Fighting the Good Fight

1 Timothy 1:18-20

Many people, even in church, look at events on world stage, are quick to see what they interpret as evidence of conspiracy in Washington or Cairo or Beijing or Moscow. Assassination of JFK, 9/11, Benghazi attack, list is endless; if something bad happened, must be result of a conspiracy. Fail to recognize far less visible but incredibly more important and dangerous conspiracy that is for real: the one between world, flesh and devil to overwhelm eternal soul. Paul spoke of those – Eph. 2:1-3 – describing forces at work in saints before conversion. None of three gives up territory easily or willingly, all work diligently to recover lost ground; they labor together, exerting every effort to maintain control of their territory.

Not enough people, especially Christians, understand that. We all have friends / family / neighbors who think Christianity is something you profess and that makes it so. Others who treat Christianity like a spectator sport – show up for performance, watch pros perform, go home until next week. Bible sure doesn’t give that picture of life for faithful disciple of Lord Jesus. In fact, Paul closed letter to Timothy’s church – Eph. 6:11-18 – with instruction about “the whole armor of God”.

Christian life is ongoing series of campaigns, waging war against those three who conspire against Christ’s church and individual believers. Some problems with how war is going – multitudes of soldiers AWOL; many wounded in infirmary; others asleep at post; many just slogging along following whoever is right in front of them, praying they survive the march. Most disheartening, many charged with leadership in the field are failing in their duties – heading in wrong direction, using wrong tactics, walking into ambushes, unwilling or unable to properly equip the troops for battle.

In our text, Paul returns to charge introduced v.3, declares he has entrusted that charge to Timothy “in order that… [he] may wage the good warfare”. Committed to writing verbal instructions previously given in person – instructions that, if Timothy follows, will enable him to pastor Ephesus church well: to both lead and develop leaders, to pursue truth and lead others to truth, to position church so it would stay the course when Timothy left.

A. the charge v.18

see v.3;

one facet in particular of comprehensive task – addressing doctrinal error / divisive teaching

what will require his first attention; have to deal with problems, clear out troublemakers before rebuilding

at times, even within church, is necessary to do some pruning: remove those who refuse to act like Christians

last resort, even then goal is restoration to fellowship; see Matt. 18:15ff; 1 Cor 5:1ff; 2 Cor. 2:6ff

church affairs, especially doctrinal concerns, not decided by consensus or democratic vote; change metaphor for moment:

guide, graze, guard the flock

also 1 Pet 5:2-3; 1 Tim 3:15

Timothy’s task as pastor went far beyond dealing with single issue – had responsibility to “shepherd the flock of God”

guide – preach and teach truth, instructing hearers in whole counsel of God, equipping them to live godly lives

graze – providing spiritual nourishment, tender attention to wounds, disabilities and weaknesses

guard – alerting and (when necessary) acting against those who would harm the flock

in keeping with / inspired by call to ministry

see Acts 15:32; 16:2 – predictions of his usefulness

Judas & Silas – prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers

either they or others saw pastoral gifts in Timothy, his personal longing for ministry, perhaps God-given insight into future fruitfulness following his call to a church

recognition by other older, wiser, godly men – affirmation – encouragement, not only to enter pastoral ministry but to stay in it is of immense value, especially in difficult times

as if Paul said, “God hath chosen thee. He gave thee thy commission, thou wast not made by human vote. Do not therefore abuse or bring into disgrace the appointment of God.” Chrysostom, 4th century

wage war

time for leadership, not sharing

Timothy not the only combatant in war – he was leader in local church with responsibility to act decisively

in 1 Tim. 4:12, Paul instructed Timothy “be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity

needed to show them how to wage war by own example; to teach them how to do it in their own lives

his job to be out in front, using God-given gifts to guide and guard flock

focused firmness, not suggestions

where God speaks plainly so must the preacher, declaring truth from God’s Word without apology

must wage a good warfare: using resources God has given in way he intends against legitimate targets – the real enemies

real enemies intent on real harm

work together to attack God’s people both individually and corporately

Satan and flesh conspire to work on us from inside and out

Satan and world conspire to work on us from outside

goal is to bring back into kingdom of darkness, neutralize our effectiveness as Christ’s ambassadors

B. the technique v.19a

hold on to the faith

see Eph. 6:16 – shield of faith – essential piece of equipment, armor, intended specifically to protect from Satan’s attacks

2′ wide, 4′ high, leather-covered wood, could be water-soaked; held to protect front, top, sides of column

only useful when held firmly in position – equally true of literal shield and faith

your faith will do no good if you don’t take it with you, if you don’t grasp it firmly, if you aren’t alert to direction of attack

remember Timothy was to set example: use shield for his own protection, those around him, and show brothers and sisters how to use it

message of faith

must be continually repeated and reinforced in order to keep it strong and healthy

preaching, prayer, Lord’s Table primary external means essential to strong faith

all three define and declare content of saving and sanctifying faith

Gospel message strengthens the saints, accompanied by Holy Spirit converts sinners into saints

Timothy, local pastor, to be out front with message of faith also

maintaining fidelity to essential biblical doctrine for himself and in his preaching

doing work of shepherd to help flock maintain same grasp on and faithfulness to truth

hold on to a good conscience

Thus, if a man goes too forward, “good conscience” pulls him down to his place. If a man slink backward, “good conscience” pushes him forward into the spot which God has assigned him. Thus “good conscience” keeps the soldier at the post where the God of armies has placed him. J C Philpot, 1802-1869

only true for certain when that conscience is a “good” one, a “moral” one, properly informed and supported by true faith

conscience regenerated and renewed by Holy Spirit and taught by God’s Word will be a safe guide

Dr. Johann Eck: “I ask you, Martin answer candidly and without horns do you or do you not repudiate your books and the errors which they contain?”

Luther replied, “Since then Your Majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”

C. the risks v.19b-20

drift – off course

told in 2 Tim. 2:18 what their “issue was”: said resurrection has already happened, undermined faith of others

started on true course, only took one significant error that led to others; like multi-step math problem – do one step wrong, all after that are wrong as well

disaster – shipwreck

pursue direction off course long enough, end up on the rocks

denying the faith, abandoning the faith, holding a faith so distorted it cannot save

no one is immune from danger; however,…

God has given Word and Spirit to guide

Word which warns, Spirit which convicts of sin and error

God has given shepherds to guide and guard

those equipped / gifted by God to serve as guardians of the flock

those charged by God to guide flock as they fight the good fight

“We have been made by grace cheerful volunteers. We have a good cause. We have a good general – the Captain of our salvation. We have the best armour. We have abundant supplies. We have the marvellous array of allies – “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” (Psa. 34:7) Who ever had better companions? Who ever fought with greater success? Who ever won so rich a reward – “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Geoff Thomas

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