In archery an arrow is carefully fletched with feathers at the end of its shaft. When real feathers are used, they must all be from the same wing of a bird—if you mix feathers from both wings on the same arrow, it won’t fly correctly because feathers from the left wing cause it to spin to the right, while those from the right wing cause it to spin to the left. When a well-fletched arrow is shot, the feathers start the arrow spinning, giving it stability and enabling it to fly straight towards the target.
What is the target?
One of my pastors, Mike Braun, used to ask, “What is the goal of our instruction? To pass a true-false theological exam?” He would answer, “No!” and quote 1 Timothy 1:5:
“But the goal of our instruction is love
from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
In Bible study we fletch our arrows of understanding with diligent and careful handling of Scripture. Sound doctrine enables the arrow to fly straight and true, but we can fletch arrows constantly and well, and if all we ever do is hold them up and say. this is what a well-fletched arrow looks like, we will never hit the target of 1 Timothy 1:5.
In the Bible sound doctrine and sound living are never seen as two stand alone entities; the the Bible teaches that our conduct flows from our thinking.5 F. F. Bruce writes in his commentary on Romans:
Doctrine is never taught in the Bible simply that it may be known; it is taught in order that it may be translated into practice: ‘if you know these things, blessed are you if you do them’ (Jn. 13:17).1
Paul’s sentence construction indicates the goal is not three things, but one thing—love—love from (1) a pure heart, (2) a good conscience and (3) a sincere faith.2
In 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell write that Paul’s sentence construction indicates the goal is not three things, but one thing—love—love from (1) a pure heart, (2) a good conscience and (3) a sincere faith.3 George Knight explains in his book, The Pastoral Epistles:
…The goal of Christian instruction is love manifested in the Christian’s life through three channels, which are a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith….
The love in view is said to come from (ἐκ) three sources, καρδίας [heart], συνειδήσεως [conscience], and πίστεω [faith] all three governed by one preposition and connected to each other by καί [and]. With these three nouns and their adjectives Paul speaks of the inner being (καρδίας) and its continually cleansed status (καθαρᾶς [pure]), the life of obedience as an outcome of one’s awareness of the responsibility to do what God asks believers to do (συνειδήσεως [conscience] ἀγαθῆς [good]) and sincere trust in God (πίστεως [faith] ἀνυποκριτοῦ [sincere]) which enable a believer to love.”4
When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment, He answered:
“‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:29b-31 (ESV)
The night before He was crucified, He told His disciples,
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Jesus made love the mark of a Christian, repeating the command to love one another twice in John 15:12-17; in John 17:20-23, He prayed for the unity of all Christians—unity that is the final apologetic to the world that Jesus was, in fact, sent by God, and that God, in fact, has loved those who have believed in Jesus.
Several years after I first used this archery analogy, I found these words of Thomas Brooks, from A Word in Season to Suffering Saints, written in London in 1675.5
Explanation is the drawing of the bow—
but application is the hitting of the mark, the bulls-eye.
“Make love your aim…”
1 Corinthians 14:1a
Fletching Arrow: Simon A. Eugster: GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.
Zielscheibe Bogenschießen, 4028mdk09: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
1F. F. Bruce, The Letter of Paul to the Romans, 212.
2R. Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, 30.
2George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, 76–77.
4Thomas Brooks, A Word in Season to Suffering Saints.
5See my post from last fall, Thinking & Living, for more on sound doctrine (orthodoxy) and sound living (orthopraxy).
The NAS translates 1 Corinthians 14:1a as “Pursue love.” As I was finishing this post, I remembered reading this phrase years ago in the RSV.