— The Preaching and Teaching Ministry of Kevin A. Pierpont

Fight The Good Fight – 1 Timothy 1:18-20

A few weeks ago we began a study of 1 Timothy and as we approach our passage for study today we will discover, I believe, the unifying theme of this letter to Timothy from Paul. As you study a passage it is usually a good idea to look for the big idea. I think we’ll discover this big idea as we study the remainder of the first chapter of 1 Timothy beginning with verse 18…

18  This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,
19  having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck,
20  of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

I think the big idea from this letter to Timothy is found in the end of verse 18 and the beginning of verse 19 were it says,

“wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience” (NIV – “fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience.”)

Later in 1 Timothy 6:12 we find Paul tells Timothy again to “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

I want you to keep this big idea in mind as we continue our study of 1 Timothy. I think it will be helpful to understanding what Paul was telling Timothy and us.

Go back with me now to 1 Timothy 1:18.

18  This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,

The aged apostle Paul gives his son in the faith a solemn charge “according to the prophecies previously made concerning you“–perhaps at the time of Timothy’s ordination or of his induction into missionary work. The phrase “previously made concerning you” has sometimes been translated, “according to the prophecies leading me toward you,” or “predictions leading up to you.” Apparently some of the prophets had been led by the Holy Spirit to select Timothy for service. They seem to have been prophetic utterances that pointed Timothy’s way into the ministry. We see in Acts 13:1-3 an example of this procedure.

13:1  Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

2  As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

3  Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.

So we see these men set apart for the Lord’s service and sent to serve. Probably in some similar way Timothy had been set apart to minister in the church at Ephasus.

Paul says “This charge I commit to you“.

“Charge” is the same word that is translated “commandment” in verse 5. This is the equivalent of an urgent command handed down from a superior officer. We need to understand that it was not easy to serve the Lord in a pagan society like Ephasus, but Timothy was a soldier under orders. The soldier has the responsibility of “pleasing him who has chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Tim. 2:4 NIV) not the task of pleasing himself. Timothy was there by divine appointment. God had chosen and sent him. It was this fact that could give him assurance in difficult days. These assurances enabled Timothy to fight the good fight. If we are God’s servants called by his Spirit, obeying his will, then we can “stay with it” and finish the work.

Timothy had a responsibility, to fight the good fight. And so do we. Paul didn’t say to Timothy, “fight the good fight, but be prepared for retreat when things get tough”. The day you and I entered the Christian life, through faith in Jesus Christ, we entered a lifelong battle. The day we give our lives to Christ we also gain three enemies. Those enemies are the world, the flesh and the devil. Our enemies aren’t other people. We’d like to think they are. We’d like to believe that our society is troubled because men have removed the Ten Commandments from public property. Or it’s because our politicians don’t tell the truth. Or, “my boss is a tyrant”. Or, “my spouse doesn’t treat me right”. Or, “my parents hate me”. “Everyone is out to ruin my life.”

No our problem isn’t other people. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:12 …

.… we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Our fight is not with others but with the real enemies behind those people. People are all victims of the world, the flesh and the devil. Let’s try to understand these three enemies a little better. The world is our society and their godless philosophies. The world is convinced that if it feels good, do it. Always look out for number one. Finders keepers, losers weepers. You snooze, you loose. The guy who dies with the most toys wins.

Bart Starr, former quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, was describing to a group of businessmen how his coach, Vince Lombardi, held absolute power. He stated that, as you entered Vince’s office, you noticed a huge mahogany desk with an impressive organization chart behind it on the wall. The chart had a small block at the top in which was printed: “Vince Lombardi, Head Coach and General Manager.” A line came down from it to a very large block in which was printed: “Everybody Else!”

That’s the world, isn’t it? I’m number one.

