paul starts with a negative exhortation in verses three and four; then he moves to a positive exhortation in verse five, which summarizes his whole approach to Gospel ministry. And I want to look at both parts of his exhortation.

His negative exhortation is this: “Timothy, teach them not….instruct them not…to teach falsely or to listen to false teachers.” He begins by calling Timothy to actively check false teaching as a regular part of his ministry. It's the last place that you would expect Paul to begin. Now, here's your first key to ministry, Timothy. Oppose false teaching. You see, it just shows you how important truth is to Paul. Paul knows that false teaching ruins lives, because false doctrine always leads to error in living. Whereas true doctrine, the truth of God's word, is designed to flower forth in the life of the Christian and the congregation with a rich, biblical experience of God's grace and walk with God. And therefore, false teaching hurts people.

And so he says, “Timothy, here is the first thing I want to do. The very reason I left you in Ephesus is so you could keep men from teaching falsely–who are teaching falsely there–and so that you could persuade them not to listen to the false teachers from whom they have gotten these ideas.” He characterizes false teaching this way. He says, “let me tell you what false teaching does. It leads to idle speculation. It leads to endless disputes about myths and genealogies.” Paul is saying that false teachers first and foremost are about getting people to follow them, and getting people to agree with their bizarre, speculative ideas.

I’ll never forget coming home from seminary my first semester, and being greeted by a man who was teaching in my home congregation. He was leading home Bible studies without the knowledge of the elders, and I met him at the church, and his first question to me was this: “Who do you think the little horn of Daniel is?” I should have known something was wrong, right there! Not “hello”, not “how are you”, not “hi, I'm Tom, what's your name?” —“Who do you think the little horn of Daniel is?” Bad sign! Why do they always start with eschatology?! And he proceeded to go into this half-hour discourse, monologue, about the fact that he was the world's leading expert in the little horn of Daniel. Another bad sign. His teaching on eschatology, however, was having a soul-killing effect on certain people in the congregation. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? But it was. He had started off with a vulnerable woman in the congregation in a time of need, and he had gotten her to gather together a little group of people in her home, and then it had begun to spread. And finally, the elders had to remove him from the church, because they were following Paul's instructions: ‘Timothy, teach them not to teach false doctrines.’ It's a strong word. He uses a military word. It's ‘instruct them not to do this’–like an order from a drill sergeant to a buck-private. Don't allow them to corrupt my people's hearts with false teaching.

You see, this shows us how important the truth is to Paul, in ministry. The disaster of false teaching is that it always sidetracks people from the central elements of Christian discipleship, and so Paul knows that it is vital to a minister to distinguish truth from falsehood, and to protect his people from falsehood.

I was at a Bible conference in another country, a conference designed for ministers, and about four or five hundred ministers were gathered for that conference. And one of the speakers was a very well known Baptist minister. He was a Baptist minister who was Reformed in his theology. He loved the doctrines of grace, and he was very famous. He had ministered to me on many occasions. It was the first time that I had met him, and so I thought that as we talked together that we would find some sort of point of commonality. And I knew that I had a friend who had studied under another famous Baptist minister who also loved the doctrines of grace and was Reformed, and so I just mentioned this to him. I mentioned this other man, and this other friend, and immediately fire flashed in his eyes! And his brow furrowed, and he said to me, “Let me tell you something about that teacher. He’ll draw a horse and say to his students ‘this is a horse,’ but he won't draw a cow next to that horse and say to his students ‘this cow is not a horse!’

Now, my friends, I was completely baffled! What are you talking about? I walked away ten minutes trying to think about horses and cows and what the message was that this guy was giving me. It finally dawned on me–what he was saying is, “This man is true in his doctrine. He will draw the truth for his students and say yes, ‘this is the truth.’ But he will never draw falsehood next to the truth and say to them, ‘this is wrong.’”

Now, I'm not sure whether that assessment is completely right of the other man, but the point is an important one. In other words, he was saying it is pastorally important for a Christian minister not only to teach the truth, but also to inoculate his people against error, and help them to understand the difference between the two. Because you see, my friends, the truth doesn't just win by being put out there. You know, we often live under that illusion–‘aw, just put the truth out there, it’ll do fine.’ History has shown otherwise. We must contend for the faith. Some of our greatest heroes are men who stood up and they not only announced the truth, but they also said, ‘what is being taught here is wrong, and it must be opposed.’

