But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. — 1 Timothy 1:5
Have you ever heard someone say, "It doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you're sincere?" "Being sincere, after all, is what's important," they say. Well, unfortunately, the problem with that kind of reasoning is that just being sincere in your belief about anything doesn't make it true. In fact, sincere people can be sincerely wrong!
The apostle Paul's instruction to Timothy pointed to the ultimate goal of our earthly life with God as being developed through a good conscience that leads to a sincere faith.
The word for sincere in the original language of the New Testament literally means to be "judged by sunlight." It was used in the garment industry of that day as a way of detecting any spot in a garment or imperfection in merchandise by holding the object up to the sunlight. It even works that way today.
Perhaps Jesus had that meaning in mind when he spoke to His first disciples at the Sermon on the Mount:
"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16).
There's another meaning of the word sincere that became popular when the Latin Vulgate Bible, the first translation of the complete Greek text, was translated into Latin. It was completed around 400 A.D. by the Christian scholar, Jerome, and served the Catholic church for over 1000 years up until the time of the Reformation. In his massive work which took 23 years to complete, Jerome chose to use the word sine ceres, which, when viewed literally, was a term used by sculptors that meant "without wax." This illustration explains why:
"Some sculptors in ancient Rome used wax to disguise a chip on a statue," conjuring up an image of the craftsman hastily attempting to hide the mistake after a slip of his chisel. No one would see the flaw until the heat of the sun melted the wax or bad weather eroded it. The sculptor was indulging in a deception; he was passing off an imperfect work as a perfect one (sine ceres). In this way he wasn't being true and authentic."*
If we allow cracks and blemishes to appear in our faith, and then ignore or attempt to cover them up, we are being inauthentic or insincere. But when we make our faith a perfect work (James 1:3-4), we are being sincere to ourselves and sincere to God.
So, have you ever used "wax" or the cover of darkness to hide your insincerity? I have, and it didn't take long for those deceptions to be exposed by God, who knows how to turn up the heat and turn on the lights. Our Lord's goal for us is to represent Him in a genuine, honest and real way in this life, so that others might see, in us, "Christ, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27).
Dear friends, until the end of our days, let's strive to serve Him with "a sincere faith." Everybody knows that the smell of melting wax really stinks. — Maranatha!
Please send me your comments. God bless.
* Duncan Hamilton, For The Glory, Eric Liddell's Journey From Olympic Champion To Modern Martyr, Penguin Press, 2016, p. 53.