There is also the flesh. If you’ve trusted Christ as Savior the old nature is what used to belong to you before you gave your life to Christ. But now the old nature is not “us.” But it still wars within you. The old nature is dedicated to selfishness. The old nature is looking out for our own best interests, our own comfort. The enemy is self-centeredness within us. Self-centeredness is one of the most difficult sins to overcome. It reminds me of the story about the mom who was preparing pancakes for her sons, little guys a 5 year old and a 3 year old. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson and said; “If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake; I can wait.” The 5 year old turned to his younger brother and said, “You be Jesus!” (Source unknown)

That’s how it is with self-centeredness isn’t it? We can know what we ought to do and still struggle with the follow through.

There is also the devil. Scripture speaks of the devil and the many fallen angels. These deceivers are waiting for just the right opportunity to make us feel useless and ineffective in our faith. They know what it takes too. This is what Ephesians 6:11 calls the “devil’s schemes“.

So we are to fight the good fight against the things that oppose us and we are to remain strong in the fight never thinking of retreat.

Note though that the thing Paul encouraged Timothy with was a fatherly reminder. He was Paul’s spiritual son and Paul says “son Timothy”. This was probably a great encouragement to Timothy. We know that a father’s words can be used to hurt or to heal. These were healing words. Paul reminds Timothy of how he was commissioned to do the work at Ephesus and in so doing is reminding him that he can live up to his calling. Paul gave Timothy fatherly encouragement reminding him there were those who saw his potential. We could each use encouragement from those around us from time to time. And we should certainly be encouraging one another all we can. But we need to remember there is a way to fight the good fight and that is with faith and a good conscience. We can’t do it with the encouragement of others alone.

19  having faith and a good conscience…

Paul spelled out in detail to the Ephesian church in Eph. 6:10-17 the Christian equipment for spiritual warfare. But here he listed only two. Faith and a good conscience. And these two always seem to be found together. We see it 1 Tim. 1:5…

Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith.

And then in 1 Tim. 3:9

holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience.

Understand that diligence in one is always combined with diligence in the other. Failure in one is also related to failure in the other. Some who have rejected the need for a good conscience have also found their faith destroyed. Theological error is often found rooted in moral failure. 1 Tim. 4:1 reminds us…

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,

And 1 Tim. 6:10

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Ray Stedman describes a sincere faith this way…

Faith is accepting the radical truth, which Jesus and his apostles have given to us, understanding that this is a description of life as it really is.

Faith is believing truth about God, about his power, about his control of history and all humanity, of his love for us as a lost race which he does not choose to abandon, but takes steps to redeem and bring to himself.

Faith is learning about the nature of sin and the reason why life is often filled with misery, not because of others, but because of us. We are the problem. We have something within us that is constantly destroying our plans, wrecking our happiness and destroying our relationships. This needs to be dealt with, and the only thing that can handle it is the word of the cross; learning what Jesus did in the mystery of the darkness of the cross, how some transference was made in a most remarkable way in which our sin was placed on him and his righteousness was given to us.

Faith is learning about his resurrection and the impartation of his life so that he himself comes to live within us — “Christ in us, the hope of glory,” {cf, Col 1:27b).

Faith is learning that he himself will grant to us in every situation the wisdom and the power that it takes to live righteous, godly, Christ-like lives.

Faith involves taking all this personally, to ourselves, believing that God has done this for us.

Paul says hold to faith. Stay the course. Keep your faith. But with faith there must also be a good conscience.

Many misunderstand the conscience. I’ve heard people say “listen to your conscience”. As if their conscience would help them know the difference between right and wrong. That is not the conscience.

Someone said; “The trouble with the advice, ‘Follow your conscience’ is that most people follow it like someone following a wheelbarrow—they direct it wherever they want it to go, and then follow behind.”

The conscience is to help keep us from turning from the truth. God’s Word is what tells us of the truth. We learn right from wrong through God’s Word. Our conscience is here to help us know when we are deviating from the truth. The interesting thing about the conscience is that it can be taught a lie. It can be trained to make us feel like we are doing the right thing.