Paul is telling that to Timothy. It's the first thing that he says to this young minister! Teach them not to teach falsely, or to listen to those who do.

II. We must minister with a view to the apostolic goal of ministry.
But the second thing is what I want to focus on especially with you, and you see it in verse five. In verse five, Paul is giving us a glorious summary of the goal of his discipleship program. He tells you here that in the local congregation the ministry of truth aims for this goal in you: love. The ministry of truth is not designed simply to get you to sign a card or pray a prayer. The ministry of the truth in the local congregation is not simply to arm you with Bible facts. The ministry of the truth is not simply designed to get you to believe certain things, although the design of truth is that you would believe and embrace biblical things. The ministry of the truth is more than that. It is to produce in you, love. Of course, ultimately the ministry of truth all aims to do what? Bring glory to God. But in you, the aim of the ministry of truth is to produce a heart of love. Is that not glorious?

And Paul sets it over against the false teachers, and he says you show me a false teacher and I’ll show you a guy who's trying to do two things. He's trying to get you to follow him, (a); and, (b) to agree with him. He's not really…he doesn't really care about your life. He's not really interested in transforming grace. He wants you to believe speculative things that he teaches, and follow him. That's what he's after. And Paul says to Timothy, “that's not what we're about. What we're about is seeing the truth so worked in the hearts of people that they live the life of love to God and love to neighbor.” Isn't it glorious? He says the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, and a good conscience, and a sincere faith.

Now, what's Paul saying? Is he saying that we have a three-fold goal? The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart; the goal of our instruction is a good conscience; the goal of our instruction is a sincere faith. Or, does he mean the goal of our instruction is love, and that love can only come from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. I think it's the latter that he's saying. Look at the structure of the sentence again: “The goal of our instruction is love”…and then look at the “from”–where does that love come from? It comes from three things: A pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.

You see, Paul is pointing to something that Jesus said. Turn with me back to Matthew, chapter 22. In Matthew 22, a teacher comes to Jesus. He was a lawyer. Not like our secular lawyers, but a religious teacher of the law. He was a trained theologian who understood the instruction, or the Torah, or the law of the Old Testament, better than just about anybody, and thus taught the people how to understand their Bibles, their Old Testaments. And he came to Jesus, Matthew 22, in verses 35 and 36, and asked Jesus a question. And the question was this: “Jesus, which is the greatest commandment in the law?”

In other words, “Jesus, in all of the instruction that God has given to us in the Old Testament, what's the most important thing?” And Jesus’ response is absolutely breathtaking. He sums it all up. He says, “Love God and love your neighbor, for the whole of the Old Testament hangs on this.” Now Paul is confirming that here. He is saying the goal of all of our instruction, the goal of all our teaching, is to produce that kind of Christian, gospel love, for God and neighbor.

The way we are saved is not by love. The way we are saved is not by loving God or neighbor, or we're in trouble! But having been saved by grace through faith, the goal of God's grace at work in us is to cause us to love God and neighbor. And so the whole of the law and the prophets hang on this. The proof of God's grace at work in us is this love to God and neighbor.

Now, Paul draws attention to that here. It's not the only place–Paul talks about this quite frequently. For instance, turn with me to Ephesians, chapter five. Paul does not define this love, but he does describe it. Paul says in Ephesians 5:25, you want to know what love is? This is love: Christ's self-giving. That's love. And so he says to us, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for her.” Paul, you see, sets up Jesus as the paragon of what it is to love. He says, “You want to learn about love? Look at your Savior. Look at how He lived. Look at how He died for the church. That's love. That's the self-giving of love.” For Paul, love is seeking the best interests of another person in accordance with God's truth, despite the personal cost that you must bear in seeking that other person's good. And so he gives an example of that in Ephesians 5.

That's not all though. Paul will say in Romans 13:8-10 — you may want to sneak a peek there–that love can also be described as the fulfilling of the law. It's the goal of the giving of the instruction of the law, to work the grace of love into our hearts and lives. And then in

I Corinthians 13, of course, he says that it is a sine qua non, an essential element of the Christian life. It's a ‘without which not’ of the Christian life. In the Christian life, there is always, Paul says, a manifestation of love. Love to God, love to neighbor, love to our brothers and sisters in Christ, because when God works the grace of faith in us and we trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel, what flows from that in the Christian life is a life of love. And so Paul is saying, in contrast to the false teachers who want you to believe a few speculative things and follow them, he's saying our truth is designed to bring about a life transformation, so that it issues forth in a life of love.

And so he teaches here that there are three interior realities which resource this kind of love. If the goal of the apostolic preaching is to see you transformed and living a life of love, then what are the things that produce the circumstance that enables you to love that way? He tells you. This love is from (1) a pure heart; (2) a good conscience; (3) a sincere faith.

Paul is teaching that we preach, we minister, we teach, we speak the truth to the heart. And when Paul speaks about the heart he's not talking about the emotion as over against the intellect. We often use it that way. Mind — intellect; heart — emotions. That's never how Paul uses the language. When Paul says ‘heart’, he's speaking about the deepest part of who you are, and in that deepest part of who you are, there are at least these four things: your mind, your thinking, your believing, your conscience — your understanding of what is right and wrong according to God's word. Your will–that volitional force that helps you to make choices and to decide to do things, and your affections. Not your emotions so much as your desires: the things that are most deeply important to you. And Paul says, when we preach, we preach truth to the heart! To the mind! To the conscience! To the will, to the affections. We minister to the whole person. We don't just aim for outward responses or activities. We preach to the heart, the mind, the conscience, the will, the desires, with a view to cultivating Gospel love. And if Gospel love is going to be cultivated, these three realities must be in place because of the effect of the Holy Spirit using Gospel truth.

First, what? The pure heart. Again, as we said, for Paul the heart is the very center of the person. Why would we need a pure heart before we could love? Because we're sinners! And our hearts are deceitfully wicked. Our hearts are corrupted, they’re depraved. You know, there was a time when David thought he was in love with a woman named Bathsheba. And he took her, though she was married to another man, and he had her husband killed. It's very loving, wasn't it? He thought he was in love. He was not. Love must come from a pure heart. When he was convicted of that sin, do you remember what he prayed? “Create in me a clean heart…” Why? Because David knew that he couldn't love unless God did a prior work of grace in his heart! That's one reason we can't be saved by loving God and loving our neighbor. We can't be saved by keeping the commandments, because we're deceitfully wicked! We need to be changed by God before we are able to respond in love. And so David prays for a clean heart. You can't love unless God, by the grace of His Spirit, has given a new heart and a new spirit.

Secondly, a good conscience. What's a good conscience? Uniformly in the New Testament this refers to an awareness of rightness and wrongness according to God's standards, and along with that a self-awareness of where we are right or wrong in relation to God's standards. That's a good conscience. You’re not flying by the seat of your pants; you’re not making your own rules as you go. Situation Ethics began to be taught in the 1960's, and it argued that love didn't obey things like arbitrary, prefabricated standards that have been imposed upon us by society–love just does the best thing in the situation in which it finds itself. Paul reminds us there is no such thing as love apart from truth, because love knows that there is a right and there is a wrong. Go back to the story of David. David, I'm sure, felt that that relationship with Bathsheba was a supremely good thing to do. He enjoyed it intensely. And yet, in the end it was shown to him to be a very wicked thing. So a good conscience is necessary for us to love, because love is not just doing whatever you feel like doing in the spur of the moment; love is expressing the standards of God in our treatment of one another. And so you need a good conscience to do that.

And a sincere faith. Not a lazy assent to the doctrines of the Gospel, or a merely formal profession of faith, but a whole-hearted embrace of the promises of God in the word of God. These things are necessary for love. And so Paul says the goal of our instruction is love. The goal of our discipleship is to see Christians loving God and neighbor from the deep center of the human person. That's the supreme goal of preaching with regard to the transformation of human behavior. We always aim for the glory of God. We always aim for the conversion of the sinner. We aim for the sinner to come to trust in Jesus Christ alone. But what is our desire in preaching to the Christian? What is our desire in discipleship? It is to see you become like your heavenly Father! And what is your heavenly Father like? God, John says, is love.

So what are we aiming for here at First Presbyterian Church? Is our goal, when we preach to you, that you would know more stuff than any other Christians in Jackson? We do want you to know more Bible truth than any other Christians in Jackson! We want to spoil you rotten with Bible teaching! But that's not our ultimate goal. We want that truth to be so wrought in your heart, Christians, that your lives are transformed so that your neighbors and your friends say, “that brother, that sister knows the Bible and knows God, and loves like the God of the Bible.” So that you are fully embracing the truth of God, and fully living a life characterized by the love of God. Our goal in discipleship is that transformation of union with Christ by faith that leads us as a congregation to love from a pure heart, and a good conscience, and a sincere faith. May God bring that about in our discipleship in this congregation.