Some have rejected conscience. It has been said that conscience is like the red warning light on the dashboard of the car that warns of a serious problem. You can either stop and deal with the trouble, or break out the light.

Breaking the light so it no longer warns us is foolishness isn’t it?

Many have broken out the light of conscience and in so doing have blown the engine of their spiritual lives.

We see it in verse 19 … some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck.

The greek word we derive “rejected” from indicates a strong, deliberate thrusting away. In fact these people who have rejected faith and good conscience, know the truth but choose to do the opposite.

H.C. Trumbull said “Conscience tells us that we ought to do right, but it does not tell us what right is—that we are taught by God’s word.”

Many have blown it with their spiritual lives because they have failed to keep a good conscience. When we chose not to do something we know is right we introduce confusion into our system of warning signals known as the conscience. And the faulty warning signals allow us to be mislead in our faith.

Paul shares with Timothy an example in Hymenaeus and Alexander, verse 20;

whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

Hymenaeus is mentioned again as a heretical teacher in 2 Timothy 2:17-18.

17  And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort,  18  who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.

The apostle had handed these two troublemakers over “to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” The language here is similar to that found in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, where it seems to show excommunication from the church. Or abandonment to the realms of Satan like those spoken of in 2 Corinthians 4:4 whose eyes are blinded from the truth by Satan. The purpose was to jolt the offender into repentance, induced by the fearful thought of being turned over to Satan’s control. This is really a disciplinary action and not merely punishment.

Wiersbe says this “delivering to satan”…

“implies an apostolic discipline (1 Cor. 5:5) and disassociation from the local church. When a Christian refuses to repent, the local fellowship should exercise discipline, excluding him from the protective fellowship of the saints, making him vulnerable to the attacks of satan. The fellowship of the local church, in obedience to the will of God, gives a believer spiritual protection. Satan has to ask God for permission to attack a believer.”

We find examples of God’s protection from Satan and satan seeking God’s permission to attack believers in Job 1-2 and Luke 22:31-34.

This handing over to Satan is not something done in the heat of the moment or out of frustration. Ray Steadman says “this is the result…

…of a long course of spiritual deterioration which ends in the fourth step suggested by our Lord in Matthew 18. There in Matthew 18, the Lord says that step one is, if your brother has done something wrong, committed a sin, turned aside, go to him and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, that is the end of the matter; you have gained your brother. But if he does not, then take two or three with you and go again. That is step two. If he hears them, fine; say no more to anybody else. But if he does not, there has to come the time when you tell it to the church. That is the third step. The whole church is to be engaged in trying to reach an erring brother or sister, someone who has turned aside from the faith. If he does not hear them, then the fourth step comes, which Paul calls, “delivering [him] unto Satan.” Jesus said, “Let him be unto you as a publican and a sinner” {cf, Matt 18:17}, i.e., as not even being a Christian. By this Paul means, put him back into the world; regard him as having denied by his actions the testimony of his words. This does not mean to have no contact with him. This is not an act of excommunication that affects his spiritual life. It is clear from this very passage that Paul intends this to be remedial — so that these men may learn that testifying of truth but not acting on it is blasphemy. This is destroying the image of God in the eyes of others, making God look ridiculous because they are not consistent in the walk. So Paul says, “I have turned them over. Let Satan have his way with them. He will damage them, he will hurt them, he will destroy much of their lives, but in the process they will learn that the One who loves them, who can heal them, who can forgive them, is God alone.” So this action is to be taken with the hope that they will eventually return to the Lord.

May this never be necessary in our lives.
What are we doing to “fight the good fight”? We are called by Christ, as Timothy was, to live in a pagan society for Christ. This is something we cannot take lightly. We are soldiers in the battle for the Lord. We could be the only way many people will see God. How does God look, according to your life, to people who know you? Do others see a powerful God, a loving God? Do they see your provider, your comforter? Do others see Christ through your faith and good conscience that’s strengthened through your faithful fellowship with the Father? Do others see the real Christ through you?

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