Let's pray. Our Lord and our God, do this work of grace in us not so that we would be saved by love, for our own love will never save us. Only Your love can save us, only Your Christ can save us, only Your free pardon can save us. Nothing in our hands we bring, simply to Your cross we cling. But, O God, You have created us in Your grace in Christ Jesus for good works that You have prepared beforehand. So we pray, O God, that You would cause those good works–Your love, love to God, love to neighbor–to abound in our lives by grace, and that we, thought never trusting in them for one iota of our salvation or resting our assurance upon them, would nevertheless live in them for Your glory. We ask it in Jesus' name, Amen.
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A Guide to the Morning Service

The Sermon (Notes on 1 Timothy 1:5)
The goal of our instruction (torah). Paul comes frankly forward here, by way of anticipation, and proves that his doctrine is in perfect harmony with the law, and that the law is utterly abused by those who employ it for any other purpose. In like manner, when we now define what is meant by true theology, it is clearly evident that we desire the restoration of that which had been wretchedly torn and disfigured by those triflers who, puffed up by the empty title of theologians, are acquainted with nothing but vapid and unmeaning trifles. Commandment is here put for the law, by taking a part for the whole.

Love out of a pure heart.
If the law must be directed to this object, that we may be instructed in love, which proceeds from faith and a good conscience, it follows, on the other hand, that they who turn the teaching of it into curious questions are wicked expounders of the law. Besides, it is of no great importance whither the word love be regarded in this passage as relating, to both tables of the law, or only to the second table. We are commanded to love God with our whole heart, and our neighbors as ourselves; but when love is spoken of in Scripture, it is more frequently limited to the second part. On the present occasion I should not hesitate to understand by it the love both of God and of our neighbor, if Paul had employed the word love alone; but when he adds, “faith, and a good conscience, and a pure heart,” the interpretation which I am now to give will not be at variance with his intention, and will agree well with the scope of the passage. The sum of the law is this, that we may worship God with true faith and a pure conscience, and that we may love one another. Whosoever turns aside from this corrupts the law of God by twisting it to a different purpose.

But here arises a doubt, that Paul appears to prefer “love” to “faith.” I reply, they who are of that opinion reason in an excessively childish manner; for, if love is first mentioned, it does not therefore hold the first rank of honor, since Paul shows also that it springs from faith. Now the cause undoubtedly goes before its effect. And if we carefully weigh the whole context, what Paul says is of the same import as if he had said, “The law was given to us for this purpose, that it might instruct us in faith, which is the mother of a good conscience and of love.” Thus we must begin with faith, and not with love.

“A pure heart” and “a good conscience” do not greatly differ from each other. Both proceed from faith; for, as to a pure heart, it is said that “God purifieth hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:9) As to a good conscience, Peter declares that it is founded on the resurrection of Christ. (1 Peter 3:21) From this passage we also learn that there is no true love where there is no fear of God and uprightness of conscience. Nor is it unworthy of observation that to each of them he adds an epithet; for, as nothing is more common, so nothing is more easy, than to boast of faith and a good conscience. But how few are there who prove by their actions that they are free from all hypocrisy! Especially it is proper to observe the epithet which he bestows on “faith,” when he calls it faith unfeigned; by which he means that the profession of it is insincere, when we do not perceive a good conscience, and when love is not manifested. Now since the salvation of men rests on faith, and since the perfect worship of God rests on faith and a good conscience and love, we need not wonder if Paul makes the sum of the law to consist of them. (John Calvin)

The Psalm and Hymns
Crown Him with Many Crowns
Our opening hymn exalts Jesus Christ, our reigning King and Savior. Let us sing it with zeal, as those who have been redeemed by His precious blood ought.

Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise
Our reading in Proverbs this morning pertains to wisdom. But the Lord Himself is wisdom and the source of all wisdom. Let's acknowledge that as we sing this song in response to the reading of Scripture.

The Tender Love a Father Has (Psalm 103:13-18)
It's Father's Day today. Let us praise the One who is the archetypal Father – our heavenly Father, who is the pattern of all true earthly fatherhood. We sing this song to the beautiful tune “Winchester Old.”

I Love Thy Kingdom, LordWritten by the famous Timothy Dwight, for many years president of Yale, this is thought to be the oldest hymn still in common use written by an American. Its theme, the kingdom of God, fits well with the content of the Pastoral Epistles: the kingdom of God as it finds expression in the local church.

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